2. Blasphemy is forbidden.
3. Murder is forbidden.
4. Sexual immorality is forbidden.
5. Robbery is forbidden.
6. Men must govern their affairs under a system of law and justice.
These six laws, together with the prohibition of eating a limb from a living animal(see next week's Parrshah, Gen. 9:4) make up the Seven Commandments of theChildren of Noah, also known as the Seven Universal Laws.
THE PROHIBITION OF MURDER
In the intricate, endlessly profound tapestry of the holy Torah, the Seven UniversalLaws are deeply bound up and meshed in with the 613 commandments that applyto the Children of Israel. Thus every portion of the Torah has profound significancefor all humanity and each one contains lessons that may deepen our understandingof the Seven Universal Laws.
Of the seven, one that stands out particularly in Parshas Bereishis is the prohibitionof murder. The Torah is the "book of the generations of man" (Genesis 5:1): manwas commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" -- to breed children and children'schildren, to cherish and nurture LIFE. The antithesis of life is death. The Rabbistaught that when "G-d saw all that he made and behold it was VERY good", theword "very" teaches that even death is beneficial (as it atones for sin). However,death is in the hands of G-d: "See now, for I, I am He, and there is no god with Me;I kill and make alive, I smote and I will heal and there is none to redeem from Myhand" (Deut. 32:39). A person who arrogantly takes G-d's prerogative into his ownhands and appoints himself as the angel of death to kill another is a shameful,counterfeit ADAM, a criminal who should be stoned and then hung ignominiously ona tree before being buried (see Deuteronomy 21:22-3 and Rashi there). Such aman is a "curse of G-d" (ibid). In the words of Rambam (Laws of Murder 1:4):"There is nothing to which the Torah takes greater exception than bloodshed, as itis written (Numbers 35:33): And you shall not pollute the land. for blood -- that iswhat pollutes the land."
The story of Cain's killing of Abel over the inheritance of the world is the story of human history. Mankind's task is to learn how to settle disputes amicably instead of fighting and killing one another. In our times, it is particularly important toemphasize the criminality of murder because of widespread insensitivity to theseriousness of killing. Many voices can be heard defending killers, and protestingagainst their execution as prescribed by the Torah. Many in the world evenrationalize and justify wholesale murder and violence when committed for the sakeof a "cause", and celebrate terrorist attacks against their enemies. This simplyillustrates the depths to which "Adam Beliya'al", the Worthless Man, can descend,as in the story of Cain and Abel.
The Torah clearly teaches that murder is an abominable crime which must berequited with death in order to punish the villain and protect human society. Yet atthe same time as seeking to impose justice, our societies must also ask themselveswhy killing, murder and violence are so rampant. These are not inexplicablescourges that have no cause. Our rabbis revealed what causes murder to becomerampant: "The sword comes into the world because of the failure to execute justice