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Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
#1
I know in the "Books" section of the website, there is a link to the Art Scroll book of Psalms. Is it also acceptable for Noahides to read the other Artscroll Tanakh series books (Such as specifically the two books they have on the Proverbs?)

thank you for your time,

JJ
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#2
FYI, the Artscroll Tehillim (Book of Psalms) that is listed on our web page

https://asknoah.org/books/artscroll-tehillim-psalms

is not part of the "Tanakh series." The "Tanakh series" of books has more expanded and in-depth commentary, which is more appropriate for study by Jewish readers.

For observant Noahides, I recommend the following volume of Proverbs, with the straightforward and brilliant explanations by Malbim:

https://asknoah.org/books/malbim-on-mishley-proverbs
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#3
Dear Rabbis and Dr. Schulman,

I have a (personal) question about an explanation of a verse in the Proverbs, that I read in the website of Chabad.
In Mishlei (Proverbs) 9:7: "He who chastens a scorner takes disgrace for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man, that is his blemish."

And Rashi's commentary is: "and he who reproves a wicked man, that is his blemish: It is a blemish to the one who reproves [him], for this one berates him and does not heed him. This is a warning that it is forbidden to talk with those who entice to worship idols, even to reprove them and to draw them near."

I have a non-jewish friend who was earlier atheist but not now. A few days ago I tried to tell him about the Seven Commandments and he was interested in, but he said that they accepted the Hebrew bible but also other ideas as well. As I realised the don't accept the Unity of G-d. Is it a straightforward method to try to show why exist contradictions if one accepts other teachings that are not derived from the Tanakh or the Torah? Or what is a good method?

One of my another friend is jewish, but he has greater interest in his father's side, who is not jewish (but a well educated man). When we were young my friend was interested in tribal superstitions, power and magic. May be it was only a game for him, but I think he believed (or believes) somehow the power of magician people, and this belief had and has influence of his life. He was also in Israel and he knows the jewish culture too, but I think he is not interested in it in-depth. Based on these things I think that his future may be not in the right way but I wish to turn it to the right direction, because I think (or hope) he is a sensible man.

I am perplexed because of I have very poor knowledge and also of the cited sentence: "This is a warning that it is forbidden to talk with those who entice to worship idols, even to reprove them and to draw them near."

Can you give any suggestions?

Thank you,
Gergely from Budapest, Hungary
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#4
Dear Gergely, thank you for your questions.

(1) In Chapter 9 of Proverbs (Mishley in Hebrew), King Solomon is writing about how these issues are approached from the perspective of wisdom. The classic explanations from Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush Malbim) are very helpful for understanding the verses of Proverbs. This edition in English is published by Feldheim:

https://asknoah.org/books/malbim-on-mishley-proverbs

On verse 9:7 Malbim explains (quoting from the cited edition):
"Here, wisdom distinguishes between naive and undisciplined, unrestrained persons on the one hand [in verses 9:4-6], whom it is good [!] to try to redeem, and scorners and wicked men on the other hand, who will not respond to any moral appeal. The scorner requires empirical evidence before he will accept an idea; he therefore lacks the principles of morality, which cannot be demonstrated empirically but rather rest on 'fear of G-d' - on a direct emotional apprehension of moral law and its sanctions as they operate in the world. This is the implication of 'he who CORRECTS [chastens] a scorner': trying to impress such a skeptic through fear of retribution, for instance, will be worse than useless. [However, rational argument might be effective for some scorners.]  The wicked man, however, is on a lower level of degradation: he is no longer open even to rational argument ('reproval'). He sins with open eyes, willfully, and simply heaps abuse and calumny on anyone who tries to argue with him."

But in the next verse 9:8, King Solomon gives further advice and caution: "Do not reprove a scorner, lest he hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you." So the criteria hinges on whether or not the scorner has retained any wisdom. Quoting again, Malbim explains:
"With a further turn of the screw, wisdom advises against even trying rational argument with the scorner, the intellectual skeptic whose world view is professedly [!] entirely rational. Even if we try to fight him with his own weapons [rational arguments], the result will not be good; he may not mock us, but he will "hate" [!] even the rational opponent who speaks for morality. Such skeptics, implies Scripture, instinctively recoil from any contact with an absolute morality, however rationally justified; the skeptic will keep his distance from moral wisdom and its arguments..."

