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Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews

by Doug Taylor

Introduction
Its important that you understand that I have a bias. Im interested in the truth. There are those who will say that there is no truth, or that there is no reality, or that everyone makes up their own reality, or that we cant know the truth, and so forth. The problem with this is that we live in a practical world. We can spout theoretical platitudes all day, and maybe even sound intelligent to some (including ourselves), until the day the doctor says, You have a brain tumor. Suddenly, all of our wonderful theory goes out the window. All of those flowery-sounding statements about not being able to know the truth dont cut it. We want answers from the doctor. How dangerous is it? What can be done? Are treatments available? Has medical science figured out a cure? And of course, the main underlying question that we dont want to verbalize is: Am I going to die? Should the doctor at that point say, Well, there really is no truth in the neurosciences. Its whatever you think it is, our formerly pseudo-philosophical self will likely have an apoplectic fit. Posturing is great until you find yourself in a real firefight with real bullets. There is truth. And in many cases, it can be known. Not always, perhaps, but more than we sometimes think. We all deal with it every day. Someone can argue that we cant really know if were real or not, but the truth is that we all know what the result will be if you stand on the freeway in front of a Mack truck going 70 miles per hour, or if youre at an amusement park and the bungee cord breaks. Much of my life has been expended on the search for truth. I do not claim to have all of the answers or necessarily even a significant fraction of them. At the same time, I know what I think (at least today) and why I think it. I reserve the right to change that tomorrow if someone can show me a more sound approach. A great Jewish sage once said that a person should always think that he is right (for after all, who else are we each going to rely on), and and this is a very important and be willing to retract if someone can show us that were wrong. I hope to always hold to both of these principles in equal measure.

Copyright 2008 Douglas G. Taylor

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Chapter 1 Setting the Foundation


While it would be easy to jump into a study of Torah for Non-Jews, we need to tackle some foundation basics first. In our society, we tend to start well past the beginning. If youve ever been involved in a so-called religious discussion, you know that these can turn into emotional snowball fights very easily. Years ago in my town, a pastor of a church wrote an article in the local newspaper expressing his concern about the spread of homosexuality and his concerns about what this might mean for his children growing up in society. From his religious viewpoint, homosexuality was wrong, and he made that point clear in his article. As you might imagine, there was a firestorm of letters to the editor in protest. Sadly, the letters were little more than emotional venting. They raked the pastor over the coals, they called him names, and in general they just stirred up a lot of dust. In only one case did a writer raise a potentially legitimate argument against the pastors position, and even that writer still included some emotional name-calling in his letter. Finally, after this went on for a while, I wrote a letter pointing out the uselessness of the discussion. Why was it useless? Because in general, there are two kinds of people; those who think that there is a Creator of the universe who gave us rules to live by, and those who dont. The ones who do think that there is a Creator of the universe generally (I know there are exceptions, but bear with me) believe that the rules set down by that Creator forbid homosexuality. For those who dont think there is a Creator of the universe, they will likely find no problem with homosexuality. So to argue the issue of homosexuality is a pointless venture, because each side of the argument is starting from different premises. No discussion about homosexuality will ever go anywhere if the people involved in the discussion are arguing from different foundational assumptions. Its the differences in those assumptions that they must tackle first. Only then does the discussion of homosexuality have any hope of proceeding constructively. When you study geometry in school, one of the axioms that you begin with is the idea that two parallel lines in a plane never intersect. This cant be proven, but it is accepted as a given in Euclidean geometry. From that axiom, you can derive all kinds of other things. But there is also non-Euclidean geometry that doesnt necessarily accept the axiom that two parallel lines in a plane never intersect. You can derive a number of things in that system as well. If someone were to argue a downstream conclusion from one system against a corresponding idea from the other system, the argument would be pointless. Why? Again, the two sides would be arguing from different premises. They are starting from a different place. What is needed is to back way up and discuss the differences in the underlying assumptions first. Then, once those differences in assumptions are dealt with, a person is in a position to discuss the downstream conclusion.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 3 of 89 So, before we launch into the details about Torah for non-Jews, lets back way up and discuss some foundational questions, the first of which is: How do we know what is true? In my experience, this question is almost universally overlooked in our society. Yet knowing the answer to this question is fundamental to our knowledge of virtually anything. Think about it for a moment. Just how do you know whats true? Is something true because you read it in a book? Because someone older than you said so? Because its posted on the Internet? Because a so-called religious leader said so? This is a question that is worth chewing on for a while. Im going to offer an answer, but before I do, if you want to get the most out of this material, I invite you to think seriously about this. Its just about the most fundamental question that one can ask. My answer is on the next page.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 4 of 89 Did you take the time to think about the question? Do you have a clear answer? One that makes sense to you? Maimonides, one of the great Jewish scholars, suggested that there are three ways to know what is true: (1) Direct observation or experience (2) Reasoning, such as a logical deduction or proof, or a preponderance of evidence (3) Prophecy from a known prophet Lets look at each of these in detail. Direct Observation or Experience Direct observation or experience is exactly that. We use our five senses to learn and understand what is true. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) I saw it. I heard it. I tasted it. I touched it. I smelled it.

Almost any knowledge of the physical world starts with these. Someone, somewhere, experienced something directly. Note that there are some limitations here. First, we cant directly observe or experience everything. For example, I wasnt alive during World War II, yet I hold that it occurred. Well talk about that in a moment. Second, our senses can be fooled. Movie-makers and magicians do it all the time. The art of special effects has become an amazingly complex discipline. Photographs are so easily modified today that any given photograph cannot necessarily be taken as real. We need to be on the lookout for these types of things. Reasoning, such as a logical deduction or proof, or a preponderance of evidence Lets start with logical deductions or proofs. These, of course, require a knowledge of logic. (Ironically, in the days of the ancients, logic was considered a prerequisite to the study of any other subject matter. For how could one know whether he is reaching a proper conclusion without a knowledge of logic and deduction? Yet today, logic is an elective course. Consider how you would feel being diagnosed with a serious disease or medical condition by a doctor who had never been taught how to reach a proper conclusion.) As an example, logic dictates that a statement cannot be simultaneously true and not true. If A equals B, then it is not true that A is not equal to B. If Im in Los Angeles at a given moment in time, then I cannot be in Venice at the same moment.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 5 of 89 Then there is preponderance of evidence. Consider this. Suppose that a stranger approaches me on the street and explains that he was abducted by aliens earlier that day, they took him up in their space ship, and he had a nice lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with Elvis Presley. Would we believe him? After all, we werent there, so we have no direct experience. It could be true, but then again Now consider World War II. Many of us didnt experience that event directly either. Yet we believe that it happened. Why? This is where the important concept of the preponderance of evidence comes into play. Thousands upon thousands of people experienced the Second World War. Hundreds of books have been written about it. Movies have been made about it. There is so much direct observational evidence by those who experienced it that we can reasonably rely on their observations and direct experience. It is possible and certainly happens that one or two people make something up or lie about it. But the larger the group that is in the know, the harder it becomes to keep a lie a secret. Conspiracies become more difficult and at some point virtually impossible the more people are involved. For example, if one person tells me that a bank was robbed in my town earlier today, I may or may not believe him, depending on the person and perhaps other factors. But if 1,000 people report that there was a bank robbery in my town earlier today because they personally watched it happen from their office buildings (not because they read it on the Internet), then I can be fairly certain that something resembling a bank robbery occurred. We learn most of history this way. When there is a preponderance of evidence, we can be fairly certain that an event happened. In other historical situations, where we may have the account of only one or a small handful of people, the veracity of the account becomes more open to question. In fact, much of the knowledge we have comes from a preponderance of evidence based on the direct observations of others. If a doctor gives us a certain medication, we generally trust that it will work, not because we observed the clinical trials, but because there is a preponderance of evidence that the trials were conducted and that they yielded positive results. Prophecy from a known prophet A third way we can know something is true is if the information is provided through prophecy by a known prophet. Now, this would require that we establish that prophecy exists, and the criteria by which we can know that someone is a bona fide prophet. Were not going to go into that in this series, but I want to include it just so our list is complete. For our purposes, were going to focus on the first two: direct observation or experience, and reasoning. But what about belief? Ah yes, then there is belief. So lets ask the question, what is belief? I submit that Belief is a conviction that I have concerning something about which I am ignorant.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 6 of 89 Read that again. Belief is a conviction that I have concerning something about which I am ignorant. Why am I ignorant about it? Because if I knew through direct observation or experience, or through reasoning then I wouldnt need to believe. Think about this. Have you ever heard anyone ask, Do you believe in yogurt? Of course not. Yogurt? you might say. You mean that creamy white stuff that comes in small containers at the store? Usually in a variety of fruit flavors? Sure, Im familiar with it. In fact, I had some this morning. It wouldnt mean anything to say that you believe in yogurt. By contrast, you know about yogurt. The only reason you might need to believe in yogurt is if you had no knowledge of it, in which case youd be ignorant about it. But, you might ask, thats great for something I can see and touch, but what about something that I cant see or touch? Ok, how about electricity. Electricity is a flow of electrons. Which of us has actually seen the flow of electrons through a wire? Yet do we say that we believe in electricity? No, because weve worked with the effects of electricity long enough and studied it long enough to know that it actually exists. The only reason I would need belief around this would be if I were ignorant about it; that is, I had no knowledge of it. I submit to you that belief, in and of itself, means nothing. There are people who believe all kinds of things. Does that make them true? Does it make them not true? Actually, neither. A belief doesnt tell us anything, and it virtually ends productive discussion. This point was brought home to me years ago when, as a consulting actuary, I was working on behalf of an organization that was considering giving a cost-of-living adjustment to the pension benefits that the companys plan was paying to retired employees. The company was under no legal obligation to do this. They asked me and others to look into the question of whether they should grant this increase. (The retired employees were on fixed dollar pensions, so that any increase in the cost of goods and services in that society made it more difficult for them because their pension benefits were fixed at a certain level determined at the time of retirement for life.) After studying the issue, we determined that there was no business reason to grant a cost-ofliving increase, but that it was a judgment call on the part of senior management of the company. The decision went all the way to the Board of Directors. All of the Directors agreed not to give the increase, except one. His position was, Yes, I hear all of the facts. But I believe we have an obligation to these people. In telling me this later, my manager sagely said, As soon as someone says, Yes, I hear all of the facts, but I believe such and such, all debate stops. Why? Because you cannot debate a belief.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 7 of 89 This is a critical point. It is virtually impossible to debate a belief. If six people are standing around an all-white car, and five of them agree that the car is white, but the sixth person says, Yes, I see that the car is white and that you all agree, but I believe the car is red, what can you say? How can you argue with such a position? At that point, all discussion stops, because there is no way to continue. But what about authorities or experts? Shouldnt we believe them? Lets look at that. Why would we believe an authority or expert? Well, they may have more knowledge than us. This is true in many classroom situations. If Im trying to learn mathematics, and Im just a beginner, and the teacher has an advanced mathematics degree, then it would seem reasonable to listen to what they have to say. But should I just trust them? Should I trust everything they say? Consider this. Why does a five-year-old child not cross the street when cars are coming? Because Mommy or Daddy said so. The child obeys its parents. But what would we think of an adult who gave the same answer to the same question? We would wonder why he never grew up. You would think that an adult would say, Because there are cars coming and I dont want to get hit. Not, Because Mommy told me so. So lets extrapolate that principle. We may accept known authorities or experts temporarily until we attain enough knowledge to test their statements and establish our own knowledge. As an actuary, if I were questioned on why I used a particular mathematical formula in a particular situation, it would be ridiculous of me to answer, Because my college professor said so. Rather, I would be expected to explain the mathematical basis for my use of that formula and why it is appropriate in that situation. Likewise, we are all ultimately responsible for our own knowledge and the decisions we make. We cant push that responsibility off on someone else. Flip Wilsons classic line, The devil made me buy that dress! just doesnt cut it. Were responsible; each of us for our own lives. So I have to decide who Im going to trust as an expert and how far I want to go to confirm that knowledge. A perfect example of this is health care. If I have a skin problem, I may need to go see a dermatologist. Do I need to learn everything that the dermatologist knows in order to follow his advice? Of course not. But Im responsible for researching at least enough to choose a dermatologist who knows what he or she is doing. Otherwise, Im the one who will endure the consequences. So, in certain specialty areas like medicine, I may choose an authority and follow their advice without fully understanding all of the knowledge underlying that. In other areas, I may choose an expert and accept what theyre telling me temporarily while Im learning. Ultimately, my goal should be to develop enough knowledge to test the experts conclusions and prove them for myself. Then those conclusions become mine.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 8 of 89 So far, so good. Given that we have a method for establishing whats true, can we prove that the universe has a Creator? Note that this is foundational. We need to establish this before we proceed any further. Going with the idea of I know that G-- exists because I feel it or sense it doesnt cut it. We need to be able to demonstrate it. If we use the method weve just described to identify whats true in every area of our lives, why would we abandon it when it comes to the area of the Creator of the universe? Its important that we not skip this important step (or any steps). Let me suggest first a demonstration. This is not, technically, a proof, but I find it to be so compelling as to virtually constitute a proof. Suppose you walk into a room, and there is someone standing beside a piece of paper that is taped to the wall, and as you look closely you realize that the paper is a freshly inked copy of the United States Declaration of Independence. And the person in the room says to you, Youll never guess what just happened! I tossed this bottle of ink against the wall, and it formed itself into this flawless copy of the Declaration of Independence! The first question is, would you believe him? If your answer is yes, why would you believe him? If your answer is no, why wouldnt you believe him? Ok, now hold that thought and lets consider this second scenario. You walk into the large board room of a big corporation. The room is dominated by a long table that has 24 chairs, all perfectly lined up. At each seat at the table, there is a blotter, a yellow pad of paper, a pen, a coaster, and a coffee mug, all perfectly aligned. Standing at one end of the room next to a window and a large supplies cabinet is the person who obviously manages the room. As you stand there surveying this perfectly aligned scene, that person says to you, Youll never believe what happened. I accidentally left the window open last night and a big wind came along and blew the supplies cabinet door open, and then the wind blew all of these blotters, pads, pens, coasters, and coffee mugs from the cabinet onto the table in perfect alignment. Same questions as before. First, would you believe him? If yes, why? If no, why not? (Please take a moment to think deeply about this before proceeding. Theres an important principle here.) My guess is that youre answer to the first question in both cases is no, you wouldnt believe what the person is telling you. Your answer to the second question as to why you wouldnt believe the person probably centers around the preposterous unlikelihood that these events could actually happen. So whats the general principle operating here?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 9 of 89 Whenever we see order, we assume there is intelligence behind it. Let me repeat that. Whenever we see order, we assume there is intelligence behind it. Think about that. Anytime we see things that are orderly, or that are stacked up, or that operate within an obvious system, we assume that someone with intelligence made it that way. We never see order and assume that its random. So when we look out at the world, or at the wonder of our own human bodies, what do we see? Incredible order! Systems that operate in an amazing and harmonious way. From the cellular systems within our bodies, to the nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, muscular and skeletal systems, to the atmospheric systems, ecological systems, plants, animals, tides, and an almost limitless array of systems in nature that act in harmony and allow our planet to exist. How is it, then, that we look at the board room and dismiss the idea that the wind blew that into existence, yet we look at the complexity of the world not to mention space! and actively consider the possibility that all of that incredible order came into existence without intelligence behind it? It would be ridiculously inconsistent of us to do this. So lets look at a proof that there is a Creator of the universe, the world, and its inhabitants. Im taking this proof from the classic book, Duties Of The Heart, by Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda. This book is highly recommended for non-Jews interested in Torah and is published by Feldheim (www.feldheim.com). There are three statements that we need to establish in order to construct our proof. The first statement is, A thing does not make itself. So whats the proof of this statement? Consider the following. Any thing that exists after having not existed must either (A) have made itself, or (B) been made by something else. No other possibility exists. It has to be one of these. Does this make sense? So we have two alternatives, A and B. We see that the answer must be one of them because no other alternatives exist in this case. Thus, if we can show that one of the alternatives is impossible, then we have proven the other. So lets consider alternative A, which states that any thing that exists after having not existed must have made itself. Now if this is true, we can continue further and say that any thing that made itself must have either made itself (a) before it existed, or (b) after it existed. No other possibility exists. It has to be one of these.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 10 of 89 But if we look at (a) and say that the thing made itself before it existed, that is impossible. For at that time it was nothing, and you cant get something out of nothing. On the other hand, if we look at (b) and say that the thing made itself after it existed, it really did nothing, because it already existed. Therefore, since both of these possibilities are impossible, then it is impossible for a thing to have created itself, which means that A is impossible. Therefore, the answer must be B; that is, any thing that exists after having not existed must have been made by something else. So we have proved our first statement, which is, A thing does not make itself. Please review this proof carefully to be sure you understand it before you continue. Now, our second statement is, Causes are limited in number; since their number is limited, they must have a first cause before which there is no other. Lets think about causes for a moment. A rock was perhaps caused by a volcanic reaction, which was caused by some energy forces under the ground, which was caused by something else. A person was caused in a sense by his or her parents, who were caused by their parents, who were caused by their parents, and so forth. Now, how far back does all of this go? To answer that, lets consider this idea. Whatever has an end must have a beginning. That is, the effect of a cause must have a first cause. Why? Because anything that is infinite cannot be made up of discrete (that is, individually separate and distinct) parts. And anything that is made up of discrete parts cant be infinite. Heres why. Imagine something that is infinite. Now if it has discrete parts, then you should be able to take away one of those parts. If you could, then the remaining thing must be less than what it was before you took away the discrete part. Now if this remainder is still infinite, then we would have one infinite thing that is greater than another, which is impossible. If, on the other hand, the remaining thing is finite, then adding back in the discrete part that you took away would still make it finite. Yet we started out with the assumption that it was infinite. So we would have the same thing be both infinite and finite. This is an impossible contradiction. Thus, it is impossible to take away a part from that which is infinite, and therefore whatever has a part must be finite. Now in looking around at the world, we see that everything is made up of discrete parts. Take people for instance. There is you, your parents, their parents, their parents before them, etc. Since these causes are discrete parts, it follows that these causes are finite in number and that there must be a first cause before which there is no other cause, for as we just demonstrated, the causes cannot go back infinitely. Otherwise, we run into the impossible contradiction explained in the previous paragraph. That establishes our second statement, which is, Causes are limited in number; since their number is limited, they must have a first cause before which there is no other.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 11 of 89 Then there is our third statement, which is, Anything that is composite was brought into existence. Heres the proof. Anything that is composite is made up of more than one component. Those components had to exist before the composite thing. And the one who put the composite thing together had to exist before the composite thing. In addition, everything must be either infinite or brought into existence. No other possibilities exist here. Now, we showed above that something that is infinite cannot have parts. Yet something that is composite is, by definition, made up of parts or components. Furthermore, something that is composite had a beginning, and something infinite cannot have a beginning or else it would not be infinite. Therefore, something composite cannot be infinite and therefore must have been brought into existence. So we have now proven our three statements: (1) A thing does not make itself. (2) Causes are limited in number; since their number is limited, they must have a first cause before which there is no other. (3) Anything that is composite was brought into existence. Next, lets take these three statements and see what they lead us to regarding the existence of a Creator. When we look at the world and space, we see that it is made up of many parts. There are the stars, the sky, the earth itself, rocks, mountains, water, plants, animals, birds, the oceans, rivers, lakes, etc. All of these things are made up of parts. For example, we can see that a bird is made up of feathers, bones, organs, etc. Thus, its clear that the world and all that is in it is made up of parts; that is, it is a composite. Now we showed above that anything that is composite was brought into existence. We also showed that a thing does not make itself. Thus, the world (and the universe) has to have had a Creator who brought it into existence. In addition, since we showed above that causes are limited in number that is, there cannot be an infinite series of causes then the world had to have had a beginning before which there was no other beginning. That is, it had to have had a first cause before which there was no other cause. That cause is the Creator, as identified in the previous paragraph. Thus, we have shown that there must be a Creator of the world and, similarly, the universe.

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Chapter 2 Setting the Foundation (Part 2)


An important discovery in learning is that when students review material shortly after they learn it, retention goes up. So lets review what we covered in the last chapter. Remember, these ideas are foundational like learning basic blocks and kicks in a martial art such as karate or taikwon-do. Its hard to get too much review on them. We first asked the question, How do we know whats true? And we came up with these sources: i) Direct observation or experience. (1) I saw it. (2) I heard it. (3) I tasted it. (4) I touched it. (5) I smelled it. We also have to keep in mind that our senses can be fooled (for example, by magicians and Hollywood). ii) Reasoning such as: (1) Logical deduction or proof (2) Preponderance of evidence iii) Prophecy from a known prophet We then discussed a demonstration for the existence of a Creator by looking at our reactions to the claim that someone threw a bottle of ink against the wall and it produced a perfect copy of the Declaration of Independence, and the claim that the wind blew meeting materials from a closet onto a table. From that, we derived the principle that, when we see order, we assume there is intelligence behind it. We then proceeded to give a proof of the existence of a Creator by proving three statements: (1) A thing does not make itself. (2) Causes are limited in number; since their number is limited, they must have a first cause before which there is no other. (3) Anything that is composite was brought into existence. If any of this material is unfamiliar, please re-read Chapter 1. Assuming that the above makes sense, lets move on. Given that we now know that there is a Creator of the universe, our next question is, has that Creator communicated with us? Or, more specifically, can we know that the Torah was given by G--? After all, all the big religions of the world claim that their so-called revelation is the true one. How do we know that the Torah and Judaism is the real thing?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 13 of 89 A word about semantics. When I say the Torah, Im referring to the first five books of what is often called the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This is the written Torah. There are other books that are part of the Hebrew Bible, and well talk more about them as we go along. But now, lets discuss evidence. Suppose a man came up to you and said that he just got abducted by aliens into an invisible space ship, and that on board the space ship was Albert Einstein, and that he (the person youre talking to) had a great discussion with Einstein about the theory of relativity, and that then he was dropped off by the aliens at a nearby street corner and you are the first person hes talked with about this. Would you believe him? My guess is, probably not. Now consider the United States Civil War. No one of us was around when the Civil War occurred. We didnt see it or witness it in any way. Yet we accept that it occurred. Why would we accept the Civil War, but not the alien abduction? We talked a bit about this in the last chapter the preponderance of evidence and this principle is very important. It may be possible to get one or two people to lie about something, or even to convince them that something happened when it didnt. But its clearly not possible to do that with a large number of people. Thats why conspiracies break down as the group that is in the know gets larger. Someone is bound to reveal the secret. In considering the preponderance of evidence from a large group of people, its also important that the event that the people witnessed be simple enough for everyone to grasp. A war battle isnt rocket science. Its pretty easy for onlookers to see whats happening, and for relatives afterwards to realize that their sons died. Now, if you look at the worlds religions, you find that they all started from one person, or a very small group of people, supposedly receiving some kind of revelation from G--. As an example, both Christianity and Islam are like this. But Judaism has the audacity to claim that the entire nation heard G-- speak. They claim that everyone at one time heard Gs voice. Thats quite a claim. Lets look at it. We know that the Torah states that the entire nation of Israel heard G--s voice at Mt. Sinai. We also know that the Torah states that there were 600,000 men there. When you add women and children, the total population likely exceeds two million. So, to use round numbers, the Torah is claiming that two million people heard G--s voice at Mt. Sinai. So lets consider this logically. Only one of two alternatives exists. Either those people did hear G--s voice at Mt. Sinai, or they didnt. It has to be one or the other. And by the laws of logic, if we can show that one is true, the other must be false, because these are what are called mutually exclusive alternatives. In other words, they cannot both be true.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 14 of 89 The reverse of the above is also true. If we can show that one alternative is impossible, then the other must be true. So lets take the alternatives in order. If the people did hear G--s voice at Mt. Sinai, then were done. Thats the easy part. Lets now take the second alternative. Lets suppose that the people did not hear G--s voice at Mt. Sinai. Can we prove that this is impossible? If the people did not hear G--s voice at Mt. Sinai, then that story had to be falsely introduced into the Torah at some point by someone. After all, its there now, so someone had to put it there. Now there are only two possibilities for when that story could have been falsely introduced: (1) at the time the event was supposed to have taken place, or (2) sometime later. Now, if we can show that both of these are impossible, then we will have shown that it was impossible for the story to have been falsely introduced, and thus it would be impossible that the people did not hear G--s voice at Mt. Sinai. Lets take the first possibility. Lets suppose that the story was falsely introduced at the time the event was supposed to have taken place. So were theorizing that some person maybe Moses or maybe someone else started telling people that two million of them heard G--s voice. Now is this really possible? Who would believe it if it hadnt happened? While it may be possible to fool one or two people, how could you tell two million people that some huge event happened to them, when in fact it didnt? This clearly would be impossible. The people would look at the person telling them this as if he had two heads. What? What do you mean, we heard G--s voice? We never heard any such thing. This would be like trying to tell the population of a city like Seattle that they all witnessed a space ship landing on City Hall and Elvis Presley walked out and sang Kentucky Rain. If the person doing this was really persuasive, he or she might convince one or two people that they saw such a thing. But two million? Impossible. Our second possibility is that the person introduced this story at a later point in history. In other words, at some point later, the person said something like, Some number of years ago, your ancestors heard G--s voice. And in fact, two million people at that time heard G--s voice. But wait. The people hearing this would respond something like this. Hold on a moment. If such a huge event had happened, our ancestors would have told us about it. Our grandparents would have told us about it. Someone would have written it down. But now youre saying this thing happened, yet weve never heard anything about it until now? No way. Impossible. In other words, given the size of the audience that was supposed to have heard G--s voice, it would be impossible for someone to falsely introduce this story later in history, because the people at that time would challenge it on the basis that theyd never heard anything about it before from any other source. Importantly, this is a key difference between Judaism and every other religion in the world. Other religions stem from a so-called revelation that was given to one person, or a small handful.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 15 of 89 Conspiracies can exist where you have a small number of people involved. But for all practical purposes its impossible to get two million people to agree to lie about something. Only Judaism can point to a situation where G-- spoke to the entire nation. No other religion can claim that. So, weve shown that it is impossible for the story to have been falsely introduced at the time the event was supposed to have taken place, and weve shown that it is impossible to have falsely introduced the story at a later point in history. Since those are the only two alternatives and we have shown them both to be impossible, weve shown that it is impossible for the story to have been falsely introduced. Thus, the only other alternative left open to us (from our original two alternatives) is that the story is true and that G-- did speak to the entire nation. The Written Torah and the Oral Torah Although we often speak about the Torah, it is important to know that there is a Written Torah and an Oral Torah. Heres how this came about. When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai, G-- gave him the Torah. Moses wrote down the Written Torah, but G-- also taught him the Oral Torah. That part wasnt written down. It was taught orally by word of mouth to Moses. How do we know that this Oral Torah exists? There are a number of ways. Let me give you a couple of examples. Consider these verses: Exodus 13:9 [These words] must also be a sign on your arm and a reminder in the center of your head. Deuteronomy 6:8 Bind [these words] as a sign on your hand, and let them be an emblem in the center of your head. Deuteronomy 11:18 Place these words of mine on your heart and soul. Bind them as a sign on your arm, and let them be an insignia in the center of your head.

(All quotes are from The Living Torah, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, published by Maznaim Publishing Corporation.) So here we have a direct command by G--. The question is, how is it to be fulfilled? Are the words to be literally written on the center of their heads or their arms? How can the Jewish people know what theyre supposed to do here? Its obvious that G-- would not require the people to do something and then not tell them how to do it. Yet we do not find an explanation in the Written Torah as to how this commandment is to be fulfilled. Another example: Deuteronomy 12:21 states, in part, you need only slaughter your cattle and small animals that G-- will have given you in the manner that I have prescribed. (Also from The Living Torah, as above.) But we dont find the manner that I have prescribed in the Written Torah. This refers to the whole area of ritual slaughter. How are the Jewish people to know how to do this if no explanation is given?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 16 of 89 Thus, there has to be another information source. That information source is the Oral Torah. When Moses went up to Mt. Sinai, he received the Written Torah, and he also received the Oral Torah. When Moses came down from the mountain, he taught the Oral Torah to Joshua, and Joshua taught it to the Elders. There has been a very careful record kept of the passing of the Oral Torah from generation to generation through the Jewish scholars. The Oral Torah was always taught orally, and it includes the answers to the above questions and many others. This transmission of the Oral Torah continued for many generations until the days of Rabbi Judah the Prince. During that time, he perceived that the level of scholarship was waning, that hardships were approaching, that the power of the Roman government was expanding, and that the Jewish people were dispersed far and wide. (Gateway To The Talmud, by Rabbi Meir Zvi Bergman, Mesorah Publications, Ltd.) For these reasons he had a concern that the Oral Torah might be lost, so he began to put it into writing. Discussions of scholars were added, and discussions of the discussions were added, and the result that we have today (which includes all of this) is the Talmud. It is virtually impossible to understand the Written Torah without the Oral Torah. This is why the teachings of scholarly rabbis are so important. Rabbis who have studied the Oral Torah and are scholars in it can open up the true meaning of the Written Torah through the ideas contained in the Talmud. As you have probably experienced, there are people who will read a verse or chapter from the Written Torah and then immediately think that they understand it. Its quite possible that they are in error or they are missing huge amounts of understanding if they dont have the benefit of a rabbi to explain from the Oral Torah the real meaning of the chapter or verse. The Talmud itself is virtually impossible to learn without a teacher. Although English translations now exist, one must have a qualified teacher in order to understand what is being said in the Talmud and why. The sages were sometimes very brief with their words, and it takes some digging to understand exactly what they are saying. This is, perhaps, part of the reason why the Oral Torah was always oral in the past. By writing it down, it presents the danger that anyone can read it and make his or her own interpretations, which may be very incorrect. In the past, when it was transmitted only orally, the scholars could work with each student to make sure that the student understood the meaning and the methodology. When something is written down in a book, more people can read it, but that does introduce the possibility of misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Interestingly, I understand that the sages didnt like to write books for this very reason. When you work directly with a student face-to-face, you get to know thats students personality, what theyre ready for, how much they can absorb, and the best ways to communicate with them. That helps prevent misinformation. When things are written in a book, its much easier for the reader to misunderstand or misinterpret something, because there isnt that one-on-one customized delivery of the material that takes into account the readers personality. However, with regard to Rabbi Judah the Princes action in writing down the Oral Torah, it had to be done. Otherwise, there was a possibility that the entire system might have been lost, given the persecutions that the Jewish people were suffering. So his actions were justified, and we are fortunate to have available the Talmud today with its rich treasury of information and ideas.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 17 of 89 General Philosophy of the Torah When starting to learn about Torah, its important to know that the breadth and depth of information is vast. You cant tackle it all right away. There is: the written Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the prophets (such as the books of Judges, Kings, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), and the writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, etc.).

In Hebrew, these are the Torah, the Naviim this means the prophets and the Chetovim the writings. If you take the first Hebrew letter of each of these words, you get the acronym Tanach. The Tanach is the Hebrew Bible. In addition to the Tanach, there is the Talmud, and then there are books written by great Torah scholars, such as Ethics Of The Fathers. This is a lot of material to cover even in a lifetime, and we have to crawl before we can walk, and we have to walk before we can run. Thus, my general recommendation is to start with what is called the Chumash the five books of the written Torah. Go through it along with one classic commentator, for example, Rashi. Rashis commentary is available in English through Artscroll or other publishers. Read the text, read Rashi, and try to understand what bothered Rashi that caused him to comment on the particular verse. Note that this is different than just reading for content. In Torah learning, its important to be engaged in the thinking and analysis process. Torah is not about memorization. Its about true understanding. Thus, we need to be actively engaged in the thinking process as we go along. If at all possible, its critical to have a bona fide teacher. A good teacher can open your eyes to new ideas and vistas. By contrast, when you study by yourself, its easy to end up going down an incorrect path for some distance, and then it becomes very hard to see the errors in your reasoning and correct them. The Torah is not just a book of rules and laws. Nor is it written as a history book, although it does contain history. It is Gs revelation to mankind; a how-to manual about how to live the best life here on earth. It is possible to show over the course of continued study that the Torah life is the best life possible; right here, right now. The Torah contains many stories, and part of the challenge is for us to abstract the ideas from those stories. The Torah is not a dry list of do this and dont do that, but a tool for perfection with virtually endless depth. The Torah can be studied at many levels by both beginners and advanced students. Studying it is a lifetime process, and one is never done. There is always more to learn. Lets look at three examples. The first example was given by Rabbi Israel Chait.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 18 of 89 Deuteronomy 26:1-3 reads: When you come to the land that G-- your Lord is giving you as a heritage, occupying and settling it, you shall take the first of every fruit of the ground produced by the land that G-- your Lord is giving you. You must place it in a basket, and go to the site that G-- will choose as the place associated with His name. There you shall go to the priest officiating at the time, and say to him, Today I am affirming to G-- your Lord that I have come to the land that G-- swore to our fathers to give us. (The Living Torah) Now that sounds pretty straight forward, doesnt it? But take a close look at the section again. And keep in mind that there are no useless words in the Torah. Everything is there for a reason. Is there anything in that section that seems strange, out of place, or unnecessary? Want to narrow it down? Look carefully at the last sentence. See if you can find two things that seem unusual. How about this? The last sentence says, There you shall go to the priest officiating at the time, and say to him Why would the text say the words officiating at the time? What other priest is there to go to? All the Torah had to do was say, There you shall go to the priest and say to him Why did the Torah include the words officiating at the time where there couldnt be any other priest? The answer is that the Torah is giving an important message about ones attitude toward the priest. A person should accept that the priest who is officiating at the time is the authority, even if the person were to think that the priest wasnt as great or as knowledgeable as a priest during another era. In other words, someone could think, Well, the priest serving now isnt as great as Moses was, or this priest isnt as knowledgeable as the one before him, or some comparison like that. The Torah is essentially telling that person that it doesnt matter how the current priest compares to someone from another generation. The priest who is in place at the time youre bringing your first fruits is the one you go to. He is the priest of your day. He is the one you acknowledge, regardless of how he might compare to the priest of another generation. Do you see how these extra words in the Torah, that are so easily glossed over, give us additional information? Now what about the second item I alluded to? Note in the last sentence of the verses cited above that the person must say to the priest, Today I am affirming to G-- your Lord Your Lord? Shouldnt it be my Lord, or at least, our Lord? After all, G-- is Lord of both of us (the person bringing the first fruits and the priest), so why should the person addressing the priest say your Lord? The answer is that this is an acknowledgement by the person bringing the first fruits that the priest is closer to G-- because the priests knowledge of G-- is greater than his. He is acknowledging that the priest, because of his superior knowledge, has the inside track with regard to his understanding of G--. In the Torah world, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are paramount. And this subtle, but important, wording is an acknowledgement of that.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 19 of 89 Lets take a second example. Are you familiar with the story of Abraham in Genesis 18, when he was visited by three strangers? Among other things that happen in this story, one of the strangers tells Abraham that Sarah will have a son. Look closely at Genesis 18:12-13, which immediately follows this announcement. She [Sarah] laughed to herself, saying, Now that I am worn out, shall I have my hearts desire? My husband is old! G-- said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say, Can I really have a child when I am so old? At the designated time, I will return, and Sarah will have a son. (The Living Torah) Is there anything that seems amiss here? If you dont see it right away, read the section again before proceeding. Did you spot it? Heres the problem. In the first part of the section above (verse 12), Sarah says My husband is old! But when G-- relates this to Abraham, He quotes Sarah as saying that Sarah is old. So how can that be? Why did G-- change the words when He related the story to Abraham? The great Torah commentator Rashi points out that Scripture altered Sarahs words for the sake of peace. In other words, G-- changed the words when He reported the story to Abraham, because it might have created strife between Abraham and Sarah if Abraham had thought that Sarah was insulting him by calling him old. So, for the sake of peace in the home between husband and wife, G-- changed the story. From this, we can learn how great a virtue is peace in a marriage relationship. Lets look at one more example. This one was given over by Rabbi Morton Moskowitz. Consider Genesis 47:7-10, when Joseph brings his father Jacob to meet Pharaoh. Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. How old are you? asked Pharaoh of Jacob. My journey through life has lasted 130 years, replied Jacob. The days of my life have been few and hard. I did not live as long as my fathers did during their pilgrimage through life. With that, Jacob blessed Pharaoh and left his presence. (The Living Torah) Does anything strike you as odd about that exchange? How about this? Doesnt it seem strange that the first question that Pharaoh asks Jacob is how old he is? Thats a rather odd question to ask someone upon first meeting him. And why does Jacob go into a somewhat involved tale of woe about the days of his life being few and hard and that he didnt live as long as his fathers did? Heres the answer. Jacob was a very intelligent and astute man. He knew that a person must handle himself very carefully in the presence of a king. Pharaohs opening question gave him an important clue as to the personality of this king. The fact that Pharaoh asked him how old he was told Jacob that Pharaoh was a man concerned about the power of his own position. Why?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 20 of 89 Suppose you are a martial artist and compete in tournaments. Suppose further that you are introduced to another martial artist tournament competitor and the first question he asks you is, How many tournaments have you won? What is he really doing? Hes sizing you up. Hes deciding whether youre better than him. His measurement is the amount of tournaments that youve won compared to the number hes won. If hes won more, hell automatically conclude that hes better. So Jacob recognized this trait in Pharaoh when Pharaoh asked him about his age. Pharaoh was concerned about his status and already likely making comparisons of himself against Jacob. That explains Pharaohs question. But what of Jacobs elaborate response? Jacob, recognizing the huge ego of the man before him, wisely plays down his life. He makes his life sound like it has been full of hardship, that his days have been few and hard, and that he didnt live as long as his fathers. In other words, Jacob is saying, Im really nothing. Ive had a tough life and didnt even measure up to those before me. He purposely plays his life down in order to send Pharaoh a message that, Look, youre great, and Im small. You have nothing to worry about from me. Do you see the incredible wisdom of Jacob in sensing the situation here and acting accordingly? Do you also see how something so subtle can be missed by a cursory reading of the text? Yet by digging, we can discover important insights. This is the Torah approach to learning. In addition to learning about, understanding, and obeying G--s laws, one of the most important aspects of living a Torah life is character development. We all need to be constantly working on improving our characters. That comes through seeing the ideas that the Torah is teaching, and then reviewing them over and over again until they begin to affect us. The Seven Noahide Laws That brings us to the seven Noahide laws. The Jewish people have 613 commandments from the Torah, plus additional commandments developed by the rabbinic sages. The gentiles are obligated to comply with what are called the seven Noahide laws. Lets briefly go over the seven Noahide laws, and then in a later chapter well discuss them in more detail. The seven Noahide laws include six negative commandments and one positive commandment. The six negative commandments are prohibitions against: Blasphemy Idolatry Murder Theft Certain sexual relations Eating the limb of a living animal

The positive commandment is a commandment to set up courts of law.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 21 of 89 Its important to know that these are not really individual laws. Rather, they are categories or themes of laws. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Jewish people have 613 commandments and the Noahides have seven. If a person doesnt like commandments, then that sounds like a good deal for the Noahides, right? But thats not an accurate comparison. The 613 are individual commandments. The seven Noahide laws are categories that include many individual commandments. Take the prohibition against theft, for example. That might encompass 18 or more individual commandments, in the 613 sense. There are differing opinions as to how many individual commandments are contained within the seven; at least one writer has put the number somewhere in the 60s. Suffice to say that theres a lot to learn. So where do these seven Noahide commandments come from? Can we find them explicitly in the written Torah? The answer is no. The seven Noahide commandments are discussed in the Talmud in the Oral Law. Support is found for them in the written Torah, but they wouldnt jump off the page at you. The seven Noahide laws are not designed to lead a person to spiritual perfection. They are, instead, a minimum requirement for a society to have the right to exist. To achieve spiritual perfection, one must go further and engage in learning and character development. Who is a Noahide? The short answer is: anyone who is not Jewish. However, some people think of Noahides as those who have come to understand and accept the Torah and the seven Noahide laws. So you need to be careful when someone uses the term Noahides to ask exactly what they mean. Halacha In Judaism, there are two systems there is philosophy, and then there is halacha. Halacha is Torah law. In other words, it defines what is legal to do and not do. The system is like a mathematical system. It is very precise and very detailed. Heres an example of why. Suppose someone climbs across the fence to his neighbors farm field, goes in to his neighbors barn, leads his neighbors horse out of the barn, gets it across the fence, and takes it home with him, all without his neighbors permission. Has he committed theft? Most of us would say yes. Now suppose he climbs across the fence to his neighbors farm field, goes in to the barn, leads his neighbors horse out of the barn, gets it across the fence, but then abandons it. Has he committed theft? Suppose he climbs across the fence to his neighbors farm field, goes in to the barn, leads his neighbors horse out of the barn, but then abandons it inside his neighbors field, and leaves. Has he committed theft?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 22 of 89 Suppose he climbs across the fence to his neighbors farm field, goes in to the barn, unties the horse, but leaves it in the barn, and then leaves. Has he committed theft? Suppose he climbs across the fence to his neighbors field, goes in to the barn, but doesnt touch the horse, and then leaves. Has he committed theft? Suppose he just sits at home and contemplates stealing his neighbors horse. Has he committed theft? For this latter situation, wed probably all say no. But somewhere in this spectrum of possibilities, theft was committed. Now, assuming theres a substantial penalty for theft, it makes a big difference when theft is committed and when it isnt. So we have to be precise. Heres another possibility to consider. Suppose you go to park your car in a downtown area at a parking meter, and there is time left on the meter from someone who put in money before you. Are you allowed to use that time or not? Why is that important? Well, if the city expects that every new parker should pay for his or her own parking in other words, your contract, so to speak, with the city is that you pay for parking regardless of whether the person before you had time left on the meter then if you dont put money in, you may have committed an act of theft against the city. Remember that a prohibition against theft is one of the seven Noahide laws. On the other hand, if the contract with the city for the rental of that space is such that all the city cares about is whether there is money on the meter during the time my car is there, then it would be acceptable for me to use the previous parkers left-over time. So here we have a situation where a common everyday occurrence could result in an act of theft if Im not clear about the citys position on parking. Thats one reason why the study of halacha is so important. Almost everyone will say that stealing is wrong. But how many can say in a given situation whether theft is actually occurring? Suppose you put $1.00 worth of coins in a vending machine to get a can of soda. The last coin jams and nothing happens. You slap the machine on the side and it frees your coin plus a bunch of others, and you suddenly find yourself with a dozen coins in the change slot. Are you allowed to keep them? Halacha Torah law answers these questions in a very precise way. This is why we rely on the rabbis, because they are the ones who are trained in Torah, Talmud and other resources to make these kinds of determinations.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 23 of 89 Which rabbi should I rely on? Just like going to a doctor, Im allowed to go to the Torah scholar who I trust; the one who I think is the best expert. Note that while I can do that, I cant switch around if I dont happen to like his opinion on a matter. I need to be consistent. So if I normally go to one rabbi for halachic determinations, and he gives an opinion that I dont like, I cant switch over to another rabbi for that case just because I know the other rabbi will give me an opinion that I prefer. Theres also the concept of staying to the safe side. For example, if theres a disagreement among the rabbis, and one says this particular thing is acceptable and one says it is not, then often one may choose to stay on the safe side, just to be safe. New halacha is being made as new situations in life arise. However, it is based on the principles from the Torah.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 24 of 89

Chapter 3 The Seven Noahide Laws


Lets begin by reviewing what we covered last time. First, we discussed a proof of the revelation at Mt. Sinai. We showed how the story of two million people hearing the Creators voice could not have been introduced falsely either at the time it was supposed to have happened nor later in history. Thus, we were able to conclude by logic that the revelation had to occur. We then discussed why there is both a Written Torah and an Oral Torah. We showed examples in the Written Torah that make it clear that another information source must exist, and we explained how the Oral Torah has been passed down carefully from one Jewish scholar to another, and how it was ultimately put into written form. We then looked at several examples of the depth of the Torah, analyzing specific passages to see the truths that are waiting for us; truths that could easily be missed by a superficial reading of the text. We then introduced the concept of the seven Noahide laws. These include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, certain sexual relations, and eating the limb of a living animal. They also include the positive commandment to establish courts of law. We also explained that the seven Noahide laws are actually categories of laws, and that there are many specific commandments that come under those seven categories. Finally, we discussed halacha the concept of Torah law. The Prohibition Against Idolatry So lets take a closer look at the seven Noahide laws. The first is a prohibition against idolatry. To quote Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim of www.mesora.org, Idolatry is defined as attributing the ability of change in the world to something other than G-- or the laws of nature He created. What does that mean in practical terms? As we pointed out earlier, each of the seven Noahide laws is really a category of more specific laws. So what are some of the specific commandments around the topic of idolatry? To answer this, well combine the works of two authors. First, well utilize Aaron Lichtensteins book, The Seven Laws of Noah (Second Edition, The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, New York). In this book, the author discusses the mapping of specific commandments to the seven Noahide law categories. Second, well quote specific commands based on Maimonides The Commandments (Translated by Charles B. Chavel, The Soncino Press, New York). In addition, we will refer to Maimonides Mishneh Torah (Moznaim Publishing Corporation, New York).

