Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Not Be a Noachide?

Born Jews are very quick to throw out the advice that a conversion candidate should "try being a Noachide!" They're very enthusiastic about this, but I find that they rarely know what it entails, much less what it is really like to be a Noachide. Most can't even name the seven laws. Yet they are shocked that a conversion candidate can dismiss it so quickly, especially when they haven't spent some time "being a Noachide."

A Noachide is a non-Jew who follows the sheva mitzvot B'Nei Noach. Being a Noachide is also called being one of the B'Nei Noach. 

The main problem is that almost no rabbis have sat down and figured out what being a Noachide actually requires in real life situations. There are a few rabbis now trying to figure this out, but Judaism has thousands of years of rabbinic rulings and interpretation to figure out already-detailed instructions (the Torah). What can a non-Jew unlearned in Torah do with seven sentences? For that matter, there's little to no precedent for today's rabbis to use. Halachic rulings are based on precedent that stretches back to Moshe Rabbeinu himself, who was able to ask Hashem himself for clarification on the text. The seven Noachide laws skipped all that tradition. I honestly can't say I would feel comfortable trusting a ruling with such a lack of history. That situation is ripe for abuse, extremism, or just plain wrongness. (And my guess would be that it's not the moderate rabbis who feel a need to increase Noachide observance in the world...) 

To my knowledge, the Noachide faith is the only "religion" that requires another "religion" to tell them what to do and how to do it. Except Judaism isn't doing that.

But there are other issues that can make a person decide to "skip" a "Noachide stage" and go directly to seeking conversion. Let's discuss them. 

Lack of religious leadership. As stated above, the rabbis have historically had no interest in the Noachide laws, other than casually mentioning that they exist or deciding whether another religion can qualify as satisfying the laws. Today, there is no group to certify or train Noachide leaders. That can be dangerous, since anyone can set up shop and start recruiting. A cursory review of some of the Noachide "literature" on the internet reveals that there are some sketchy people out in the world. When you have a question, who do you ask? You could ask the local rabbi, but I'll bet money your local rabbi will be clueless on many of your questions. But the bigger problem is that there isn't even a "bigger" rabbi for him to call to ask. There's just not any rabbis doing this work (minus one in Israel, to my knowledge).

Who is your community? There are very few "Noachides" in the world. There are a few developed "communities," like less than five in the world. And you thought it was bad enough that your conversion required you to move within walking distance of an orthodox shul? Of course, a Noachide is not required to live in a Noachide community. In fact, you may not even like the people you find there. (There tends to be a lot of New Age and "off the grid" people.) Who will you call on when you suffer a death in the family? Want to celebrate a birth? Get married?? But is the Jewish community really your community? 

Lack of houses of worship. Where do you worship as a Noachide? The "communities" have houses of worship, but that means there's not many options. Note that some religions qualify as satisfying the Noachide laws, but most people actively choosing to be a "Noachide" today are leaving those religions. For example, if you were a Muslim, you could continue to worship at the mosque and satisfy the 7 laws, but if you believed the Jewish religion is true, you could not honestly participate in the services. Worshipping at the community synagogue can get complicated, and men could accidentally be counted in a minyan. In the beginning, people might accidentally ask them to cook (and if they don't know the kosher laws, they might show up with their food!). There are a lot of things that can become embarrassing or complicated. You think it's annoying explaining to strangers that you're not Jewish but converting? Try explaining that you're not Jewish and not converting but are still davening in the shul!

What do you daven? You can't say most of the liturgy when you can't talk to Hashem about "our" ancestors. You can't thank Hashem for not making you born a gentile. Most of the liturgy is written in the plural and is spoken in the name of the Jewish people. There is a lot that just doesn't apply to you. Your average community rabbi likely isn't going to be able to answer these questions for you. 

Who do you marry? Do you marry an atheist or agnostic? Do you marry a Christian or Muslim? How would you find another person affiliating as a Noachide? Would an atheist, Christian, or Muslim even be comfortable marrying you? I don't think Eharmony has provisions for Noachides. Worse, who would officiate? The county judge??

Assuming you marry (or were already married), how do you educate your children? There's no Sunday School for Noachides. Besides you, who will be their adult role models of being a good Noachide? Will their friends reflect your values? And in the future, who do they marry?

There are some people who, knowing all this, actively choose to be a Noachide in their community. I find this is generally people who, for whatever reason, cannot convert. Some are temporary Noachides, as they "try it out" to see if they want to pursue conversion or if life circumstances temporarily prevent them from learning about Judaism. This seems most common with people living in rural areas.

I think Noachidism is probably most common among people interested in converting but who are married to a non-Jew who is not interested in converting. (Remember, it's possible for a couple to both be converting.) My understanding is that only the Reform movement will perform a conversion in this case. (Maybe the reconstructionists do too, but the conservative movement does not.) For people in a loving relationship with another non-Jew, Noachidism is a good compromise, but the worry is that the Jewishly-inclined partner will view it as a compromise and develop resentment. Rightfully so, the rabbis do not encourage divorce in these cases. However, over the long-term, divorce may happen anyway.

So, my born-Jewish friends, don't be so surprised the next time a conversion candidate says they never seriously considered being a Noachide. One day, there will be an organized, fully-informed Noachide community, but that's when we will know Moshiach has come. For me, and for many others, the Noachide movement today is not developed enough for our spiritual and community needs. But one perspective is that dissatisfaction is a Jewish neshama saying, "This is not where you belong!"


  1. I know a couple of people who, for their own reasons, are unable to convert in the foreseeable future and are living as Noahides. It can be a very lonely, sometimes painful life, particularly as they do want to convert, but can't. They remain a part of the Jewish community and are well-liked, but never quite feel completely a part. I have yet to meet someone who chose remaining a Noahide over conversion where conversion was a viable option.

    1. Why couldn't someone convert to Judaism? I don't understand what sort of thing would make it not viable.

    2. * If you desire to convert to Judaism but your spouse is non-Jewish and doesn't want to convert or practices a different religion
      * You run he risk of being shunned or disowned from your family if you convert
      * Moving is not an option and there are no synagogues or a beit din in your area

      If they're already part of the Jewish community but can't convert, it's probably because of the first reason.

