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SHAVUOT – AFFIRMATION OF THE 7 NOAHIDE LAWS

בס”ד

Introduction

More than 3,300 years ago, at the foot of Mount Sinai, an extraordinary event unfolded that would change the course of history. On the morning of Sivan 6, the Jewish people stood in awe as Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Torah from G-d. This pivotal moment marked the giving of the Torah, igniting the souls of the people with divine truth. But the miracles didn’t stop there. The Torah resonated in 70 languages, a symbol of its universal significance.

Counting the Omer

After Passover, the Jewish people begin counting the Omer, and after counting 49 days, or 7 weeks, shavuot in Hebrew, the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. According to mystical teachings this counting can be used be the Jewish people for tikkun hamiddot / the improvement of the 49 emotional attributes. The 50 day, Matan Torah is an important moment in time, namely the commemoration of the day more than 3,300 years ago when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai through Moses. It is a Jewish custom to stay awake the entire night on Shavuot, studying Torah.

Shavuot is celebrated outside Israel on the 6th and 7th of Sivan, and in Israel only on the 6th of Sivan. In the year 2024, this falls on June 12th and 13th, respectively.

Noahides and Shavuot

Noahides can celebrate Shavuot because the reception of the Torah on Mount Sinai was not only important for the Jewish people, but also for the entire world. As we read in Shabbat 88a

If Israel accepts the Torah on the sixth day of Sivan, you will exist; and if they do not accept it, I will return you to the primordial state of chaos and disorder. Therefore, the earth was afraid until the Torah was given to Israel, lest it be returned to a state of chaos. Once the Jewish people accepted the Torah, the earth was calmed.

On this special day, another miracle occurred: the Torah was heard in 70 languages. This means that the voice of G-d was translated into all 70 languages spoken at that time. Besides the obvious importance of this miracle – that all people in the world could hear what was happening – it also has a deeper meaning. One might think that not all 613 mitzvot are as special as the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the voice of G-d was divided into 70 languages, to indicate that even the 7 Noahide Laws – the laws for non-Jews who spoke the 70 languages – are just as much a part of the Torah as the Ten Commandments.

The Torah was given on the “third day,” as described in Exodus 19:11

Let them be ready for the third day; for on the third day Hashem will come down, in the sight of all the people, on Mount Sinai. וְהָי֥וּ נְכֹנִ֖ים לַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י כִּ֣י | בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִשִׁ֗י יֵרֵ֧ד ד’ לְעֵינֵ֥י כָל־הָעָ֖ם עַל־הַ֥ר סִינָֽי:

Rashi explains this “third day” was the sixth day of Sivan – also called Matan Torah:

for on the third day: which is the sixth of the month, and on the fifth [of the month], Moses built the altar at the foot of the mountain, and the twelve monuments, the entire episode stated in the section of וְאֵלֶה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים (Exod. 24), but there is no sequence of earlier and later incidents in the Torah. — from Mechilta]

When G-d gave the Torah at Sinai, it symbolized a renewed hope for the world. This is evidenced by the reiteration of the Noahide laws at Sinai.

In Exodus 24:4 , we read that Moses wrote down the words of G-d the day before – on 5 Sivan. These cannot be the words of the Ten Commandments, as they were given on the 6th of Sivan.

Moses then wrote down all the commands of Hashem. Early in the morning, he set up an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. דוַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב משֶׁ֗ה אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ד’ וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֣ם בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וַיִּ֥בֶן מִזְבֵּ֖חַ תַּ֣חַת הָהָ֑ר וּשְׁתֵּ֤ים עֶשְׂרֵה֙ מַצֵּבָ֔ה לִשְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָׂ֖ר שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

What Moses wrote on 5 Sivan is described in the preceding verse, which describes what happened on 4 Sivan. Exodus 24:3 says the following;

Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of Hashem and all the rules; and all the people answered with one voice, saying, “All the things that Hashem has commanded we will do!” וַיָּבֹ֣א משֶׁ֗ה וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר לָעָם֙ אֵ֚ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י ד’ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֑ים וַיַּ֨עַן כָּל־הָעָ֜ם ק֤וֹל אֶחָד֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ד’ נַֽעֲשֶֽׂה

Rashi wrote:

and all the ordinances: The seven commandments that the Noachides were commanded.

