A group of non-Jewish delegates have come to Jerusalem to pledge their loyalty to the Laws of Noah. They appeared before the nascent Sanhedrin, which established a High Council for B'nai Noach.
The ten delegates appeared before a special session of the Jewish High Court of 71 Rabbis led by its Nassi (President) Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. B'nai Noach, literally "Children of Noah," also known as Noahides, are non-Jews who take upon themselves the Torah's obligations for all members of the human race. The seven such laws were passed on via Noah following the Flood, as documented in Genesis (see below).
The gathering took place under a banner quoting the Biblical passage in Tzefania 3:9which refers to "all the nations... speak[ing] a pure language... proclaim[ing] the name of G-d."
The Noahide delegates stood before the nascent Sanhedrin, which was reestablished over a year ago in Tiberias, following the renewal of Biblical ordination, and has met regularly since then. "Each one [of the B'nai Noach] comes with a name he has made in the world, as a teacher and example in his community of observance of the seven laws of Noah," said Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, the Sanhedrin's emissary who facilitated the council's organization, introducing the delegates. "At great physical and financial expense, they have flown across the world to Jerusalem, the holy city, to pledge before the court and all mankind, their allegiance to the Seven Laws of Noah, the laws of the Creator."
Each of the Noahide representatives stood before the Sanhedrin and pledged:
"I pledge my allegiance to HaShem, G-d of Israel, Creator and King of the Universe, to His Torah and its representatives, the developing Sanhedrin. I hereby pledge to uphold the Seven Laws of Noah in all their details, according to Oral Law of Moses under the guidance of the developing Sanhedrin. May HaShem bless and aid me, my fellow council members and all B'nai Noach in all our endeavors for the sake of His name. Blessed are You G-d, King of the universe, who has caused me to live, sustained me, and brought me to this day."
Roger Grattan, a council aide who lives in Maine, told Arutz-7 prior to the ceremony, "I am sure that this will be a paragraph in the history of civilization, although one could also write books on it. It is also the fulfillment of prophecy." The core members of the council are Indian Foreign Relations Coordinator Bud Gill, Billy Jack Dial, Andrew Overall, Adam Penrod, Jacob Scharff, Chairman Larry Borntrager, Honorary Noahide Council Elder Vendyl Jones, Tennessee Noahide Community Head Jack Saunders and Council Speaker Jim Long.
Long addressed the rabbis of the court, requesting formal recognition of the Noahide Council: "Your honor, esteemed rabbis of the developing Sanhedrin. We are here because of your Torah. Rabbis before you elevated the Torah and it drew us in; before that, we stumbled in darkness. Everyone here today can tell you that in the past we have experienced the need to consolidate our efforts to make the world aware of the truth."
Rabbi Even-Israel Steinsaltz, on behalf of the Sanhedrin, replied: "We hereby recognize these men as the first high council of B'nai Noach in accordance with the conditions they have accepted upon themselves."
Rabbi Steinsaltz spoke about the role of the Jewish people in bringing the Laws of Noah to the world:
"I am part of this Jewish family and I have nothing bad to say about that family, but you don't go up to a man on the street and ask him to join your family. Instead you talk to him about joining the true belief in the Creator and about implementing divine justice toward his fellow man. We are setting up a global mission here – not to recruit people, but to bring them to the realization that there is one G-d."
The Nassi explained that this aspect of Judaism lay dormant for years, as the Jewish people dealt with remaining alive and keeping the Torah in the exile.
Rabbi Steinsaltz called for an extensive project to be undertaken to help B'nai Noah in the nitty-gritty details of the observance of the religion. "A Shulhan Arukh [Jewish Law Code] for B'nai Noah must be written so that the individual can have guidance as to what to do," Steinzaltz said, referring to the compendium of practical Jewish law written by Rabbi Yosef Karo of Tzfat in the 1560's that is still used today.
He then addressed the ten B'nai Noah representatives, who had endured hours of Hebrew speeches throughout the day, in English:
"There are those people, so far only a small number, who say, 'We are bound by the covenant of Adam and the covenant of Noah and we know we have to perform and fulfill our obligations.' We, as Jews, have the same religion as you.
"Within the nation of Israel there is one tribe that deals with the Temple – the priests. We Jews are a specific tribe in the world that was chosen to be a tribe of priests – hereditary priests. Because of this we have special duties. Being a priest does not mean we are cut off from the other people. While the people of the world are all different units in the armies of the Lord, we are a special commando unit that maybe doesn't get paid more, but has special assignments that may be more dangerous."
Rabbi Even-Israel spoke about the difficulties that would confront the B'nai Noah movement as it grows:
"When we are speaking in general, almost every human being can more or less accept the laws of Noah, but when we get to particulars we will come to serious points, at which we disagree with Christianity and Islam.
"It is one thing when a religion is small, but as it gets bigger there will be huge pressures. We will be there beside you. We are members of the same religion that was given by the Almighty to humanity. Part of it was given to the Jews and part of it was given to humanity as a whole."
The Nassi added that while there are those who doubt the ability of the Sanhedrin to be more than an idea leading up to the true reestablished court, the Noahide Council cannot be doubted or criticized due to its pure motives and unprecedented mission.
Rabbi Yaakov Ariel of the Temple Institute said that although Tuesday is the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet, which commemorates the beginning of the destruction, "Our sitting in Jerusalem now, alongside B'nai Noach, demonstrates the revival and the fulfillment of the words of the prophets." Rabbi Ariel told those gathered that he had seen a rainbow that morning, "the closest thing to seeing Noah himself - the symbol of the covenant between G-d and humanity as witnessed by Noah."
Famed archaeologist and Noahide leader Vendyl Jones addressed a festive banquet held for the Council members, speaking about the Seven Laws of Noah. He explained, in detail, the verses in the first eleven chapters of Genesis from which the seven laws are elucidated, saying that he always understood the first six, but never understood the law proscribing the eating of a limb of a living animal - until he remembered his cattle-branding days in Texas: "We would brand and castrate the cattle when I was young, and at night we would all sit around the campfire and eat what they called 'mountain oysters'" – the testicles of the still-living animals.
Rabbi Nachman Kahane, Av Beit HaDin, spoke in English. "G-d created a primitive world," he said. "We don't grow loaves of bread, but grain that must be harvested, ground up and baked. We were meant to be partners with G-d. Unfortunately, throughout history, perversions of this idea grew. How can you be G-d's partner if you are damned and born with original sin? How can you be a partner of G-d if your religion tells you to send your children to shopping malls to blow people up? What we are creating today is a reconnection between the people and G-d. G-d is saying to humanity – everyone has a job. I happen to be a priest - I have a particular task for when the Temple is built - but all of us have a specific task just the same; I am no better."
Jones told Kahane that his brother, slain Knesset Member Rabbi Meir Kahane, together with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, had organized one of the first conferences for B'nai Noah nearly 20 years ago.
Conference on Noahide Council
Earlier in the day, several speakers addressed issues surrounding the B'nai Noah movement as part of a conference on the establishment of the B'nai Noah Council.
Sheikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, a leader of the Italian Muslim Assembly, addressed the assembly, speaking about B'nai Noah in Islam: "Islamic law holds within it the seven laws of Noah and can be taught correctly to the Muslims of the world... I remember reading that a new Sanhedrin was created in Jerusalem [and] my impression was very positive - I thought maybe something new had been created to allow the Jewish people to project moral and legal clarity to counterbalance the lack of it in our world."
Palazzi added that the project of creating a council of Noahide teachers would hopefully counter the negative educational effect of the Gaza withdrawal, "which taught the opposite to my people - it convinced many that only terrorism works."
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Zini, who heads Yeshiva Or V'Yishuah and is the rabbi of Haifa's Technion, spoke about the intuitive natural truths of the laws of Noah. "We must create a formal connection between the nation of Israel and the B'nai Noah to show the world that we are a nation of holy priests, as is dictated in our Torah," he said, speaking partly in French as well, as the conference will be available on the Sanhedrin's web site for viewing by prospective B'nai Noah worldwide.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, who received the blessing of leading hareidi-religious Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv to engage in the project of creating a court and infrastructure for B'nai Noah, addressed the conference as well. Rabbi Schwartz is the Deputy Av Beit HaDin [literally, Court Elder] of the Sanhedrin and the Av Beit HaDin for the B'nai Noah court. He spoke on the topic of "B'nai Noah and World Peace."
"The Islamic Jihad against the world has restored religion to the center of the world's consciousness," Schwartz said. "Over 30 years ago, someone by the name of Eisenberg sent a proposal to the United Nations saying that there will never be world peace unless the citizens of the globe agree on certain principles of faith. It was adopted by the UN as one of its official documents but was not followed up upon and has since been forgotten. We are here today to follow up on that document and remind the UN why it exists. There will be world peace when the whole world agrees that there is one G-d. There are people who do not think what I am about to say is worthwhile, but I suggested years ago that we begin to translate our books, which are meant for the nations of the world, into Arabic as well [Schwartz has authored many books on practical observance for Noahides –ed.]. It is not by coincidence that we have this nation alongside us, surrounding and living inside the land upon our return to it, who also preserves the heritage of Abraham our father."