    3. I'm not old enough, and have been wanting to convert since I was 13 or 14, and this was a strong feeling. I am now 17- nearly 18, yet I have to wait until I have moved out of my mum's to go to University. However, the cost of converting and buying Kosher meat, plus renting a flat in cities in the UK is quite expensive, so I'd have to have a job too...That's the reason I'm a Noahide.

      ...I can assure you, I would not wish it on anyone to be a Noahide, as in my opinion it's not very spiritually fulfilling; you can't even celebrate Jewish holidays like Jewish people do, or even Shabbat!...Plus, on top of that a Noahide cannot celebrate holidays from other religions!

    4. Good morning. I am an ex-Christian that goes to Synagogue. That's exactly what is the problem with Noahide, your not totally part of it. Someone might want to stay like that for a while, to see if Judaism is for him, but to remain a noahide is to be in the nowhere's land. Unfortunately, my wife is a devout Christian, and for me to convert to Judaism would ruin my family. Actually, my wife does not even believe that you can convert to Judaism or that we can keep the Torah. She believes that it would be prideful to do so and knowing the situation that I am in, I just cannot convert and stay in my family. Fortunately, I go to an orthodox Synagogue and the Rabbi knows my situation. I don't totally feels "in", but for now, it is still a place where I can be and pray to Hashem.

      It's been two months that it has been like that in my family, and maybe with time my wife will realize the Jesus in not G-d but a god. Only time will make me know if I continue like that or not. Unfortunately, I cannot keep the Shabbath, nor anything else without breaking the family... It's a hard situation, and being a Noahide seem the only place I can be right now...

    5. Just like Jews gather and create communities and an infrastracture you have the tough job of being the Abraham's of your time. You need to create an oasis where Noahides can come together and live as a unified community. Create your own schools and plumb the depth of Haskafa and musar. Most of your/and mine task is have the mind and heart in the right place as you live a decent life. Most of the work even as a Jew is internal. (I became religious at 13 but i need to keep becoming religious or the spirituality/ substance of serving G-d gets lost. It's truly the hardest struggle for Jews and Non-Jews alike. If you look at the requirements G-d doesn't want it to be so complicated for people. Chesed is everywhere, it's what the world stands on. Perhaps reach out to R'Tovia Singer- I'm pretty sure you know who he is and on youtube Netiv has great lectures I enjoy as a Jew but they are geared to you. Many a Jew have struggled with the isolation speak of. Connect to these people and see what happens. Chazak V'ametz you'r very special!

    6. The Noahide Nexus meets online 2-3x/week for study; you can discuss with them if your computer has a mike. Rod Bryant is also helpful. There's an organization called Netiv that is doing lectures for Noahides. They are pretty good. Isolation does not have to be as awful as it seems!

  2. Very thoughtful post, a topic I have thought about extensively and figured it must be a pretty miserable experience following a 'religion' without it really being an organised religion, without its own communities, clergy, prayers and rituals.
    Also, not to be picky, but to be a Noahide is to be a Ben Noach, not a Bnei Noach. Bnei (sons) is the plural of ben (son) :)

    1. Meh, semantics. It should be more Noachides are also called B'Nei Noach. The problem is that people always say "people being a Noachide" or "the B'Nei Noach." Noachide is almost alway used singular when talking about the group, but B'Nei Noach is always plural unless applied to a specific person.

    2. Totally a good point, about trying to follow a 'religion' that isn't really an organized religion, with communities, clergy, prayers, and rituals... I'm sitting here trying to put together a picture in my mind of how this is supposed to work. I'd be very interested to speak about this more with you if you'd like, via email or facebook chat or whatever. I don't know who else I would talk to about these issues and questions, who would 'get it', and be personally invested in trying to find 'real' answers, if and where they can be found. But I'd like to get to talk more about this matter, so please let me know if you would also like to. That goes for everyone posting here.

    3. well i had no idea what you called how i believe and what drives me until a friend of mine told me. When i am around anything Jewish i have a longing as if i am homesick to be immersed in it. I have loved the study of Torah and have a very strong bond/relationship with G-d!
      I am in a rural area and when i reached out to the Jewish center in a bigger city 45 minutes from me, i was told to basically go to my corner of the world. I am married in a very broken marriage of 20 years. we do not live as husband and wife now for 4 years. Without the love of G-d i would be totally alone!

  3. Kochava,

    An advice to be a Noahide if a polite way of saying to follow one's religion of birth.

    A non-practising Jew would most likely identify as non-practising Jew or as a Jewish agnostic and not as having no religion at all. Should this person become more religious, they of course would follow in their family religion (Judaism) and not just choose a religion that appeals to them most. Turning your back on the religion of your people is frowned upon. So we naturally assume it is same for other nations.

    1. In my experience, I think Jews realize that non-Jews often "turn their back on the religion of their people." I feel like it is considered a "special" quality of Judaism that the faith of your family is your faith too. It's peoplehood combined with religion. Most Jews seem to think that only Catholicism (and maybe Islam) are "hereditary" religions. Jews recognize that other religions don't have that quality of peoplehood.

  4. > For example, if you were a Muslim, you could continue to worship >at the mosque and satisfy the 7 laws, but if you believed the >Jewish religion is true, you could not honestly participate in the >services

    Why not? Not sure about a Muslim perspective, but from the Jewish perspective, you can perfectly believe that both are true. Judaism is not an absolutist religion: we know that Judaism is the only true way to live for a Jew, but we dont claim it is the only correct religion for everyone. For a non Jew Islam is _a_ correct religion. (Not _the_ correct religion, no such thing)

    1. I said in the text that I was discussing a Noachide who has decided that Judaism is the "true" religion. If that is the case, the person would not accept Mohammed as being a prophet, which would mean (s)he could not be a Muslim. A "good" Muslim could choose to be a Noachide as the Torah is part of their scripture as well, so being a Muslim and a Noachide are not mutually exclusive. Muslims are generally good Noachides even without knowing what a Noachide is! However, most people who approach being "a Noachide" are doing so because they believe that Judaism is the one who has "figured it out." Likewise, many Christians (according to most opinions) could be Noachides simply through living their religion, but a "Jewish Noachide" could not in good faith accept Jesus as moshiach.

