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The need for a Rabbi and related questions
#21
The following answer was checked over and approved by Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem:

Your words do not correctly follow from the events related in Genesis 34, and you are making the following mistakes about that chapter and the commentary by Ramban:

a) in regard to the Divine Law and the status of the Israelites, before the Torah Law was given through Moses at Mount Sinai, and Ramban's opinion about these;

b) in regard to the Torah Law (halacha) and the status of the Jewish people, after the the Torah Law was given through Moses at Mount Sinai;

c) in the connection or lack thereof between (a) and (b);

d) In the definition you are using for the word "judgments"

Issues related to (a):

- Ramban does not make the conclusion that Jacob and his sons had no authority to judge the prince Shechem. He comments on verse 34:13, "it would have been fitting for them to have killed Shechem alone."

So we see that on the contrary, Ramban says there that Jacob and his sons (the leading members of the Israelite family at that time) did have the authority and the justification to judge and punish the prince Shechem as an individual (as his father came forward as a clear witness to Shechem's crime of kidnapping, and Shechem came forward and openly revealed that he was detaining Dinah), based on the pre-Sinai Divine Law that was extant at that time.

Ramban differs from Rambam on the following two points about the situation:

(1) Ramban says that the men of the city of Shechem were indeed guilty of transgressing the Noahide commandment to establish courts of law, but he holds that this particular transgression is not a capital sin, so Shimon and Levi did not execute all the men collectively on that account.

Note: we see in Genesis 14 that Abraham (then called Abram) pursued, battled and defeated the armies of the 4 kings on account of their sins that were subject to capital punishment. The armies had attacked and overthrown the metropolis of Sodom and Gomorrah, and they kidnapped citizens (including Lot) and stole booty. And Shem (Malchizedek) the king of (Jeru)Salem, who was the authority on pre-Sinai Noahide Law at that time, agreed that Abraham's action was permissible. (The Midrash gives details of how Abraham and his compatriots battled and killed the armies of the 4 kings.)

(2) Ramban reasons that what Shimon and Levi actually did in Genesis 34 was not just the judging and punishing that they were permitted to do according to the Divine Law (to punish the prince Shechem for kidnapping and rape of a maiden), but they also acted in personal revenge against the wrong and humiliation that was done to their sister, by killing all of the men of the city.

- It is not valid to extrapolate from the pre-Sinai Divine Law as it applied to Jacob and his sons, to assumptions about the Torah Law as it applies to the Jewish people post-Sinai. Jacob (Israel) and his sons had the same legal status as the other Gentile nations of that time. The Israelite family separated itself as a distinct tribe from the other nations and local societies at that time, but they were still "Children of Noah" in legal terms. It is clear from the Book of Genesis that they were considered by the societies around them as a family of "princes of G-d" and righteous judges, who were fit to judge and punish transgressors (see Genesis 21:25-26, 23:5-6, 31:32; 38:24). In Ramban's opinion, Shimon and Levi marred that high reputation by acting out of vengeance instead of justice, which is why Jacob cursed their anger.

(b) From the time of Mount Sinai and on, the pre-Sinai legal code of the Noahide Commandments was nullified, and it was replaced as laws of the Torah given to Moses. The Torah was given exclusively to the Jewish people, and in particular, its laws were given over into the hands and jurisdiction of the authentic Rabbinical Torah scholars and their courts (the highest court being the Supreme Sanhedrin). The Jews were designated as a "kingdom of priests" for the rest of the world, and a main function which G-d assigns for that "priesthood" is to teach the Torah. When questions or disagreements arise, their authorized scholars are to give "rulings" as to what the Torah Law is. When we talk about "rulings" by authentic Rabbinical Torah scholars, we are not talking about them presiding over trials of accused criminals and deciding the guilt or innocence of some defendant based on the evidence presented (as you seem to assume?). We are talking about their teachings and decisions as to what are the detailed applications Torah-based laws in general, so that if a person wants to correctly follow the letter and the spirit of the Torah Law which is G-d's Law, he will seek to find out what the authentic Rabbinical Torah scholars have taught. It behooves a person to learn and uphold that Torah-based legal code, because it is upon the basis of the Torah Law that a person is judged by the Heavenly Court (subject to the person's individual contingencies that the Heavenly Court is aware of) and punished and rewarded by G-d.

- In regard to Gentiles societies, their laws within the Torah do not encompass every single detail of their lives. In many areas they are permitted or obligated to establish fair and useful laws of their own crafting, which should not be in conflict with the Torah's general laws for Gentiles.