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 25 of 89 The first commandment we have that falls under the prohibition against idolatry is the one referred to by Maimonides as Negative Commandment 1, which is the prohibition against believing in, or ascribing any deity to any but Him. This is contained in Hashems words from the Torah, Do not have any other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3; The Living Torah, Maznaim Publishing Corporation, New York) Maimonides includes five classes of heretics under this Commandment: (1) One who says that there is no G--, and that the world has no Sovereign Ruler, (2) One who says that there is a Sovereign Power, but that power is vested in two or more beings, (3) One who says that there is one Sovereign Ruler, but that He is a body and has form, (4) One who denies that He alone is the First Cause and Rock of the Universe, and (5) One who worships any power beside Him, to serve as a mediator between himself and the Sovereign of the universe. (Hilchot Teshuvah III, 15) In his book, Guide For The Perplexed, Part 3, Chapter 29, Maimonides writes, It is the principal object of the Law, and the axis round which it turns, to blot out these opinions from mans heart and make the existence of idolatry impossible. In short, one could say that the entire purpose of the Torah is to root out idolatry from mankind. The next specific commandment to fall under the prohibition against idolatry is Negative Commandment 2. This is the prohibition against making images for the purpose of worship. This prohibition applies to making images ourselves or getting someone else to make them. Negative Commandment 3 is the prohibition against making an idol for others to worship. Negative Commandment 4 is the prohibition against making figures of human beings. This applies to figures of human beings, even if they are not made for purposes of worship, if the figures are made in relief; that is, in three dimensions, such as a sculpture. However, it does not apply to two-dimensional human figures (such as a painting or picture), or concave figures. It is forbidden to make images of the sun, the moon, and the stars, even in two-dimensional form. Note that this would include printing pictures of them, but apparently would not prohibit taking electronic pictures of them, as long as the electronic pictures are not printed. (Displaying an electronic picture on a screen is not considered making an image.) In his Mishneh Torah (Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 2), Maimonides makes it clear that it is forbidden to set up a monument or an Asherah tree (this is a tree that is worshipped) that attracts people so that they gather around it, even if one is doing this as an act of reverence to the Creator. However, it is acceptable to use pictures and embroideries to beautify a house, furniture or clothes. The Torah website www.mesora.org includes the following explanatory information about images and the differences between two-dimensional and three-dimensional images: Question from a Reader: Is any picture, TV show, forms of art, photos, decorative relics, pottery in the forms of animals or people, etc, etc., improper to have around?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 26 of 89 Mesoras response: There is no problem having them around if they are merely decoration and not worshiped objects, but one is prohibited from creating three-dimensionally experienced objects in three-dimensional form, such as things we experience on Earth. That is, man, animals and the like. All these types of things which we perceive in three dimensions are prohibited from being made in three dimensions, but can be made in two dimensions, such as a drawing, or in three dimensions but incomplete, i.e., an arm is missing. But objects such as the sun and moon which we do not experience in three dimensions, as they are things which we only look at from one angle, even these are prohibited to be made in drawings which are two dimensions, as we would thereby be creating a representation of how we perceive them. The next specific commandment to fall under the Noahide prohibition against idolatry is Negative Commandment 5, which is the prohibition against bowing down to an idol. The term idol means any object of worship other than G--. This commandment includes bowing down, sacrificing to, pouring a libation for, or burning incense before an idol. Negative Commandment 6 is a prohibition against worshipping idols Besides the prohibitions above, this refers to worshipping idols in the manner in which they are ordinarily worshipped. So, for example, if an idol is ordinarily worshipped by kissing it, one would be prohibited from doing that. In Maimonides Mishneh Torah (Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 2), he states, A gentile who worships false gods is liable provided he worships them in an accepted manner. It is also prohibited to bow to an idol, sacrifice to it, offer incense to it, or pour libations to it, even if that isnt the way that the idol is normally served. (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 3.3) One is also prohibited from kissing, embracing, or washing an idol, or sweeping before it, and other similar actions of that indicate affection and reverence. (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 3.6) The next specific commandment is Negative Commandment 7, which is the prohibition against handing over some of our offspring to the Molech. According to Maimonides The Commandments, This form of idolatry, , consisted of kindling a fire and fanning its flame, whereupon [the father] would take some of his offspring and hand them over to the priest engaged in the service of that idol, and then cause them to pass through the fire from one side to the other. Maimonides holds that the child was not burned in this process, although Nachmanides and other scholars hold that the child was burned. The next specific commandment falling under the Noahide prohibition against idolatry is Negative Commandment 8, which is a prohibition against practicing the sorcery of the ob. This has to do with a person who, after burning a certain incense and performing some ritual, pretends that he hears a voice speaking from under his armpit, and the voice supposedly answers his questions. (I realize that this sounds ridiculous and that it is hard to imagine that people could actually believe something like this, but see below for some examples of the kinds of things that people do accept in todays societies.)

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 27 of 89 The next commandment is Negative Commandment 9, a prohibition against practicing the sorcery of the yiddeoni. According to Maimonides The Commandments, in this sorcery, a person takes the bone of a bird, called yidoa and, using incense, prayers, and some kind of ritual, supposedly falls into a trance that allows him to predict the future. The next commandment is Negative Commandment 10, which is a prohibition against studying idolatrous practices. Given Maimonides comments above about the Torahs purpose being focused on removing idolatry from mankind, what good would it do to get involved in learning about a practice that is false? Clearly the Torah takes a strong stand against idolatry. But do we see idolatry happening today? Consider these examples: In certain martial arts dojos, the student is expected to bow in class in the direction of a shrine that is set up at one end of the practice room. Why do people carry a lucky rabbits foot, or a lucky charm, or a lucky bracelet? Why do some people think that if they wear a red thread around their wrist that it will somehow protect them from bad things in one way or another? On a more subtle note, what is happening when a championship golfer or any golfer for that matter makes certain to wear the same shirt for todays tournament that he wore when he won the last three tournaments? He may say its his lucky shirt. A lucky shirt? The shirt is affecting whether the ball goes in the hole? Come now. Whats really happening here? If we think about these things, we realize they have nothing to do with reality. They are totally man-made ideas about how things work, and they are based not on solid evidence or clear reasoning, but on emotional projections or just plain fraud. They ascribe power to things that have no power, and they pull us away from the world of reality. They also sometimes conveniently excuse us from responsibility for our own actions. Consider the classic Flip Wilson comic line, The devil made me buy that dress! One of the important thinking skills that can help us in this area is understanding (1) cause and effect, (2) when it is actually appropriate to assume cause and effect, and (3) the importance of not attributing cause and effect to a phenomenon unless there is adequate evidence to do so. The Prohibition against Blasphemy What is blasphemy? According to the Torah, blasphemy is cursing G--. We use the euphemism blessing G-- so that we dont have to say cursing G--. The Talmud covers this subject in considerable detail and uses the term Jose in place of the term for G-- so that we can talk about this and not inadvertently transgress the prohibition. The Talmud explains that blessing G-- means a form of the statement May Jose destroy Jose.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 28 of 89 The Torah court would use these euphemisms in court situations so that they would avoid the possibility of actually blessing G-- as they were going through testimony and court proceedings. Then, at the end, they would clear the court room and one witness would say what he actually heard the accused person say, the other would confirm it, the judges would rend their clothes, and then the judges would pronounce judgment. The whole idea of blessing the Creator makes no rational sense at all, and a person would have to be out of his rational mind to do so. For it was through the Creator and His Power that any of us (and food, clothing, and shelter, not to mention cars, airplanes, and all of todays high tech gadgetry that we think is so wonderful) were created in the first place. So to bless the Creator makes no sense at all. If people reach this level, then their existence is no longer of any value because they are so far from perceiving reality. Maimonides holds that this prohibition applies when any name of G-- is used. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 3) This raising a question about swearing, not in the courtroom sense (as in Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?) but in the sense of what is commonly called bad language; that is, using certain words as expletives, such as hell or damn, or phrases that reference the Creator, such as G-- dammit. From a strictly halachic standpoint, saying this latter phrase is not considered blasphemy because it is not of the form, May Jose destroy Jose, as discussed above. However, it is not recommended because it gets one in the habit of cursing things, which can lead to a halachic transgression. In addition, cursing something or someone that G-- made is not in keeping with the Torah philosophy and a Torah understanding of life. The Prohibition against Murder Lets move on to the prohibition against murder. Its important to note that the prohibition here is against murder, not killing. There is a difference. A soldier acting appropriately in a war is not murdering. An executioner duly authorized by a lawful court is not murdering. Maimonides states: A gentile who slays any soul, even a fetus in its mothers womb, should be executed in retribution for its death. Similarly, if he slew a person who would have otherwise died in the near future, placed a person before a lion, or starved a person to death, he should be executed for through one manner or other, he killed. Similarly, one should be executed if he killed a pursuer when he could have saved the latters potential victim by maiming one of the pursuers limbs. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 4) An important source for the above is Genesis 9:6 He who spills human blood shall have his own blood spilled. Note that the above equates abortion with murder. In Torah law, abortion is only permitted in certain instances where the mothers life is threatened.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 29 of 89 Another important aspect of this prohibition is that embarrassing someone publicly is considered tantamount to murder. The sages have said, To put ones neighbor publicly to shame is like shedding blood and A man should throw himself into a fiery furnace rather than put his neighbor publicly to shame. (Sources are Bava Matzia 58b and 59a respectively, as quoted from Maimonides The Commandments, page 269.) This is tied to murder because when someone is embarrassed publicly, its like murdering him or her in the eyes of those who witness it. Thus, it is very important never to embarrass someone publicly. The Prohibition against Theft Lets move next to the prohibition against theft. At first glance, the prohibition against theft would seem to be pretty obvious. But lets look a little further. What kind of specific commandments from the list of 613 might apply here to Noahides? First, there is, Negative Commandment 244, a prohibition against stealing money. This generally involves taking money by stealth. Next, there is Negative Commandment 245, a prohibition against committing robbery. This commandment generally involves taking property by force. Robbery is defined as to take by open force and violence anything to which we have no right. (Maimonides The Commandments, page 233) Our next commandment in the category of prohibition against theft is Negative Commandment 246, which is a prohibition against fraudulently altering land boundaries. This prohibits moving land boundaries so that one can claim another persons land is his. This is also the source of the law that prohibits in some circumstances encroaching on someone elses business. Although the prohibition against fraud in altering land boundaries seems to be covered by Negative Commandment 245 (the prohibition against committing robbery), Negative Commandment 246 teaches a person who does this in the land of Israel violates two negative commandments. Next is Negative Commandment 247, a prohibition against refusing to pay debts. Lets do a quick summary. Stealing is about taking property secretly. Robbery is about taking property by force openly. Negative Commandment 247 is about oppression, such as when you owe someone money and refuse to pay. An example of this might be withholding the pay of an employee, or simply refusing to pay a loan when it is due. Negative Commandment 248 is a prohibition against repudiating our debts. This is similar to Negative Commandment 247, except that it refers to a formal refusal to pay an obligation described in Negative Commandment 247.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 30 of 89 Our next commandment is Negative Commandment 250, which is a prohibition against wronging one another in business. This is considered extremely important in Torah observance. Once source indicates that if one deals honestly in business and his fellow men are satisfied with his conduct, it is regarded as if he had fulfilled the entire Torah. Next, we get into the realm of coveting other peoples belongings. The first specific commandment is Negative Commandment 265, a prohibition against planning to acquire someone elses property. This is a prohibition against spending our mental time planning how to acquire something that belongs to someone else. This has to do with scheming to buy something that we covet or desire even if we pay the full price for it. Obviously there is nothing wrong with seeing something in a store and deciding to buy it. But if we see something of our neighbors, and we spend our mental time coming up with various plans to get him to sell it to us, thats where this prohibition comes into play. A closely related commandment is Negative Commandment 266, which is a prohibition against coveting or desiring things that belong to another person. This commandment prohibits us from spending our thoughts desiring something that belongs to someone else. Whats the difference between 265 and 266? Negative Commandment 265 relates to the actual acquisition of the object. This commandment relates to the desire that underlies that acquisition. How does this work? Consider this example. A person sees something that someone else has, and he starts focusing his heart on it and desiring it. At that point, he has violated the commandment not to desire. Then, as he thinks about it more, his love for the object becomes greater, until he starts devising some plan to get the owner to sell it to him. He may beg the owner or otherwise put pressure on him to sell the object to him. He may offer to exchange it for something even more valuable. Now hes in danger of violating the previous commandment about not planning to acquire anothers property. If he succeeds in this and gets the person to sell it to him even though the owner didnt really want to sell, he breaks both of these commandments. But if the owner refuses to sell it, and the coveter because of his obsession with the object takes it by force, then he also violates the commandment not to rob. One source (Mechilta) indicates that coveting is the source from which all crime springs. So lets think about some practical implications here. Where does this come up in our everyday lives? What about taking pencils, pens, paper clips, or other small items home from ones place of work? Isnt that potentially theft? What about getting back too much change at a store, even a penny? Is it right for us to keep it? Shouldnt we take it back?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 31 of 89 These are things that people often will let go by because they dont stop to think about them, and because they think theyre so small that they dont matter. I once watched a man in a grocery store sample a coffee bean. To the best of my knowledge, there was no sign that said free samples. And, his son was with him. So, did he potentially commit an act of theft? And, what did his son learn by watching him? Still within the category of theft, there is also Negative Commandment 243, a prohibition against kidnapping. This is a specific kind of theft. Next we get into the area of weights and measures. First, there is Negative Commandment 271, a prohibition against cheating in measurements and weights. This should be obvious. We simply cant cheat in measuring land or use any false weights and measures. Then there is Negative Commandment 272, which is a prohibition against keeping false weights and measures In other words, were not just prohibited from using false weights and measures, were prohibited from even keeping them around. The Torah takes this very seriously. A statement in the Talmud (Bava Basra) says, A person is forbidden to keep in his house a measure too small or large, even if it be used for the collection of urine. (Source: Maimonides The Commandments, page 256) Why would that be? The sixteenth century Biblical commentator and philosopher Rabbi Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno comments, G-- abhors not only the actual practice of dishonesty, but also the instruments that enable one to commit it. (Source: Maimonides The Commandments, page 257) If one has instruments of dishonesty around, that could make it all the more tempting to use them. There is also a corresponding positive commandment to use just weights, scales, and measures, and to regulate them with extreme precision. This area is one that pervades our lives, particularly in the area of business. Its an important area of study so that we follow the Torahs precepts and dont accidentally commit an act of theft without realizing it. Please note that the listing above is not all inclusive and there are other commandments that relate to the prohibition against theft. This is just an overview. The Prohibition against Certain Sexual Relations Lets next turn our attention to the prohibition against certain sexual relations. Maimonides (in his Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 5) indicates that there are six specific prohibitions in this category. They involve having sexual relations with:

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a mans mother, his fathers wife, his sister, where they have a common mother, another mans wife (this is called adultery), a male (that is, homosexuality), and an animal (also called bestiality).

These prohibitions are derived from Genesis 2:24, which states: Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh. In referencing this verse, Maimonides states in his Mishneh Torah that: His father alludes to his fathers wife. His mother is to be understood simply. Cling to his wife means and not his colleagues wife. His wife means not a male. They shall become one flesh; this excludes a domesticated animal, beast, or fowl, for man can never become one flesh with them. The prohibition against relations with a maternal sister is derived from Genesis 20:13: She is my sister, my fathers daughter, but not my mothers. Thus, she became my wife.

Marriage for Noahides occurs when a man and a woman have sexual relations with the intent that it constitute marriage. Thus, from a halachic, or legal, viewpoint, no formal marriage ceremony is needed. (See footnote 57 in Maimonides Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 7.) Similarly, divorce occurs when either the husband or the wife initiates a departure from the husbands domain. Note that a separation occurs if either he or she desires to part and initiates the departure. (See Maimonides Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 8.) This is a broad overview. There are more detailed issues around this, but those are for more detailed study. The Prohibition against Eating the Limb of a Living Animal Lets move now to a law that may raise some interesting questions; the prohibition against eating the limb of a living animal. This law prohibits us from eating any part of an animal that has been removed from that animal while it was still living. In other words, a person cannot come along and tear off a leg from a sheep while the sheep is still alive, and eat it. So what can we learn from this commandment?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 33 of 89 It is sometimes suggested that this commandment is to teach us to avoid cruelty to animals. Maimonides said that It is prohibited to cut off a limb of a living animal and eat it, because such act would produce cruelty, and develop it; besides, the heathen kings used to do it; it was also a kind of idolatrous worship to cut off a certain limb of a living animal and to eat it. (Guide For The Perplexed, page 371, Dover Publications, Inc., New York) So we see that the avoidance of cruelty is an important benefit. But is that it? And if so, why not just have a prohibition against cruelty to animals? While cruelty to animals is an important benefit of this commandment, there is an additional and important underlying message here. This explanation is based on information that I learned from Rabbi Israel Chait. If we look at the issue of property ownership and start at the beginning, we realize that everything belongs to G--. After all, He created it. So, it belongs to Him. How, then, do we know that its ok for us to eat a peach? Because G-- clearly gave permission for man to eat of the fruit of the trees. Genesis 1:29 states, G-- said, Behold I have given you every seedbearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seedbearing fruit. It shall be to you for food. Note that in Adams time, they were not given the right to kill animals in order to eat the meat. After the flood, G-- gave specific permission for Noah and his offspring to eat meat. Genesis 9:3 states, Every moving thing that lives shall be to you as food. Like plant vegetation, I have now given you everything. But the permission came with a condition. Man can eat meat as long as it comes from a dead animal. But man does not have permission a permit, if you will to just grab an animal and rip off a limb from it and eat it. That level of permission was not given to man. He must only eat meat from an animal that has already died. This teaches us the importance of boundaries concerning the things that G-- gave us permission to have and the things that He didnt. Man can tend to think of himself as all powerful and all authoritative. This command reminds us that were not. Were allowed to eat meat, but only under the circumstances for which we were given permission to do so by the Creator. Death of the animal which is a halachic event becomes the permit allowing the Noahide to eat it. Death for the Noahide occurs when the breathing and the heart stops. Its not the removing of the limb that is prohibited, it is partaking of the animal before the halachic event of death, which is the permit that allows one to partake of the animal. Establishing Courts of Law The final command of the seven Noahide laws is to establish courts of law.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 34 of 89 Maimonides holds that we are obligated to set up judges and magistrates in every major city to render judgment concerning these six mitzvoth [commandments] and to admonish the people regarding their observance. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings, Chapter 9, Section 14) From a practical standpoint, this does not appear to be possible today. Consider, for example, the chance of getting one of todays societies to pass a law against eating the limb of a living animal. Nachmanides, however, holds that the main function of these courts is to deal with civil cases, such as petty theft, wage disputes, and fraud. There are, however, two aspects of this that the major Torah commentators agree on:

Courts should be established, and Any act that contributes to an unjust court decision should be prohibited.
There are several positive commandments related to this. The society should:

appoint judges and officers of the court, treat litigants equally before the law, testify in court (in other words, one should be willing to be a witness if necessary), and inquire into the testimony of witnesses (that is, the court should inquire diligently into the testimony of witnesses to make sure that they are telling the truth).

There are also a number of specific negative commandments associated with this. They include prohibitions against a judge:

committing unrighteousness, accepting gifts from litigants, favoring a litigant, being deterred by fear of a litigants threats, favoring a poor litigant out of compassion, discriminating against a litigant because he is a sinner, pitying one who has slain or mauled a man, discriminating against a proselyte or orphan, and hearing one litigant in the absence of the other.

In addition, there are prohibitions against:

appointing an unlearned judge, the court killing an innocent man, incrimination by circumstantial evidence, punishing a person for a sin committed under duress, killing a murderer without a trial, and testifying falsely.

As you can see, all of these commandments have a common theme of ensuring that court decisions are just.