    2. I don't recall sources offhand, but I recall seeing that there are those who believe that to receive credit, a Noahide must fulfill his commandments because he believes they are divine, and not just because he thinks they're good ideas.

      That said, divinely mandated can presumably include (most sects of) Christianity and Islam (though I'm not sure if eiver min hachai is included, but I'm not sure if the refraining also must be done with intention, or simply one who does not eat such foods due to a lack of interest is considered to have fulfilled the commandment).

      I don't know of any prohibition (but please don't take my ignorance as authoritative) for a non-Jew to believe in a(nother) false prophet. Sure, it's wrong, but who cares? If it makes them happy, and if it encourages them to be better people (and not to try and kill all of us, of course, which historically has not been so true for either Christianity or Islam), why not?

  5. I think a major reason the 7 laws get a backseat is most of us did not turn our backs on Atheism or Xtianity or Islaam because of this one Noahide we know., but rather it was some website from a Jewish source refuting what we believed to be true or this one Jew who explained it to us. Most of these other religions have a large body to learn from and a large amount of precedent to help us guide our lives.

    The 7 laws at first glance look rather shallow and near impossible to use to replace our old life.

    Many of us start out with false impressions of what Judaism is if we came from Islaam or Xtianity. This leads to a large amount of unlearning. Many of us don't know such basic things about an orthodox life such as the "religious language" or what is modest dress or that women can't sing for men other than their husband. I frankly am a noahide, because I have yet to find a Rabbi who will make time in his schedule to answer some of my questions about the sages such as why Gershom's rulings are followed by all ashkenazi Jews when the rulings where originally only binding on the area of Germany (not all areas of the world) and many other areas of confusion I have about the present standards and how rules can be added or removed if they can at all. (I find it interesting that Gershom made it illegal to divorce without the wife's consent. With my studies of a woman's rights vs a mans rights under Jewish law I would be interested to learn what historical record we have of him and his rulings and why this ruling was necessary.)

    People know little about Orthodox Judaism, because most intro websites assume you are a jew and will just believe them. From a Christian background many of the Jewish proof texts appear laughable if you didn't know they were given as a proof text in the oral torah. (They sound like the kind of weak defenses Christian Cults give for weird doctrines.) Once you find they are claimed to be stated as proof in oral torah it just leaves you more confused not because you don't agree, but because you don't see how that stood for proof when Talmud was written. What is it that I can't see since I have to be Jewish to study Talmud, but have to accept a citation from said book for proof that a proof text is valid?

    The real problem is the isolation and lack of community. My engagement (turning to the 7 laws happened after got engaged) has been struggling due to lack of community and our disagreements relating to conversion made worse by being in no situation to afford conversion let alone kosher life afterward. The biggest arguments have been over who to use for counseling. We live 4 hours from a noahide community, but she does not like the leader because he believes while Jesus wasn't a Messiah he was a prophet. Contacting the two closest orthodox Rabbi's has involved many voice messages and going 2 hours just to have him be too busy to meet with me. I'm not angry and I don't blame any of them their responsibility is to the Jews and training THEM to be a priestly people to US. It's easier to follow the strictest form of Kosher than to get help as a Noahide.

    There have been numerous attempts to create support networks for people like us some less orthodox than others, such as Noah's House in Florida and online. The real issue is most Noahides are not of a missions mindset that would build decent sized communities. Whenever a Noahide group gets big enough without constant Rabbinical supervision (or even with) it get's Scrutinized by Rabbi's across the country (and world) and told to find an advising Rabbi or asked who they have for a Rabbi even if they are in the middle of nowhere.

    pt 1 lurking noahide

  6. The Jewish people cannot act as a priestly people when they don't know the laws they are to teach or how they apply. Whenever the goyim seek to make rulings and decide how to follow the 7 laws Rabbis step in, but only want to condemn failures not first to instruct in ways of righteousness. Most Rabbis are too busy to lead Noahides, but are unwilling to delegate decision making to Goyim until there is an actual rabbinical conference or something to make a decision with noahides to share our situation and not make the decision, but to help the Rabbis understand what it is to not be Jewish.
    One example of frustration in communicating with Jews is on issues that have to due with changes in cultural mores. When I was a Christian I was interested in the topic of polygamy not to practice it personally, but what did the bible say about it. After my change of thought the interest in the structure of Jewish marriage and Polygamy remained leading me to one of my first unlearnings about Judaism namely Gershom's law against polygamy.
    The possibility of Noahides practicing Polygamy interested me, so I started discussing it with noahides.

    One point I have been debating for the sake of clear understanding is that Marriage is a Homograph (Jewish marriage ends under the ketubah with regular maintenance payments while the man keeps all marital property; where as legal marriage in the US leads to the property being split in half. These two concepts combined have caused great pain for men by linking the two rather than recognizing them to be two different things). Looks the same, sounds the same, but has different meanings.
    Now to my Noahide debate about whether it is permissible in the US.
    While US law forbids being legally married to more than one person at one time, it does not:
    * Forbid non-maried non-related people from living together. (many states have had anti cohabitation laws overturned)

    * Forbid non married people from having children.
    * Regulate how many women a man can have children with or in what order. (ie alternating between the two.)

    If a secular man can have children by many different woman at the same time and in theory they all could live with him at the same time as his wives faithful to him. This would match the Noahide definition of Polygyny Marriage. Which is allowed by the 7 laws.

    Every website I see says that Polygamy is not allowed for Noahides unless the nation allows it. Every time I've tried to ask on sites such as I end up with responses such as it's against the law or they are not that familiar with US Law when I go into detail(Mostly rabbis from Israel).