- Circumstances under which a Jewish court could halachicly conduct Torah-based court cases with Gentile defendants are discussed by and derived from Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings. It would only apply in a geographic area where the ruling government, Jewish or Non-Jewish, would establish this power for Jewish courts. The preferred situation is that the Gentiles, whether under the authority of a Jewish government or not, should fulfill their own Noahide commandment for Dinim ("Judgments", meaning Laws and Courts) by having their own courts that are empowered within their society to conduct court cases and enforce the laws
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#22
It is important to note that neither Rambam (Laws of Kings 9:14) nor Ramban (on Genesis 34) say that Shimon and Levy (or their brothers or Jacob) actually passed a legal judgment on the prince Shechem and the men of his city. Rather, Rambam and Ramban are explaining in their separate opinions why Shimon and Levy felt justified in killing the men, because all of them were already guilty of capital sin. Rambam says the men where liable for death because they failed to judge their prince who transgressed a capital sin. Ramban says the men were guilty of capital sin only for other reasons (their idolatry and sexual transgressions). Either way, Rambam and Ramban are not saying that Shimon and Levy acted under any jurisdiction of the Noahide commandment for Dinim, on the basis of laws and courts. Rather, they are making the point that Shimon and Levy did not kill any righteous, innocent people.

The question that was brought up - with or without connection to the incident of Shechem - is a worthy question: What power of law do expert Rabbis have to instruct Gentiles about their obligations to G-d and decree to them about the practical details of how to observe their Divine commandments?

The answer is according to what was written in the previous post. This is not a matter of judgment in a court case against an accused individual. It is a matter of specifying the details of the Torah Law that people should follow to be acting in accordance with G-d's will. This responsibility rests upon those who are empowered within Torah Law to expound and make decisions about the details of these laws (which include laws for Gentiles). These are the expert Orthodox Rabbis.
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#23
Dear Rabbi’s,

I would be grateful if you would post the message below,

Thank you,
Shanti

*Are you interested in being part of a Noahide study group meeting in Manchester UK?*

We would meet monthly and discuss the Noahide Laws with input from a Rabbi from the Chabad Centre.

-To register your interest and be kept informed please send a message to shantip321@gmail.com
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#24
Hi AskNoah

I hope you are well.

Rambam, in his Mishneh Torah says:

"Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of 'the pious among the gentiles' and will merit a share in the world to come. This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah's descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously." (Laws of Kings Chapter 8, Halacha 11, translation from chabad.org)

Reading the Divine Code, it says in the Author's Introduction:

"Rambam explains in Laws of Kings 8:11: “The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded the Seven Noahide Commandments in the Torah, and informed Moses our teacher that Noah’s descendants had been previously commanded to fulfill them.”"

And then, on the same page:

"According to his above-cited ruling, Rambam explains that (a) the descendants of Noah are obligated to observe their Seven Commandments because these were commanded to them by God through Moses ..."

Now according to Rambam's words, a person who accepts the seven commandments because he knows God commanded them... and is diligent in keeping those commandments, that person is one of the "pious" of the nations and has a place in the world to come. But the wording of Rambam doesn't seem to make this an obligation. It seems like a conditional statement. Where it says "if you do x, then you get y." It doesn't say "you must do x." Looking at what the English word "obligation" means, I'm not sure that Rambam's words fit the definition. All Rambam states is that if a Gentile does this extra thing, he gets a reward. That would mean that if the Gentile doesn't do the extra thing, he doesn't get that specific reward.

So my question, in what way does Rambam's statement become an obligation or get interpreted as such?

Thank you for your time.
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#25
Thanks for your careful reading of the text in "The Divine Code." Here is a more precise translation of the cited ruling from Rambam in Laws of Kings 8:11, which we will use instead in the next edition of the book, G-d willing:
"...The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them [the Seven Noahide Commandments] in the Torah, and informed us through Moses our teacher that Noah's descendants had been previously commanded to fulfill them."

This means that post-Sinai, the "Seven Noahide Commandments/Mitzvot" are specifically Torah Commandments/Mitzvot, based on the Torah (both its Written and Oral components) having been given by G-d through Moses.

When G-d commands a person (either directly, or through some intermediate means such as the words or written message of a true prophet) to do something or not to do something, then the fact of G-d's having commanded that thing establishes an obligation upon the person to act accordingly because G-d is King (the Sovereign, i.e. the Boss) over that person.
Likewise, the person is then obligated to fulfill that command from G-d specifically within the context of its having being commanded upon him by his King (the Holy One blessed be He). If he does it for some other reason, then he is not fulfilling it exactly as G-d intended, which is that he should do so in obedience to G-d.
If G-d decides to send this command through a prophet, this means that He is obligating the person to accept that prophet's words (and not some other words or ideas from somewhere else) as that command to him from G-d.