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Chapter 4 Good & Evil, Success & Happiness


In our last chapter, we discussed the seven Noahide laws in detail. Lets move on and cover several basic concepts that often come up in the religious realm. Faith and Belief Belief and faith the idea that I should believe something that I cant prove and that, somehow, this is a positive and meritorious thing to do is heavily Christian-based. There is no concept in Torah of believing something that you dont know. Why would someone do that? In fact, there are people who hold that, We believe this because it is absurd. And the more absurd that it is, the more praiseworthy it is to believe it. If we step back and look at that idea, it makes no sense at all. The more absurd something is, the more laudable it is to believe it? Why? This becomes a circular argument. For how could it be considered more religious to believe something the more it doesnt seem true? That would suggest that the more we come to know, the less religious we will be. Torah is not based on faith in the sense that that word is used in a Christian-based society. Torah is based on knowledge and understanding. We should know and understand why we have a conviction about something. In fact, one of my rabbinic mentors suggested that a belief is a conviction that you have concerning something about which you are ignorant. Why? Because if we really knew it, we wouldnt have to have a belief about it. As we suggested earlier, no one says they have a belief in yogurt. Or even electricity, which theyve never seen. Theyve only seen the manifestation, or end result, of electricity. Theyve seen that which electricity causes, but not electricity itself. So the Torahs emphasis is on study and learning. What other religion in the world promotes this? Most religions say that you have to believe this or that, and some want you to blindly accept what one person says because hes the authority. Torah is the complete opposite. The Torah approach is about learning and questioning until you fully understand what is, and why you have a conviction about it. This is a very different approach to the area of what we commonly call religion than most people are used to. This is also why Judaism is not just another religion per se. The Torah does not ask us to just believe something. It asks us to get involved in the world of study and learning so we can know whats true. Thats why, at the beginning of this course, we started with the concept of how do we know whats true. This forms the basis for real knowledge and understanding, not blind faith or belief.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 36 of 89 What we often dont see is how much the society around us affects us. In the U.S., we live in a predominately Christian-based society, and that society influences us in subtle but powerful ways. Thus, most people in our society likely think that religion has to do with faith and belief, because thats what the Christian religion and its various manifestations teach, and over time that teaching has seeped into the general assumption base of our society. Another interesting point. If youre interested in Torah, people may ask you if youre going to convert. Do you ever wonder why they ask that? Because in our society, most religions are like clubs. If you want to be a christian, you have to convert to get into the club. If you want to be a catholic, you have to convert. If you want to be an X, Y, or Z, you have to convert. Torah Judaism has never held that. Torah is unique in that it maintains a holistic world view. Both Jews and non-Jews can have a relationship with G--, be involved in perfecting themselves, and have a share in what is called The World To Come without any conversion. Thats why youll never get a knock on the door from someone in a dark suit and a white shirt, who hands you pamphlets and does his best to coerce you into coming to the local synagogue. Judaism doesnt seek converts. Why? Theres no need. In fact, if you go to a rabbi and say you want to convert, the first thing the rabbi will likely do is try to talk you out of it. Why? Theres no need for you to convert. Theres plenty of learning and character development to do as a Noahide without converting. So to summarize, from a Torah perspective the focus of a persons life should be on learning and knowledge rather than blind faith and belief. Torah doesnt ask us to believe anything; it asks us to study and learn so that we know whats true and real. Success and Happiness Lets next tackle the ideas of success and happiness, because these are concepts that we refer to all the time. However, we may not always have a clear definition in mind when we refer to them. Just exactly what is success? And what is happiness? And while were at it, what is good and what is evil? In covering these topics, I am relying heavily on the teaching of my mentor, Rabbi Morton Moskowitz. As always, any errors associated with my translation of these ideas rest with me. To explore these questions, lets look at the first chapter of the book of Psalms. There are some important principles to be found here. The Psalm starts like this: Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scorners. But whose delight is in the Torah of the Lord; and in his Torah he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Translation is from the Tanach accompanying The Soncino Talmud, Mac OS X version.)

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 37 of 89 So here we have what appears to be a formula for success. The great Torah scholar Sforno says that a persons happiness and success in this world and in the World To Come is reached by a person defined in the first two verses of this Psalm. That is, by a person who doesnt walk in the counsel of the wicked, doesnt stand in the way of sinners, doesnt sit in seat of the scorners, but his desire is in the Torah, and in that Torah he meditates day and night. So then how would we define success? In a broad generic sense, Ill suggest that success is carrying out a plan that achieves its end. That means that success has two components. First, there is a plan, and then there is the carrying out of the plan. Now in carrying out a plan, there are two things that can cause us to fail. (1) Something is wrong with the plan itself or in the execution of the plan, and (2) something outside of me in the world stops me. For example, if my plan is to fly to New York for a meeting, and a big snowstorm shuts down all of the New York airports thus preventing my flight from even taking off, thats something out of my control. So that gives us a definition of success. Now, the next important thing to consider is, what should I be successful in? There are two types of success. (1) The first is based on fantasy. For example, I want to be the greatest race car driver, or the fastest runner, or the best gymnast. Competition like this is a complete illusion to ones self. Heres why. Lets suppose that I want to be the fastest runner. Having decided that, I have now turned my worth over to powers outside of myself. Why? Because my measurement of my worth as a runner is always dependent on what someone else is doing. Its not an objective measurement. If someone else runs a mile three seconds faster than I do, then Im a failure. This is a very frustrating approach to life, because Im always chasing what someone else is doing. Look at Olympic athletes. Consider the years and years and years of intense training they go through, just so they can have a very brief (and brief is sometimes measured in seconds) chance to try to be the best at some event that has little or nothing to do with almost anything practical in real life. Does it really matter that Joe can slide down a snowy slope with his feet attached to two sticks in a total time that is six ten-thousandths of a second faster than Phil? In the world of life, what difference does that actually make? I watched an Olympic downhill skiing event happen once where the commentators pointed out that the snow was faster earlier in the morning, but as the sun came out and slightly melted the snow, it became just a little bit slower. The person who won the event did so by a very small margin, something like hundredths of a second over the second place finisher, but he happened to have been picked to go early in the morning when the snow was fastest. After he won, you can imagine the jubilation and happiness on his face. Yet, on a different day, or if he had been picked to go later than the second place finisher, he likely wouldnt have done so well. In this case, my view was that he won, not because he was the best, but because he got just plain lucky. Yet we see how much emphasis is placed on receiving the gold medal.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 38 of 89 Just what is the big draw here? I suggest that its a complete ego illusion and fake-out, if you will where we somehow attribute value to something that really has none. Does it really matter that a person can solve a Rubiks cube faster than anyone else in their particular city, or state, or country? When we look closely at these situations, theyre based on a fantasy that somehow, if Im better than others in a particular event, that makes me somebody, or somehow gives me value. By contrast, I suggest that we shouldnt strive for such fantasy because theres no real gain to it. And look at the price that some of these people pay for their ten seconds of fame. Years and years spent in training. For what? In at least one case, I understand an Olympic swimmer spent years training, won the gold medals, and then never wanted to go back in the water after that. We should only strive for practicality or for pleasure if its one that is allowed and doesnt harm us. A person can in a certain way achieve a fantasy, but it wont satisfy him. As the saying goes, Poor people think that money will solve all of their problems. Rich people have no such illusions. People think that when they get X whatever X is that theyll be happy. Yet society is replete with examples that this is not so. I understand that a reporter once asked J. Paul Getty, at the time the worlds richest man, How much is enough? And his response was, Just a little bit more. Theres no end to this. If you become the greatest person in the world, then youll need to compete with G--. You wont be able to stop. So thats the first kind of success one based on fantasy. What about the other type? The second type of success is one that is based on satisfying an emotion that is not a fantasy. For example, suppose I want a certain type of car. Its possible that the car will satisfy me, particularly if I want it for practical reasons. To be specific, suppose I want a Lexus because I like the soft seats, the quiet ride, the reliability factor of the car, and all the cool gadgets that it has. And so I finally get one, and I love it. That can be a type of success that works. But if I want the car because of greed, or jealousy, or because my neighbor has one and I cant stand it that he has one and I dont, then Ill never be satisfied. The success has to be a practical thing a real enjoyment to me in and of itself. So the key here is that we have to pursue things that are practical and bring us real pleasure. We need to stay in the world of reality. Lets now turn to happiness. First, what is it? Ill suggest that happiness is a state in which you have no conflicts. To do that, you have to know what reality is and learn to live within it. Thats the first step in undoing your conflicts. You find out what reality is and live within it. Im suggesting that happiness is not something you proactively achieve directly. Its what happens when youve removed your conflicts.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 39 of 89 To make this even more practical, Ill suggest that living in reality means living within the laws of nature. There is a separate system of G--s personal providence, but thats beyond the scope of what we want to discuss now. For now, lets focus just on G--s system of the laws of nature. We all live within these laws. The wind blows, the rain falls, and tornadoes come and go. And were all subject to those things. If I swim out into a rip tide and get pulled under, the waves will not care whether Im a righteous person or not. If I swim in a school of hungry piranha, the piranha will not care that I didnt intend to swim there or that Im really a nice guy if you get to know me. Apart from some special intervention by G--, the laws of nature act on the righteous and on the wicked the same way. So, its up to us to know and understand the laws of nature the reality around us and act accordingly. We see a beautiful illustration of this in the story of Jacob when he meets Esau after having spent many years with Laban. You may recall that Esau thought that Jacob had stolen his birthright. That wasnt the case, but Esau thought that. And he was mad. So Jacob fled and spent many years with a relative named Laban. After marrying, having children, and amassing great wealth, Jacob leaves Laban and as he is traveling, he gets word that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men! Now most people dont usually come calling cordially with an entourage of 400 men. It is very instructive to see here what Jacob does in response to this news. In essence, he does three things. (1) He divides his group into two. His idea is that if Esau attacks one group, the other will escape. This was preparation for war. (2) He sends Esau a set of gifts livestock and such in groups. He sends one group, followed by another group, followed by another group. This is tantamount to getting a new gift from your neighbor about every half hour for quite awhile. Even if youre mad at the neighbor, its pretty hard to stay mad under such a gift onslaught. This was preparation for peace. (3) And, he prays to G-- for success. So we see that Jacob is doing everything practical that is within his control, and he prays to G-to take care of the things that are outside of his control. This is a beautiful Torah formula for living our lives. Its our responsibility to do everything that is within our control. A person cannot sit around, for example, and expect G-- to feed him. He needs to get up, get an education, get a job or start a business enterprise, and provide for himself. Once hes done everything that is within his control, he can pray to G-- to take care of the things outside of his control. Thats living within the laws of nature and the world of reality. So, the first step to achieving happiness is to learn to live in the world of reality. Otherwise, we are going to run into conflicts. Living in the world of fantasy causes conflicts. It has to do so, virtually by definition. To take an extreme case, if I think that Im Superman and jump off a tall building expecting to fly, Im going to have a very rude awakening and a rather violent encounter with reality.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 40 of 89 Second, we have to undo conflicts. Youve probably heard the phrase Turn away from evil and do good. We cant just do good. We have to turn away from evil. Success and happiness cannot be based solely on positive things. They must be based on undoing the problems that make us unhappy. So the principle is that we always start with undoing the bad. We must make sure there is no negative, and know how to deal with it when it happens. We need this in order to have success and happiness. How do we undo conflicts? I suggest that most of our conflicts come from our emotions. Our emotions cause us to see life incorrectly and inaccurately. They color our view of reality. By learning to question, to think clearly, to make rational decisions, and then by going over and over correct ideas until they become clear to our mind, we get our intellect on top of the process, and that can help us to remove conflicts. If the conflicts are really deep or stubborn, we may need professional help. But many conflicts can be removed by seeing ideas clearly. So, if were trying to turn away from evil and do good, that begs the question, what is good and what is evil? Good and Evil Lets start with good. What exactly is it? We hear the phrase that one should do good. But what does that mean? And how do we do it? In tackling this, perhaps we should rephrase the question a different way. If a tiger is in its element and designed to hunt other animals, and if a giraffe is meant to be a herbivorous animal that can run fast and reach a plant diet that is high off the ground, and if an anteater is designed to live in a particular climate and eat ants, what is the design of man? What is he intended to do? What distinguishes him from the animals? Or lets look at a domestic dog. You know, the black Labrador or terrier that many people have running around the house. They feed him, scratch his ears, take him for a walk, maybe throw him a stick, and hes happy. Hes fulfilled. Other animals are like that. When they are living in their normal environment and their basic needs are fulfilled, theyre content. So what does this mean for man? Whats his normal environment, and what is his purpose such that, when he fulfills it, it brings him the greatest satisfaction? I suggest that it is none of the things that people usually think of when they think of success. Its not a fast car, a new house, a yacht in the Bahamas, or an appearance on the Oprah TV show. People do get those things, but theyre still not fulfilled. In fact, as we discussed above, they keep seeking more. Those things just dont satisfy. What sets man apart from the animals is his ability to think abstractly. In terms of environmental factors, man isnt very well designed for survival, at least not in the sense that the animals are. He cant run that fast, he cant instinctively hunt, he has no built-in camouflage. But he does have the ability to think and be involved in the world of ideas. That is the distinguishing factor of man.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 41 of 89 I submit, for your consideration, that the ultimate purpose of man and the real good for him is to be involved in the world of ideas and the world of learning. Ill also suggest that any other approach to life will ultimately result in some type of conflict or frustration. Why? Because to function optimally, an organism has to function in accordance with its purpose; its design. And man was designed by his Creator to think, and be involved in the world of thought and ideas. Thats why fame, fortune, and power do not bring happiness. We see this all around us. We see people with fame who are some of the most unhappy people on earth. Ditto for those with lots of money. And power? Does that bring satisfaction? Well, ask yourself whether you know any person in a position of significant power who is happy, peaceful, and content. Rather, we often see that power becomes destructive, ultimately resulting in the demise of those who have it. So, if man is intended to be involved in the world of thought, ideas, and learning, what areas should he explore? Well, one way to look at it is that if we define good to be anything in accordance with the will of the Creator which makes sense because He is the one Who created everything then it would make sense that the good one should explore should be that which is in accordance with the will of the Creator. How do we find that? Through the study of Torah. After all, the Torah is, if you will, G--s instruction manual to man for life. Now whats unique here is that many people look upon the commandments of the Torah, and the restrictions that the Torah imposes on us either as Jews or Non-Jews as just that; restrictions. In other words, we really think that the good is all the stuff we cant do or are not allowed to do. But if you stop to think about it, thats a ridiculous notion. Why would G-- say, in essence, Yes, I built this world with lots of good things in it, but I just want to make life difficult for you, so Im going to put up lots of frustrating restrictions around you that have no real benefit other than to make life difficult for you. Isnt that absurd? Can you imagine a parent doing that to their child intentionally? Of course not. No caring parent would do such a thing. Yes, they might put up restrictions and rules for the child to follow, but it would be for the childs own good (often because the child cant see whats truly good for himself or herself, while the parents can), not because they want to purposely frustrate the child. In the same way, G-- has given us the Torah, an instruction manual for life. And its designed to give us the best life here. Right now. In this life. In a practical way. Covering the challenges and situations we face today. The Torah life is not some pie-in-the-sky someday-when-Im-inheaven-everything-will-be-wonderful philosophy. Torah deals with us where we actually are in life; the practical I-have-to-earn-a-living-and-feed-my-family-and-deal-with-my-challenges life that we all face. Yes, there is a concept of a life after this one in the Torah. Its generally referred to as the World-To-Come. But whats very interesting to note is that, if you read the Torah carefully all five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy there is virtually no mention of the World-To-Come. The focus in Torah is about this life, not the next one. Why?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 42 of 89 Because this is where we are now. This is the arena in which we have to work out our problems and our character flaws. This is the arena in which we can perfect ourselves. Now, the World-To-Come is a whole abstract study in itself and is beyond the scope of this class. But its fascinating to know that the actions one takes to live the Torah life, the best life we can have on this planet, are the same actions that give us the best possible life in the WorldTo-Come. So, to summarize, the good is being involved in doing the will of the Creator. Now the will of the Creator according to Torah is that we be involved in studying and learning His Torah, and that we live in the world of reality. Note how Psalms 1 summarizes this beautifully by describing the successful person: whose delight is in the Torah of the Lord; and in his Torah he meditates day and night. In other words, the successful person is constantly involved in the world of learning. Hes constantly thinking about ideas of Torah, during the day and at night. That is the real good for man. Unfortunately, many people think that good is simply being nice to everyone. The idea is that if I help everyone, thats a good thing. But is that a carefully developed concept thats been rationally tested, or just an emotional fantasy? For example, if we say that helping everyone and being kind to them is a good thing, what about Hitler? Would it have been a good thing to have been kind to him and helped him? Modern platitudes can fall completely apart when theyre analyzed. They sound great in theory until we start asking questions. Relying on our emotions to determine the good can result in exactly the opposite, because were not seeing reality. And that brings us to our question about evil. Just what is evil? Heres a very interesting definition; one that flies in the face of popular concepts of evil, especially for those who spend their days immersed in horror novels. The Torah scholar Saadya Gaon said that evil is ignorance. Think about that. Evil is ignorance. In other words, if one is operating under ideas or notions that are not in accordance with reality, then one is committing evil. That definition has very interesting consequences. Consider this. Take someone in the world who everyone thinks is a saint. Say that person is quite widely known for doing great acts of kindness for sick people. But at the same time, that person tells them over their particular brand of religious ideas, which arent in accordance with truth, although the person thinks they are. Now while the act of actually helping the sick person with his or her physical afflictions may be a laudable act, the act of sharing their particular brand of religious ideas that arent correct would be evil, under Saadya Gaons definition.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 43 of 89 In our society, Id suggest that we often tend to think of evil in heinous terms, like a horrific crime, or mass murder, or something like that. And certainly those acts would qualify. But how many people would think that operating under an incorrect religious idea is evil? Or using an incorrect approach to life? This definition gives us a much more clear-cut approach to identifying evil. And the good the study of Torah and the world of reality is the antidote. So now lets go back to Psalms 1 and see if we can put this together. Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scorners. But whose delight is in the Torah of the Lord; and in his Torah he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. We see that there are three types of people that the successful man avoids. Lets look at each. The first is that he did not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Who is a wicked person? Sforno says these are people who are involved all of their days with gathering money. Most of their striving is focused on that. A person like this is called a wicked person. Now we could ask, if thats the definition of wicked, what about tyrants? And how did Sforno get gathering money from the verse? The answer centers around the word counsel or advice. Remember that the verse says, He did not follow the counsel, or advice, of the wicked. Advice means that I have a plan. So the wicked person, in this verse, is giving advice or helping a person to achieve a plan. What would a wicked persons plans be focused around? Making money or controlling people. If you put them together, they have one quality together the desire for money and the desire to control people and that one quality is power. Its true that most of us have some type of desire for power, but its not necessarily our main striving. For the wicked, it is. Thats what theyre primarily focused on. The second part says that he does not stand in the way of sinners. Sforno says that the sinful are the people who are drawn after the pleasures and desires that are harmful. These are the people you read about in the news who are out for a life of pleasure. You could say that a hedonist falls in this category. If youre familiar with the story of Esther, King Achashveirosh was this type of person; the people who are drawn to the physical pleasures. The ultimate sinner is one who is committed to that lifestyle. For example, King Achashveirosh did everything for his pleasure. You may recall that his wife didnt come when he wanted her to come, and he had her killed. He acted like a spoiled brat.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 44 of 89 People like this constantly move in the direction of spoiled of wanting to get their way. Spoiled brats can never be happy. They cant deal with any problem in life they just become upset or go crazy. This is the life of the sinner. You see how this type of person is different from the wicked. The wicked are making plans for power. The sinner in this context is all about getting pleasure for himself. And then there is the third clause in the Psalm: he doesnt sit in the seat of the scorners. What is a scorner? The Torah scholar, the Radak, says that these people are cunning. Theyre intelligent, although theyre not wise. Theyre haughty and they speak evil about people, they place confusion and faults, and they reveal secrets. In other words, the scorner is one who puts all of his energy into putting down people and things. Youve probably met the type. They can show fault in everything. Theyve got something negative to say about everyone and every situation. The scorners commitment is to destroy anything and everything around him. Its revolution for revolutions sake. Its all for the purpose of tearing down, not for anything positive. Its also all verbal. The scorner doesnt accomplish anything. An example of this type of person would be an early communist in the United States who sat around and talked about how bad the government was. We see this in certain people and groups today. Their message is all about how bad everything is. Their aim is not to put something positive in place; its just to tear down. Note that this type of person is different from the first two. What does he gain? He gets a certain pleasure that he makes himself feel great by putting others down. This is a complete illusion in his own mind. Hes fooling himself. Note that there are two ways of feeling great either by doing something positive, or by putting others down. The Radak says that if a person turns from the path of evil and does not do good, then the person hasnt completed any work and you cant say that hes happy. In other words, happiness is not just undoing the bad. A persons energy then needs to be applied to the search for truth and reality. He should study day and night, meaning all of his energy is focused into Torah. The evil person puts all of his/her energy into some fantasy. The righteous person puts all of his energy into the world of truth and reality, and orders his life according to that system. So lets review again our three verses from Psalms 1: Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scorners. But whose delight is in the Torah of the Lord; and in his Torah he meditates day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 45 of 89 One more point on this. When it says, whole delight is in the Torah of the Lord; and in his Torah he meditates day and night, what does it mean by his Torah? Isnt it G--s Torah? The great Torah scholar and commentator Rashi comments that the psalm first refers to it as the Torah of the Lord. But after a student works at studying and understanding it, then it is as if it has become his own something that belongs to him and thus it is referred to as his Torah.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 46 of 89

