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Opposite Directions

Have you ever tried to send messages using one of our Western languages and then the Hebrew language?

What happens?

It is impossible to write the two sentences: the lines break, and the 2 texts get mixed strangely; it is difficult, almost impossible, to delete words or spaces or to insert text where the two languages touch.

Why does this happen?

The reason is simply one: we write our sentences and organize our meanings from left to right, while Hebrew goes in the opposite direction.

Like writing, the two systems of living/thinking have opposite directions: Western society seeks pleasure, self-gratification, and wealth. These values intertwined with the widespread conception of G-d, where syncretism or the excessive exaltation of individuality and personal belief means that each person chooses an idea of G-d, or constructs a personal religion, that best suits their agenda.

Jews, on the other hand, constantly repeat to themselves: -Hashem Eloheinu, Hashem Echad-; Hashem is our G-d and He is One. At Sinai, they received the revelation of the Creator of the Universe, a being who is infinite, indivisible, eternal, and has everything to do with his creation. They also received the Torah and all the mitzvot and agreed to put them into practice to obey Hashem, no matter how much meaning they may or may not have for them. Their whole life is therefore shaped by and follows obedience to what Hashem has revealed about Himself and His will; it cannot contain ideas, or values that adulterate these fundamental truths. 

This revelation of G-d together with the style of its acceptance is a breaking factor in any cultural background other than the West. Any belief system that shapes society is, at its core, immeasurably different from both the revelation summarized in the Shema and the way Israel accepted it: not by its own decisions or understanding but only by obedience. It can be that any culture resembles a left-to-right scripture in comparison to the Jewish one, which goes from right to left. 

This is why the Rambam was convinced that a Noahide must share the same fundamental ideas that Jews have, without any difference. This is embodied in two requirements:

  • A Noahide must accept upon himself the sovereignty of Hashem, that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and its nature and attributes, then he can begin to say with Israel: -HaShem Eloheinu, Hashem Ehad-.
  • A Noahide must accept the 7 laws of Noah just as Israel accepted its 613 mitzvot: out of obedience and not based on one’s own intellectual understanding or personal preference.

We face the difficult task of staying in a transition-dimmed light zone where the light that shines through Israel (Hashem’s light) irradiates the world.

May we be a help, G-d forbid not a stumbling block, to Israel in being a light unto the nations.

At this point, all our Noahide lives resemble the strange space of text messages: environments structured from left to right that contain a message written from right to left.

Sometimes lines, meanings, cultural habits, and concepts mix and give a strange result. We are like interfaces between the core of meanings structured by Hashem and the rest of human culture. We are in those complex zones where systems face each other. We are at the point where once the contradictory values and messages are removed, the two systems can peacefully coexist in juxtaposition.

We face the difficult task of remaining in the twilight zone of transition, where the light that shines through Israel (the light of Hashem) radiates out to the world.

May we be of help, G-d forbid not a stumbling block, to Israel in being a light to the nations, living as best we can in this life of meaning written from right to left in a world that writes from left to right.

By Abigaïl Bracha

Sources: Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 8:11—conditions for a Noahide’s share in the World to Come

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