What are the Noahide Laws?

The Noahide laws are laws given by God to all mankind. They're fairly straightforward, but like anything in matters of faith, there's endless depth available for those who inquire.

This is a question I get asked a lot. The Noahide laws are laws given by God to all mankind. They’re fairly straightforward, but like anything in matters of faith, there’s endless depth available for those who inquire.

At their heart is the idea – the truth in my view – that morality stems from our Creator. Were this to be a randomly occurring universe, good and evil would depend on prevailing opinion, and prevailing opinions change. Sometimes with disastrous consequences.

If God created our universe, however, then good and evil spring from God’s laws.

Jews have LOTS of laws to follow. We don’t know why. That’s our role. We share seven, however, with all of humanity:

1. Do not deny God.
2. Do not blaspheme God.
3. Do not murder.
4. Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
5. Do not steal.
6. Do not eat of a live animal.
7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

Going a little deeper, the Noahide laws read like this:

“1. Acknowledge that there is only one G‑d who is Infinite and Supreme above all things. Do not replace that Supreme Being with finite idols, be it yourself, or other beings. This command includes such acts as prayer, study and meditation.

“2. Respect the Creator. As frustrated and angry as you may be, do not vent it by cursing your Maker.

“3. Respect human life. Every human being is an entire world. To save a life is to save that entire world. To destroy a life is to destroy an entire world. To help others live is a corollary of this principle.

“4. Respect the institution of marriage. Marriage is a most Divine act… a reflection of the oneness of G‑d and His creation. Disloyalty in marriage is an assault on that oneness.

“5. Respect the rights and property of others. Be honest in all your business dealings. By relying on G‑d rather than on our own conniving, we express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.

“6. Respect G‑d’s creatures. At first, Man was forbidden to consume meat. After the Great Flood, he was permitted – but with a warning: Do not cause unnecessary suffering to any creature.

“7. Maintain justice. Justice is G‑d’s business, but we are given the charge to lay down necessary laws and enforce them whenever we can. When we right the wrongs of society, we are acting as partners in the act of sustaining the creation.”
– the Noahide laws as detailed at Chabad.org

If each of us was to follow all of these laws with intentionality and accountability, the world would be transformed.

Each of the seven laws can also lead to whole worlds of study and learning. A great place to begin is the book The World of the Ger by Rabbis Chaim Clorfene and David Katz, avail at www.worldoftheger.net

Image: Alaskan double rainbow by Eric Rolph via Wikimedia

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