    If I were to go and say Polygamy is allowed by the 7 laws in America I would have Rabbis questioning what sponsoring Rabbi gave me that ruling, but getting a Rabbi to dig into what is accepted by our courts and is therefore a lawful act is near impossible when it might reflect badly on them. When such an act may be permissible to a Noahide, but is banned if not heavily frowned upon by nearly every Jewish group.

    The pain of being a Noahide is all the guilt all the responsibility of making your own religion and yet none of the authority if you truly want to be righteous and not violate the laws by creating a new religion. I just want sound rational arguments as the basis for my practice is that too much to ask the Jews to provide if they don't want us to do this for ourselves.

    As a Jew (who was with Moses on Mount Sainai) even you, Chavi, are now responsible to act as a part of this priestly people we goyim call Israel.

    pt 2 Lurking Noahide

  7. When I was denied conversion, I lived as a Noahide for 15 years. Personally I preferred the phrase ger toshav although since this was after jubilee, it was informal. I think the more appropriate phrase is chasid umot ha'olam but ger toshav to me was much easier to pronounce. I did get some limited help from the Jewish community when I was down in Miami. It is pretty darn hard to live as a Noahide once I moved out of a Jewish community. I remember when it dawned on me that I just could not live as a gentile anymore.

    And yes, Reconstructionist will convert just one member of a married couple. I have to convert Reconstructionist for a variety of reasons. All my rabbi wants to do is to meet my spouse. Reconstructionist also don't require my young daughter to convert (although any children from here on out become Jewish automatically).

    I know of Reform rabbis that will not convert only one person. One of my friends keeps finding rabbis that will not convert her unless her husband converts too and she is only interested in Reform.

    1. good post skylar. i didn't realize most jews that so unaware of the laws and what noahidism lacks, or else like you i don't think anyone would consider recommending it so enthusiastically to converison candidate. the big problem for me is that the 7 laws are really only a 'skeleton'. they're too obvious (i already know murder is bad and why would i eat my dinner alive?) and too basic (most of them are prohibitions, and few positive acts that make spirituality special). and i don't think sticking to the 7 laws are enough to make someone "righteous" (wouldya wanna hang out with someone who only kept the 7 minimum?)

    2. While I would assume murder = bad is hopefully obvious to most people, it does have applications regarding issues like abortion, euthanasia, DNR, etc [some of which may differ for non-Jews from Jews]. Stealing = bad is also fairly obvious, although the obligation to set up a system of fair courts is a pretty significant one, and a lot can be considered regarding the prohibition against inappropriate sexual relationships [does it include much of what's considered hilchos "tznius", for example?].

      Regarding righteous, while I definitely "hang out" with some people who occasionally may be better characterized as "wicked", but personally, as an Orthodox Jew, I'd be happy to consider a person who keeps the 7 mitzvos as righteous (including adherents of other religions who don't contradict these (which is to say Islam and probably Christianity; whether belief in a divine trinity is forbidden to a non-Jew is a debate among the authorities of the middle ages (Rishonim))

    3. i agree mikeage on your point about the courts and that the 7 mitzvot are a foundation for other issues, but there's an awful lack of clarity on the application. like skylar said if i wanna be a plain noachide, who do i ask when i wanna know XYZ, and how many people can help me out? can one still keep the mitzvot if he takes them literally? :S

      if one could legitimately keep the mitzvot only at the barest face value (my assumption could be wrong), i wouldnt call him evil but i definitely wouldnt call him righteous either. what about avoiding lying? what about giving charity? what about providing for his kids to the best of his ability? if these things aren't part of his practice can he still be called righteous?

      - Q

    4. Q,
      I'm not denying that there's insufficient information available, and that this is a much more critical problem today than in previous generations when there were fewer people who were in need of these answers.
      I'm not sure why all the interest in "righteous", though; to me, a Gentile who follows the Noahide laws (and they may be in addition to "common sense" and not a replacement) is doing what he's commanded to do. If he adds on additional moral actions, all the better!

    5. The two biggest issue for me were: who did we ask for guidance/community and who the heck would my kids marry? If you think transitioning to a Jewish life is hard with kids, trying to live as a Noachide is ten times harder (and more alienating.) Maybe being a Noachide isn't supposed to be that way. but right now it is the reality. It's like choosing the be the geek in the class in the back of the room. Sure, you're part of the class, but nobody thinks you're important and you're lucky to get a even one friend there that takes you seriously.

      Judaism has so much tradition, custom and weights these things VERY heavily. Being a Noachide is completely ambiguous. It's not even a religion. It's like being neighbors to a religious family.

      I don't dis those who decide it's for them. I think that's awesome. But I think it's a VERY hard thing to be Noachide. And it pisses me off that born Jews seem to so often think it's so much easier than converting. It's like being thrown a bone!

    6. I can relate exactly to what you said! I respect those who want to be Noachide but for me that is just not possible. My husband is Jewish and is returning to practicing orthodox Judaism, I am a gentile who wants to also follow Judaism but I have been told by a few people my options are to live as a Noachide and divorce my husband or convert because a Jew can't be married to a non Jew. Divorce is out of the question, my husband and I have been married 10 years with three kids and we are very happy together, we would never even consider divorce. I feel insulted when supposedly well meaning people tell me that is a viable option for us, it is so insensitive and cold! But thankfully we have found a few wonderful Rabbis who are very supportive of our family and are going to do what they can to help me convert. I have wanted to convert since before I knew that our marriage was not valid under Jewish Law, so at this point I am more determined than ever. I want to raise my kids Jewish and keep Shabbat as a family. If I divorced my husband and just lived the Noachide laws G-d only knows how messed up my kids would be and who would they marry? I think of Isaiah 56, I want to be one of them. My kids want to be Jewish and follow Torah as well so it is settled for us.

  8. It's changing.
    Now, I know of 2 organisations for the Noachides, one under the responsability Rav Sherky of the Machon Meir, and another by Rav Yoel Schwartz !

  9. Hi there,

    Thanks for taking the time to write your views on the Noahide laws. Speaking as a ben Noah, I respectfully disagree with a lot of what you have to say.

    I think the centre of the problem is in the words "the Noahide faith is the only religion that requires another religion to tell them what do to do and how to do it. Except Judiasm isn't doing that."

