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Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Evolution – Who Cares?

There’s so much talk about whether God created the world or whether it evolved by chance. But I’m wondering: What difference does it make how this all came about anyhow?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The difference is simple yet profound: If world is accident, then we are, too. And if we’re an accident, then there's no purpose to our creation. Life is random, not meaningful.

If we are just a random collection of molecules, should we have any more respect for a human being than we do for a dog? Should we save a drowning dog or a drowning stranger? Is it acceptable to label a race of people sub-human and to enslave or kill them all? And what difference does it ultimately make anyhow?!

The Torah says that God blew into Adam a spiritual soul (Genesis 2:7). Man is not just a smart monkey. Man is a qualitatively different creation. This "spiritual consciousness" separates man from all other creatures, enabling us to sanctify life and get close to God.

Maimonides writes: "As long as you are occupied with the mathematical sciences and the technique of logic, you belong to those who walk around the palace in search of the gate. When you complete your study of the natural sciences and then get a grasp of the metaphysics, you enter into the inner courtyard and are in the same house as [God the King]."

It matters because the essence of life is that we have a higher purpose, more than just consuming hamburgers and fashion and iPods. Those things can be useful tools to get us where we want to go, but we have to know where to go!

Seven Laws of Noah

I love the Jewish people and have enjoyed reading the many spiritual thoughts on your website. I want to draw closer to God, but from what I’ve read it is a very big commitment to convert. I don’t think I am up for this at this stage in my life. Is there some way to tap into the Torah wisdom without being part of the Jewish people?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for your inspiring words.

A person does not need to become Jewish to reach high spiritual levels, establish a relationship with God, and earn a reward in the world to come. Enoch "walked with God" and Noah had quite a high level of relationship, though neither were Jewish. Our tradition is that all of the 70 nations must function together and play an integral part in that "being" called humanity.

The Torah presents seven mitzvot for non-Jews to observe. These seven laws are the pillars of human civilization, and are named the "Seven Laws of Noah," since all humans are descended from Noah. Alas, many have forgotten these in the passage of time. Perhaps the best that we can do is to encourage all peoples to keep these and then it would indeed become a very different world. As explained in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b), they are:

1) Do not murder.

2) Do not steal.

3) Do not worship false gods.

4) Do not be sexually immoral.

5) Do not eat the limb removed from a live animal.

6) Do not curse God.

7) Set up courts and bring offenders to justice.

Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes these laws earns a proper place in heaven. So you see, the Torah is for all humanity, no conversion necessary.

As well, when King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he specifically asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who come to the Temple (1-Kings 8:41-43). The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, which the prophet Isaiah referred to as a "house for all nations." Non-Jews were welcome to bring offerings to the Temple as well. In fact, the service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings, corresponding to each of the 70 nations of the world. In fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans would have realized how much they were benefiting from the Temple, they never would have destroyed it!

Today, there are many active groups of non-Jews called "Bnei Noach" who faithfully observe the Seven Laws of Noah. Here are some websites (though I cannot vouch for their authenticity):

www.wikinoah.org

www.noahidenations.com

www.noachide.org.uk

www.1stcovenant.org

There are two excellent books on the topic:

"Path of the Righteous Gentile" by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky

"Seven Colors of the Rainbow" by Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman

You will also enjoy this interview with someone who faithfully follows the Laws of Noah: www.aish.com/jw/s/80405497.html

May the Almighty grant you blessings and success in your spiritual search.

Priest on a Rope

I heard something about tying a rope to the High Priest in the Holy Temple. What was that all about?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In the Second Temple period, some people who were unfit took the position of High Priest. When they entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, they died, since they lacked the ability to handle the spiritual power of that place.

The other priests had to devise a plan to pull the dead body out, since no one other than the High Priest was allowed to enter in the Holy of Holies. So they tied a golden rope to the High Priest’s leg when he entered the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

(Sources: Zohar – Acharei Mot 67a, Emor 102a; Talmud – Yoma 53b; Me'am Loaz; Arbanel – Exodus 28:33.)