The degree to which G-d will reward the person is dependent upon the degree to which he fulfills all the dimensions of that Commandment/Mitzvah. Partial fulfillment will result in a partial reward. If a Gentile follows some rules of conduct which he calls (for example) "Laws of Noah," but not because of the truth that they were commanded to Him by G-d through Moses as Mitzvot of the Torah, with certain critical details that are known specifically and only from the Torah, then he has not totally fulfilled his full obligation of obedience to G-d.

Of course, any degree to which a Gentile will comply with G-d's Seven Noahide Commandments is needed and worthwhile for both practical and spiritual reasons, even if it is not in full compliance and obedience.
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#26
Hi Reb,

I just have difficulty seeing the "command". I don't see conditional statements as commands.

In "The Divine Code," Part I, ch.1, in the first footnote under the subheading of "The Torah of Moses," it states that "[t]he commandment to believe in one God and no other is included in the prohibition against serving idols, based on one of the Oral Torah's Thirteen Rules for exegesis: 'from the negative, one can infer the positive.' " It also states in the same footnote, "[i]t is therefore obvious that all the nations of the world are commanded to believe in and recognize God."

Neither of these points are obvious to me. If I see a command "don't worship idols," I stick with what is said. I don't see a command to recognize God or to believe in him. Although I can understand it is important to do so, I don't see a "commandment."

I don't see this obviousness. It's obvious that there is a command not to worship idols [avodah zarah]. That's easy because it says so, as "the prohibition against avodah zarah".  I don't see how an inference (inferring a positive from a negative) becomes a "command". I can understand how I can learn principles from a prohibition, but I would see it as wrong to add to God's commandments and turn an inference into a command.

Regards,
David
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#27
This answer was supplied by our Research Consultant, Rabbi Sholom Ber Bloom,
https://asknoah.org/rabbi-sholom-ber-bloom

Dear David,
Thanks for your question: how can we infer that there is a positive commandment of believing in HaShem, from the negative commandment which prohibits worshiping idols?

I have to first give a small introduction for our general audience on the structure of the Torah-law system. The Torah consists of two parts. The Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The two are inseparable from one another. Without the Oral Torah, the Written Torah (the Torah scroll) would be a closed book, unable to be read for lack of punctuation etc. Please refer this excellent video presentation on this subject:
https://asknoah.org/video/oral-torah-part-1

The Written Torah was written in a very concise manner. One letter can contain within itself many intricacies of Jewish law and philosophy. The Oral Torah includes the authentic hermeneutic rules that were given by G-d to Moses for the purpose of identifying the underlying precepts that are included within the Written Torah. One of the hermeneutic rules of the Oral Torah is the rule of inferring the implicit from the explicit.
It's very understandable that until now you didn't see that it is obvious that there is a requirement for believing in HaShem that can be inferred from the Torah's prohibition of idol worship. However, in the following explanation, keep in mind that we are required to believe in the teachings of the Sages who understood G-d's word in the Written Torah through the eyes of the Oral Torah and its hermeneutic rules that were passed down to them.

The book "The Divine Code" is a translation and further explanation of the original Rabbinical Hebrew in the book "Sheva Mitzvot HaShem." The word "obvious" in the sentence you questioned is a translation the Hebrew word "poshut" in the original text. In Rabbinic literature the word "poshut" can (as it does there) refer to something that is obvious AFTER an analysis using the hermeneutic rules for understanding the Written Law, which is NOT something that is going to be obvious "at first glance."
Therefore, we have updated that sentence in "The Divine Code" (for the next edition) to read: "The commandment to believe in one God and no other is included in the prohibition against serving idols, based on the Oral Torah's hermeneutic rule, 'from the negative, one can infer the positive.' ”

To answer your question from a different angle:
The Talmud (in discussing the severity of the misdeed of losing one's temper) compares anger to the sin idol worship. The reason for this is that a person who gets angry demonstrates that he doesn't believe that HaShem controls the world. For if he really believed that HaShem controls the world, he wouldn't get angry, because he would intellectually realize that everything comes from HaShem, and that everything HaShem does is for the best.
In a similar vein, if a person refrains from idol worship, but he doesn't believe in HaShem, that is in fact a shade of idol worship. That is because if you don't believe that HaShem (exists and) is in control of your life, then automatically you believe that you are in control. If that is the case, that is a shade of idol worship, for it is just a matter of degree between worshiping wooden beams or stones, and deifying one's own power or ego. This is why you can infer the Torah's (!) requirement of belief in HaShem from the Torah's prohibition against idolatry. For a lack of belief of G-d is tangent to deifying one's self.

