The Noahide law and The Mystical


                                                          Rabbi Yakov D. Cohen




Jewish Mysticism is often perceived as ethereal, abstract and beyond the ken of all but a select few. It is often considered to have little relevance to the day to day life of an ordinary person. Indeed, the laws and commandments found in the Torah and Talmud which are the framework of Halakhah / Jewish law, and can be understood and followed without any knowledge of the mystical literature. Chasidic philosophy teaches, however, that there is an essential, fundamental interposing between all levels of Jewish thought, reflecting the unity to their Divine source.


In the inner parts of Torah, Chasidism teaches, there is an intimate connection between the mystical and the purely legal dimension of Jewish thinking. The former is not merely a lens through which we gain a unique perspective on the latter, it is rather an inseparable part of it, without which Jewish law would not be what it is. If the law is the physical body, explains the Zohar its mystical interpretation is the soul. Through joining body and soul- the legal and the mystical, many difficult to understand issues in Jewish law may be clarified.


In the Talmud[1] Non-Jews are referred to as Ben Noah, since all humans are descended from the Biblical Patriarch Noah. Humans were commanded to keep six Mitzvoth / laws from the time of Adam and seven from the time of Noah, before Abraham and the Jewish nation were born. Although the 613 Mitzvoth of the Torah superseded these Seven Mitzvoth for the Jewish nation, these Mitzvoth remain binding to Ben Noah today. Therefore all gentiles will be judged by G-d according to these laws.


The Noahide laws are comprised of seven universal laws biblically binding upon all humanity. They include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, forbidden sexual relationships including adultery and incest, murder, theft, cruelty to animals and the failure to implement orderly processes of justice.


These laws are all ethically based, one may ask: why is it so important that I should keep these laws because G-D said to? A person, who conducts himself according to these principles, solely because they appeal to his sense of right and wrong, or his intellect, or his sense of justice, is not fulfilling them properly and is not considered a 'Ben Noah'.  As Maimonides[2] states that the Ben Noah must accept them specifically because they were revealed from Almighty G-D Hashem through Moses to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai.

Therefore one must accept the revelation of Almighty G-D in his Halakah / Jewish law as divine. Indeed the Talmud states[3]  ”Since the Temple was destroyed, G-D has no place left except the four cubits of Halakah / Jewish law”


Indeed, Halakhah / Jewish law also denote halicho / motion, as it is a dynamic and live system. Not a throwback to archaic times, but a vibrant approach to life, and one that continues to connect infinitely new combinations of Divine light.


Halakah / law, for the mystic, is the greatly condensed wisdom of G-D, inseparable from the most abstract metaphysical speculation. This therefore explains why the very compiler and editor of the Shulchan Aruch / Code of Jewish law was the great mystic and Kabbalist of Safat Israel Rav Yoseph Caro. And indeed some of the greatest Halakahic authority were mystical like Rabbi Moses Maimonides that began working on Moreh Nevuchim or the guide to the perplexed it about the year 1185. And Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi founder of Chabad Lubavitch Chasidus wrote the Shulchan Aruch Harav and the Tanya a basic book of Chabad philosophy.


Maimonides states[4] "Whoever among the Nations fulfills the Seven Commandments to serve God belongs to the Righteous among the Nations, and has his share in the World to Come.". 


Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, universally respected, and revered has said that the Noahide laws observance will bring about universal peace and the Messianic Redemption.


In the words of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi: “The era of Moshiach ... is the culmination and fulfillment of the creation of our world—it is to this end that it was created... In the future [world of Moshiach], the light of G-d will be revealed without any obscuring garment, as it is written: ‘No longer shall your Master be shrouded; your eyes shall behold your Master’. [5]

“A semblance of this was already experienced on earth at the time that the Torah was given, as it is written: “You have been shown to know that the L-rd He is G-d,  there is none else beside Him”[6] ... [But] then their existence was literally nullified by the revelation, as our sages have said, ‘With each utterance [the people of Israel heard from G-d at Mount Sinai], their souls flew from their bodies...’[7] Yet in the end of days the body and the world will be refined, and will be able to receive the revelation of the divine light ... via the Torah.”[8]

In that Era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition. ….for the world will be filled with knowledge of G-D as the waters cover the ocean bed.” Maimonides Laws of Kings 12: 5

The Jewish people and indeed, the world at large will join together in bonds of love and unity. An awareness of G-Ds tr more inclusive conception of unity then is possible at present.

In our present era, unity involves people of differing natures joining together, as the diverse limbs of the body function together as part of a single unit[9].  Nevertheless, such bond doss not raise a person above his individual identity entirely. On the contrary, his very awareness of self has to be employed in his efforts to unite with others.

In contrast, the transcendent unity of the Era of the Redemption will raise every individual above the limited horizons of his personal identity, “for the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-Ds as the waters cover the ocean bed”. [10]

The verse employs this simile to express the following concept. A vast multitude of creatures inhabit the ocean, nevertheless what we see is the ocean as a whole and not the particular entities which it contains.  

Similarly, in the Era of redemption, individual created beings will lose consciousness of their separate identities, for they will be suffused with awe inspiring knowledge of    G-D. The unity that will be established between individual entities will thus be of a higher and more consummate nature. We should anticipate these concepts in our own present conduct. Since we are on the threshold of the redemption, it is now possible to appreciate a foretaste of the spiritual awareness to be achieved in the era, and to apply it in our daily lives.

We are at the pinnacle of Jewish history, just as Moses was when he redeemed the Jewish people from Egypt, we should take inspiration from the Torah that shines and the Rebbe that has guided us to believe that Moshiach and G-d are reality.

The very next moment can be the last moment of exile, and the moment, which follows, the first moment of redemption. Our energies must be directed to “opening our eyes” appreciating the redemption and living our live in its spirit. 

Our sages describe every person as an entire world, and the world as a personality in macrocosm. Conceiving of ourselves as a world. i.e., multifaceted and multi dimensional, enables us to develop harmony between and within the different aspects of our beings.

Conversely, viewing the world as a macrocosm of man also provides us with constructive insights. Just as an inner sense of spiritual purpose is the key to an individual’s success and happiness, so too the world at large will thrive from gaining awareness of its spiritual purpose.

The world was created solely for Moshiach, our sages tell us, more specifically, that G-D created the world because He desired a dwelling among mortals. Living with the redemption on a conceptual level, learning about the ideals which G-D envisions for our world, and integrating these principles in our lives, can serve as a trim tab for every individual, channeling the direction of global change. By anticipating the redemption in our minds and lives, we can precipitate its coming. 

This is the challenge facing our generation[11]. To make the world conscious of Moshiach, and create an environment that will allow his mission to be fulfilled. Every element of our study of the Torah and our observance of its Mitzvoth including the Noahide Laws, should be permeated by this objective, and directed towards it.


(Conference on Noahide “universal values and human personality” November 1, 2004 Hunter College New York USA













[1] Sanhedrin 56.1 & 56.1

[2] Laws of Kings 8.11


[3] Berakot 8.1

[4] Ibid.

[5] Isaiah 30:20

[6] Deuteronomy 4:35.

[7] Shaboss 88.1

[8] Tanya Loc.cit.

[9]  Likkutei Torah, Paeshas Nitzavim 87a.

[10] Maimonides Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:5

[11]  Based on the Rebbe’s talks, Shabbat Toldot 5750/1990.