    I've seen it before where people separate Torah from the Noahide laws and use the torah-foreign concept of "religion" to do that. According to Torah there are two ways to live a life acceptable to God, but the main emphasis is obeying God where you are. So it's one law/worldview, the Torah, with laws applicable to those who are part of the Mosaic covenant and those who were born and live outside of it. So it's not one religion telling another what to do. To use the words, language and analogy of a rabbi, it's one "church" but there are the priests and the laity but they both honour God in different ways. For a Jew to help a ben Noah or teach him is no different than a teacher teaching a student or priest teaching a non-priest/layperson.

    According to Torah, Israel are the priests and a light to the nations. Now the job of a priest isn't to make more priests (although God has made a way for non-Jews to naturalise and become Jews), and the role of a teacher is not to make teachers (although one who is taught can become a teacher). The job of each role is to help a person become better whatever that direction that leads to.

    And, for good reason, the Noahide laws don't prescribe for a "religion" and thus do not emphasize prayer and call for houses of worship. Unfortunately in our western culture, we are burdened with christian presuppositions and distortions which make it seem as though you need a church or a synagogue or an established place of worship to really be part of something or to worship God. When God says "Oh man it has been shown to you what is good, and what God requires from you..." he didn't say "be sure to make good places of worship and establish a good "religion"". But rather it was about the life you lead and the example you show in your actions. For a Noahide who has to live in a world that more or less despises the guidance of God, it is important that his seven categories of law (not just seven "sentences", as you said) not focus on institutions but conduct, not the establishment of the synagogue but the establishment of proper government and judiciary system.

    Now, to be blunt, if there is a failure amongst the Noahides to know their laws, then, although some responsibility goes to the laypeople (the noahides), you have to look at how the priests have been doing their job! If a school has a poor turnout of students where even its best are struggling to make it in the world, some responsibility may go to the student, but fingers must be pointed at the teachers whose responsibility it is to direct the students properly! For example, one "lack" that was highlighted was "lack of religious leadership." But who is meant be, in a way, a leader in the world? Who are the priests with the universal "church?" If there is a lack of properly leadership, then how do you improve the situation? By telling all those who can be the best leaders to forsake the non-Jewish situation and become a Jew????

    1. A lot of very interesting points here. A lot to wrap my head around. I can understand the perspective of being Noachide not being a 'religion' as we know it in modern terms. I also hear what you're saying about a reason for the core being about actions G-d asks of us, or asks us to refrain from, and not the other trappings we associate with religion.

      On the other hand I can definitely see how a person wanting to live a life committed to a path in relationship with G-d would want: prayers; community; places to come together for services; structure and traditions; practices; its own teachers; books; etc... Not only do those seem like understandable things to want - especially if you had those things in another religion you chose to leave - but I think those things are all part of having a way of life that is sustainable, and can be continued on by subsequent generations.

      We can try to be superheroes and live strongly for what we understand to be right and good while on our own about it, but in reality I think it's very hard to sustain on one's own, and is much more likely to succeed if done with all of the above structures in place.

      I know so little about this topic yet, or the experiences of people trying to live this, or Torah about it, but it seems to me one would sort of need to actually start a new religion. It would need a way to ordain its own teachers. It would need to develop its own melodies, and customs, and prayers, and ... everything, wouldn't it? I mean, like you said above, one could simply do this on a personal level, of simply trying to be informed of all the laws that are derived from the 7 Noachide laws, (I think there's a book someone wrote going through the details, right?) and simply go about your way trying to live those, doing extra stuff as extra, if one so wishes. But... what can you pass onto your children then? Does a person then have a community to support one another? Does a person have celebrate special holy days together with others? How about important life occasions like births and weddings and coming of age... If you're going to celebrate these in a way where you do so with G-d involved, don't you need some developed practices? Someone who can preside over them? In theory you don't maybe, but in practice I don't see how this can work for a person without all of the above.

      I don't know much about all the religions out there, but while there are some that seem to be in keeping with the 7 Noachide laws, they also don't exactly seem to really be compatible with Torah... For example, my closest friend is very devotedly Christian, and we have spoken a ton about religion, and from what I gather from her, for the most part Torah (the Old Testament to her) is largely ignored and sort of dismissed in her Church (she said they call it the age of law, which to them is over). She, herself, is a big fan of Torah and fairly knowledgeable, but this seems to be quite a rarity, and also a point of awkwardness for her with peers.

      If someone wanted to live a full and rich life in relationship with G-d, as we are taught about G-d via the Torah, but not as part of Bnei Yisrael but as a Ben Noach... I don't see how that could be done really, and fit in, and be fully at home, in any other religion.

      That's why it seems to me you'd actually need to start a new religion, as it were, or a variety of them. One where HaShem is One, and the only G-d, and which sees itself as a brother to Bnei Yisrael, not in rejection of any part of how Jews live Torah, but as a human being, part of Bnei Adam, who wants to live as an individual, and as part of a community, in relationship with G-d, in all the important occasions of life, and in your day to day, and in a way that can be passed on to your children...

    2. Maybe it would be more objectionable to others, which is a serious concern, but one time, against my better judgement, I openly blithered to my dearest and amazing friend who is a devoted Christian how it seemed very odd to me, and incompatible to be Christian and... well Christian. I mean, Christianity includes (as excluded as it may often be) the Torah (aka Old Testament) and the Aseret Ha'dibrot (aka the 10 Commandments) which, to my limited understanding, clearly states that G-d is not anything within creation, not in the heavens above, or on the earth, or in the waters. And there are also passages which say not to listen to those who claim to be prophets but say to worship anything other than the One G-d, and how severe an error this is (see:;18:15-22) But... I mentioned to her how the vast majority of what Christianity is about, (almost the entirety) seemed to me to be very good. It encourages: love, kindness, respect, charity, trust in G-d, human dignity, compassion, prayer, good deeds, learning, community, justness, helping the less fortunate, etc... The only thing that really stood out to me as problematic (please forgive my ignorance of the complexity of these issues) was the deification of Jesus, and the beliefs that surround that - like needing to believe the former in order to be 'saved'. I thought, if everything would continue to be as it was: the same prayers, lessons, community, ministries... everything, with the exception that Jesus was referred to as a respected teacher, and not ever confused with the One G-d... then basically it's already very good. There is already a community, a long history with well developed practices, customs, life lessons, etc... If the teaching were not claimed to be the words of G-d, and Jesus was not deified, but the teaching were related to as human teachings, and Jesus was related to as a favorite teacher of theirs... wouldn't that be good? Now I'm just a tiny fellow, and have limited understanding of all this stuff, but that's how it seems to me. Anyhow, please forgive me if that is offensive to anyone. I definitely mean well.

