Skip to content

Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach

Home » FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FAITH – 9 NOT TO CREATE A NEW RELIGION OR COMMANDMENT

FUNDAMENTALS OF THE FAITH – 9 NOT TO CREATE A NEW RELIGION OR COMMANDMENT

this includes the prohibition against a non-Jew observing a sancitfied day of ritual restraint, as it says (Gen. 8:22), “lo yishbotu”” (“They shall not make a Shabbath”)[1]

בס”ד

This principle addresses the prohibition of creating a new religion, known as the prohibition of “chiddushei daat.”

Mishneh Torah, Kings and Wars 10:9, presents this concept as follows:

The general principle governing these matters is: They (non-Jews) are not allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions.

This implies that a non-Jew, in observing their seven Mitzvot, should avoid incorporating elements from other religions. Moreover, they should refrain from specifically adopting Jewish commandments or mitzvot that lack a general logical reason or social utility. Adding or subtracting in this context implies a lack of belief in the eternal truth of the Torah and in G-d’s authority to dictate how a person should live. It suggests an elevated sense of one’s own wisdom, indicating a belief that one can independently determine what is right and wrong to follow.

Now, let’s explore other religions. All religions that originated after the reception of the Torah deny the eternal authority of the Torah. For example, Christianity teaches that the Torah given by G-d around 2000 years ago was either replaced or nullified, replacing the Unity of G-d with the Trinity—an idolatrous concept, as it involves a belief that G-d (or according to some, a second separate divinity) has characteristic features and the characteristics of a body.[2] Similarly, Islam, while adhering to a monotheistic concept of G-d, has incorporated parts of the Torah into the Quran but introduced changes, rejecting the authenticity of the Five Books of Moses.[3]

A Noahide who previously belonged to another religion may have discovered that this other religion is not in accordance with G-d’s Word and Will. However, it can sometimes be challenging to bid farewell to practices and traditions associated with this other religion, especially when they no longer have a genuinely religious function. Consider, for instance, the egg hunt associated with Easter—a fun children’s activity without genuine religious significance. Yet, one cannot lead a Torah-based religious life while incorporating elements from other religions.[4]

For a non-Jew, it is not permitted to adopt specific Jewish commandments or mitzvot that lack a logical reason or social utility. Therefore, a non-Jew would be liable if he refrains from weekday activities and observes a Sabbath for himself, even on a weekday, as it involves adopting a practice that doesn’t align with the Noahide laws and lacks a clear rationale or social benefit.

When G-d created the world, He “rested” on the seventh day. The sanctity of the Sabbath lies in the fact that G-d “rested” on it and sanctified this day, not because people rest on it or observe specific religious activities. Genesis 8:22 states,



So long as the earth endures,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
Day and night
Shall not cease.”
 כבעֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִ֠יר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ:

Reish Lakish explains that while, on the surface, this verse seems to be about the changing seasons, the term “they” refers to humanity. Consequently, the verse prohibits non-Jews from abstaining from worldly labor for an entire day. This constitutes a positive commandment that takes precedence over observing the Sabbath. The ambiguity lies in whether this prohibition is a general restriction on ceasing work altogether or specifically pertains to doing so for religious reasons.[5]

Any commandment connected to a Jewish holy day, such as eating unleavened bread on Passover, or waving a palm frond (lulav) or sitting in a sukkah booth Sukkot, is forbidden for a non-Jew to observe specifically on those days, because he is then making a holy day that he is not commanded in.[6]

Nevertheless, this does not mean that Noahides cannot or should not pay attention to the Sabbath or Jewish holidays. There is sometimes much confusion about this. Let’s first explore the Sabbath.

G-d sanctified the Sabbath, and this is a concept that non-Jews can intellectually acknowledge. Moreover, they can also reflect on the creation that He brought about before it. This serves as a positive counterbalance to the denial of a Creator who brought everything into existence through His word. However, non-Jews should not observe the Sabbath with a prohibition on work or specific Jewish rituals. What a non-Jew could do to acknowledge and mark the Sabbath as a special day is to simply rest and take a day off from work, enjoy a delicious meal on Friday night or Saturday with family and friends, set an extra beautiful table, light candles for enhancement, wear extra nice clothing, discuss something from the Torah together, engage in prayers, and read a good book about the Noahide Code.[7]

