Gentiles and Jews

Perhaps one of the least known things about Jewish belief is its view on Gentiles, and its stance on the role of Gentiles is perhaps unique among the religions. As far I understand it is the only religion that does not consider conversion obligatory. This is not because it does not care about non-Jews, or believe that God does not, but to the contrary there is an area within Judaism designated for Gentiles so that they do not need to become Jews. This a complex topic: on one hand the Gentile way of life is perfect in its current state, while on the other hand Judaism is nevertheless described as superior way of life.

I am relatively sure that the information provided here will come to some as a shock. Like many, it is also a complex topic that requires much study to fully understand. The information I am providing here is just the tip of the iceberg.

To put things into perspective, God created Gentiles before He created Jews. The Hebrew word for Gentile is “goy,” which means “nation.” In the Torah this word is used to describe the Jews as well, as in Exodus 19:6 which states, “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.” The Hebrew word for “nation” in this verse is “goy.”

The current distinction between Gentile and Jew did not always exist. The ideal state of humanity was to be a single broad group of people with one Divine purpose. That purpose was expressed through seven Divinely-revealed commandments commonly known as the Seven Laws of Noah or the Seven Noahide Laws. In Hebrew they are referred to as “sheva mitzvos bnei Noach,” or “the seven commandments of Noah.” Although God revealed these laws to Adam, who made them known to the subsequent generations, they are associated in name with Noah. The reason for this is because after the Flood, God codified them to Noah and his family. Because Noah and his family repopulated the earth, from that point onward this septalogue served as the basis for human belief and behavior. Gentiles fulfilled their holy purpose as humans, and experienced communion with God, by adhering to this set of laws.

Although all human beings are holy, the effect of the sin of Adam was so detrimental to the human state that the general human population was no longer capable of fulfilling its holy purpose. They had internalized the corruption borne of that sin to such a degree that the original scope had to be narrowed down to a subsection of the population. Just as Adam and Eve were the original ideal couple for this role, new candidates had to be chosen to replace them. These individuals had to contain within them the highest quality of spiritual perfection, and were expected to live at the highest level of holiness and purity possible. This had to be true so as to infuse the subsequent generations with the appropriate spiritual matter. Anybody was potentially suitable for this assignment, but only two individuals met the requirements perfectly, and those individuals were Abraham and Sarah.

To summarize up until this point, humanity’s role in perfecting the world had to be adjusted based on their new and lowly condition. A subset of humanity would be given the initial task originally designed for all humanity. The remaining, original population retained its elevated role as human beings, but assumed a lower tier reflecting their limited capabilities.

Abraham and Sarah were charged with birthing a nation capable of carrying out this Divine mission. A particular path was chosen for them and their subsequent generations until they were ripe enough to be transformed into a nation.

To reflect the initial expression of holiness embedded in the Seven Noahide Laws, this new national entity was provided with its own, separate laws, the Mosaic Law. The expression of the Divine Will entrusted to this nation was naturally more complex and involved than its Noahide counterpart. It also contained within it the Seven Laws of Noah, but extended beyond it.

What is also important to understand is that the Mosaic Law did not replace the Noahide Law, which according to Judaism is still fully in effect for Gentiles, and they are expected to follow it. In short, to some degree what this means is that Judaism is actually a religion for Jews and Gentiles. The Gentile laws are located within the framework of the Torah. It is as if the Torah is a large building and the Noahide and Mosaic laws are separate wings of that building. This is the reason why Jews do not expect Gentiles to convert to Judaism (i.e., to take upon them observance of the 613 Mosaic Laws). While Gentiles are invited, and in some capacity encouraged to become Jews, they are not obligated to and fulfill their purpose in their current form.

The next post in this category deals with how we can trust in the authenticity of the Seven Noahide Laws and where the Torah mentions them.


Unknown said...

Cool, expressing one's thoughts in writing helps one develop clear thinking. It is great to see you writing again. Looking at this site - it looks very promising. I totally agree with you that a spirit of doubt influencing this generation in a negative way, Jew and gentile. I know within my religious community it definitely has a toll, and family strength continues to diminish because of these influences.
My thoughts, as a gentile , although I'm Mormon so I don't think of myself really as a gentile, but anyways if a family tradition can withstand 3000 years of external persecution, and be scattered all over the world and not only not be lost, but continue to be strong, then that family must have something amazing. Guess something is called Torah . Can't believe that these facts alone don't cause families everywhere to rush to it.

OrthodoxJew said...

I won't reveal your name here if you don't want it to. Yes, writing helps me get the thoughts on paper, even if digital. Yes, it is wondrous that some things can be so clear, yet have the potential to be much more popular than they are. According to Jewish thought, part of the reason for this is that the natural world by definition has to conceal a lot of God's Presence. The effect of this concealment is also the creation of free will.

I go through bouts of clarity and recurring obscurity.