      P.S. I noticed a few people made frustrated sentiments towards Jews - looking to them for instruction, but not finding it, and noting their lack of being priests and teachers in this area of life. Coming from a Jewish perspective, I certainly can understand those feelings, and am very interested in being helpful where I am able, if someone wants.

      I also wanted to point out that it makes me feel a bit nervous reading those comments, feeling anxious reading what seems like more negativity in my general direction, because I'm Jewish, albeit for a new type of reason. I know it isn't intended that way, and I do hear your concern, and I do want to help if anyone wants, but maybe you can also understand how I could feel uncomfortable and unsure if these well intended criticisms are related to the anti-Jewish sentiments that tend to go around.

    3. Also, it seems like such a basic thing to have thought about, if you understand the world from a Torah perspective > how will other people in actual practice live in a life committed to G-d's will, as a Ben Noach, and what is my role in regards to that? Historically, and still very sadly presently, there is so much animosity towards Jews, and genuine risk of harm from some people, that I think many people are anxious to even be openly, happily, proudly Jewish. People want to keep their heads down, and still attached at the shoulders, so you aren't really going to see people going about encouraging others to live as a Ben Noach, except hopefully by the passive example of trying to live well as Jews. Judaism is very averse to proselytising, and tends to focus on trying to live well as part of Bnei Yisrael, and not to interfere with other people's practices or beliefs, partly because that's a principle found in Torah teachings, and possibly also as a response to a history of being forcibly converted or killed. Anyhow, due to the above you just never learn in a Jewish context anything at all about how to spread the ideas of living in relationship with the One G-d to other peoples. I have in many years never heard it come up except in the context of people concerned about their fellow Jews continuing to be Jewish. Personally I don't identify even with that last idea, and tend to emphasize my goal being to try to get myself to live a bit better, and trying to do what G-d asks of me, especially in terms of treating other people with as much respect and love as possible, simply because that is what G-d wants, and is the right way to live, and not for the aim of anything to do with what other people will do.

      Anyhow, if anyone would like to discuss these issues with me, I'd very much enjoy that, and would be excited to dig into these questions together, and be a resource for people if anyone wants.

    4. Firstly, and as a foundational part of this response, I'll reiterate what you first acknowledged: keeping the noahide laws is about doing what God requires of Gentiles. For a Gentile to have a full relationship with God, that is the key, not becoming Jewish, not doing something that feels intellectually nice or right, but doing what God requires and being committed to it. Everything else is extra. Extra doesn't mean unimportant.

      Prayers, books, many of the other things you refer to are good and are within the possibilities of a gentile without converting. Some of them are more easily accessible for Jews at present, the Torah both Gentile and Jew is not meant to be the law of religion, but of a people, run by a government. Whichever way you cut it, neither Gentile nor Jew can live with the full blessings of either covenant. We have to make do with what we have, whether it's a lack of community, or a total inability to follow over a third of divine laws given. That just means it's good for observant gentiles to work together with Jews as opposed to articles that tell you not to remain a gentile and see God's laws for gentiles as a hindrance to escape from. The same fundamental principle applies for both Jew and Gentile, "fear God and keep His commands" and there is much good comes to anyone that does that! You don't need to pe a superhero to do what God says, unless you are saying God gave commands that people are unable to keep. An obvious sign that He gave each set of people what they could handle is the fact that he gave gentiles commands that can be kept on your own. But he gave the covenant nation additional responsibilities that need community, and thus need to be preserved forever. One such responsibility is not to denigrate the noahide commands and make a gentile feel as if he has the bad end of the deal and no relationship with th Creator, but rather to teach them/us to the world, not to make the world Jewish, but to make it better.

    5. Many people's minds have been saturated by the xtian expression of religion to see any other way of living, but we are talking about God's law, not his religion. There are now a good amount of books about the Noahide Code and rabbis willing to teach it, so the present and future are brighter than you believe. And at the very least, there are online communities. And even without communities, we're talking about gentiles, not a member of a noahide religion. And it's just about being a good one whilst acknowledging God. There are plenty of good people out there. With weddings and funerals, that's based on personal taste. And there are national celebrations available, and the universal aspects of Jewish ones. Your statements show that you may not know much about the noahide lifestyle and possibilities. That's fine. Take a look and see. It's not as bad as this article makes out. But it does work for many noahides that I know.

      There is a difference between bnei noah and noahide. Bnei Noah is the proper word for gentile in Jewish texts. The modern word noahide is used two ways these days: one as a gentile; another as a more religious way of gentiles who keep the laws. So i guess in a way, to cope with the religious baggage people can't get rid of, a new religion is already here. Just look at

      You are not offensive in positing that christianity would be ok if its main proponent didn't worship a man or a trinity. It's easy to think that when you look at christianity superficially. If you took the main proponent out of most religions, including atheism, they would seem fine. I used to be a christian very much into his belief. There's more to christianity than that.

      It's a Torah principle for Jews to keep to themselves unless it is to save their own lives. Rambam says that Moses commanded Israel to bring the noahide laws to the nations. And the Torah itself says the best outreach there is for the nations is for Jews to just keep the Torah. So it's not passive at ald but a great way for the nations to see the righteousness of God's law. Israel is meant to be a light to the nations. If Jews choose to keep God's truth to themselves when there is no risk to their lives, then they are turning their backs on one of their main reasons for existing, to be a nation of ministers and priests, priests to/for the nations.

