Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bnei Noach: some mitzvot (1)

quelques mitswoth

“We will fulfill and we will hear” (Shabbat 88a).

Here we will try to explain the importance of spiritual fulfillment and its effect on the personality of the person. We will also see why it is not enough to feel this spiritual fulfillment in the heart, but that it must be accompanied by concrete actions.

When thinking is not enough

All this has been explained in the Torah and was understood as something quite simple by many intellectuals of the world like Soren Kirkgegard (In “A Jew, Who Is He, What Is He?” page 22) who said:

“A belief that does not bring in its wake a fulfillment and a change, is a false one. The greatest believer, who carries out his belief with great enthusiasm, but shows no sign of a complete change in his life, proves, that his belief is simply part of his own imagination only. The influence and recognition of a belief in a human being depends on the way he carries out his day-to-day life and manages to control and suppress his desires, stops doing evil and the actions he takes to carry this out.”

The Greek philosophers, who did not believe in a practical religion, but believed that human perfection comes from recognizing and studying the truth, believed just the same, that a person must carry out and fulfill deeds that will teach him spiritual perfection: In his Kuzari, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi thus wrote (Article A, Part A), “Question the truth on the things that you want to know, in order that your brain will act and not be acted upon. Talk to the point and in truthful ways. This will help you seek and recognize the truth. Then you will demand less, be more humble and accumulate good character traits.”

The Philosophers did not recognize G-d or the need to act accordingly to His commandments. This is why they believed that human beings can act in any way suitable that will bring them to fulfillment of their goals. Just the same, these intellectuals understood that it was not enough for a person to acquire education and knowledge but that he also needed to carry out and act in order that his internal thinking could turn into a reality. Which is exactly what the Torah tells us to do, and we will bring several examples here.

A) The Precepts (Mitzvot) connected to prayers

These precepts connected to prayers are done through the heart as it is stated in Ta’anit 2, “and to labor for him with all your heart - what is the service of the heart - it is prayer.” Anyway it is not enough to pray from the heart. If a person has some thoughts that stem from his heart but does not utter them out with his lips, then he has not fulfilled the commandment as it is stated in Berachot 20, “Thoughts are not the same as an utterance.”

B) Repentance

The precepts connected to repentance are also connected to the heart: Nevertheless, “A person repenting must confess with his lips and say the things he has decided to do through his heart” (Rambam, Repentance, Chapter 2).

C) Ownership

When ownership is transferred, the most important part in this transaction is that the heart of the original owner agrees with the action. But all of this is not legal until some sort of action of transference is performed, such as that a deed or legal paper is signed or changes hands or the transfer of ownership done according to the Jewish religion (Halacha). (This includes an action that is accepted as a valid transference of ownership by the society where the transaction is taking place.)

D) Marriage

It is not enough for both sides to agree to marry and to live like a family, but a legal action must also be carried out for this agreement to be formal.

Rabbi Yoel Schwartz (Jerusalem Court for Bnei Noah)

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