I hope this answers your question. Please write back if you need clarification on any of the above mentioned points.

Regards,
Rabbi Sholom Ber Bloom
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#28
Greetings Rabbi,

I appreciate your time in responding to me. Thank you very much. I just want to clarify my position. I am devoted to God and his Truth. And I acknowledge the importance and divinity of both the Oral and Written Tradition.

You stated, "It's very understandable that until now you didn't see that it is obvious that there is a requirement for believing in HaShem that can be inferred from the Torah's prohibition of idol worship." But again, to clarify, my issue is not whether there is a "requirement" for people to acknowledge the one true God. My issue is whether there is a commandment (a divine commandment) for people to acknowledge the one true God. In my mind there is a difference between a requirement and a commandment. I see a similarity in the understanding of the terms "requirement" and "expectation" and "importance". But none of these are a commandment. For me, a commandment is a plain utterance of God that a man must do "x". So I can accept the commandment from God to the Jews "You shall have no other gods before my presence" and I can accept the statement from the Oral Tradition, from the Talmud, that there are seven commandments from God for all Gentiles against avodah zara and so on and so on. I can even appreciate that the fact I said "God commanded" implies an importance and a requirement to acknowledge the God commanding.

So I can understand there is a commandment from God to not worship idols.

Now when it comes to acknowledging God, the Divine Code and yourself seems to be saying there is a commandment.

Again, I understand that it is possible to infer a positive something from a negative, but when you said "it is a commandment," are you saying it's a divine commandment in the same way that there is commandment from God against worshipping idols? Or are you saying that it's a rabbinical "commandment"? Or that it's a rational "commandment" (as Gentiles are obligated to keep commandments that can be arrived at rationally)? I say this because I expressly remember other rabbis saying that there is no commandment upon Gentiles to believe in or acknowledge God. So if you are saying that there is a commandment to believe in God, are you saying it purely on the basis that "from a negative, one can infer the positive" as opposed to the actual command against worshipping idols which is not based on an inference.

So I'm not asking about requirements or about whether it is important for a Gentile to believe in God. I'm asking if it's a divine commandment on the same level as the prohibition against worshipping idols. Because when I read "one can infer" then that sounds to me like what is inferred is not a divine commandment to the same level as the original command, but rather it is an inference. And again, an inference may have some power, may have connection to the core prohibition (as it says "only prohibitions -sit down and don't do - are counted in the Seven Commandments"), but it doesn't come across to me like they have the same force.

I've got a level of literalness about the way I understand things, maybe also seen as a black and white view of things. Although I understand "shades" and "tantamounts" and what they can teach, it doesn't exactly show me whether something is a divine command with the same force as the core prohibitions or something else, like an inference, or rabbinical command or a rational moral obligation.

I hope you're willing to consider my ideas and proffer your insights.

Thank you.
David
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#29
(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: Again, I understand that it is possible to infer a positive something from a negative, but when you said "it is a commandment," are you saying it's a divine commandment in the same way that there is commandment from God against worshipping idols?

It is not the same type of commandment, as explained below.

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: Or are you saying that it's a rabbinical "commandment"?

No

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: Or that it's a rational "commandment" (as Gentiles are obligated to keep commandments that can be arrived at rationally)?

It additionally falls within that category as well, but that aspect of it is not part of this discussion.

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: So if you are saying that there is a commandment to believe in God, are you saying it purely on the basis that "from a negative, one can infer the positive" as opposed to the actual command against worshipping idols which is not based on an inference.

No, it is not only that. That is one way that we can explain - using the Written Torah text - that there is this positive commandment (of the type that it is).

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: I'm asking if it's a divine commandment on the same level as the prohibition against worshipping idols.

No, it is not on the same level. The famous brief listing of the "7 Laws of Noah" are only those Divinely commanded prohibitions for which active physical transgression makes a Gentile liable to capital punishment from an empowered Noahide court. (Bearing in mind that some, and perhaps most, classical Rabbinical opinions include the positive aspect of the commandment for Judgments [i.e. Laws and Courts] within the designation of the "7 Laws of Noah," without considering neglect of it to be a capital transgression.)

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: Because when I read "one can infer" then that sounds to me like what is inferred is not a divine commandment to the same level as the original command, but rather it is an inference. And again, an inference may have some power, may have connection to the core prohibition (as it says "only prohibitions -sit down and don't do - are counted in the Seven Commandments"), but it doesn't come across to me like they have the same force.

It is not just an inference, but also it doesn't have the same force, because a Noahide Court is never empowered to executive someone just for not believing in G-d, even in the case that the person's denial of G-d's existence is willful.

