June 6, 2024
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They aren’t Jewish and they aren’t Christian, but they seem to live a sorta-Hebraic life, incorporating many of the beliefs and rituals of Orthodox Judaism into their daily observance. As followers of the “Noachide Code,” they believe in a universal morality dictated by the Seven Laws of Noach taken from the Torah—laws that are incumbent on all humanity. The Noachides are a small but fast-growing religious group with adherents all over the world. They attempt to operate parallel to Orthodox Judaism, respecting rabbinical authority, while remaining separate from the Jewish community. Although they accept the supremacy of Judaism, they do not practice Judaism. They don’t even keep the Sabbath.

We spoke briefly with Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel, a Torah educator who was hired by Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim to create courses for the Noachide community. Although he doesn’t consider himself a “rabbi for Noachides,” he has an extensive background of doing research and learning about the Noachide movement and its relationship to Jews.

Like many Orthodox Jews, Rabbi Bloomenstiel knew of the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach, but until he moved to Texas over a decade ago he had never met anyone who identified as a Noachide. In Texas, however, he came to know people whom he calls “wonderful, sincere non-Jews” who had questions for him about their relationship to God. He felt that he was able to provide them with answers that gave them peace and a direction for their faith.

“Sadly, though, there is a paucity of rabbanim who know how to answer the questions posed by these persons,” comments Rabbi Bloomenstiel. “This is a real problem and was one of the reasons that Pirchei asked me to research and produce their Noachide laws course.”

Among Noachides, Rabbi Bloomenstiel notes one common thread: Many “have been through a terrible trauma” in regard to their previous religious affiliation, often evangelical Christianity. Turning their backs on a religion where they saw inconsistencies in the teachings, they want a meaningful relationship with Hashem that often includes an intense study of Jewish texts and liturgy. The courses that Rabbi Bloomenstiel developed emphasize “a belief in klal Yisrael as the am nivchar, in the Torah as being the prime revelation of Hasham’s will, and in the idea that Hashem has expectations of all mankind, whether Jewish or not Jewish.”

When asked whether Noachides can be Christian, Rabbi Bloomenstiel doesn’t mince words in making clear his opinion: “Christianity is, like all man-made faiths, false. It offers a weltanschauung that is incompatible with the Torah’s vision of the world… is a corruption of the Torah’s vision. Of course, Christianity also presents difficult issues of avodah zarah, idolatry, which is banned by the Noachide laws.”

Rabbi Bloomenstiel’s current course through Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim is over 60 chapters of in-depth research totaling almost 600 pages that create a “Noachide Halacha” of sorts. He believes the courses are useful for any non-Jew who wants to follow a biblical path without converting to Judaism. He also says that although most Orthodox Jews don’t know anything beyond the seven laws of Noach, there is much more to write and learn about. For example, “although the Gemara in Sanhedrin 56a says there are seven Noachide laws, Chullin 92a says there are 30…
One of the geonim, Rav Shmuel Bar Chofni Gaon, enumerates the 30 toldos in his commentary on the Torah. A later authority, the Rema MiFanu in his Asarah Maamaros, proposed his own list of the 30… Additionally, there are a substantial number of shailos uteshuvos dealing with the hilchos Bnei Noach. The Pirchei course tries to tie as much of this material together in a way that presents the Noachide laws as a practical body of halacha.”

Rabbi Bloomenstiel is emphatic about another point. Although some Noachides become extremely Judeophilic, often going as far as putting on tefillin, attaching mezuzos to their door and wearing kippas, the rabbi wants to make clear that a “fundamental tenet of the Torah’s laws for non-Jews, and this must be emphasized, is that the Torah’s expectations for Jews and non-Jews are different.” He goes on to say, “I have met Noachides who wear tzitzis and kippot; I have even met a few with peyos… This is a grave mistake. The observance of the Noachide laws does not constitute a ‘Judaism for non-Jews,’ and it should not be viewed as such.” He believes that in addition to halachic problems for non-Jews taking on mitzvahs, “they are avoiding embracing the Torah’s expectations for them as non-Jews” and are failing to connect with Hasham.

The rabbi continues to say, “The Jewish community has different duties and obligations, as well as a different cycle of events and holidays. In essence, they are two separate communities. However, the Noachide community is dependent on the Jewish community for education and Torah knowledge… Noachides have their own path and it is important that they embrace it.” He also believes that the halachos of pas akum and other laws limiting social relationships between Jews and non-Jews still apply to Jews and Noachides. The fact that they have accepted the Noachide laws does not change these limitations. Although some people claim that the Noachides may have the status of a “ger toshav” (resident alien), the rabbi doesn’t agree with this point of view either; he believes that any Noachides taking that point of view are likely incorrect.

While writing this article, I have been asked a common question: “Why don’t Noachides convert to Judaism if they are so interested in the faith?” ‘ It seems that for many, the Noachide movement is a step in conversation. According to Rabbi Bloomenstiel, “For some it is an ending point. It depends on what the person is looking for…. Many batei dinim today tell prospective converts about the Noachide laws and are clear that the Torah does not require anyone to convert to Judaism to have a positive spiritual relationship with Hasham and His Torah.”

Even though the movement is relatively new, Rabbi Bloomenstiel wants Orthodox Jews to know that it’s a growing, healthy movement—a movement that is not looking to become part of the Jewish community. Strangely enough, he is not even asking Jews to engage non-Jews and become part of the movement. There is no obligation to conduct outreach to non-Jews. He adds that “the Torah-observant world doesn’t have the resources to pursue outreach and education for non-Jews.” At the same time, he reminds us that “there are places in the world where there are non-Jews who take the Noachide laws very, very seriously… we cannot turn away any sincere non-Jew who comes to us looking for emes; many poskim hold that if a non-Jew asks what the Torah expects of him, we must answer honestly. There is a growing movement in many places in the world today. Many non-Jews have given up false beliefs and are asking the Jewish people what the Torah wants of them. We must answer them when they ask.”

By Pesach Lattin

 

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