It is Hard to think of
a more elating and majestic story in world literature than the biblical
story of Creation. From the moment G-d proclaims, "Let there be light" to
the entrance of the Shabbat, the compact tale is resplendent with joy of
creativeness and bliss. Following each day of creation is the affirmation
that "G-d saw that it was good," which changes at the conclusion of the six
days of creation to "G-d saw that it was very good." The peaceful
rest of the Shabbat then comes into the world soon after man and woman
appear on the scene.
A psalm, a song unto
the day of the Sabbath, is in the air. It does not take long, however, for
this idyllic state to be brutally disrupted and the following chapters bring
us into the tragic reality, not only of existential human condition, but of
The verses appearing
at the beginning of the sixth chapter of Bereishit are indeed terrifying and
have haunted me since my childhood: "And Hashem saw how man's wickedness on
the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart
was only evil all the time. Hashem was grieved that he had made man on the
earth, and his heart was filled with sadness."
What an awful
summation of the state of Man and G-d, who had only just now entered the
scene full of light, joy and expectation! What a terrible picture of a G-d
whose heart is filled with pain and sadness! How did He get himself into
this situartion? He that is omnipotent and omniscience; He that could
easily get himself cheered up calling in the best entertainers, musicians
and performers in the world (He is G-d, He can do anything. He can get
everything He wants, can't He?)
Indeed, only a
biblical empathetic G-d, who is inextricably involved in human affairs, can
be thus described. Certainly not the god of the philosophers, nor for that
matter, the one of common popular conception.
And then, amidst this
grim description, and after it seems that all is lost and ready to fall
apart, after Hashem says (verse 7): "I will wipe mankind whom I have created
from the face of the earth, man and animals, and creatures that move along
the ground, and birds of the air" - suddenly, a ray of light: "And Noach
found favor in the eyes of Hashem" (verse 8). The world will not fall
apart, it will survive nevertheless, it will be saved because of a single
person. Noach. A righteous person.
Midway between Adam
and Avraham, after the holocaust of the deluge, the world which G-d created
gets another chance. A new page is opened. There is a smile again on the
face of G-d. "Hashem smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart:
Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every
inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I
destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will
never cease" (Chapter 8:21-22).
As if the world was
created again at this very moment, this time in a covenant with mankind, the
first covenant is made with all of humanity, referred to in rabbinic
literature as "B'nei Noach," children of Noach, from which all humans are
It will take another
ten generations until Avraham makes another, more specific, covenant with
G-d which will mark the beginning of the Jewish people, chosen as a special
task force from among the peoples of the earth.
Whatever that covenant
stipulates is binding on all human beings, Jews included - as "there is
nothing which is permitted for Jews and prohibited for non-Jews." On the
contrary, there is much which is enjoined on Jews and not on non-Jews. The
number of precepts for Jews is put at 613; for "children of Noach," at only
seven: they must avoid 1) idol worship, 2) incest, 3) murder, 4) blasphemy,
5) theft, 6) injustice to other men, and 7) eating flesh cut from a living
These seven precepts,
derived from Scripture and enumerated in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 54a-b) are
also known as the Noachide Laws and are looked upon as the basic universal
law as seen from the point of view of Torah. If G-d is, as He is in the
Bible, the Creator of all human beings, he could not have cared only for
Yisrael and instructed them exclusively in the way of living. The Torah
(which means: instruction) that tells us about the creation by G-d of the
entire universe, surely includes also guidance for all G-d's creatures.
This guidance is presented in the Noachide Laws which comprise the essential
moral requirements for survival of individual and society.
While the Torah
evolves as the particular instruction for Yisrael, against its specific
historic and geographic background, it also sets the required condition for
those who seek inclusion in the Noachide covenant of all human beings.
Furthermore, salvation or "a share in the world to come," is not limited to
Jews or those who join them, who have to live by the 613 mitzvot, but is
offered equally to non-Jews who adhere to the seven precepts of the
"children of Noach."
The gates are open for
those who wish to convert and accept the full history and religion of
Yisrael, but it was never the goal of Judaism to make the entire world
Jewish. Early Christians, says Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh, (1822 - 1900) who
wrote extensively on Noachism, not having understood this point, saw only
one of two ways, either the whole would accept the full Torah, or, failing
this, Jews, in order to make their divine message universal, would have to
give up their adherence to Torah. They chose to propagate the latter.
Thus the universal
message the world got until now was, in the formulation of historian Arnold
Toynbee, either in the form of Christian Judaism or Moselem Judaism, both of
which tainted Judaism's pure concepts of Monotheism.
The world is still
waiting for the unversal message of Judaic Judaism. This is to be sought in
the idea and content of the Covenant and the seven laws of Noach.
[Pinchas H. Peli -
Torah Today A Renewed Encounter with Scripture]