In December 2010 I had major surgery on my heart. The procedure was such that it would have a significant impact on my spine and consequently my nervous system. Whilst the heart surgeon operated also present, via video link, were both my spinal and neuro consultants.
During the countdown to surgery, I tried to empty myself of life’s complications as well as the bags and baggage of ego and conceit. I tried to look at life more simply. Hence my exploration of the Noahide Commandments.
The Noahide Commandments
I’m not one for organised religion and I have serious issues with any God who behaves like a petulant teenager on a good day. But I also recognise the need for humanity to be organised and as such. the Noahide Commandments are the simplest and most straightforward rules governing the human condition I have yet to find.
Most people have heard of the so-called ‘Ten Commandments’, but what they don’t know is that ‘Ten Commandments’ is a mistranslation. In the original Hebrew, ‘Aseret HaDibrot’ correctly translates as ‘Ten Statements’, and it was ten statements that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, carved on two stone tablets. According to Jewish tradition (which comes from the Divine revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai), the Torah of Moses contains 613 commandments for the Jewish people and 7 commandments for everyone else. One of the commandments given to the Jewish people was to be ‘a light unto the (non-Jewish) nations’, and as part of fulfilling this task they have preserved in the Talmud the ‘Universal Code of Seven Noachide Commandments’.
Noachides (descendants of Noah) are righteous gentiles who observe the seven universal commandments of the biblical covenant that G-d made with Noah as taught in Orthodox Judaism.
The biblical covenant of Noah (symbolised by the rainbow) is a Divine promise to never again destroy humanity. The Jewish tradition informs us that in return for this promise, all humanity must observe the seven Noachide commandments.
Seven – This is the Commandment to establish a Just legal system, and pursue Justice. Justice is at the very heart of freedom and peace.
Six – Respect all creatures and avoid cruelty. A reminder that humans are privileged to be caretakers of the earth and all that moves on it.
Five – Respect the rights and property of others. We should seek to earn our sustenance with honesty and dignity, not through deceit.
Four – Respect traditional family values, because G-d defined marriage – a reminder of the sanctity of pure love.
Not simply concerning wedlock for the purpose of procreation but also of people (sometimes strangers) joining one to the other for the greater good.
We are created equal. It’s our duty as individuals, communities, societies and nations, to raise the weakest and poorest amongst us.
Three – Respect the sanctity of human life.
This commandment includes prohibitions of murder, abortion (except to save the mothers life), euthanasia and suicide. This edict protects us from the extremes of selfishness and the violent tendencies that lie within.
Trust and loyalty are crucial in life. “Freedom of speech” should never be extended to the extreme of blasphemy. Don’t speak against the One who gave you speech!
It is fruitless to serve idols or false prophets – guard against the modern predilection to worship hollow celebrity.
Every year in Britain:
More than 28 million New Year resolutions are made and it’s estimated that more than 27 million are broken within 3 months.
11,000 new love songs are sung.
220 new words enter the English dictionary.
790,000 babies are born.
The British Parliament passes between 25 and 50 new Acts of Parliament which join the thousands already on the statute book. Thousands of rules, obligations and regulations, all created by humankind in the belief that our lives will somehow be better ordered and more morally sustainable. In spite of our lawmakers best efforts, every year, it seems, life just gets harder and harder.
There are but seven Noahide Commandments.