As we discussed in the previous letters of our series, the Torah contains a universal path for all humanity. Within this path, we find seven basic categories of mitzvos – Divine mandates – which provide an ethical and moral foundation for human society. In addition, there are sources within our tradition which state that all human beings should fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah which are suggested by human reason and the understanding of the heart. One example that is cited is the mitzvah of tzedekah – the sharing of our resources with those in need.
There are a growing number of non-Jews who are striving to fulfill the precepts of this life-giving path. They are often referred to as Bnei Noach – the Children of Noah, for the basic precepts of this path were reaffirmed in the generation of Noah, after the great flood. Maimonides states that this universal path was later reaffirmed when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai (The Law of Kings 8:11). The Bnei Noach realize that the Torah and its interpretations were given to our people at Mount Sinai; thus, they seek to study with rabbis who can guide them on their path. At this stage, the majority are former Christians who have chosen to accept Torah teachings regarding the Oneness of God, the Messiah, the purpose of the human being in this world, and other related issues. They are true friends who love and respect our people and our Judaism. As friends of our people, they take a strong stand against all forms of anti-Jewish hatred, and they are strong allies of the State of Israel. In appreciation of their friendship and spiritual accomplishments, I have written the following letter to members of the Bnei Noach movement:
A Letter from Jerusalem to Our True Friends:
As members of the growing Bnei Noach movement, you acknowledge the oneness and unity of Hashem, the Compassionate One. I therefore think of you in my daily prayers, especially when I proclaim in the morning and evening, “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). According to the classical biblical commentator, Rashi, when we proclaim “Hashem is One,” we are proclaiming that in the future all the peoples of the earth will recognize the unity and oneness of Hashem, as it is written:
“For then I will change the peoples to speak a pure language, so that they will all proclaim the Name of Hashem, to serve Him with a united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
As Rashi reminds us, it is also written, "On that day Hashem will be One and His Name One" (Zechariah 14:9). May that day soon arrive. In the meanwhile, you should realize that you are spiritual pioneers who are preparing for that great day by joining with the People of Israel in proclaiming, “Hashem is One!”
When we proclaim that Hashem is One, we are also proclaiming that we are to only serve the One and Unifying Creator of the Universe. In this spirit, the Divine voice proclaimed at Mount Sinai, “You shall not have other gods before My Presence” (Exodus 20:3). And it is also written, “Know it today and take it to heart repeatedly that Hashem alone is God; in heaven above and on earth below – there is none other” (Deuteronomy 4:39). It is therefore forbidden to deify any object, force, or being, including a human being. In fact, the Torah tells us that “God is not a man” (Numbers 23:19).
Many of you live among Christians who deify a Jewish man who lived over 2,000 years ago; moreover, they proclaim that the only way to reach God is through this man. You have had the wisdom and the courage to reject this belief, and you have chosen to follow the original teaching of Abraham and Sarah, who taught human beings to pray directly to the Compassionate One. In fact, all the great biblical figures including Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Deborah, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah prayed directly to the Compassionate One. This is how the Torah taught us to pray, and anyone who reads the Book of Psalms can discover the Torah approach to prayer.
There is a Christian folk song which contains the words, “Give me that old-time religion.” The song mentions that if the “old-time religion” was good enough for Abraham, Moses, and a host of biblical figures, “it is good enough for me.” From the perspective of the Torah, however, those who pray directly to Hashem are the ones who are truly in the spirit of that “old-time religion,” for they are emulating Abraham, Sarah, and all the great biblical figures.
We therefore need to remember that “Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon him sincerely” (Psalm 145:18). A classical biblical commentator, Radak, explains that this verse is revealing that the Compassionate One is close to “all” who call upon Him, “regardless of nationality.” In other words, you don't have to be Jewish in order to experience the loving closeness of the Compassionate One!
Many of you are former Christians, and there are Christian preachers who told you that your soul is eternally damned and that you cannot go to Heaven, since you no longer accept their “Lord and Savior.” You are in good company, for in the view of these preachers, we, the People of Israel, are also not going to Heaven, since we do not pray to the man they view as their Lord and Savior. For example, when the State of Israel captured Eichman, a leading Nazi murderer, the Israeli government assigned the Reverend William Hall, a Canadian missionary living in Jerusalem, to serve as his chaplain. Hall later told the press that had this murderer of Jewish men, women, and children accepted his “Savior” before he was executed, he would have immediately entered the gates of paradise. Hall was then asked, “And what of the souls of his six million Jewish victims?” Hall replied that they would certainly not have entered paradise, for they had not accepted the Church’s “salvation.” (Cited in the ArtScroll book, “Once Upon a Shtetl,” by Chaim Shapiro)
We, the people who received the Torah, have a different view regarding entry into the heavenly paradise: The heaven of our God has lots of room, and any human being who is a “chassid” – a person who is lovingly devoted to serving the Creator and His creation – can enter the gates of paradise. As our sages state: “The chassidim among the nations have a share in the World to Come.” (Tosefta – Sanhedrin 13:1)
You share our basic beliefs, and you also recognize that the Messiah has not yet arrived, for you realize that if someone is to be officially recognized as the Messiah, he must fulfill the prophecies that are outlined in Isaiah 11 and many other places within our Sacred Scriptures. According to these prophecies, the Messiah will gather in all the exiles of Israel, and he will inspire all human beings to return to the Compassionate One. His arrival will inaugurate an era of universal peace and spiritual enlightenment, “for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed” (Isaiah 11:9). In addition, the Temple will be rebuilt, and it will be known as, “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled; thus, you join our people in awaiting the true Messiah who will redeem Israel and all humankind.
Your love and respect for the Jewish people and Judaism is in the spirit of the prophecy which describes how the peoples of the earth will eventually become our spiritual allies, and they will say to us, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
As a Torah educator, I have much respect and appreciation for your willingness to be our spiritual allies, especially since we are now living in a period when anti-Jewish hatred is spreading, and enemies that are dedicated to our destruction are gaining strength and support. According to our prophets and sages, this danger is part of the birth pangs that will lead to the birth of the messianic age, when all hatred and violence will be eliminated from the world. The birth of this age has not yet taken place; nevertheless, you have the courage to befriend us and to publicly support our mission during this difficult and dangerous period. You will therefore share in our joy when the “birth” will take place, and the following prophecy will be fulfilled:
"It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, 'Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.' For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem." (Isaiah 2: 2,3)
May the Compassionate One guide, bless, and protect you, and may we meet at the great ingathering in Jerusalem.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen