Letters II Nov. 2007

Split Personality

Beth: Rabbi, I'd like to discuss again the question of why part of Torah is restricted from Noachides. I just read an article on a Noachide website, which concludes...

"It has been demonstrated solidly through relevant sources that there is not any real restriction on the Torah that Noachides can study. The restriction on non-Jewish Torah learning refers only to Idolaters and Noachides are not Idolaters."

Mesora: I recently addressed Maimonides' careful use of the terms "idolater" and "Noachide". One might quickly assume these two terms refer to two, distinct people. However, we learn that these terms are referring to one and the same person, but address two "aspects" of his personality.

The proof is that in his Laws of Kings (10:9) Maimonides says, "either the idolater observes his laws, or becomes a convert." Maimonides does not say there are three options, as suggested: 1) idolater, 2) noachide and 3) Jew. There exists only two types: idolater/Noachide, or Jew. As a further proof, the Talmud states that the idolater cannot learn Torah, but must only study "his" 7 laws. The word "his" clearly identifies the same idolater, as a Noachide. 

The reason for the switch in terms is to teach us a deeper lesson: these two capacities of the same Noachide, are respectively responsible for his various restrictions. As Maimonides teaches, it is the "idolater" capacity that creates the restriction in Sabbath observance, while it is the Noachide capacity that creates the obligation in the 7 Laws. Being a believer in alien powers (idolater) is contrary to observing Sabbath - the celebration of a single Creator. And being a Noachide is the cause of the obligation of the 7 Noachide laws...it is not the previous involvement in idolatry that causes this obligation.

Similarly, it is the "studious" aspect of a teen that earns him his good grades...not his "teen" status, or his social nature. So we don't praise the teen for his social skills when he passes his test, but we praise his studious capacity.

Maimonides too declares it is the idolatrous aspect that restricts the Noachide from Torah study, as his association with beliefs in alien, false powers, is contrary to the purpose of Torah: the approach to God, One power.

When Maimonides or any other great thinker writes, we must know, that they are revealing great insights. Our appreciation for God's infinite wisdom must urge us to delve into these texts. 

It is therefore my conclusion that a Noachide and idolater are one and the same...and all laws pertaining to idolater or Noachide refer to one and the same person: a non-Jew. Noachides therefore cannot engage in studying Torah outside his commands, for he is the idolater Maimonides identifies. But as a wise Rabbi taught, areas of human perfection are also allowed for Noachide study. I explain here why gentiles may not study Torah: http://www.mesora.org/gentilestorahIII.htm

However, please see my full article here addressing this main topic of this post: http://www.mesora.org/GentilesandTorahStudy.htm

New Hearts?

Reader: I am trying to understand Jeremiah 31:30-33. What does this mean "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people."

Does "Torah on our hearts" mean we will love His commands?

Mesora: This means that in the future, God will make some change, whereabout the Jewish nation will be internally inclined to follow His Torah. "Placing the Torah inside them" refers to the fact that Torah will no longer be something "external", where man needs to continually draw close to it. In the future, Torah will be part of our natures. It will be "internal" and we will require no external impetus to study. 

"Writing it on their hearts" is a further level where we will be fluent in the Torah's teachings...its very words. So there are two ideas here: 1) an internal change in our attitude, and 2) a fluency in the actual words of Torah. Expressed by the term "writing it on their hearts".