    6. Correction to last paragraph: it is NOT a Torah principle for Jews to keep to themselves ....

  10. (contd)

    So to make a article about "Why not be a Noahide?" is similar to saying "Why not be a student?" It's like saying "because life as a student is so bad because the school is rubbish, just train to become a teacher .... it's easier." Rather than teaching people how to make the best of a bad situation, such an article says "to hell with improving the situation where you are, just escape (even though it was meant to be our role to help improve that situation)! But focusing on and applying the priestly duties to the non-priests and saying "look at how they don't have the priests are meant to have!" doesn't help the situation any bit because we ain't the priests.

    I know from personal experience how hard it is to be a noahide. But if I read this article, I can't say "why thank you for helping me by implying the only way to improve is to press the eject button!" I can't say "why thank for you pointing out that what is supposed to be seven categories of laws with details and offshoots is just seven sentences." I can't say "well it is difficult enough living in the midst of christians who feel the need to tell him how God died, amongst atheists and agnostics and the theologically/philosophically lazy who just rubbish God completely with their lifestyles and government funded propaganda through the education system and the media, now you've helped me graciously by pointing supposed flaws in just trying to be a decent human being before the God of the universe!" I actually have a child and a christian wife, so maybe I should thank you for graciously highlighting what I already know about the uncertain fate of the education of my child! Maybe I should thank you for at least implying that divorce may be the best thing for my family home. Don't even think of saying "oh this is just for some people" or "this is a case-by-case thing"! So much for shalom ha-bayit being important! A married couple is supposed to become as one flesh. But good doctors do their best try to prevent gangrene from occuring which leads to amputation, rather than just saying "well this situation can lead to gangrene where amputation may happen anyway!" Of course it's a terrible possibility and sometimes it has to happen, but come on, there's got to be (and there is) a better way than just making that statement in an article and then just walking away!!!

    I've interacted with those who are trying to change the situation amongst the students, the laypeople who know of such difficulties and still try, instead of simply pointing out the difficulties and saying "oh, forget it, just become a Jew" (as if that was really the purpose of Israel at any point in their history), try to spread education we so much need. These include some of the faculty (i.e., the teachers, the Jews) and those amongst the students who have learnt a lot.

    You've taken the time to write your blogpost because you see some of those difficulties. For at least those points, it was a good thing to actually invest your efforts into saying something about the Noahide commands. I've said a lot that may be taken offensively and I'm sorry for any bad feeling. You've done more than most in a positive way. But despite that, it's a shame you only went in one direction with it as opposed to dealing with it in a holistic fashion that both shows the weaknesses and proposes even small ways of improving without just the "it's easier to just leave it all and be a Jew" route. Because the Noahide laws are taught as simply a religion as opposed to the laws you are meant to keep as a non-Jew, a natural descendant of Noah (there is a difference), that may be a source for the sort of article you wrote.

  11. (contd)

    To call Judaism a religion, although it is done a lot of times and to help a non-Jewish world understand some aspect of it, misses the point. To believe that the Noahide laws are religion misses the point. To believe that Torah, Judaism, and Noahide laws are separate things again misses the point. The Torah encompasses a way of individual and societal civility and governance for both those with the context of that special Israelite covenant, and those who are part of the descendants of Noah under the former covenant. Both are Torah. Both are God's way. Both are not simply a religion but about personhood and nationhood.

    Your article could been so much more!

  12. The punishment for a Noahide for disobeying the laws is death!

    Violation of any one of the seven laws subjects the Noahide to capital punishment by decapitation. (Sanh. 57A)

    There are not just 7 laws.... In the tenth century Rabbi Samuel ben Hofni expanded the 7 Noachide commandments to the 30 laws that are mentioned in the Talmud (Chullin 92a). His list of the 30 laws were found in the Cairo Genizah.

    1. You have nothing to fear from laws. 7, 30, 66 and even 613 laws are not a problem. Laws helps you to live better, not to die faster. So don't worry about quantity. Also, "capital punishment" is like an idiomatic expression;)

      First, the sentence of death shall be declared by the Sanhedrin, which does not exist at the moment. Second, the Sanhedrin can not kill more than 10 people (by year? by generation? anyway, few people on a long period of time). Third, there are criteria in order to launch an accusation against someone. For exemple:

      - The person must have been warned that what she wanted to do was against the law.
      - She must have replied "I know that it's forbiden, and I know that I will deserve death, but I decide to sin anyway" and do the crime right away. If there are X seconds between the warning and the crime, for exemple, the warning of the witness expired, and the testimony about the crime is invalidated.
      - etc.!

      There are numerous criteria, so death sentence is practically impossible in judaism. It's because G.od doesn't wish to see his creatures dying. He wants to see them alive, shameful of their sins, and willing to become a better person everyday, every hour, every minute... Jews do G.od's wills, so they have no reason to kill anyone who sins.

      The "capital punishment" is more an indication about the gravity of the act than a real sentence. Possible death sentence = very serious crime.

      If you see Jews preparing massive decapitations, I'll tell you a secret: they are not Jews, but rather identity thieves.

  13. I stumbled onto this website today, and find it VERY interesting and informative. After reading through the original post I have been reading people's replies and comments, and finding them interesting too. I'm really grateful this was written up and shared here, and that I found it.
    I'm Jewish, and practice in an orthodox manner (more or less), though I wouldn't choose that label myself if it wasn't in a context where someone was trying to figure out which box I fit in : ) I was born Jewish, and though I didn't grow up "religious" we had some practices at home, and I identified strongly with my heritage, as far as family and peoplehood goes. I feel very strongly about the unity of all of us. To me all humanity is my own family, and we're all one person in a way, expressed in a beautiful variety of ways, incredibly enriched in our diversity, and any teaching, overt or implied, that compromises love and identification with every person, tends to really trouble me.
    As a young adult I began wanting to live in a conscious attempt to do what G-d wants, (it's a long story) though I didn't know what that was. That led me to focused study of Torah for several years, and ongoing learning and attempts to live it for a long time now. I try to live my life in a conscious relationship with G-d. I try to do that joyfully, and in a warm and pleasant way. And to my understanding the emphasis is on how we treat each other, with the aim to maximizing real respect, and understanding, and love for one another, to the best of our ability : ) thanking G-d for what we're given, and doing our best with it.
    All of that is preamble, hehe, just to give a little bit of a sense of where I'm coming from. What I really wanted to say was, a) thank you for sharing this, and b) I'd be honoured and would very much enjoy discussing any questions anyone here might have. I say discussing, and not answering, since I likely won't have all the answers, but I think there are a lot of good questions. It seems to me like this is an important matter, that is affecting people's real lives. So, if anyone wants to discuss related thoughts and questions with me, I would be very happy to get to take part in that.