Chapter 5 Prayer, Holidays, Parents, Taking on other Commandments, and Study


Review In our last chapter, we defined success as carrying out a plan that achieves its end. We also explained that there are two types of success: (1) a fantasy, and (2) satisfying an emotion that isnt a fantasy. We defined happiness as a state in which we have no conflicts. We discussed the importance of living within reality taking into account the laws of nature and that there is a two-step process for living within reality: (1) we do everything in our power in a given situation, and (2) we pray to G-- regarding the things that are outside of our control. We also discussed good and evil. We defined good as doing the will of the Creator, and we recognized that the best good for man is being involved in the world of thought, ideas, and learning, particularly Torah. We followed the reasoning of Saadya Gaon in defining evil as ignorance. Finally, we explored how Psalms 1 provides a formula for success. It identifies three types of people to avoid and then indicates that the route to real success is making Torah learning and ideas our primary focus. Lets now move on to the subject of prayer. Prayer So just exactly what is prayer? People claim to do it all the time. They hold prayer groups, prayer retreats, and prayer meetings. They get up early to pray and stay up late to pray. Many books are written about prayer. (As of the time of this writing, a search for books on Amazon.com using the search word prayer yielded 354,600 hits.) But what is prayer? Is it just talking to the Creator any time I want, any way that I want, using any words that I want? Do I need someone to lead me, or can I do it myself? Or does it matter? And what is prayer supposed to accomplish? Do we expect the Creator to talk back to us? Answer our prayers? If so, how? Give us everything we ask for? Some of it? None of it? It seems that the common understanding of prayer is that I can just start talking to the Creator whenever and wherever I want, about whatever I want, and somehow this is supposed to do something. But lets ask some penetrating questions around this subject and see what we find. To start with

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 47 of 89 If G-- knows everything, then He already knows what Im going to pray for. So whats the point of praying? And if G-- is unchanging, then Hes already going to do what Hes going to do. So whats the point of praying? And if prayer is having a dialog with G--, does He talk back? Is there any real dialog (that is, a two-way conversation) actually taking place? Lets consider a different question. If G-- does not need us (or anything for that matter), and if He is unchanging, then who does prayer benefit, G-- or man? This is a very important question with huge implications. Think about it for minute. Who does prayer really benefit, G-- or man? It clearly has to be man. What can prayer possibly do for G--? G-- certainly doesnt need us. He created us. Thus, prayer has to be for the benefit of man. So what is the benefit and how does it work? Lets look at three main possible avenues for prayer: (1) Im thanking G-- for something, (2) Im acknowledging or praising something; that is, Im making a true statement about something, such as recognizing G--s greatness, or (3) Im asking G-- for something. So do any of these change G--? Thanking G-- for something doesnt. He doesnt need our thanks. What about praise? Does G-- need our praise? Does the Creator of the universe need my compliments? Hardly. He knew what the truth was before we even said anything. In fact, our praise of the Creator is absurd in a way, because how could we praise G--, the Creator of the universe, for anything? Our knowledge is so tiny and so infinitesimal compared to His. It would be like trying to praise Albert Einstein because he can add 2 plus 2 and get 4. This brings up an important side point. Sometimes people get caught up in the idea that they are doing something for G--, whatever that something is. But does this make any sense? Does G-- need us? The Creator created us. He doesnt need us. So there is nothing we can do for Him. We need Him, but not the other way around. This is a very important concept, as it has significant implications for how we think about G-- and how we can best conduct our lives. Lets go back to prayer. What about the third approach, which is asking G-- for something? Does that change G--? But how can G-- change?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 48 of 89 Ill submit to you that G-- does not change. How could the infinite Creator of the universe change? What would He change from or into? If He is all-knowing and complete, what could change? Given that, then none of these three approaches to prayer changes G-- or benefits G--. Again, that means that the benefit of prayer must be for us. But what is the benefit? If we pray to G-- and ask for something, we are tacitly acknowledging that we are dependent on G--. Were admitting that we cant do everything and that we rely on Him. If I ask G-- to heal a sickness of mine or someone elses, Im admitting that I cant do it myself. This is an admission that G-- is the Ultimate Source. After all, we continue to exist every second only because G-wills it. I sometimes think of this like a cathode ray television set. You know, the kind that were common for decades and have only recently begun to be replaced by flat screens. Now my understanding of the way these work is that the set has three cathode ray guns in the back of its cabinet, and these guns fire rays from the back of the set to the glass screen that we see at the front. All of the little colored dots that are created on the screen by those rays form into the picture. The cathode ray guns are continually firing and those dots are continually refreshed. If those guns stopped firing at any point, the picture would cease to exist. It that same way, we continue to exist every second only because of the Creator. So prayer helps us to see that we are totally dependent on G--. Thats the request part. When we ask for something, we are acknowledging that G-- is the One who can provide it. Thanking G-for something is just the opposite end of this. Were acknowledging that He provided us with what we needed or desired. So what about the part where we are praising G-- or acknowledging G-- or otherwise making some kind of true statement? Our first step is to make sure that the statement is true. We cant be casual or indifferent about this. We need to be sure were making correct statements before the Creator. We certainly wouldnt want to stand up before the Creator and make an untrue statement! Thus, apart from prayer requests, the Torah concept of prayer is fairly different from what I understand to be the worlds common idea about prayer. Fundamentally, prayer is a process of reviewing correct ideas about G--. Let me repeat that. Apart from prayer requests, prayer is fundamentally a process of reviewing correct ideas about G--. Why would we do that? First, reviewing correct ideas helps educate us about the truth. Reviewing correct ideas is the way to make real behavior change; its the way to make the ideas real to us.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 49 of 89 But theres another important effect happening here. I submit to you that G-- relates to people differently depending on their level. In one respect, this isnt any different than the way you or I relate to people. I would relate to a Torah scholar differently than I would relate to a seven-year-old child. That doesnt mean that I dont care about both of them. But I would definitely relate to them differently. Torah holds that ones relationship to the Creator is dependent on the level of his/her knowledge and understanding about the Creator. So how do we enhance our relationship with the Creator? By increasing our knowledge of Him. How do we do that? By going over correct ideas about Him until they are clear to our mind. The prayers in the Jewish Prayer Book the Siddur were carefully crafted by great sages to reflect correct ideas of G--. Thus, the act of prayer is primarily about reviewing correct ideas about G-- in a way that should move us to a higher level so that G-- relates to us differently. When were at a higher level and G-- relates to us differently, then were in a position where we may merit Divine intervention. The prayer changes us. Its also important and a part of Torah prayer that we say the words out loud, although only loud enough so that we can hear. Why? Because when we say something out loud, its more real to us. It also helps us to focus and clarify the ideas. So, prayer is primarily about reviewing correct ideas about G--, which helps raise us to a higher level, and in that process, G-- relates to us differently. Its important to note that there are no guarantees that G-- will answer our prayers in the way we want. We cant see the big picture and we dont know G--s ultimate plan. But the process is there to help us, regardless of the outcome. With regard to Noahides praying, my recommendation is to get a Jewish Prayer Book a Siddur and use the Shemoneh Esrei as ones primary prayer. The Shemoneh Esrei is a series of blessings that have been carefully crafted by the rabbinic sages. This prayer contains correct ideas about G-- and is carefully organized in an order that reflects the most important things first. A study of it is beyond the scope of this course. However, for Noahides, there is one important thing to remember. One should never say something in the prayer that is not true. So, some words have to be adjusted so that they are accurate for a Noahide. For example, if the prayer said, our forefather Jacob, a Noahide would need to change the prayer to say, Israels forefather Jacob. Most of the necessary changes are similar pronoun changes. It is my understanding that a Noahide is not obligated to pray, except when in danger. However, there is value, as we discussed, in praying. The Shemoneh Esrei includes a place for making personal requests. Note that praying should be viewed as something of a formal process, and one should stand with ones feet together, facing toward Jerusalem, while praying. The classic idea of just striking up a conversation with G-- is, to my understanding, not appropriate according to Torah. Holidays What about celebrating holidays?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 50 of 89 A Noahide can celebrate certain Jewish holidays, although some of them present challenges. For example, its not particularly possible for me, as a Noahide, to conduct a Passover Seder, because its all about the Jews. We can, however, participate more fully in other holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Purim, and so forth. One of the best ways of celebrating any of the Jewish holidays is to study the ideas around them. What is the holiday about? Why is it being held? What truths can be gleaned from this holiday and the ideas behind it? As Noahides, we are strictly forbidden to create new religious holidays, even if they are in celebration of the Seven Noahide laws. It is acceptable to observe secular holidays such as, for example, the 4th of July (Independence Day) in the United States. Along this same line, a Noahide is not permitted to observe the Sabbath in the same manner as a Jewish person. The Jews are commanded not to work on the Sabbath. First, we should clarify that the Sabbath starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night. It has nothing to do with Sunday. During the Sabbath, Jews are halachically prohibited from working. Work is not what you or I might necessarily think of as work, but work is a carefully defined halachic term. So, for example, it would be forbidden for a Noahide to do no work on the Sabbath. I could do everything that a Jewish person is supposed to do and not do on the Sabbath, and then strike a match which is forbidden for a Jew to do and Id be fine. Why cant Noahides keep the Sabbath in the same way as the Jews? The answer is that the Sabbath was given to the Jews, not the Noahides. It is something unique to them. And so its prohibited for us to participate in it in exactly the same manner as a Jew. What is acceptable, and makes a great amount of sense, is for a Noahide to focus on the purpose of the day. As mentioned above, this is an excellent approach to all of the holidays as well. In the case of the Sabbath, one can use the day to focus on learning and the world of ideas. On Yom Kippur, as a further example, one can use the day to focus on ideas of repentance. And so forth. Taking on Other Commandments Heres a question that often comes up. As Noahides, should we take on other commandments? Based on discussion with my rabbinic mentors, heres the answer. There are many additional commandments among the 613 that a Noahide can take on. But one should only do so if one sees the benefit to himself of taking on that commandment. Theres a real danger here that our religious emotion will push us to want to do something more for G-- or because we think its the right thing to do or perhaps because I somehow think it will make me more religious or pious or somehow better in G--s eyes. This emotion can be dangerous!

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 51 of 89 We need to carefully think through whether we are taking on this commandment for the right reason. Lets look at an example. The Torah prohibits Jews from eating pork. So, a Noahide might say, Well, that means pork is bad, and I shouldnt eat it either. Based on my understanding of the Torah approach, that reasoning is faulty. G-- made pigs too, along with fish, and cattle, and chickens. They didnt just fall off the cosmic turnip truck. Refraining from eating pork, in and of itself, isnt going to make me more religious. I would need to study that commandment, learn the underlying reasons behind it to the degree that we know them, clearly see the benefit of taking on that commandment, and then perhaps undertake it in order to gain that benefit. Remember, the Torah approach is about knowledge and understanding. So before we take on a commandment, we should clearly understand why were doing it, and make sure were doing it for the right reason. Honoring Parents Lets talk for a moment about parents. To the best of my knowledge, while a Noahide is not halachically required to carry out the commandment of honoring father and mother, it is a very positive thing from a Torah standpoint to do this. Its important to understand that we dont honor our parents because they were good parents (although that is certainly laudable), or because they were nice to us growing up, or for similar reasons. The obligation to honor our parents is because each of us would not exist if it were not for our parents. They are the physical cause of our existence. And so we honor them for that. It doesnt matter whether my father was mean to me growing up, or my mother didnt give me the attention I wanted. I honor them anyway, because without them, I wouldnt be here. Study Lets next turn to the issue of study. What should a Noahide study? Weve been talking a lot about wisdom and knowledge. What should we focus on first? The first thing we need to study is the written Torah itself. For a very readable version, I would start with The Living Torah, by Aryeh Kaplan. Its published by Maznaim Publishing Corporation in New York and should be available through most Jewish bookstores or on-line. Then, get a copy of Rashis commentary on the Torah. The scholars commentaries are invaluable in understanding whats going on in a particular passage or section. Artscroll publishes a nicely laid out and readable version of Rashis commentary, and other versions are available as well. To begin, read through a section of the Torah and think about what questions come to your mind. Then, read Rashis commentary. This sequence is very important. Rather than immediately jumping to the commentary, we need to think about the section first. This helps train our mind to ask questions, look for unusual situations, and seek out more than just a surface understanding. Once youve looked at the commentary, one of the interesting questions to ask yourself is, Whats bothering Rashi? Why did he make the comment that he did on this section? Something in the passage must have troubled him enough to make the comment. See if you can figure out what it is.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 52 of 89 Once youre gotten all of the way through the five books of the written Torah with Rashi, you could pick up another commentator and do the same thing. Notice that commentators will focus on different questions and different passages. And, they may have differing opinions. Its also quite acceptable to look at several commentaries on the same passage, particularly if there is something in that passage that you find of special interest. Some of the most widely known commentators are Rashi, Maimonides (the Rambam), Nachmanides (the Ramban), and Sforno. There are several other books that can be of great benefit to someone just starting out, or an advanced student as well. The first is a two-volume work called Duties Of The Heart, by Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda. This is a classic work, and Feldheim Publishers has a very readable translation available in full sized hardback or mini-hardback. I highly recommend this book. It talks about exactly what the title suggests duties of the heart. We may know what our halachic obligations are, but what are our duties with regard to our heart? This book answers that question in great detail. A second and very important area of study for Noahides is the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a great area for beginners and I would classify most of us Noahides as beginners as it teaches us about the practical application of the world of ideas in our everyday lives. We each have our intellect and our emotions. The question is, which one are we going to use to make our decisions? This is a central theme of the book of Proverbs. In many chapters, each individual verse presents a different case involving good and evil, or wisdom and foolishness. By analyzing these cases, we learn the lessons given in them as well as the methodology of analysis. The best way that I can suggest to study this is to get the recordings of Rabbi Morton Moskowitz on Proverbs available through www.ybt.org. Finally, if you would like a very fascinating and insightful book on prayer, I recommend one that has an unusual title. Its called Infertility In The Bible, by Jessie Fischbein. Jessie is a very learned Torah scholar. She wrote this book, ostensibly about the subject of infertility, but to me it is very insightful for anyone, young or old, male or female, regardless of whether youre dealing with infertility or not. Jessie has a very engaging way of writing, and her explanations of prayer and how it works are some of the most practical and understandable that I have read. The publisher is Devora Publishing, and you can get this book through Amazon.com or likely through almost any Judaica book store. With regard to web sites, there are two that I highly recommend, plus a third. The first is www.ybt.org. This is the site of Yeshiva Bnei Torah in Far Rockaway, New York, which is led by Rabbi Israel Chait, one of my most influential rabbinic mentors and my ultimate halachic authority. There are many tapes available through this site. Importantly, there are also on-line audio classes that you can listen to for free through your computer. Many of the classes by Rabbi Reuven Mann on this site are excellent for Noahides. Rabbi Chait gave a series of lectures for Noahides years ago that are available on CD through ybt.org. These are highly, highly recommended for Noahides. They cover a variety of subjects, from Talmud to prayer to analyses of some current-day events (current at the time the recordings were made), and Rabbi Chaits reasoning and logic is amazing. They are worth having in your permanent library. The entire series is now available on three or four CDs.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 53 of 89 Note that ybt.org also has on-line essays available, some of which are directly about Noahide issues. www.mesora.org This important Web site has lots of information that is relevant to Noahides. It publishes a weekly electronic magazine called The Jewish Times, which also addresses Noahide issues from time to time. In addition, there are a variety of resources available on the site itself. Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim, who is the driving force behind this site, also gives a class for Noahides every Sunday morning at 11:15 AM Eastern time that you can attend via conference call or on the Internet. Another site where Ive found interesting food-for-thought material of a slightly different kind is www.aish.com. Although I dont always agree with the authors approaches on some of the topics, they do have some good articles and particularly some interesting stories for young children that relate to the Torah portion of the week. We found those interesting and helpful when our children were younger. There are other good Torah-based Web sites available. Once you begin to understand the basics, you should be able to start discerning the wheat from the chaff. Remember, just because its written on the Internet doesnt mean its true. Always question!

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 54 of 89

Chapter 6 Nine Tools of Torah (Part 1)


As we approach the study of Torah, what kind of tools do we have available to us? After all, if were building a house, well need a hammer, nails, a measuring tape, and other tools of a carpenter. If we were building software, we would need a computer, some underlying software, some diagnostic programs, etc. What about for Torah? Id like to introduce nine tools that Ive learned over the course of studying with Torah scholars for about 18 years. The first tool was introduced to me during my first Torah study class with my friend and mentor Rabbi Morton Moskowitz. In fact, all of these tools came from my teachers, Rabbi Moskowitz and Rabbi Israel Chait. Years ago, Rabbi Moskowitz kindly agreed to teach me Jewish philosophy through the study of the book of Proverbs. He told me that we would start with chapter 10. In preparation for the class and wanting to be a good student I read through all of chapter 10. And, just in case we covered all of chapter 10 in the first class, I read through all of chapter 11 as well. I arrived at the school where Rabbi Moskowitz taught and we settled into a classroom. There were no other students. It was just the two of us. I had an English translation of Proverbs, while he had the original Hebrew. He began translating verse 1 of chapter 10. The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother. I sat there thinking to myself, Yeah, that makes sense. To my surprise, he stopped reading and asked, What are the questions? I stared at him. I didnt have the foggiest idea what he was asking. What do you mean, what are the questions? I finally asked He replied, What are the questions? Like this. The verse starts with the words, The proverbs of Solomon, right? Right, I responded. And thats the title of the book, right? Right. And this is the beginning of the tenth chapter, right? Yes.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 55 of 89 So when is the last time you read an author who put the title of the book at the beginning of the tenth chapter? What are those words doing there? I sat there dumbfounded. The question had never even occurred to me. He continued. The verse says that a wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother. Why doesnt it say that a wise son makes a glad mother, but a foolish son is the grief of his father? In fact, why doesnt it just say that a wise son makes glad parents, but a foolish son makes grievous parents? Why did the author use that particular juxtaposition? I remained silent. Despite the fact that I thought I was paying attention, it was clear that I wasnt seeing anything close to what he was seeing. He continued again. The verse says a wise son. Whats wise? What does that mean? And in our ensuing conversation, he essentially asked, Can you define wisdom in twenty five words or less without using any synonyms such as wise, smart, clever, etc., in such a way that the definition is completely clear? Tool #1 That was my introduction to the first, and perhaps most important, tool of learning. Ask questions. We must ask questions. Now as a reader of this, you might say, What do you mean, ask questions? Isnt that obvious? Doesnt everyone already know how to do that? Lets find out. Think back over your own learning; say, going back to your middle school years. Think about every class youve taken; middle school, high school, community college classes, college classes, university classes, church sermons, luncheon seminars, evening classes. If you lump them all together, what do they look like? On average, you probably have about 30 students in a room and one person at the front of the room giving some kind of lecture or demonstration. Now, in your experience, taking into account all of those classes that youve attended, assuming there are 30 students in the room, how many will ask questions? Think about it for a minute. On average. In your experience. How many students out of 30 will ask questions? In giving presentations about this subject, Ive asked this question of many different audiences. The most common answer that I receive from the groups is two. Two out of 30! Now does that mean that the lecture or demonstration was so clear that there were no other questions to be asked, or that the other 28 students understood everything clearly and succinctly?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 56 of 89 Not likely. Rather, this is a reflection of the system of education that were taught, at least in American society, and it goes like this. Come in to the room, sit down, pull out your notebook, and be quiet. Oh, it may be ok to ask a question or two, but try asking three or five or twenty questions and you may be labeled as disruptive, or someone with Attention Deficit Disorder who needs medication. Can you imagine someone standing up in the middle of a church sermon and questioning the pastor or priest? People would think it was terribly out of place. But why? If the ideas are not clear, and there are questions that need to be asked to help make the ideas clear, why wouldnt a person ask them? It is this ability to ask questions that is key to our learning. Think about this. Suppose you want to learn karate or ballet or ice-skating or how to weld two steel pipes together, and youve never done any of these things before. If you listen to an expert in one of these areas say a world-champion ice-skater talk for two hours, do you think you could successfully ice skate? Clearly not. To successfully ice skate, you would need to go out to an ice rink, lace on some skates, stumble out on the ice, attempt to push off, fall, get up, try it again, and so forth. You cant learn how to do it by having someone tell you about it. You have to actively engage with the activity. The same thing exists with karate, ballet, or welding pipes. The information from a lecture may be useful, but you have to engage in the activity to become good at it. In the world of thought and ideas, the first activity we need to engage in is asking questions. We must ask every question until we thoroughly understand an idea. That also means that we cant be afraid of asking questions, even of an authority. And that includes the Creator. In fact, I would suggest to you that questioning authority is the beginning of investigation. Now, its important to realize that there are two ways we can use a question. One is to use it as a tool; to find out something. The second way is to use a question as a weapon. Youve probably experienced this in certain situations where the questioner is not asking the question in a true pursuit of knowledge, but is instead using the question to break down someone else or their ideas. There is a time and a place for both of these methods; we just have to learn which method to use when. Interestingly, you have probably noticed that authorities are often afraid of questions. So were sometimes taught that questioning is a weapon and were taught not to use it. Importantly, very often in todays world, to question is considered an attack. This is very important. Someone who is interested in the truth is not afraid of questions. But today its often considered politically incorrect to question someone or their ideas, because it is seen as an attack on the person. Yet we must question if we really want to gain knowledge and find out whats true.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 57 of 89 So how do we learn to question? Its like almost any other skill. It takes practice. For example, if you have an opportunity to watch a news broadcast or a short video on the Internet that you can view multiple times, try this. Watch it once. Then write down all of the questions that occur to you as you watch the video. Then watch it again and see if more questions come to mind, or if you think of questions on your previous questions. At this stage, its not so important to try to get answers. The skill is to first learn how to question. Questions can lead to other questions, and your questions can guide your investigation. For example, have you ever received some type of offer in the mail that promises (or strongly implies) that you can get rich? Those offerings are playing on your fantasies. Heres a question to ask. If this offer (investment, technique, stock market newsletter, etc.) is so good, why are they offering it to me? Why dont the people offering just use their technique, make a lot of money, and retire? Why do they so badly want me to invest in their idea? Years ago, I received a very fascinating letter in the mail. It went something like this: Dear Mr. Taylor: I know that things havent been going well for you. I know youve been struggling with lots of issues in your life that have prevented you from being as happy and wealthy as you could be. I know this has been a difficult time for you. But there is good news. Things are about to turn up for you. A new day is about to dawn for you, Mr. Taylor. The stars are aligning in such a way that new opportunities are about to come your way, and new . [etc., etc., etc. And this went on for several pages. Finally, the real purpose of the letter came out.] In order for you to be able to take advantage of all the good that is about to come your way, I want to give you a special astrological reading that will help you utilize all of the energy that is lining up for you. [etc., etc., etc. for more paragraphs] To get your personal reading, just send $19.95 to the address below, or if you have a VISA or MasterCard, fill in the number below, and Ill send you right away your [etc., etc., etc.]. You get the idea. Now heres my question. If the woman who wrote this knew so much about me that she could understand all of the troubles and challenges I was facing, and if she knew enough that she could tell me about lots of good things that were about to happen to me, then why didnt she know whether I had a VISA or a MasterCard? Why did she have to ask? After all, it would be much easier to know whether I have a charge card than it would be to know all about the details of my personal life and the struggles I deal with.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 58 of 89 Do you see how questioning can open up fascinating avenues of exploration and understanding? In addition, there are some very powerful questions that can be used in a variety of situations to help us view these situations in different way. For example, if you are caught up in some type of activity that doesnt appear to be moving you in the direction you want to go, ask yourself, Why am I doing this? Then stop and really think about the question and possible answers. If someone is telling you gossip, a very powerful way to deal with that is to ask them questions, such as: Where did you get this information? Did you experience this yourself or did you hear it from someone else? And perhaps the most powerful, Why are you telling me this? Years ago, Alan Lakein wrote a landmark book on time management called, How To Get Control Of Your Time And Your Life. In it, he discussed a variety of time management technique, including what to do when you just arent sure what to do next. In that circumstance, he suggested asking Lakeins question, which is: What is the best use of my time right now? Heres an interesting food-for-thought question. Why would it make sense to lie to our children, knowing that one day they will realize that we lied to them? Who would do such a thing? Maybe lots of people. After all, what does it mean when parents tell their child about Santa Claus, that he rides through the sky on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, drops down through the chimney, and leaves presents for good little boys and girls? Isnt that a completely fabricated lie? What about the tooth fairy? Or the easter bunny? Of course, questioning any of these widely-spread traditions is considered in some circles like attacking the Pope. But the question remains? Does it make sense to lie to our children? Heres another interesting question. In the United States, I understand that halloween is the second biggest retail sales day next to christmas. Children dress up in costumes often of the scary variety and go around the neighborhood knocking on doors and then saying, Trick or treat! At that point, the homeowner gives them some candy. I would say that most kids know trick or treat as just the code phrase for getting the candy. But what is really being said here? Translation: If you dont give me some kind of a treat, Im going to do something that you wont like (the trick).

