The Path of the Righteous Gentile: Introduction
The Path of the Righteous Gentile is published with full permission from the Author Rabbi Chaim Clorfene. This book is out of print and is now available to view and read online here on this website.
This book summarizes the Torah’s call to inform and guide the Gentiles, the descendants of Noah, as to their true spiritual path in the world. Jewish readers will also be interested in learning about this little known area of Jewish study. These Seven Laws of the Children of Noah are the basic principles of civilized humanity.
For the past two thousand years, Christians and Moslems and every other religious group that has had the opportunity have been proselytizing to the Jews, telling them what their religious duty should be. The Jews, by contrast, have never actively sought converts to their own religion. Perhaps this is why few people realize that Judaism has something to say concerning the religious and ethical duties of the non-Jews in the world.
The doctrine of the Seven Noahide Commandments brings the Jewish idea of unity to the world. In fact, the very idea of unity in religion originated with Judaism. Whoever has this concept other than the Jews, got it from the Jews.1 And when we speak of unity, we mean both the unity of God and the unity of mankind. The unity of God means true monotheism, and the unity of mankind means a world in which all people come to God in peace and harmony.
All the religions of the world, other than Judaism, approach the idea of unity with the precept, “Believe as we believe, and the world will be one.” This approach has never worked. Judaism approaches unity from an entirely different perspective. It teaches that there are two paths, not just one.2 One path is yours. The other one is mine. You travel yours and I will travel mine, and herein will be found true unity – the one God is found on both paths because the one God gave us both. The Noahide laws define the path that God gave to the non-Jewish peoples of the world.3
The Seven Noahide Commandments comprise the most ancient of all religious doctrines, for they were given to Adam, the First Man, on the day of his creation.4 Wondrously, the Seven Noahide Commandments remain the newest and most uncharted of all religious doctrines. Humanity has managed to keep them new by ignoring them throughout history. But now, in these latter days when the footsteps of the Messiah can be heard by all who will listen closely, the Seven Noahide Commandments must finally be learned and observed by all the people of all the nations.
The word commandment is a translation of the Hebrew word mitzvah, which also means “connection.” By observing God’ s commandments, a person becomes connected to God’s infinite will and wisdom and thereby elicits a Godly light which shines onto his or her soul. This Godly light is eternal, and in it the soul earns eternal reward.5 By observing the Seven Noahide Commandments, a Gentile fulfills the purpose of his creation and receives a share of the eternal World to Come, the blessed spiritual world of the righteous.
The hurdle that must be cleared in preparation for observing the Seven Noahide Commandments is the acceptance of the idea that mankind’s way to the Father is through the oral tradition of Judaism, known as the Oral Torah. Rebellion against the sanctity and authority of Oral Torah has been with us since those first days in the Wilderness of Sinai when the followers of Korah led a revolt against absolute authority of Moses, as we learn in the Book of Numbers, “And they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, You assume too much; for the whole of the congregation are all of them holy, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then will you lift yourselves up above the congregation of the Lord? (Numbers 6:3).”
In the end, God performed a great miracle to demonstrate His preference for the Mosaic authority, “And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them and their houses and all the men that were for Korah and all their wealth. And they went down, they and all who were for them, alive into the pit; and the earth closed over them and they disappeared from the midst of the congregation (Numbers 16:32,33).”
When God gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, all the people accepted the Written Torah willingly, but God had to lift the mountain over their heads and threaten to drop it on them to persuade them to accept the Oral Torah.6 If the Jews had difficulty in accepting the Oral Torah as no less divine than Scripture, how much more difficult must it be for the non-Jews. But accept the oral tradition7 they must, for the source of understanding the Seven Noahide Commandments is found in the Talmud and later rabbinic teachings, and nowhere else.
There is a second difficulty that arises in considering the Seven Noahide Commandments. It is seemingly a semantic problem, but it has profound implications. The Gentile as well as the Jew should relate to members of the non-Jewish nations of the world as Noahides, a strange new term. Seen as the Children of Noah, or Noahides, the Gentile nations at once have a unique and specific spiritual role in the world, one that is exceedingly exalted. The Children of Noah are co-religionists with the Children of Israel. Together, they are peaceful partners striving to perfect the world and thereby give God pleasure and satisfaction. By viewing himself as a Noahide, the Gentile becomes like the Jew, in that he is a member of a people whose peoplehood, not just his religion or nationality, is synonymous with its relationship to God.
At this time, The Path of the Righteous Gentile is the only book that presents a framework of the divine code of the Seven Noahide Commandments in a practical form, albeit a limited and seminal one. For reasons explained in the first chapter, Historical Overview, previous treatises on this subject were written by Jewish scholars for other Jewish scholars and were intended to remain theoretical and academic. The Path of the Righteous Gentile is a call to action for the Jew and the Gentile, the Israelite and the Noahide. And as Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the task is considerable, the workers are lazy, the reward is great, and the Boss is insistent.8
It all depends on us, which includes you. And so, this introductory book about the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah has been prepared. It is meant not as a document of final authority, but as a means by which people may become familiar with the subject and incorporate it within their lives.
We hope and pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel will forgive any errors this work may contain, and that it will become an instrument for bringing all mankind closer to its Father in heaven. May His revealed Presence soon dwell among us.
1 Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry, 1:2,32 Ibid., Laws of Kings, 8:10
3 Ibid., 8:11
4 Ibid., 9:1
5 Likutei Torah, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Bekhukotey, page 45, column 3