How true this has proved to be in our day and age!

(2) That being said, it doesn't sound like your Non-Jewish friend is either a "scorner" or a "wicked man", as defined by Malbim. The reconciliation with the explanation by Rashi is that Rashi identifies a "wicked man" who is to be avoided as someone who actively entices (missionizes) others to worship an idol. So he is not content to leave alone those who have accepted the Truth of the Torah of Moses which is from the One True G-d. Instead, he tries to push his idol worship onto them as well, G-d forbid.

(3) If you wish to turn your Jewish friend into the right direction, you should encourage him to start observing a Jewish mitzvah. Please feel free to write to me through our Contact Us page, https://asknoah.org/contactus for more information.
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#5
Firstly, blessings to you and thank you in advance for your help.

I have a question regarding the many do's and don'ts rules in Proverbs and Psalms, and if Noahides are required to abide by these rules.

For example, the verse that states: "the thought of wickedness is sin" in Proverbs (e.g. lust, revenge, etc.). I was wondering if one would be liable to this rule as well as the many others stated in Proverbs and Psalms.

Another example is a verse where it states "if it is in your power to do good to someone who is deserving then do so" which is a "do" rule, and I was wondering if Noahides are required to abide by these "do" rules as well.

Thank you very much.
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#6
This is explained in the book "The Divine Code," 2nd Edition, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, in the Author's Introduction, and in the chapter on "The Prohibition Against Making a New Religion or Adding a Commandment."

From the Author's Introduction, p. 29:
"In addition to observing the Seven Noahide Commandments with their many details, a Gentile is commanded to act in the proper ways that human intelligence would compel him, whether these are obligations to G-d or to other people, or to society as a whole. Even though Gentiles are not commanded in detail about these parameters of proper conduct, nevertheless, G-d carefully checks and judges all the ways of every person. There are actions for which the individual or the society is liable to be punished, since such behavior is not appropriate for the human race, even though it is beyond the scope of the Seven Commandments. Societal morality is included in the commandment of “judgments” (dinim), by which the Children of Noah were commanded to set up courts of law, and judges who will supervise and warn society about prohibited behaviors. But G-d will look upon the ways of an individual and judge him for his every action, even if he is not under the jurisdiction of a court of law, or if the court is not able to judge him, or if the court does not know about his behavior.
The purpose of this book is to explain these seven commandments according to Torah principles and Torah Law, including both their general rules and their details, and also the moral obligations that are intellectually incumbent. All of this is in order to teach faithful Gentiles the way of G-d and the path in which it is proper for them to go, until they will merit through this the distinctions and the spiritual beauty of 'the pious of the nations of the world.' "

From the above-cited chapter, p. 72-73:
"... many prohibitions that are commanded upon Jews are obligations for Gentiles to observe based on logic, such as the prohibitions against hating others, taking revenge or bearing a grudge. A Gentile should observe these prohibitions out of human decency, and not as Divine commandments of their own.
This duty is an absolute obligation upon Gentiles, and they are liable to be punished for transgressing these obligations and for acting against moral and logical ways of practice ..."
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#7
B"H. Here is a question we received:
Quote:What is the true meaning of this verse? "For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge, increases pain."

Thanks for your question about that last verse (#18) of Chapter 1 in the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). The first thing to notice is that this verse begs for explanation, but Rashi does not give any explanation. This must mean that he has already provided it in his explanation of an earlier verse. In fact, the answer is in Rashi's explanation of the preceding verse (1:17) -
"And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I know that this too is a frustration."

The author of this Book of Kohelet was King Solomon, and he authored it with Divine inspiration at the end of his life, looking back at the errors he made. He transgressed 3 commandments that are specifically for a Jewish king (Deut. 17:16-17): not to own many horses, not to have many wives, and not to amass great wealth. Very unusually, in those verses the Torah gives reasons for these commandments: so that the king would not return Jews to Egypt (where the horses were purchased from), and so his heart would not be turned away [from G-d] by his many wives and great wealth. King Solomon, in his is great wisdom, thought that if he would fulfill the REASONS for those commandments, by not turning his heart away from G-d, and not returning his people to Egypt, he would not have to keep the commandments themselves. At the end of his life, King Solomon foresaw that the vexation which his actions had caused to G-d would have harsh results for the Jewish people - that the 10 northern Tribes would rebel against the rule of the Davidic kings, the nation would be divided, and eventually the 10 northern Tribes would be conquered and lost in exile.