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 59 of 89 Now heres my question. Isnt that extortion? Were teaching the children to, in essence, threaten a neighbor in order to get something from them. I know. Someone will say that Im taking this way too seriously. Actually, Im just asking the question. Is it, or is it not, extortion? Heres one more. In the United States, around December, images of a jolly fat man in a red suit with a long white beard start to appear. People dress up like this person. Hes an iconic symbol of the season of christmas. Heres my question. Where did that symbol come from? Would you believe that the jolly-fat-man-in-the-red-suit-with-the-long-white-beard image was invented by a worldwide soft drink company as part of a marketing campaign back in the early part of the 1900s? Its amazing what we can discover when we ask questions, including questions about things happening around us that have been going on that way for years. Questions can also change our focus. Tony Robbins brings this out in his book, Awaken The Giant Within. A question can completely change our attitude because it changes what were focusing on and thus changes how we feel. For example, suppose Im running a small business and my lead developer quits. I could wring my hands and ask, How will I ever survive? That question will probably lead me to feel depressed. On the other hand, what if I were to ask this question instead: How can I use this event to help me move my company to the next level? Notice the difference in focus. This question focuses my thinking on possibilities, not disaster. Tool #2 And that brings us to our second tool: the definition of wisdom. Lets go back to Rabbi Moskowitzs class many years ago that I described above. Can we define wisdom succinctly so that its definition is perfectly clear? Heres what I learned on that important class day. Wisdom is the ability to see, and act on the basis of, consequences. Please re-read that. I cannot overstate its importance. We are wise if we make decisions based on consequences rather than emotions. Note that consequences are in the future. Emotions are in the present. Heres an example. In the United States (and probably other countries as well), what demographic group has the highest automobile insurance rates?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 60 of 89 Single male drivers under the age of 25. Why that group? They have more accidents. But why do they have more accidents? Ill suggest that they have more accidents because they fail to take into account the potential consequences of their actions. At age 16 or 18, many teen-agers think theyre immortal, and they make decisions accordingly. The emotions run high when someone zips past them or challenges them to a drag race. By contrast, a 40-year-old experienced driver will often think differently, taking into account the possible consequences of taking unnecessary chances, especially in a tight situation. And the accident statistics demonstrate the results. To raise wise children, we have to model this type of behavior and teach it. For example, if my child wont clean his room, I could get angry and make threats to take away all sorts of privileges. Thats the emotional approach. What does that teach the child? Big people can get angry and threaten you. On the other hand, I could sit down with the child and say, Heres the situation. You need to keep your room clean. If you dont, I cant maneuver in it, it tracks dirt throughout the rest of the house, someone could slip and hurt themselves on your toys, etc. So you need you to keep your room clean. If you dont, then the consequence is that you dont get to go out and play until the room is cleaned. Your consequence might be different. This is just an example. Depending on the age of the child, you might even get his/her input on what the consequence should be. Then, and this is an important step, you get the child to verbally repeat the consequence back to you. Ask him or her, So what is the consequence if your room is not cleaned? And have them say it back to you. Then, when the room is not cleaned, you simply remind them of the consequence. You stay emotionally uninvested in the outcome and just let the consequence do its work. I teach this to consultants in my company about establishing clear project scope with their clients. Then, when scope creep starts to happen because the client is asking for more than the original agreement, the consultant simply reminds the client of the project scope they originally agreed to, and a new and more expanded agreement is established. When working with children, there are two important things to remember about this. The first is never to invoke a consequence as a surprise after the fact. Its arbitrary and can undermine the childs trust in the system. You need to specify consequences before something happens, not after. Second, make the consequences relate to the activity. If a child doesnt keep his room clean, it doesnt make sense to say that he cant have dessert after dinner. In his mind, what relationship is there between dessert and his room? In that situation, it can look to the child like youre simply trying to hurt them. The point is to make the consequence a logical outcome of the childs behavior. That way, they learn to think in terms of consequences on their own; an important step in the growth of their thinking process.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 61 of 89 Note that this process takes more work than controlling the child through blind authority. But its worth it. In the end, investing in this process can help your child grow to be a thinker, so that he or she can then function independently and operate from wisdom and knowledge. Another interesting way to teach children consequences is to teach them a strategy game like chess or go. Those games allow children to experience the consequences of their actions in a safe and fun way. By thinking through consequences, we force ourselves to engage our intellect, which can help us avoid operating from our emotions. Engaging our intellect has some important benefits, one of which is Tool #3. Tool #3 Consider this. Why dont people jump off 50-story buildings in order to experience the thrill of the flight down? Answer: They know what the consequences are! But how do they know that? Its an idea in their mind. And that brings us to powerful tool #3. The only way we make real behavior change is when an idea is clear to our mind. In other words, the only way a person really changes is based on ideas. Of course, we can get someone to do something through threats. But when the threat is removed, the behavior changes. Lets take the case of a teen-ager whose father says, Now dont you hold any wild parties in my house. That may work as long as Dad is around, but when he and Mom go away for the weekend, what does the teen-ager do? He throws a wild party. Why? The authority figure that was stopping him is no longer around, and he has no internal reason as to why she shouldnt throw a big party. An example of this principle occurred some years ago when, during a power shortage, brownouts occurred in New York. There wasnt enough power available to keep the lights on, so some areas of the city went dark. And what happened? Riots and looting. And apparently, some people who normally were considered law-abiding citizens were also looting. Why would they do that? Well, if a person wants to maintain an image as a law-abiding citizen, then he or she wouldnt do anything in public that would tarnish that image. Ah, but when the lights go out, and no one can see, what is there to stop the person? Why not loot? After all, the authority in this case, other people cant see me because theres no light.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 62 of 89 Thats why we must see the actual consequences of our behavior, not just operate based on an authority. We need to show our emotions the harm of acting in a certain way; the harm that were doing to ourselves. Actions are the measuring stick of how real the ideas are to us. Consider this. If you had the opportunity to steal $10 million, and it was a certainty that no one would ever find out, would you do it? Now someone might answer no, because the Creator would know. But lets take the Creator out of this equation for the moment, because Hes an Authority. Is there any other reason why I might choose not to steal? Consider this. Lets suppose I do steal the money and Im successful. What have I learned? Ive learned that I can bend reality. I dont have to work within the same laws and rules as everyone else. Im special. And that now makes me think that life works differently than it actually does. I have begun to convince myself that I dont have to follow reality. Having been successful once, I try it again, perhaps with slightly bigger stakes. And if Im successful, I try it again with even bigger stakes. This process goes on and on and on, until I destroy my ability to think. This is a classic pattern that can ultimately lead to megalomania. Witness Hitler. He made clever moves early (albeit evil ones), but became unrealistically confident that he was invincible, resulting in decisions that brought about his and Germanys demise. Its interesting to note that this appears to be a significant fail-safe device built into the civilizations of mankind that causes societies over time to self-correct. In general, those who arent following reality ultimately perish. So how do we know an idea is correct? The only real test for truth is questions. If the result answers every question, then we have the truth. And by seeing these ideas, we can undo the emotions that cloud our ability to see reality. When you were a small child, did you ever go to bed at night thinking there were monsters under the bed? Its interesting to notice that the monsters are never in the bed with you. They exist only where we cant see (which is also an explanation as to why fears come out at night). When we, or our parents, turn on the light and the light allows us to see reality the monsters disappear. In that same way, a real idea can shine like a light on reality and help us undo emotions. What does it take to do all of this? That leads us to our next tool. Tool #4 We have our emotions and intellect. A key question that we each face is this. Which one are we going to use to make our decisions? Enormous implications for our lives depend on how we answer this. Emotions cloud our view of reality. Our intellect can help us see reality clearly. But to do that, we have to use tool #4, which is that we must lead with our intellect.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 63 of 89 Consider this. If theres one thing in life that is going to protect you in virtually any situation more than anything else what do you think it would be? Ill submit to you that the way we protect ourselves, in virtually any area of life, is with knowledge. While our emotions will generally give us an incorrect perception of reality and can thus make us ignorant, ideas make us more objective. All this comes from being in our heads, making intellectual analyses and decisions, not in our hearts. Now, Im not suggesting we shouldn't feel or be compassionate. But we need to get those emotions lined up behind our intellect, not the other way around. Heres an example. In many countries there is a lottery. In the U.S., a number of states have them. You buy a ticket for a small amount of money in hopes of having your ticket selected so that you win a fabulous amount of money. I once listened to a radio advertisement that promoted the lottery in my state. Tickets were $1. The prize, or jackpot, if your ticket was selected was $1 million. And if I recall correctly, at the end of the ad the announcer said that the odds of winning were one in 38 million. Now think about that for a minute. Tickets are $1. The payoff is $1 million, but the odds of winning are one in 38 million. That means that, on average, you would have to buy 38 million lottery tickets at $1 each in order to achieve an expected mathematical return of $1 million. In other words, you would have to invest $38 million to get a return of $1 million. Why would anyone in their right mind make such an investment? Its the fantasy. Think of it. Youll be rich! Thats what the purveyors of such things are selling. If looked at strictly by leading with your intellect, you would never make such a terrible investment. But thats not whats being sold. Whats being sold is the fantasy of wealth. And people do this every day. In life, we have to analyze such situations and make decisions based on probabilities. On big decisions in life, there are almost always benefits and losses. Few situations are perfect. For example, if I have a chance for a big job promotion, but I have to move to a different city, should I do it? I have to make an analysis and consider all of the factors, including community, safety, schools, housing, etc. So Ill suggest that we can't follow something because it "feels" right. We can't trust those feelings. Who knows where they came from or what they represent? This is particularly important in dealing with political and religious ideas. We have to be careful that were not reading into the idea what our emotions want to see. Incidentally, this also means we have to be very careful when people pull quotes and this includes bible verses out of context. For example, consider Psalms 137:9. Praises to him who will clutch and dash your infants against the rock. Can we thus say that the book of Psalms supports child abuse? Clearly not. We have to understand context and the real meaning behind the quote.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 64 of 89 That's why it's so important to train the mind to think correctly and not make mistakes. The Torah approach is that every aspect of our lives needs to be governed by thought.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 65 of 89

Chapter 7 Nine Tools of Torah (Part 2)


In our last chapter, we discussed four important tools that can aid us in our study of Torah and in life. They are: (1) (2) (3) (4) Ask questions. Wisdom is the ability to see, and act on the basis of, consequences. The only way we make real behavior change is when an idea is clear to our mind. Lead with our intellect.