Now, let’s consider Jewish holidays. It might seem odd for a non-Jew to celebrate Pesach as a commemoration of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt since they are not part of the Jewish people. Similarly, recalling the building of sukkahs in the desert might seem unusual for a non-Jew who hasn’t lived there. However, this does not mean that Jewish holidays lack universal significance relevant to non-Jews. In Mishnah Rosh Hashanah, we read:

בְּאַרְבָּעָה פְרָקִים הָעוֹלָם נִדּוֹן, בְּפֶסַח עַל הַתְּבוּאָה, בַּעֲצֶרֶת עַל פֵּרוֹת הָאִילָן, בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה כָּל בָּאֵי הָעוֹלָם עוֹבְרִין לְפָנָיו כִּבְנֵי מָרוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים לג) הַיּוֹצֵר יַחַד לִבָּם, הַמֵּבִין אֶל כָּל מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם. וּבֶחָג נִדּוֹנִין עַל הַמָּיִם:

At four times of the year the world is judged: On Passover judgment is passed concerning grain; on Shavuot concerning fruits that grow on a tree; on Rosh HaShana, all creatures pass before Him like sheep [benei maron], as it is stated: “He Who fashions their hearts alike, Who considers all their deeds” (Psalms 33:15); and on the festival of Sukkot they are judged concerning water, i.e., the rainfall of the coming year.

When we look at the various holidays, we find the following universal meanings:

  • Rosh Hashanah: All inhabitants of the Earth, including Noahides, are judged based on their deeds. Repentance and judgment hold significant importance for people in general during this period.
  •  Sukkot: During the festival of Sukkot, the abundance and accessibility of fresh water, crucial for drinking, rain, and rivers, are determined. Moreover, during the time of the Temple, offerings and prayers were made on behalf of the 70 nations by the Jewish priests. For Noahides, Sukkot has a dual significance: a day of prayer and acknowledgment of the importance of water, and a time of reconciliation for the nations of the world.
  •  Pesach (Passover): It is important for everyone to be blessed with a world that provides sufficient food for the global population.
  •  Shavuot: For Noahides, the giving of the Torah during Shavuot is particularly important because it reaffirms the Noahide laws, placing them under the umbrella of Sinai.[8]

While delving into all Jewish holidays and memorial days is beyond the scope of this blog, it can be found under the heading “Holidays & Remembrance Days.” Three I’d like to briefly mention: Yom Kippur has no universal significance for Noahides. Tu B’shvat does have universal meaning, and the 9th of Av also holds significance for Noahides.

A Noahide is forbidden to adopt mitzvot that serve as clear signs and commands specifically for Jews, such as wearing ritual fringes (tzitzit) or affixing a mezuzah on a doorpost.

However, commandments that have a logical benefit for the individual or society are allowed. This includes honoring parents, giving charity, circumcision (as long as it is not viewed as a covenant sign), acts of kindness, etc.

Learning Point:

Non-Jews must be aware of the distinction between universal principles relevant to all people and specific Jewish commandments that do not apply to them. In pursuing the Noahide path, non-Jews should adjust their lifestyle accordingly, refraining from adopting specific Jewish rituals without clear logical reasons or societal benefits. Simultaneously, they are encouraged to engage in actions that provide logical benefits for both themselves and society, such as honoring parents, practicing charity, undergoing circumcision without considering it a covenant sign, and performing acts of kindness. Understanding these nuances is crucial for shaping a lifestyle in accordance with the Noahide laws and universal ethical principles.


By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources:

[1] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner 4e edition p. 33
[2] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner 4e edition p. 152
[3] See the difference:

From the Tenach (Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12,):

“After these things G-d tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you… When they came to the place of which G-d had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.”

From the Quran (Surah As-Saffat 37:99-107): “And he (Abraham) said, ‘Indeed, I will go to [where I am ordered by] my Lord; He will guide me. My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.’ So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy. And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, ‘O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.’ He said, ‘O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.'”

While the theme of sacrificing a son is present in both stories, there are clear differences in the specific details and characters between the two traditions.

[4] For this blog, it takes us too far to go into specifics such as a traditional Christmas dinner with the family, without actually celebrating Christmas, and where there could be strife in the family if one does not attend this family tradition. You can find more info about this in this Q&A of AskNoah
[5] For more explanation, also read and watch the following blog, shiur.CAN NOAHIDES OBSERVE SHABBAT?
[6] The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner 4e edition p. 59
[7] Article AskNoah How Noahides should relate to the Seventh Day (Saturday)
[8] The Noahide Laws – Yeshiva Shoshanim

Text: Sefaria.org

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.