By Jack E. Saunders
Thanks for getting us back on track.
If indeed the King of the Universe desires that all of humanity come to know Y-H-V-H as HaElokim, just as the people of Israel know God, can we be limited as to the sources that can bring about this knowledge? If we are, How will that affect our understanding of Hashem? Can we study the Torah for the sake of the Torah? I.e., Can we study parts of the Torah that may not necessarily apply to us?
Rambam states in The Guide for the Perplexed:
Section III, Chapter 28
“The result of all these preliminary remarks is this: The reason of a com¬mandment, whether positive or negative, is clear, and its usefulness evident, if it directly tends to remove injustice, or to teach good conduct that furthers the well-being of society, or to impart a truth which ought to be believed either on its own merit or as being indispensable for facilitating the removal of injustice or the teaching of good morals. There is no occasion to ask for the object of such commandments; for no one can, e.g., be in doubt as to the reason why we have been commanded to believe that God is one; why we are forbidden to murder, to steal, and to take vengeance, or to retaliate, or why we are commanded to love one another. But there are precepts concerning which people are in doubt, and of divided opinions, some believing that they are mere commands, and serve no purpose whatever, whilst others believe that they serve a certain purpose, which, however, is unknown to man. Such are those precepts which in their literal meaning do not seem to further any of the three above-named results: to impart some truth, to teach some moral, or to remove injustice. They do not seem to have any influence upon the well-being of the soul by imparting any truth, or upon me well-being of the body by suggesting such ways and rules as are useful in the government of a state, or in the management of a household. Such are the prohibitions of wearing garments containing wool and linen; of sowing divers seeds, or of boiling meat and milk together; the commandment of covering the blood [of slaughtered beasts and birds], the ceremony of breaking the neck of a calf [in case of a person being found slain, and the murderer being unknown]; the law concerning the first-born of an ass, and the like. I am prepared to tell you my explanation of all these commandments, and to assign for them a true reason supported by proof, with the exception of some minor rules, and of a few commandments, as I have mentioned above. I will show that all these and similar laws must have some beating upon one of the following three things, viz., the regulation of our opinions, or the improvement of our social relations, which implies two things, the removal of injustice, and the teaching of good morals. Consider what we said of the opinions [implied in the laws]; in some cases the law contains a truth which is itself the only object of that law, as e.g., the truth of the Unity, Eternity, and Incorporeality of God in other cases, that truth is only the means of securing the removal of injustice, of the acquisition of good morals; such is the belief that God is angry with those who oppress their fellow men, as it is said, Mine anger will be kindled. and I will slay,” etc. (Exod. 22:223) or the belief that God hears the crying of the oppressed and vexed, to deliver them out of the hands of the oppressor and tyrant, as it is written, "And it shall come to pass, when he will cry unto me, that I will hear, for I am gracious" (Exod. 22: 25.)”
Section III, Chapter 31
“There are persons who find it difficult to give a reason for any of the com¬mandments, and consider it right to assume that the commandments and prohibitions have no rational basis whatever. They are led to adopt this theory by a certain disease in their soul, the existence of which they perceive, but which they are unable to discuss or to describe. For they imagine that these precepts, if they were useful in any respect, and were commanded be¬cause of their usefulness, would seem to originate in the thought and reason of some intelligent being. But as things which are not objects of reason and serve no purpose, they would undoubtedly be attributed to God, because no thought of man could have produced them. According to the theory of those weak-minded persons, man is more perfect than his Creator. For what man says or does has a certain object, whilst the actions of God are different; He commands us to do what is of no use to us, and forbids us to do what is harmless. Far be this ! On the contrary, the sole object of the Law is to benefit us. Thus we explained the Scriptural passage, "for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day" (Deut. 6:24). Again, "which shall hear all those statutes (hukkim), and say, surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people" (ibid. 6: 6). He thus says that even every one of these statues convinces all nations of the wisdom and understanding it includes. But if no reason could be found for these statutes, if they produced no advantage and removed no evil, why then should he who believes in them and follows them be wise, reasonable, and so excellent as to raise the admiration of all nations? But the truth is undoubt¬edly as we have said, that every one of the six hundred and thirteen precepts serves to inculcate some truth, to remove some erroneous opinion, to establish proper relations in society, to diminish evil, to train in good manners, or to warn against bad habits. All this depends on three things: opinions, morals, and social conduct. We do not count words, because precepts, whether positive or negative, if they relate to speech, belong to those precepts which regulate our social conduct, or to those which spread truth, or to those which teach morals. Thus these three principles suffice for assigning a reason for every one of the Divine commandments.”