I encourage you to re-read Chapter 6 before proceeding on. Understanding those ideas clearly before proceeding will help you get the most out of them and should make our next tool that much more clear. Tool #5 One day years ago I found myself in my car, on my way to a meeting, eating a hamburger, and simultaneously listening to an educational cassette tape on my cars audio system. The tape finished, I pulled it out of the player, mentally checked off that Id completed it, slipped in another one, and began to listen to it. Remember, Im still driving and eating at the same time. Sometime later it dawned on me that I was sliding across the material in those cassette tapes like a greased pig on ice. Truthfully, I could remember little of what Id heard. I was under the illusion that I was learning, when in fact I was barely touching the surface. Today, I cant remember a single thing about what was on that tape, except who the presenter was. A quantity of ideas that are not clear to us affects us less than one idea that is clear. And that brings us to Tool #5: It is better to understand one idea clearly than many ideas superficially. Sometimes in our societal norms of learning, the focus is on covering ground. Read this. Memorize that. And while that may be necessary in certain areas, like professional certification where the system is set up to ensure that a certain level of material is mastered, in our Torah learning there is no obligation to finish. We should learn only as fast as we can absorb. And a quantity of ideas that are not clear affects us less than one idea that is clear. Remember, after all our learning, only what remains is our education. It is better to understand one idea clearly than many ideas superficially. So how do we do that? An audio or video recorder can help. If you have one available, select some material, preferably something in which you have an interest. This could be a lecture, a news broadcast, a biography, or almost anything. Then listen to, or watch, a short section of it; maybe five to fifteen minutes. If its a book (that can work too), read a short section. Once youve done that, think of all of the questions that you have around the material that was presented.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 66 of 89 Then, listen to (or watch or read) the same segment again. This time, see if you can come up with more questions, or questions about your previous questions. Then, write your questions down and stare at the list for awhile. Listen to or read the same segment one more time. Are there any other questions that can be asked? Spend some more time thinking about it. Do you understand that segment completely? Are all of the ideas clear to your mind? Many years ago, Rabbi Israel Chait studied the Dialogues of Plato. Now many people have read that work. But Rabbi Chait covered only one page per day. He would read a single page and then spend the rest of his time that day that was centered around Plato just focused on that one page. Why did Socrates ask this question? Why did he go down this path and not another? Its my understanding that this process the experience of focusing on just a small piece of the entire work each day profoundly affected his thinking. Clarity in one idea is more important than skating across 20 ideas. And a key ingredient to making this work is our next tool. Tool #6 If I could show you one technique (1) that I can summarize in one word, (2) that will help you increase your learning and your retention, and (3) that you can do virtually anywhere, would you be interested? The word is review. We must review. When we encounter ideas and questions as weve discussed above, we must start at the beginning and go over those ideas until they are completely clear to our minds. That is review. By doing this, the ideas can begin to affect our emotions and then the application of them becomes more automatic. We actually begin to be affected by the ideas themselves, which can change our lives. There is an important corollary to this, perhaps best illustrated by an example. Years ago, two highway patrolmen made a routine traffic stop on an interstate highway. What they didnt know was that the two men inside the car they pulled over had just robbed a bank. The robbers, not realizing that this was just a routine traffic stop, began shooting at the patrolmen. The patrolmen returned fire and a firefight ensued.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 67 of 89 Someone, from a distance, actually filmed what transpired next with a video camera. Both officers are behind their patrol car. One of the officers has been hit. The other officer is continuing the fight, but his gun jams. And on the video, we see him crouched behind the patrol car, attempting to un-jam his gun, with his hand up in the air. Now, why would a patrolman hold his hand up in the air in the middle of a live firefight? Can you guess? The reason is our important corollary. People will do what theyre trained to do. This may seem obvious, but it comes into play sometimes when we dont realize it. In the case of our highway patrol officer, he trained at a gun range. The range rules were clear. If your gun jams, you raise your hand and the range master will come to help you. So, in a tight spot when he was acting on his training, the patrolman did exactly what he had been trained to do when his gun jammed. He raised his hand for help. General Patton once said that to become a general, you should study every battle you can; not with the idea of remembering them, but to make them a part of you. When you train in martial arts, the instructor will take you through lots of different fighting scenarios, not because he wants you to memorize them, because he doesnt know what kind of situation you're going to run up against. What he wants you to learn are enough principles so that you can start automatically applying them in your own situation. In the world of learning, that happens through review. Now its important to understand that review is not rote memorization and repetition. Repetition is just going over memorized facts. Nothing new is added. By contrast, review is the ability to look at the ideas totally fresh and see them differently. In review, the mind is always engaged, not just the memory. And importantly, in review, we must see every step. We cant skip steps. When I took piano lessons as a child, I would sometimes encounter difficult parts in a piece of music. Often I would just quickly speed through them, thinking that I was playing them correctly. In reality, I was skipping notes and making mistakes, but the mush of sound worked fine for me. Besides, I didnt really want to take the hard sections apart and really work through them. But when my teacher told me to play those sections slowly, the truth came out. I couldnt play the sections correctly. I was clearly skipping notes and making errors. What if your review doesnt seem to be making any difference? Consider this analogy. Suppose you have a white sheet and you want to dye it red. You get a big tub, fill it with water, add some red dye, and then dunk in the sheet.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 68 of 89 Now if you pull the sheet out right away, its likely that you wont see much difference. However if you dunk the sheet, pull it out, dunk the sheet, pull it out, and repeat this process many times, the sheet will slowly turn pink and eventually red. Each time you dunk the sheet, its like review. And you likely cant tell any difference in the color of the sheet between single dunkings. Yet slowly, inexorably, that sheet will turn red. Its similar to exercise. Its tough to tell the difference in your strength from one session to the next, but over time your muscles will change. Thus, we might not see a difference every time we review an idea. But slowly, over time, that idea can begin to affect us. Its also my understanding that studies show that review dramatically helps retention. If you review material within 24 hours of hearing it, your retention is significantly increased. Ok. Lets shift gears. Tool #7 Imagine you are a police officer. Its a hot, summer afternoon. You are alone in your patrol car, pulled off to the side of the road. Youve just taken a bite out of your lunchtime sandwich when you get a call on the radio reporting an armed hold-up at a convenience store just a mile from you. The suspect is a male, about 5 feet 10, medium build, brown hair. You set the sandwich down, flip on your flashing lights, and take off down the street. When youre about a quarter-mile away, you flip the lights off and quietly pull your car up to the side of the store. Moving quickly, you step out of the car and carefully work your way discreetly up to the front door, which is propped open because of the heat. You look inside, and this is what you see. Behind the counter, where the clerk usually stands, theres a guy lying on the floor, clutching his shoulder, and moaning in pain. In front of the counter, where the customers usually stand, theres another guy on the floor. Hes not moving, and theres some reddish liquidish looking stuff coming out from underneath him. Standing over the guy on the floor is another guy. Hes about 5 FEET 10, MEDIUM BUILD, BROWN HAIR, AND HES HOLDING A GUN POINTED AT THE GUY ON THE FLOOR! YOU HAVE A SPLIT SECOND TO MAKE A DECISION!! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??!!! Look, its pretty obvious, isnt it? Theres the bad guy. He just shot the clerk. He just shot a customer. Youre going to pull out your officer firearm and stop any further bloodshed by quickly dispatching him. Right? Your split second of decision time is now past. The question is, what did you do?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 69 of 89 This is not an easy situation, but it is a very realistic situation that a police officer could encounter. Did you fire on the bad guy, or did you do something else? Or, did you not know what to do, which is a very legitimate response, especially given that this is a training exercise? If you fired on the guy with the gun, there is going to be a problem. Because this is how the situation actually transpired. A bad guy walks into the store, points a gun at the clerk, and demands all the money in the cash register. For whatever reason, the clerk startles the bad guy, the bad guy fires, hits the clerk in the shoulder, the clerk falls to the floor, and is now lying there wounded. In the meantime, a private citizen at the back of the store, who is just getting a quart of milk out of the cooler, sees whats going on. He pulls out his legal concealed weapon, for which he has a legal concealed weapons permit, and with which he has had extensive professional training, points it at the bad guy and shouts, Freeze! The bad guy whirls around to shoot him. The good guy sees what the bad guy is about to do, fires off two rounds, and hits him. The bad guy falls to the floor, not moving, with his gun underneath him. The private citizen in this case, the good guy slowly moves up to the front of the store, still keeping his weapon pointed at the guy on the floor in case hes only pretending to be hit, all the while scanning to make sure there isnt a second bad guy. Just as he reaches the front of the store with his gun pointed at the bad guy on the floor, you, the police officer, show up. But, you might ask, what about the description? The guy with the gun matched the description of the bad guy. Lets go over that again. The description was male, about 5 feet 10, medium build, brown hair. That description matches millions of people. Why am I telling you all of this? The reason is Tool #7. We must learn to differentiate between facts and interpretations. Facts and interpretations. In our case, what are the facts? The facts are these. There are two people on the floor, and theres one guy standing over one of them with a gun. And the guy with the gun matches a very vague description, the source and veracity of which havent yet been verified. Thats it. Everything beyond that is an interpretation. As we move through life in the world of physical things, in relationships with other people, and in the world of ideas we need to actively engage ourselves with the questions: "What are the facts and where does interpretation start?" In todays economy, someone might say, I just lost my job. Im a loser. A counselor could say to that person, You would create much less stress for yourself if you would separate the facts from your interpretation of them. Its a fact that you lost your job. Its only your interpretation that youre a loser.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 70 of 89 The beginning of knowledge is the ability to make distinctions to be able to differentiate between one thing and another. A scientist works on perfecting that part of his or her mind that clarifies definitions. In our world, we see facts (for example, the sun rises and sets each day) and then we abstract the concepts (the earth revolves around the sun). This method of thinking is very important. Many people will state causes as to why things happen without carefully differentiating between facts and interpretations. For example, someone might say that you got a cold or the flu because you didn't wear your raincoat or because you stopped taking vitamin C for a day. But cause and effect are abstract concepts. We never see cause and effect. We interpret cause and effect. For example (at least in the United States), can we say that red trucks cause fires? After all, if you go to almost any fire, youll find a red truck there (that is, the fire truck). How do we learn to develop an ability to accurately differentiate between facts and interpretations? By developing as many questions as we can our first tool. Learning how to question is very important. An important related question in our inquiry is, Is there any exaggeration involved?Always look for any type of inconsistency and anything that is not clear. As can be seen from the above example, there are dangers in mixing facts and interpretations. Our interpretations may be incorrect, and then we act on them as if they are fact. Heres another example. Lets suppose that you have an appointment in the busy downtown area of a big city at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday. Youre driving a car and youre alone. Youre also running a little late, and its very important that you are on time for this appointment. You arrive downtown at about 9:58 AM and theres no parking in sight. Every spot near the building is taken and the closest parking lot is four blocks away. Youll never make it in time. But then, just as you round the corner of the building one last time, a couple in a convertible pulls out of a parking spot right in front of the building. Youre right behind them. As they pull out, you pull in, jump out of your car, throw some money into the parking meter, and go walking through the front door of the building at exactly 10:00 AM, right on time for your appointment. And then, what is the great temptation, particularly for religious people, to say? Wow. G-- is really looking out for me. You can hear it, cant you? So lets use tool #7. What are the facts here, and what are the interpretations? Ill submit to you that there is only one fact; only one piece of information that we know for certain is true.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 71 of 89 A parking spot became available at a time when it was advantageous to me. Thats it. Everything after that is an interpretation. Unless Ive done a thorough study of the Torah to see exactly how G-- relates to people and when He does and doesn't intervene in the physical world, its my interpretation (you could also say, emotional projection) that G-specifically ordered the universe so that I would have a parking spot right at the time I needed it. I have no evidence for that other than my wishful thinking. Im not saying that its not true. Im just saying that we equally have no real evidence that it is true. Now, why is this dangerous? Because it can give us a false view of G--. I could start assuming that G-- is intervening in all kinds of specific situations in my life when, in fact, He may not be. Once I assume that G-ordained a parking spot for me, I could build on that. For example, suppose the appointment was with a high-powered individual who wanted me to invest money with him. Maybe if I took a long hard objective look at the investment, I would realize that its not a good one. But if I already think that G-- has His hand in this, then I might jump to the potentially incorrect conclusion that I should invest the money because, after all, I see how G-- has been guiding me in this, right? Didnt He provide me a miracle parking spot for this meeting? Do you see the trap? I make one error in thinking and it can compound itself until Ive layered error after error on my thinking. After awhile, I could end up so far off the track of truth that I cant tell the difference between a real idea and my own fantasies. Thats why its so important to differentiate between facts and interpretations. There is an interesting related point here. As we mentioned earlier, sometimes people exaggerate. Oh, youve no idea how difficult it was in the airport yesterday! The lines ran for miles! Really? Miles? When we go beyond the facts and exaggerate, its because we don't want to be limited by reality. Our emotions want something. And the first step in dealing with that is to notice it. As someone once said, when you have an argument with your spouse, never say always when you mean twice. Our desire to win the argument can cause us to exaggerate the truth because emotionally we want to make our point. The statement, You always leave your clothes on the floor! somehow expresses our frustration better than, You left your clothes on the floor twice. There is another critically important corollary here that can affect our decisions in everyday life as well as in the world of ideas. It is also best illustrated by example. For $10 million, would you jump out of an airplane without a parachute? Think about it. Would you?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 72 of 89 If you answered No, then I would ask, Wouldnt you want to know what kind of airplane and where it is before deciding? Heres why. If the airplane is a small two-seater and its sitting on the runway, the distance from that airplane to the ground is about four feet. But most of us when we first hear this make the implicit assumption that the plane is flying, and then we base our decision on that assumption without ever checking it to see if its correct. In fact, many of us never even realize were making the assumption! The most dangerous assumptions are the ones we dont realize were making. The obvious danger here is that we act on those unrealized, untested and potentially inaccurate assumptions and make incorrect decisions in life. How do we prevent that? Ask questions! An important question to ask is, What am I assuming about this situation that Im not questioning? The only way we can be truly successful is to see reality. We must rationally analyze each aspect of the physical world and live according to it. Acceptance of reality is what makes us happy. In those areas where we dont accept reality, well be unhappy. Our conflicts occur when we dont accept, and live in line with, reality. Thus, if were living by our emotions, were bound to have conflicts because our emotions dont see reality clearly. But what about belief? Doesnt that count for anything? Ill suggest to you that belief is a conviction that a person has based on ignorance. Let me repeat that. Belief is a conviction that a person has based on ignorance. Really. Why? Because if they had knowledge of the thing or situation that the belief is centered around, they wouldnt need the belief. They would know. For example, have you ever heard anyone say that they believe in yogurt? Of course not. Most everyone knows about yogurt; a white creamy dairy product that is often mixed with fruit. Tastes pretty good. So if I know about it, why would I need a belief about it? Ah, someone may say, but thats because I can see it, smell it, touch it, and taste it. It would be different if I couldnt. Ok. What about electricity? No one that I know has ever seen electricity. Its a flow of electrons. But does anyone say, I believe in electricity?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 73 of 89 No. Instead, we see the effects of electricity, and we learn about them, and we operate in accordance with that understanding. Theres no belief involved. Its about knowledge. Tool #8 Do you ever feel guilty? Based on my experience, our society at least in the United States is ridden with guilt. We feel guilty that we havent gotten more done, that we havent saved enough, that we dont exercise enough, that we dont spend enough time with our children, that we eat the wrong foods, that our houses arent clean enough, and so forth. The question is, what does guilt mean and what do we do about it? This brings us to tool #8. The only purpose of guilt is to prompt me to do an investigation to determine whether or not I did the right thing. Let me repeat that. The only purpose of guilt is to prompt me to do an investigation to determine whether or not I did the right thing. Guilt is not a determiner of whether I did the right thing. Its only purpose is to prompt me to do the investigation. How do we know that? Consider this. The world abounds with false guilt. There are people who feel guilty because they dont mow their lawn each week, or people who feel guilty because they havent dusted their furniture in a month. Yet where is it written in the cosmos that one has to do these things? We make this stuff up. Truly. We decide, based on something in our upbringing, or because of watching what other people do, or because of something we read in a book or newspaper, or for some other reason, that these things are somehow true. And then we feel guilty because we dont measure up to the fantasy expectations that we ourselves created. Whats the answer? We need to channel our emotions in this case, the emotion of guilt in a beneficial manner. We need to channel it into a rational analysis of the situation by asking ourselves, Is this really a situation where Ive acted incorrectly? What standards am I measuring myself against, and are those relevant standards? If I havent acted incorrectly, then I use my rational mind to realize that my guilt is simply misplaced. If I have acted incorrectly, then I figure out with my rational mind what to do to fix the situation, and I also do an analysis to figure out what caused the error in the first place. Think of it like this. Suppose you are a computer programmer. Computer programmers write code, which is essentially a line-by-line set of instructions telling a computer what to do. No programmer who Ive ever met consistently writes programs that run perfectly the first time. They almost always fail initially. When that happens, what do you suppose the computer programmer does?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 74 of 89 Does he go into his office, or his managers office, and weep and wail and beat himself up about what a terrible programmer he is and how hell never amount to anything? Hardly. Rather, the programmer accepts that this is part of the development process. When he runs into a problem, he takes the program and reviews the code, step by step, until he finds the error. Then, he fixes it. Thats it. He fixes it. Oh, yes. He also learns not to make that error again. Its his job to analyze things and make them work. Thats an excellent analogy for how we should look at situations and mistakes. First, we figure out if weve even made a mistake. Then, if we have, we analyze what we need to do to fix it, and also analyze what caused us to make the mistake so that we dont repeat it. The guilt is only there to prompt us to do the investigation. From a Torah standpoint, life should be looked at practically. We need to get out of blame and recognize that mistakes are a learning tool. Yes, its true that some mistakes have consequences that are large and unpleasant, and we certainly try to avoid those. But no one lives a perfect life. If we expect that of ourselves, we will likely make ourselves miserable for no positive gain. Fixing mistakes is not what kills us. It's the image of perfection we have about ourselves that kills us. Lets suppose that I get angry about something. So the thing to do is to wait until the anger subsides and then analyze it. Why did I get angry? What was the cause? What could I do differently the next time I face a similar situation so I can avoid becoming angry? Then, I go over these ideas again and again (remember review?) until they are so clear that I act on them. We dont change the patterns of our lives through fear, shame, and guilt. Remember tool #3. The only way we make real behavior change is when an idea is clear to our mind. This is the essence of repentance. Repentance is a practical process of seeing the consequences of our actions and then undoing the emotions that caused us to make the mistake. While we may need to undo the consequences of our actions, the key point is to undo the emotions that caused the consequences. That brings us to Tool #9 Be realistic and enjoy learning. One of the most freeing things about living a realistic life the life of Torah is that it allows us to be human. We are not asked to be supermen or superwomen. Rather, by contrast, the Torah wants us to be realistic about our various needs.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 75 of 89 Years ago, I studied for a very difficult series of professional examinations in order to become an actuary (a type of professional mathematician who applies probability and statistics to complex business and social problems, such as insurance and pension plans). I set virtually impossible study goals for myself, fell almost immediately behind my schedule, constantly felt guilty about not measuring up to my over-blown expectations, and basically obsessed about the whole thing constantly. During that time, which spanned almost six years, one could say that I didnt have much of a life. Contrast that with one of my colleagues. He had a wife and a son. He realistically figured out that he would probably have to take each exam (there were nine) twice before he passed it. He studied at lunch, on the bus to work, and some at home. But he was much more realistic about it than I was. He enjoyed his family, spent time with them, had good times with friends, and, even though he took longer to finish the exams than I did, he enjoyed life along the way. So who made the better decision? I submit that my colleague did. He was realistic about the exams, his life, his family, his own needs, and the balance between all of those. The same could be said for our Torah study. We need to realistically set up a plan for study and self-improvement; a plan we can live with. We also have to be realistic about our other needs as well. If Im exhausted at the end of a long day, I simply may not have the energy to learn. I may need a break. And its important to take that break so I can recharge and have energy for the next day. Plus, many of us have other needs, like family and community. We have to balance them all in a 24-hour day. There is no one-size-fits-all magic answer to this. The key is to realistically assess your own capabilities and needs, and then make a realistic plan. We should structure our days so that we can learn, taking into account that most of us also have to work, provide for our families, take care of our children, and other practicalities of life. Ideally, a day should not go by without learning. The Torah approach is to become a thinker. So what do you do if you feel pulled away from learning? Take that on as a study. Analyze and deal with the emotions that pull you away from study. That, in itself, is learning. Its not about guilt. Its about making a rational analysis of a situation and taking appropriate corrective action. Importantly, we shouldnt try to force ourselves to change overnight. We just take one situation at a time. Over time, the ideas begin affecting us. It's a development process, not an overnight thing. Instead of forcing ourselves to give up other pleasures, they fall away by themselves as our enjoyment of learning increases. Again, we need to be realistic about all aspects of our lives. This life is not a perfect life. We cant get away from problems. They happen. We just need to realistically learn how to deal with the problems when they arise and then move on. The second half of this tool is enjoy learning. We need to develop a love for learning; for the pure enjoyment of it; not necessarily for any utilitarian benefit.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 76 of 89 When I first began to study karate years ago, I dreamed of getting a black belt. People who have never trained in martial arts think black belts are awesome. But what they dont realize and neither did I at the time is that it isnt about getting a black belt. You dont arrive in a martial art. Its about being constantly involved in training. When I did finally receive a black belt, I had a completely different experience than the one I thought I would have years before. Rather than feeling on top of the world, like I had arrived, I felt like I had just begun to learn. The old saying of, Its not about the destination, its about the journey really applies here. In Torah, one never arrives. Its about being on the path, constantly involved in learning. Eventually you find that it's the most enjoyable part of your life, and that other activities take on an aura of support for your major activity in life, which is study and learning. Do you remember how curious you were as a child? How everything was wondrous, and you wondered how this worked and how that worked, and nature was full of surprises, like why the moon sometimes looks big and orange on the horizon? We need to maintain that childlike curiosity; to notice things in nature; to look at things from different angles. This is an important trait. How do you maintain it? Just move at the pace of your mind. Observe things, enjoy the view, and let those observations roll around in your mind. Enjoy the process, avoiding all of the emotions that pull you away from it, like competition and envy. And its important that you dont force answers to your questions because that might mean that youre skipping steps. In todays society, it can be very easy to get caught up in striving. I need more money. I need a bigger house. I need a car. Then I need a newer car. And on and on and on. A person who is constantly focused on acquiring material things may enjoy himself once in a while. But his essence is always in the future. The essence of his life is, Ill be happy when I get _______. (Fill in the blank.) By contrast, a person constantly involved in learning enjoys the study. As a side-point, he has to deal with the practical aspects of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter. But his essence is in the present moment; enjoying the learning hes involved in. This may be the greatest gift that we can give to ourselves. Material things may come and go, but knowledge is the one thing that really lasts and that someone else cannot take away from us. So there we have our nine tools of Torah. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) Ask questions Wisdom is the ability to see, and act on the basis of, consequences. The only way we make real behavior change is when an idea is clear to our mind Lead with our intellect. It is better to understand one idea clearly than many ideas superficially. Review. Differentiate between facts and interpretations Understand the real purpose of guilt. Be realistic and enjoy learning

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Chapter 8 Applying What Weve Learned


In our previous two chapters, we discussed nine important tools that can aid us in our study of Torah and in life. They are: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) Ask questions. Wisdom is the ability to see, and act on the basis of, consequences. The only way we make real behavior change is when an idea is clear to our mind. Lead with our intellect. It is better to understand one idea clearly than many ideas superficially. Review. Differentiate between facts and interpretations Understand the real purpose of guilt. Be realistic and enjoy learning

So lets apply some of what weve learned. To do this, well look at the story of Joseph and his brothers. The information and interpretations that Im about to share with you are based on information I received from Rabbi Reuven Mann of Plainview, New York, and Rabbi Israel Chait of Far Rockaway, New York. My primary source is a series of taped lectures by Rabbi Mann on this important story that are available on audio recording through www.ybt.org. Rabbi Manns lectures are based, in part, on ideas developed by him and on ideas learned from Rabbi Chait. Lets read the story in sections and then well discuss each section. So to begin, please stop here and read Genesis 42:7 - 42:36. Did you read it? Good. Now, lets apply tool #1 above and ask questions. As you read through the story, what questions come to mind? Make a list of all of the questions that you can think of before proceeding. Ok, do you have your question list? You can compare it to the questions Ive outlined below. Why did Joseph act like a stranger toward his brothers and why did he treat them harshly? That seems rather odd for a man to do to his brothers. Why in verse 9 does it say that Joseph recalled the dreams he had about them? Why is that there? Why did Joseph accuse his brothers of being spies? Why does Joseph want his brothers to bring Benjamin? Why does Joseph say that he'll send one, then he locks them all up, then he seems to change his mind and send all of them home except one? Why does Joseph say "I fear G--"? What is the purpose of that statement? Why did Joseph return their money? Why did Joseph put their money in the top of their sacks? Why not in the bottom? Why does it matter at all? Why did the brothers say, "What is this that G-- has done to us?"

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 78 of 89 Its very easy to read this story for years and just gloss right over these very strange events (as I did). Yet a deeper reading into, and consideration of, this story reveals an amazing brilliance on the part of Joseph. This is also why having a teacher is so important, because a good teacher can open up new ideas and new vistas of knowledge and understanding to you. Lets start at the beginning. Clearly Joseph was up to something here. Joseph was a brilliant man on a very high spiritual level. He didnt just decide to conceal himself from his brothers and accuse them of being spies on a whim. He must have had a plan. What was the plan? Joseph recalled his dreams and realized what he needed to do. He was one of the two children of Jacob and Rachel. Benjamin was the other. Joseph and Benjamin were Jacobs favorite children. The other brothers certainly knew this. (What child doesnt know if his parents favor one or more of his siblings?) Joseph realized that he was put in this position to help effect repentance on the part of his brothers because of what they had done to him earlier and on the part of his father who had failed to see the effect of his favoritism actions toward Joseph. This was not out of any sense of revenge on his part. This was done in order to help his family. True repentance occurs if someone faces the same situation and chooses not to repeat the previous sin he had committed when he was in that situation before. In this case, the brothers had perceived Joseph to be a threat and had decided to get rid of him. The question was, would they do so again if put in a similar position? So Joseph, in his great wisdom, works out a plan to set up a situation where the brothers face a similar situation with regard to Jacobs other favorite son, Benjamin. First, he acts like a stranger toward them and treats them harshly, so that they get a sense that theyre dealing with a very powerful ruler. He then puts them immediately on the defensive by accusing them of being spies. In the course of that process, he learns from them about their younger brother Benjamin. Now he has the beginning of the set-up. He convinces them that he thinks they are spies and tells them that the only way they can prove themselves is to bring their younger brother Benjamin. He then tells them that one of them can go back, and the others should remain as prisoners until Benjamin comes. He puts them all in prison for three days. Then, after the three days, he seemingly changes his mind and says that all of them can go except one. So whats happening with all of that? Why the change in plan? Joseph is very astutely keeping the brothers off balance. He had to maintain a balance of tension. If he went too far, they would think he was a madman and they would never bring Benjamin. So he first puts them all in jail and leaves them for three days. Consider what they must have been thinking during that time. They have no idea how long theyre going to be stuck there. It could be months or years for all they know. So the brothers are psychologically being softened up. Then, Joseph comes back after three days and says, in essence, Look, I fear G--. I'm a reasonable guy. I have a compromise. I need to protect my country, and you need to have food. So here's a way for us to both get what we want. One brother stays and the rest go home.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 79 of 89 By this time, the brothers would likely jump at the chance. In contrast to what they thought might happen (maybe months of imprisonment), look how reasonable this compromise now seems. In verse 18, when Joseph says, This do, and live, hes not threatening to kill them. Hes saying that otherwise theyre going to die by the famine. Notice that in verse 21, the brothers are starting to relate this to how they treated Joseph many years before. Then comes the money issue. What was Josephs purpose in returning the money? The money was an integral part of Joseph's plan. At first, the situation could have been seen as a misunderstanding about their visit and whether or not they were spies. But the money changed it. The money made them realize that G-- had done something. (At this point, they apparently had not done complete repentance.) This now looked like it could be a plot; maybe the ruler (Joseph) was looking for a scapegoat and intended to pin a crime on the brothers. This is sometimes done by rulers when they are trying to make a point to the public; they will convict someone of something in a very public way in order to frighten the people. It appears that Joseph had complete control over the loading of the animals and that he arranged for one's money to be in the sack that would be accessed along the way, while the others' money was returned in sacks they would not likely be opened. A proof of this is that they obviously didn't expect that everyone's money had been returned, because they opened the sacks in front of Jacob and then they saw the money. If they had thought this was the case, they would not have opened the sacks in front of Jacob. Note that they didn't tell Jacob initially about the money being returned to "the one". So why did Joseph work it out so that the other brothers would get their money later on, and with Jacob? The return of the money was necessary to frighten the brothers and to frighten Jacob. Jacob had to be put in a situation where he could not minimalize the danger. He had to be put in a situation where he believed that he might lose Benjamin. And that's what ended up happening, as we see in Genesis 47:14 when Jacob says he is willing to lose Benjamin. But lets back up before we miss another important point. When the brothers came back, they knew it was a dangerous situation. They knew that Jacob had a strong emotional attachment to Benjamin. Note carefully the spin that the brothers put on the story in telling it to Jacob. Nothing is said about being imprisoned. Nothing is initially said about the money that was found in the sack. Joseph treated them much more harshly than the brothers indicate in their report to Jacob. Why didnt they tell the truth? The brothers apparently reasoned that, if they told Jacob the truth, he wouldn't have let Benjamin go because of his emotional attachment. So they reasoned that they had to explain the situation to Jacob in a way so that he would let Benjamin go. Joseph knew the brothers would put a spin on the story in such a way that Jacob would let Benjamin go without thinking there was a big risk associated with it, and thus he would never have the opportunity to do true repentance. So Joseph put the money in each sack as a precaution against this.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 80 of 89 And his planning worked. We see that Jacob does not respond to the brothers until they open their sacks and he sees the money. Then he gives a stinging accusation and essentially says, I dont trust you. In verse 29, everything that the brothers say is in response to the unspoken question, "Where is Shimon?" Notice that the brothers dont mention that Shimon was locked up in jail. They said, that the ruler said, Leave one of your brothers here with me. Thats all part of the spin that theyre putting on the story. Joseph anticipated that Jacob would be there when the brothers arrived and that they would have to give an answer about Shimons absence. Joseph knew the brothers would try to smooth over the situation, and he undermined it with the money in the sacks. Of course, things could have happened. For example, Jacob could have been sick and not with the brothers when they opened their sacks. No plan is foolproof, but Joseph engineered his planning beautifully. That should cover all of our questions above, except perhaps for one more. Why didn't the brothers hate Benjamin like they hated Joseph? The answer is that he didn't pose a threat to them, even though they knew he was Jacob's favorite. Joseph had related his dreams to the brothers about ruling over them, and they thus saw Joseph as a threat. Benjamin was just a favorite son, and the littlest one as well. So they didnt view him in the same threatening way that they viewed Joseph. Lets move on. Please read Genesis 42:37 - 43:14 before proceeding further, and again, ask all of the questions that you can think of around this section. Did you do it? Do you have your questions? Here are some: What kind of offer is Reuben making, and why does Jacob reject him? Why kind of offer is Judah making? Why does Jacob accept his offer over Reubens? Why does Judah wait to make his offer? Why does Jacob tell them to go back to get food, as though he had forgotten all about the condition of Benjamin going with them? Why isnt Jacob concerned about Shimon? In verse 38, why does Jacob mention that Joseph is dead and Benjamin is left? The brothers know this. In 43:6, why does Jacob suddenly rebuke the brothers for telling that they had a younger brother? Why does he do this now? Why not when they first returned? Why does the text name the gifts that Jacob is sending?