Rashi explains Ecc. 1:17 -
Quote:"I know" - now that also wisdom has frustration in it, for in great wisdom, a person relies on his great wisdom and does not distance himself from prohibition, and much vexation comes to the Holy One, blessed be He. I [Solomon] said, "I will acquire many horses, but I will not return the people to Egypt," but ultimately, I returned [them]. I said, "I will take many wives, but they will not turn my heart away," but it is written about me, (I Kings 11:4): "his wives turned away his heart." And so he says, (Prov. 30:1): "The words of the man concerning, 'G-d is with me'; yea, G-d is with me, and I will be able."

Here is Rashi's explanation of that verse in Proverbs (30:1), which King Solomon also said about himself:
Quote:"the words of the man concerning, 'G-d is with me' ": the man, that is Solomon [who said] this prophecy concerning himself [at the end of his life] because ... he relied on his wisdom to increase gold, horses and wives, which he was forbidden to increase, and so he said, "G-d is with me, and I will be able - I will increase wives, and they will not turn my heart away; I will increase gold, and I will not turn away; I will increase horses, and I will not take the people back to Egypt."
"yea, G-d is with me, and I will be able": Since he [Solomon] said, "G-d is with me, and I will be able to do it, and I will not stumble." ... because of [my thinking] "G-d is with me"...

This is the subject of Rambam's explanation in his "Books of the Commandments," of Negative Commandment #365 for the Jewish people (the last of the Negative Commandments), as he writes:

Quote:The 365th prohibition is that a [Jewish] king is forbidden from having too much money for his personal use.
The source of this prohibition is G-d's statement (exalted be He), "He must not accumulate very much silver and gold" (Deut. 17:17).
The limit is that he should not have personal wealth beyond the expenses of his royal court and servants. To accumulate wealth for the needs of the Jewish people, however, is allowed.
The reasons for these commandments - "He must not have too many horses," "He must not have too many wives," and "He must not accumulate very much silver and gold" - are given in Scripture (Deut. 17:16-17). Since their reason was [made] known, it became possible to nullify them, as is well known from the case of Solomon, [who nullified them] in spite of his exalted level of knowledge and wisdom, and his being [named], "Yedidy-ah" [Beloved by G-d].
Our Sages said [in Tractate Sanhedrin] that this is a lesson to people that if G-d would reveal the reasons for all the commandments, they would find ways to disobey them. If even one who was so great and perfect [i.e. Solomon] could make the mistake of thinking that he could do the forbidden act and avoid the underlying reason for the prohibition, how much more so the more weak-minded masses. Certainly [if they knew the reasons for the Jewish commandments] they would [be misled by their human wisdom to] disregard them by saying, "this was prohibited," or "this was commanded only for such-and-such a reason. I can avoid the reason for which the commandment was given and ignore [the commandment itself]." In such a way, the entire Torah could be nullified. G-d therefore concealed their rationale.
There is not a single commandment, however, that does not have a reason and purpose. The majority of these causes and reasons, though, cannot be grasped or understood by the masses. But regarding them all, the Prophet [King David] says (Psalms 19:9), "The commandments of G-d are straight, they make the heart rejoice." And I ask that G-d, in His Kindness, help me fulfill everything that He has commanded from these [commandments], and to keep [me] far away from everything He has prohibited from them.

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We can see a few other meanings in the verse Ecc. 1:18. Note that it mentions wisdom and knowledge separately:

- "in much wisdom is much vexation", because as a person gains more wisdom, he becomes more and more aware of the extent to which other people are lacking wisdom, and how they are continuing in their unwise, foolish ways. It's very vexing to a wise person when he considers the foolish actions, words and thoughts of unwise people, which bring harm upon themselves and others. If only such people would make the worthwhile effort (as the wise man does) to become more wise, the world could be a much better place (if their wisdom is used properly, as taught by the Seven Noahide Laws and the rest of the Torah's ethical and moral teachings). 

- "he who increases knowledge, increases pain", because the more knowledge a person gains, the more he becomes aware of how much more knowledge he is lacking. I.e., the more  knowledge that a person gains, the more he realizes how ignorant he really is of all the knowledge that is still beyond him.

I hope this answer is helpful for you!
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