(07-30-2015, 02:39 AM)GentileLaw Wrote: I've got a level of literalness about the way I understand things, maybe also seen as a black and white view of things. Although I understand "shades" and "tantamounts" and what they can teach, it doesn't exactly show me whether something is a divine command with the same force as the core prohibitions or something else, like an inference, or rabbinical command or a rational moral obligation.

There are two more ways to explain this:

Explanation #1:

There are commandments from G-d that consist of multiple required components, and the overall "stated" commandment is not completely fulfilled unless all of the individual required components are fulfilled. In this case the components are all understood to be actually commanded by G-d, but the overall "stated" commandment of G-d goes by the name of the overarching theme.
The same is true if the "stated" commandment has an underlying prerequisite, the fulfillment of which it depends upon. In that case, the underlying prerequisite is also understood to be actually commanded by G-d.

As Rabbi Bloom explained in the answer above, the full scope of the prohibition against idol worship by a Gentile (which includes a prohibition against deifying any created entity) can't be completely fulfilled unless the Gentile accepts the existence of G-d. (But a Noahide Court doesn't punish for this unless the Gentile actively worships an idol in one of several specifically defined ways, some of which depend on what idol it is.)

See the source cited in the last footnote "The Divine Code," Part I, topic 1:5, which explains why "One needs a general acceptance of the yoke of Heaven as a preparation for keeping [i.e. fulfilling] the Seven Noahide Commandments." Along these lines, if a Gentile doesn't murder simply because of the logical/practical reason that it would disrupt the social order, he has not fulfilled it as a Divine commandment.

Explanation #2:

It is a basic principle in the Oral Torah that G-d does not send a soul to punishment / cleansing in Gehinom (the spiritual "Purgatory") unless that soul was not sufficiently repentant for violating one of its commandments from G-d while invested in a living human body.

In "The Divine Code," Part I, topic 1:10, it points out the Talmudic Sages cited Psalms 9:18 as a Scriptural source for the fact that the souls of unrepentant willful non-believers in G-d's existence will be sent to Gehinom. Now you may say that this shows there is a commandment not to not believe in G-d. But in such a case, the principles of Torah teach that there is a parallel commandment to believe in G-d, because it is a "negative commandment juxtaposed to a positive commandment." Which proves that there is a commandment from G-d for belief in Him.
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#30
Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem provided the following answers to these 3 questions that we received from a Noahide in the Czech Republic:

1) Who is nowadays the mainstay of the Oral Torah as Rambam (Maimonides) wrote about the holy Rabbis before him?
2) Why are there so many divisions even among the Rabbis who are authentic and authorized to teach the Oral Torah?
3) How do you recognize a truly pious Rabbi (G'd-fearing and righteous)?

Question 1: Who is nowadays the mainstay of the Oral Torah as Rambam wrote about the holy Rabbis before him?

Answer: The Torah laws of the Oral Torah are considered to be according to the rulings in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) by Rabbi Yosef Caro and Rabbi Moshe Isserless, and these are understood to be additions that came after the rulings of Rambam in Mishneh Torah, and the Babylonian Talmud. All these are the foundations upon which reliable Rabbis base their rulings nowadays.

Question 2: Why are there so many divisions even among the Rabbis who are authentic and authorized to teach the Oral Torah?

Answer: For every Orthodox Rabbi among the Jewish people who is qualified to give instruction (although it is difficult to give an absolute definition of this, but he learns the Oral Torah and he gives rulings in accordance with the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch) - he may express his opinion in the interpretation of Oral Torah laws.

Therefore, it is clear that disputes and disagreements will arise in understanding the interpretation of the Oral Torah laws, because naturally (even in an objective situation) there are differences of opinion and a division of understanding on various subjects. The Oral Torah itself recognizes this, and provides the rule that the majority opinion among expert and pious rabbinical Torah scholars is the opinion that should be followed as the halacha (Torah law) in actual practice.

Question 3: How do you recognize a truly pious Rabbi (G'd-fearing and righteous)?

First, the majority of the Rabbi's behavior and its dimensions must be examined - whether they are consistent with what he is learning and teaching. A person who observes the Torah that he learns and teaches is righteous. A person who does not observe it is not righteous.

Second, the influence of this Rabbi on others must be examined, and how much he affects them. A Rabbi who influences a wider audience has a bigger responsibility, because someone who influences a larger number of people has more power and influence (either for the better or for the worse).

There will be assistance from Heaven for a pious Rabbi to better truly understand the needs of his generation, and in particular in explaining the Torah's principles and its commandments, and its practices.
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