Section III, Chapter 50
“There are in the Law portions which include deep wisdom, but have been misunderstood by many persons; they require, therefore, an explanation. I mean the narratives contained in the Law which many consider as being of no use whatever; e.g., the list of the various families descended from Noah, with their names and their territories (Gen. x.); the sons of Seir the Horite (ibid. 36: 20-30); the kings that reigned in Edom (ibid. 31, seq.); and the like. There is a saying of our Sages (B.T. Sanh. 99b) that the wicked king Manasse frequently held disgraceful meetings for the sole purpose of criticising such passages of the Law. He held meetings and made blasphemous observations on Scripture, saying, Had Moses nothing else to write than, ‘And the sister of Lotan was Timna’ (Gen. 36: 22)? With refer¬ence to such passages, I will first give a general principle, and then discuss them seriatim, as I have done in the exposition of the reasons of the precepts. Every narrative in the Law serves a certain purpose in connexion with religious teaching. It either helps to establish a principle of faith, or to regulate our actions, and to prevent wrong and injustice among men; and I will show this in each case.”
Rambam makes it a point to point out to us the purpose of every section of the Torah and their three fold relevance, i.e., to promote correct opinions of G’d, to promote good ethics and morals, and to prevent injustice among mankind.
Based on Rambam’s assessment of the different sections of the Torah and knowing our obligation to observe the Sheva Mitzvot or the Seven Social Laws that are to promote correct ideas about the Creator, prevent injustice among men, and to promote good morals among all. I then ask, “Which of the sections should we not be allow to study?”
Now let us turn our attention to a later source:
Bnai Noach are required to learn Torah
"All who tell a thing in the name of the one who said it bring redemption to the world - including Bnei Noach:"
The saying of the Mishnah (Avot 6:6) "All who tell a thing in the name of the one who said it bring redemption to the world," is the last of the forty-eight ways given there by which Torah is to be acquired. Of all these forty-eight ways no other is given together with a further concept, except this last one, where the Mishnah adds that it brings redemption to the world, and brings a proof from the verse, "And Esther told it to the king in the name of Mordechai," (Esther 2:22).
In this concept we see a wondrous thing, since from the fact that the Mishnah says, "'All' who tell a thing", meaning whoever he may be, it comes to include Bnei Noach, who also have the concept of learning (and hence 'acquiring') Torah, for the mitzvot meant for them (Sanhedrin 59a). They are required to learn Torah to know how to conduct themselves, because they are meant to become fully conversant in their own right and not to rely on answers from Jews in every instance, and there is indeed no guarantee that Jews will always know the right answers for them, since there are often differences between Jewish and Noachide decisions on any given topic. We thus see that the ways by which the Torah is acquired have meaning likewise for them. And so 'all' who tell a thing in the name of the one who said it bring redemption to the world, including Bnei Noach.
And furthermore, the proof brought for this from the verse, "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai" shows it to be a part of the deeds of great and powerful individuals, Esther and Mordechai, and also the king, Achashverosh (of Persia) himself (people who accomplish many things, but still need this means to bring redemption). It shows that everyone, whoever he may be, has the capability by this means to bring true redemption, even though the redemption described in the book of Esther was not yet complete and final, and we are accordingly still termed 'servants of Achasverosh' and for this reason we do not say the 'Hallel' on Purim (Megillah 14a) .”
A recent answer posted to a question poised on one of the several Chabad web sites:
"Which part(s) of the Tanak, Talmud, Kabbalah etc are Noachides allowed to study from? I have heard different answers to this question and would appreciate any thoughts that could be shared."—David
“Our response: Indeed, there have been many varying rabbinical opinions on this issue over the centuries. In his sicha [speech] of 11 Nisan 5745 (1985) in which he analyzed the subject in depth from the viewpoint of Hasidus, the Lubavitcher Rebbe concluded that Noachides should not limit their Torah studies only to what pertains directly to the Noachide Laws; rather, they may and should study all parts of the written Torah and its commentaries, as well as most of the Oral Torah—including the Talmud, Midrashim, Hasidus (the core of the Kabalah), etc.—with the exception of those parts that pertain only to the specific mitzvos in which a non-Jew is not allowed to take part. According to the Rebbe, such Torah study by Noachides is not only allowed but required and should be done for the sake of Torah learning in and of itself. On the other hand, idolaters (such as Christians and Buddhists) may study only very limited parts of the Torah .”
According to the late Rebbe Schneerson the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, that Ben/Bat Noach’s are to be involved in Torah study on various levels and for various reasons. According to his opinions we are to be involved in a very deep level of Torah so that we may discover how to conduct ourselves and to the need to resolve our own questions concerning our observance of the Sheva Mitzvot. He further states that a Ben/Bat Noach “is not only allowed but required and should be done for the sake of the Torah learning in and of itself.”
Now I realize that there will be many that might attack these sources and maybe my understanding of them, but I believe that these sources clearly demonstrate the necessity for each and every Bnai Noach to be involved in Torah study to the deepest level that he/she might attain to.
For the next paper in this series, click here