Lets start with Reubens offer. His offer was to kill his sons if he didnt bring Benjamin back. But what kind of an offer is that? His sons are Jacobs grandsons. What good would it do for Jacob to lose his grandsons?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 81 of 89 The answer is that Reuben did not intend this literally. It was an impulsive expression of his emotions. Perhaps that is similar to todays action-adventure movie heroes who, in the face of insurmountable odds, resolutely cry, Ill save the world! Well, maybe. But maybe one of the three thousand bad guys the hero plans to single-handedly overcome will take him out first. Situations like that are not the time for grandstanding. They are the time for rational thinking and well planned strategy. Remember, our emotions can cloud our view of reality. The situation that faced Jacob at this point was one that required clear thinking. Seeing the emotional impulsiveness of Reubens offer, Jacob recognized that Reuben was not the one to put in charge of handling this crisis. By contrast, Judah bided his time. He waited. He didnt make his offer to Jacob right away. He waited until the food had gotten low and Jacob was forced into action. Then, he made his offer. Sometimes, its not the time to approach someone. They may not be in the right mood to receive what youre about to tell them. Sometimes its better to wait and talk to someone when theyre in a different frame of mind. Judah realized this. Reuben impulsively jumped ahead, but Judah recognized that it was not the right time to approach his father. And what about Judahs offer? He said that if he didnt bring Benjamin back, then he will have sinned for all time. What does that mean? Judah was essentially saying this. Look, I cant offer you anything physical here. Theres nothing to offer. I know how important Benjamin is to you. I will personally take full responsibility for the situation with everything I have. If I dont bring him back, then you can hold it against me for the rest of my life. Im putting my entire life on the line here. Judah's commitment was based on justice. His word was his guarantee. Insofar as is humanly possible, he was committing to bring Benjamin back. Jacob recognized that Judahs offer was rational and he agreed to it. There was no better offer to be made by anyone in this situation. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Theres a question looming large in front of us during all this time. Can you guess what it is? The question is, why isnt Jacob concerned about Shimon? After all, hes not there and he hasnt come home. Even during the whole time that theyre going through the food before the second trip is made, theres no mention of Shimon. Why? The answer is that there was nothing to lead Jacob to believe that Shimon's life was in danger. Remember, the brothers had played down some of the details of their encounter with Joseph. It seems that Jacob had no idea that Shimon was in prison. Lets pick up another important detail. In verse 38, why does Jacob mention that Joseph is dead and Benjamin is left? The brothers know this. Why does he bring it up?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 82 of 89 Jacob had a special relationship with Joseph and Benjamin. They were both sons of his nowdeceased wife Rachel. Remember how much Jacob loved Rachel? You can imagine, then, how special that her sons would be to him. The brothers had to have known that Joseph and Benjamin were special to Jacob. But this is the first time that Jacob is openly telling them that his relationship with Benjamin is different than his relationship with the rest of them. The repentance of the brothers is still in progress, and one aspect of this is that they have to understand that Jacob has a right to have a favorite son. In so many words, Jacob is telling them that they have to live with that. So now lets pick up again at Genesis 43:1. When the food begins to run out, why does Jacob tell them to go back, as if he doesn't realize the situation? The answer is that the brothers never told him how serious it was. The brothers had deliberately withheld from Jacob the seriousness of the situation. This is the first time that Jacob really begins to understand the gravity of the situation. The brothers had played down the seriousness of things when they first returned. But now the issues start to unfold. Even though they discussed what happened in Egypt before, Jacob now begins to see a bigger picture. Verse 6 in chapter 43 is a turning point. At this point Jacob starts to take control. So now we could ask, why did Jacob suddenly rebuke the brothers for telling that they had a younger brother? Why does he do this now? Why not when they first returned? The question is not a rebuke. It's a question so that Jacob can fully understand the situation. The general rule is that you don't give away information unless you have to. So Jacob is asking, I need to know what motivated you to give that much information to a stranger. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Jacob is now taking an active role in the investigation. There are two important principles that we can learn from this. First, dont give away information to strangers. Dont tell a stranger any more than you absolutely must tell. Second, if you are caught in a situation and you have to give information, try to stay with the truth, because you're in greater jeopardy with a lie. This is exactly what the brothers did. They told the truth to Joseph about the family. So now we see that a power shift has taken place in the story. Once Jacob, who has been fairly passive in this drama up until now, sees that Benjamin is going to have to go to Egypt, he takes complete control of the strategy and how it should be carried out. As part of the strategy, Jacob directs the brothers to take some of the lands products with them to Joseph. Jacob is hoping that this whole thing is a big misunderstanding. In this type of circumstance, it seems that this would not be a good situation for a gift. It could look like you're trying to bribe the other person. But this is not a bribe. He's not following the same strategy as he did with Esau. Rather, these items are an attempt to set the proper tone; to show respect. That's why it's "a bit". It shows thoughtfulness; that the brothers are very thoughtful people and that they show honor. Every ruler is concerned about respect. This was a small gesture to show respect.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 83 of 89 Jacob also directed them to take twice the money. What was the point of this? Many people think that a religious person is operating in the world of prayer, faith, etc., assuming that G-will take care of the practical things. By contrast, Jacob was involved in prayer and preparation. What he was telling them was, "Anticipate the worst. Don't make assumptions. In this case, with regard to the returned money, be on the offensive. You take the initiative and give it back immediately. Don't wait for them to come to you. And then, in 43:14, after he has made practical preparations, Jacob prays. This reinforces a point weve discussed earlier. In the world of Torah, its our responsibility to do everything we can to prepare for a situation in the physical world. Then we pray to G-- for help with those things that are outside of our control. For our final chapter, please read Genesis 43:15 45:1.

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Chapter 9 Applying What Weve Learned (part 2)


Were continuing with our exploration of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The next section is Genesis 43:15 - 44:17. If you havent already read that section, please stop and do so now. As you read, think of all of the questions that come to mind about the story; anything that seems odd, unusual, or unclear. Ok. You should have your question list ready. Here are some questions to compare against your list. Why did the servant say that he had received their money? And why did he say, Your G-and the G-- of your father has put a hidden treasure in your sacks? What does that mean? Why would the brothers believe the servant? They know he didn't get their money. Why did Joseph bring them all home for a meal? Why does the Torah tell us about Josephs emotions? What was the purpose of the seating arrangement? Why did Joseph give Benjamin five times as much food? Why does Judah say in verse 16 that G-- has uncovered the sin of your servants? Why does it tell us that the brothers became intoxicated before Joseph? In 43:18, it appears that the brothers are facing total destruction. Why would they be concerned about their donkeys? Why does Joseph return their money again? Why are the brothers never accused of stealing the money the second time? Why is everything focused around the goblet? Why did the brothers say that if one of them is found to have the goblet in his possession, he should die?

To understand this story and the actions of the brothers, we have to understand the strategy of Joseph. Joseph had two objectives from the time the brothers returned. The first objective was that Joseph was trying to set up a situation where Benjamin was rejected, and then see how the brothers would react. So when the brothers returned, Joseph structured events in such a way not just to eliminate their fear, but to also show them their entire outlook on the situation was completely wrong. Joseph wanted the brothers to think that their worst fears were totally unfounded. Why? Because he wanted to produce a situation where they not only ceased fearing him, but also had total confidence in him, so they wouldn't even think he would do anything duplicitous. To gain the trust of the brothers, Joseph had to first heighten their fears. So he first has them brought to his palace. They are terrified as to what this might mean. The part about the donkeys isnt really about the donkeys themselves. Its their interpretation of the situation, as if to say, This is the type of ruler who would take everything from us. By creating this type of situation, Joseph has the brothers highly on edge.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 85 of 89 Then they speak to one of Josephs servants about the money issue, and he says to them, "G-gave you a gift; your money came to me". What can that mean? Rabbi Mann suggests that the servant didnt mean it literally. In essence, he was saying this. Look, this is a big operation. We're dealing with millions here. Sometimes things fall through the cracks in the accounting and someone gets an unexpected windfall. You're the lucky ones. As far as Im concerned, we got your money. Dont worry. Can you imagine the brothers relief? This is how they hoped it would turn out; just a big misunderstanding. Here they have been worrying that this is going to be a huge issue, maybe resulting in someone spending a long time in jail, and now they find out that its a lucky break! This is the beginning of the disinformation. Now the brothers begin to think that all of their fears were not warranted. Then the servant gives them water to wash their feet, he has food given to their donkeys, and they learn that theyre going to be eating a meal with Joseph. This makes them feel relaxed. Josephs unspoken message in all of this is, I may have to be tough on my country, but Im actually a likeable guy. Let me make up the trouble youve gone to by providing you with a meal in my home. Now the brothers whole idea about Joseph is being transformed. Hes gracious, hes decent, hes respectful. What a great man this ruler is! And the seating? The seating is a sign by Joseph of respect and dignity to the brothers. Have you ever noticed that when you're suspicious about a person but not sure, you always feel a certain amount of guilt? You feel bad that you suspect them. Then when you find out they're wonderful, you'll have a lot of guilt that you ever suspected them. By the time the brothers got to this meal, you can imagine how they might have felt. Here they thought this ruler was so tough and unfair, and now look how nice hes being! The guilt that they felt about having suspected Joseph now transforms into total confidence in him. Rabbi Mann suggests that the order of the brothers at the meal is a sign of respect. Its one more way of Joseph subtly saying, I know that Ive put you through a lot. This is my way of showing respect to you for all that youve been through. The great Torah commentator Rashi says that Joseph struck the goblet and called out the order of the brothers seating. Notice that the goblet comes into play in this. This is an important clue that well shortly discuss. By this time, the brothers reached a point where they were so relaxed and unguarded that they felt comfortable enough to drink with Joseph. They went from fear and suspicion of him to the other extreme; total confidence. In fact, they became so comfortable in this situation that they drank enough to become intoxicated. This was all part of the set-up by Joseph so that when the servant said that one of them had stolen the goblet, the brothers would never consider that Joseph had set them up. Notice how he has carefully engineered moving them from one psychological extreme to the other. When they first show up, the brothers are scared; then they have this great party and are assuaged; then the goblet shows up in Benjamin's possession, and they're scared again.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 86 of 89 The second objective of Joseph was Benjamin. Joseph treated him differently. He gave him a special blessing, he honored him in the seating, and he gave Benjamin five times the amount of food as his brothers. In order to effectuate the repentance, Joseph re-creates the situation of the favored son. He plays to the unconscious feelings of his brothers. Joseph is duplicating the same situation of family brotherhood all over again. He is like the father figure, the brothers are seated in order, and Benjamin is set up as the favorite. Joseph has thus recreated the potential for the same emotion of rivalry through favoritism that he experienced when the brothers kidnapped him and sold him. Now, when Benjamin is accused, the emotion of envy has already been brought to the forefront. The key question is how the brothers will respond. Why does the text include the section about Josephs emotions? This section shows us that Joseph was able to overcome his emotions. Otherwise, his emotions could have destroyed the whole plan. There is an important lesson for us here. The objective of Torah study is not to reach a place where we have no emotions. Thats absurd. A human being is a creature of emotions, and he has to have emotional satisfaction. The way to happiness is when his emotional satisfaction is in line with his intelligence. The fact that Joseph had this emotion shows us his perfection; that he identified and had compassion with someone who had suffered. And, he had the capacity to control it. Joseph expressed his emotion with greatness. He didn't allow it to spoil his plan. An important element of perfection is our capacity to control our emotions. So the meal ends, the brothers are sent on their way, and the goblet is discovered. Why does Judah say that G-- has uncovered the sin of your servants? After all, he knows theyre not guilty. And besides, once you admit guilt, you make it easier for the authority to punish you. Then answer is that they weren't admitting guilt. But there was no excuse because there was no explanation. At that point, Judah realized that something bigger was going on here. Why wasnt the return of the money ever mentioned by the servant, or by Joseph, or by the brothers? Because they must have all known about the money to begin with. Likely, the money was given back by Joseph in order to show what a great guy Joseph was, as if to say, Here. Youve already been through a lot. As I said, Im a reasonable guy. You keep your money. This is part of Josephs plan; part of the camouflage. Otherwise, the money would have been mentioned. But we see that it isnt. All of the focus is on the goblet. So we see that Joseph set this all up including the meal so that the brothers would never suspect him of planting the goblet in Benjamins sack. And we see that Joseph was successful in this. For why did the brothers say that if the goblet was found with any of them, then that person should die? Because they knew they were not thieves and they never apparently suspected duplicity.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 87 of 89 An important point that we shouldnt miss is the reference in 44:14 to "Judah and the brothers" rather than just the brothers. Remember that Jacob put Judah in charge of the mission, and now we see that Judah is assuming a position of leadership. It is Judah who responds to Joseph. Theres one more important question that arises here. Its about the goblet. Why is everything centered on a goblet? Note that in 44:4, Joseph instructs the servant to refer to the goblet as the one from which Joseph drinks and that Joseph uses it for divination. Divination? Also note that, in 44:15, Joseph says he can determine truth by divination. Whats going on here? Whats all this about divination? And why is Joseph making it seem that he is so upset about a goblet? Why didnt he choose money or something else? And in 44:17, it looks like Benjamin is headed for a lifetime of slavery. Over one goblet? After all, its just a cup, isnt it? Or is it? Before we go on, please read Genesis 44:18 - 45:1. Again, ask as many questions as you can about this section before reading further. Ok. Lets see if we can pull all of this together. Here are some questions to consider. Why doesnt Judah try to protest innocence? Why does Judah first ask that they all be kept as slaves? Why does Judah approach Joseph and ask to speak to him personally? Why does Judah ask Joseph not to be angry with him when he speaks? In 44:19-32, why does Judah repeat a lot of things that Joseph already knows? And finally, why does Judah then offer to trade himself for Benjamin. After all, he first offered all of them as slaves, and Joseph rejected that. Why should a lesser offer be accepted?

First, we see in 44:16, Judah makes a collective offer that they should all be slaves. Why? Hes obligated to bring Benjamin back home, but if they all stay as slaves, Judah thinks he can protect Benjamin. If theyre all there together, maybe he can work out some kind of a plan. But he can't allow the brothers to be separated from Benjamin because it becomes that much harder to protect him and save him. It was clear to Judah that there was no point in trying to plead innocence. The evidence of the goblet was found in Benjamins pack, so Judah makes an offer that they should all stay. However, Joseph rejects it on the grounds of justice. Is the choice of a goblet significant? Absolutely. The text says its the goblet from which my master drinks and he uses it for divination. Why were those things mentioned? Stealing is stealing, and its rather brazen to steal something that is a personal thing of significance. But why all the references to divination?

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 88 of 89

A goblet is one thing. But notice how Joseph has established that he uses the goblet for divination. As noted above, Rashi comments that Joseph used the goblet in establishing the order of the brothers at dinner. Two other references are made to the divination aspect of the goblet. That means its part of Josephs tool set for ruling the country, and that makes stealing it an act of theft of property of the country. That could weaken a ruler. So now this becomes a possible plot against the country. Now were talking about stealing state secrets, so to speak. That would be like slipping into a country and stealing their secret weapon. Thats way more than just stealing a cup. Its an act with major national security implications. Thus, Joseph has set up a situation where Benjamin now can be accused of a potential plot against the entire country of Egypt. A very serious charge indeed. Somewhere along the way, Judah saw that this was a frame-up. Thats why he said, What can we say to my master? He couldnt argue. He recognized that Egypt is a powerful nation and Joseph is a powerful ruler, and sometimes nations will purposely set up a scapegoat so that they can make a public showcase of them and thereby discourage others from attempting anything against the country. So Judah comes in and offers his plea. Notice that the entire pleas focuses not on Benjamin, but on Jacob their father. In 43:26, when the brothers returned, Joseph asks right away about their father. This shows that he has a soft spot for the father. In crafting his plea, Judah took advantage of that. He doesnt ask Joseph to just let Benjamin go. It's not an appeal for mercy or clemency. Its actually two pleas: one spoken and one unspoken. The spoken plea is: This is going to destroy our father if Benjamin doesnt go back to him. So trade me for Benjamin for the sake of the old man. The unspoken plea is: Look, I know this is a frame-up. I cant say this to you directly because it would offend you. But I know you have to rule the country and that sometimes leaders set up things like this as a lesson to others not to try to overthrow the country. Ok. I accept that you need to do that. We both know this is a political thing. So what difference does it make who you take? You can make a public example of me and youll get what you need for your country, and our father will get his youngest son back. Everybody wins. This is why Judah asks Joseph not to get angry. In essence, he is saying that, the mere fact that I'm going to make this request indicates that I know this is a frame-up. But he can't say it directly because it would be politically offensive to declare it that clearly. Virtually any politician would simply deny it. So why does Judah tell Joseph all of the events in 44:19-32 that Joseph already knows? To tell Joseph subtly that he knows this was a set-up from the start. Its as if Judah is saying, Why did you have to ask us all these questions? You weren't asking to marry our daughters. Why did you need all of this information? In other words, We know this is a plot.

Fundamentals of Torah for Non-Jews Page 89 of 89 Then Judah makes his plea and presents a solution that satisfies Joseph's needs - the unspoken political objective. You need someone to be set up as a demonstration, so if I take his place, you can make me the scapegoat, and you'll save the father. I understand and you understand that this is a political thing. Since we both know what the situation is, why can't you have mercy on the father, and let me take Benjamin's place? Everyone's needs will be satisfied. Here we see the brilliance of Judah. He develops a brilliant strategy and masterfully presents it, given the delicate political subtleties of the situation. Recall that Josephs intent was to bring about a situation the brothers and his father Jacob could fully repent. What was there in the plea of Judah that indicated complete repentance? The sin of the brothers was the hatred of Joseph. But the brothers had already repented from the sin, because we see that they recognized the past. Repentance demands that you overcome the emotion for the future. When they were all willing to be slaves Judahs first offer to Joseph - it indicated that they had repented over their jealousy. Why? Because in this situation, where Benjamin was a substitute for Joseph, they were willing to be slaves in order to protect him. So was there anything lacking? Lets look back at each of the parties involved. A defect of Joseph was excessive vanity. The defect of Jacob was not controlling his emotion his favoritism for Joseph. The sin of the brothers was their hatred of Joseph, but that's a superficial understanding. Lets look deeper at that. The brothers really hated their father. They saw that their father favored Joseph. Rabbi Mann suggests that, as a parent, you have a right to have a favorite child, but you can't demonstrate it. A parent has to act fairly. The worst pain of a child is to be envious that the parent favors another child. If that does happen, the child who isnt favored can't manifest the anger against the parent (because at childhood ages, children look up to their parents; parents are like G-- to the child), so he/she blames it on the other child. The brothers did true repentance by giving up their own freedom to preserve the right of their father to have a favorite. Here we see the importance of justice in perfection. Justice demanded to Judah in this situation that he accept the right of his father to have a favorite. As we saw, Joseph cried along the way because he had compassion for his brothers and his father. But his real compassion was to facilitate the repentance. The last element of that repentance was the brothers accepting the right of their father to have a favorite. Perhaps the most important theme in this entire story is that there is no such thing as a perfected person without repentance. There is no individual who is naturally perfected. If a person cant do repentance, he can't be perfected. Repentance involves the ability to recognize that you've made a mistake, and the capacity to make the changes. Some people think that if you suffer enough from guilt, you've done atonement. This is ridiculous. Guilt has played its role when it points out to you that you're engaged in something you shouldn't be doing. Then the mind needs to take over. Repentance can only take place in the mind. ###