  14. No offense meant to my Orthodox bros and sisters or the "Noahides", however there's no need for gentiles whom have a sincere interest in serving God to accept second class status and practice a religion that has been created almost entirely by Rabbis! Just as was written in the article, B'Nei Noach is in fact the only religious group on earth in which another religion tells them what to do, lol.I mean, they tell you what to do and your not even allowed to join them in services! If you'd like to Practice Judaism but are having problems with orthodox conversion, why not look at Karaite Judaism as an alternative? I know, I know, we're those "heretical" Jews whom--GASP!--reject the talmud and obey only the Torah, however I encourage all those interested in Torah to investigate and make up your own minds. Conversion to Karaite Judaism would still result in your being rejected as "Heretical" by most other sects of Judaism, but at least you'd have a congregation and be fully included in our services as an equal!


    1. THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR!!! I looked up your group on wikipedia, the only annoying thing is the closest one to me is in San Francisco a whole state away... :(

  15. Where are any of you today? Any in Cleveland ohio

  16. Anybody here live in the Cleveland ohio area who would like to share about this?

  17. The fact that Jews know not about Noahide laws, or that Gentiles have little knowledge of them, or whatever other deficiencies exist to promote Gentiles to observe the 7 Noahide Laws - does not and should not negate the value therein. There are plenty of websites that discuss aspects of the Noahide status, and anyone sincerely involved can learn enough to get the ball rolling. Think positively and positive results shall ensue.

  18. I have recently left Christianity and went to a local Chabad. The Rabbis were very friendly and helpful. I was contemplating going the direction of a Noahide and have since decided against it. To worship God and follow his commandments I don't need to be a Noahide.
    My concern is that once the Rabbis start looking into it, it will become more complicated. Which is what has happened to orthdox.

  19. We, the Noachides, B'nei Noach, or Noachians, whatever, were the abandoned children. In the first place, our forebear, Noach was not even interested in gathering a people and instilling the faith, even though Hashem talked to him personally like He talked to Moses. Fact is, Noach even pronounced a curse to one of his progenies for a fault of his own. I wonder how we could possibly start something positive out of this. Understandably, the Rabbis were simply too busy with their own to even care.

  20. Some are vegetarians and vegans. We pray all day during the high holy days and fast on y"k and tisha b'av. Sure, we get creative with our Hebrew during prayers by omitting the "and g-d of our fathers." We are not a separate religion. We (both jews and observant gentiles) are just people following Torah. It's that simple. Two spiritual paths, both intertwined. As far as who we marry, there are rabbis trying to connect our small worlds. Also, thanks to the intermarriage crisis, there are a ton of non-jews with Jewish fathers out there. There are options. I myself still want to convert. However, I don't want to convert for the reasons you listed. I want to be a jew because I feel drawn to that path and wish to do it as an additional service to Hashem. However, if I don't finish, I'm always welcome to the Shabbos table in my community. That's the beauty of Torah. Everyone whether Jew or Gentile has a role to play and a path to fulfill.

    1. Some of my comment is missing. =( Like the whole beginning is missing.

    2. Oh no! I approved everything that showed up on my end :/ Do you happen to remember what is missing? You have great points, so I'd love to hear more!

  21. Yes, I remember what it was. It must have been my tablet. It malfunctions sometimes. Anyways, what I was saying before this was that I have been a Noahide 2 years come January. I once had the same reaction you had in this post. I didn't really understand what it mean to be a ger (noahide). The Torah often uses the word ger in a way that does not mean a Jew. Avraham himself said," I am ger toshav." Noah knew both sabbaths. Prior to Sinai, all of the Israelites were Noahides. Some may argue that we know they were about to become b'nai yisrael, but as one rabbi once told me, "Hashem doesn't judge us by who we might be, but by who we currently are." See, Noahides were never meant to be a separate religion. We were meant to be among Israel. The 52ish laws that are required for gentiles are just a base. Many do more mitzvos as volunteers.

  22. I am a gentile Noachide happy to live a quiet prayer life directly between me and God. I don't feel a need to convert to Judiasm. I occasionally attend a Christian church due to family obligations and privately keep my opinions of Jesus to myself. My social life is among artists and musicians and many are atheists. I practiced Buddishm for a while but when I discovered the 7 laws that finally all fit better for me because I feel there is God. I am very content and thankful to have learned all this after years trying to reconcile all my beliefs.

  23. The author says, " rabbis have historically had no interest in the Noachide laws".

    A correction is here due: Rabbis, or any Jew for that matter, was reluctant to instruct gentiles in the Noahide laws because doing so years ago entailed the risk to life. Jews today, unlike historically, are rather free to speak their minds. This was not the reality years back. Had a Jew have told a gentile during the Spanish inquisition, or during the Ottoman reign, or during Nazi Germany, or during most eras of the past, that he take charge of his duty to heed the 7 laws, the Jew well would have run the risk of sacrificing his life. Only our present era finally gives the Jew room to breath freely and speak his mind, and now too not everywhere. This new phenomenon reflects our unusual era wherein the arrival of Moshiach is imminent. We are, after all, in the year 5776, and this state of affairs will only get better for the Jewish people, despite the growing anti-Semitism that is resurfacing. But evil must surface for it to be vanquished once and for all - all while Jews will collectively thrive and prosper, as will too those empathetic to the Jewish people and the one God they represent.