Schwartz has indeed translated his books to Arabic, with the help of an Arab man he met at a bus stop who asked him a Mishanaic question, telling him he had already translated the Mishna, a codification of Jewish oral law. He said the entire printing has been sold out. "Muslim parents have thanked me for teaching their child that there is a different way to heaven than becoming a shahid, a martyr," he said.
Rabbi Schwartz explained that although one of the purposes of the Jewish people's exile was to disseminate belief in the Torah's truths around the world, their return to Israel has brought with it the technology to redouble our efforts from here:
"The moment we came to Israel, communication technology flourished. The telephone and radio spread rapidly, and computers and internet came soon after, changing the entire concept of communication and education. When we were in the exile, we were there to teach the world, and now that we have returned to the Land of Israel, G-d has given us the tools to do the work from here."
Rabbi David Zilbershlag, Director of Meir Panim and Koach Latet, both innovative charity associations, spoke about rectifying the misdeeds of Noah's generation, the generation of the Flood. Zilbershlag said that the new Council of Noahides must focus on kindness and charity, as that was the basis of G-d's covenant with Noah (the lack of which resulted in the destruction of Noah's entire generation) and His later covenant with Abraham.
"It is hard to distribute and spread an idea that is negative, as the laws of Noah are phrased," Zilbershlag said. "We must make a great effort to find and distribute the relevant positive commandments in our tradition throughout the world as well, and the most basic of these is that of following in the footsteps of Abraham our father."
Rabbi Eliyahu Essas, a former refusenik and founder of the Teshuva (return to Judaism) movement in the USSR, spoke about establishing outreach within Israel to help gentiles who moved from the former Soviet Union to Israel become aware of the Noahide laws:
"There are at least 400,000 out of the million people who came to Israel who are not Jewish according to Jewish law. There are many who think they are Jews, but do not have a Jewish mother and are therefore not Jewish according to Jewish law. 150,000 have no blood connection to the nation of Israel – spouses of Jews and relatives who came under the Law of Return. Then there are 30,000 who have nothing to do with the Jewish people, coming with forged documents. Over there, Jews wanted to be Russians; here, Russians want to be Jews.
"Should we harass such a person to convert, should we leave him alone, or should we try to get him to become a Ben Noah?" Essas asked, refraining from offering answers and saying that such complicated matters must be dealt with by both the Noahide Council and the Sanhedrin's B'nai Noah Beit Din. He added that the problem of intermarriage was not discussed by previous generations because it did not exist in such numbers. "We are dealing with 50% of families in the former Soviet Union and even more in North America. So if one spouse is a Jew and one is a Ben Noah, what will be their status? I want to raise these issues and offer a prayer to the Almighty to help us find wise solutions."
Council Looking Forward
Spokesman Jim Long outlined the Council's goals:
"Education is a vital part of our effort and we need you to help us with this. We need to make sure that developing Noahide groups do not split into denominations. As we move into the public eye, we will be viewed as heretics by many. We each come from other religions and must develop ways to approach them in a manner in which they listen without closing their ears. The Noahide movement is a Torah-based template for an ethical way of life. The Creator requires humanity to uphold these laws as per His covenant with Noah.
"Anyone who reads the Bible can see that your Torah is your constitution, your Bill of Rights and your deed to the Land of Israel. We have plans to publish Noahide prayer books, children's books and documentaries on science and the world through the lens of the Torah."
"We have heard that G-d is with you," Long concluded.
For more information, the Council secretary can be contacted at: email@example.com
The Seven Laws of Noah are:
Shefichat damim - Do not murder or commit suicide.
Avodah zarah – Pray and offer sacrifices only to G-d. Do not worship false gods/idols.
Gilui arayot - Do not be sexually immoral (no incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery), crossbreed animals or perform castration.
Ever Min HaChai - Do not eat a part of a live animal or consume blood.
Birkat Hashem - Do not utter G-d's name in vain, curse G-d or pursue the occult. Honor your parents.
Gezel - Do not steal or kidnap.
Dinim - Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair justice in judging offenders and uphold the principles of the last five.
(Photos: Ezra HaLevi)