He points out to Sanhederin 56b

The Gemara asks with regard to the list of the Noahide mitzvot: Were the descendants of Noah commanded to establish courts of judgment? But isn’t it taught in a baraita: The Jewish people were commanded to observe ten mitzvot when they were in Marah: Seven that the descendants of Noah accepted upon themselves, and G-d added to them the following mitzvot: Judgment, and Shabbat, and honoring one’s father and mother.

Although the people heard the words on 4 Sivan, they had been given earlier, namely when the Jewish people were at Marah. However, the 7 Noahide Laws were, of course, given much earlier, according to the Rambam six to Adam and a seventh to Noah. According Rashi/ Tosefot all 7 were given to Adam.

However, G-d had seen that the nations did not want to abide by these laws and, as it were, had dismissed them from them. We read the following in Avodah Zarah 2b


The Gemara asks: And from where do we derive that they did not fulfill them? As Rav Yosef teaches in explanation of the verse: “He stands, and shakes the earth, He sees, and makes the nations tremble [vayater]” (Habakkuk 3:6): What did G-d see? He saw the seven mitzvot that the descendants of Noah accepted upon themselves, and He saw that they did not fulfill them. Since they did not fulfill them, He arose and nullified for them [vehitiran] the command to heed these mitzvot.


It’s too extensive to explain further in this blog, but in short, the nations were still obligated to observe the 7 Noahide Laws, but they would no longer receive reward in the Olam Haba – the World to Come.

Affirmation of the 7 Noahide Laws

It is important for a non-Jew to accept the Noahides Laws with the intention to observe them because G-d confirmed these commandments at Sinai through Moses.

The Mishneh Torah, Kings and Wars 8:11 says:      

Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of ‘the pious among the gentiles’ and will merit a share in the World to Come.
This applies only when he accepts them and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moses, our teacher, that Noah’s descendants had been commanded to fulfill them previously. However, if he fulfills them out of intellectual conviction, he does noet merit a portion in the World to Come.

G-d’s affirmation of the 7 Noahide Laws on 4 Sivan makes it an appropriate time for Noahides to reflect on their commandments, to reread and study them. Noahides don’t have to stay up the entire night on Shavuot as Jews do, but it sets a good example to study the 7 Noahide Laws around 4 Sivan or on those days.

Although a Noahide can pledge to Hashem in his own words at any time to observe the 7 Noahide Laws, the need is felt by many to do so more officially. This can be done by publicly confessing the Affirmation. This does not have to be done in front of a Bet Din, a rabbinic court, but for many it will add value to be able to do this in front of 3 Orthodox Jewish Rabbis.

A certificate captures this moment in time that one can draw support from in times when life offers challenges.

You can read about how a Noahide could perform the Affirmation in the blog:

JOURNEY OF COMMITMENT – NOAHIDE AFFIRMATION

The 7 Noahide Laws

The 7 Noahide Laws are:

  • 1 The prohibition of Idolatry – Belief in G-d
  • 2 The prohibition of Blasphemy – Bless  G-d (do not curse G-d)
  • 3 The prohibition of Murder and Injury – Guard the sanctity of Human life
  • 4 The prohibition of Eating Meat that was Removed from a Living Animal – Respect Animal life and don’t be cruel
  • 5The prohibition of Theft – Respect Ownership and property of another person
  • 6 The prohibition of Forbidden Sexual Relations – Respect Family life
  • 7 The obligation for Laws and Courts – Prevent injustice.

If you want to learn more about these 7 Noahide Laws, we highly recommend the booklet ‘Go(od) for You’. You can find this on our bookpage on the website.

Possible Additions to a Festive Day


It is told that when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai, it suddenly became covered with beautiful flowers and greenery, even though it was normally a barren and rocky mountain. This was a sign of G-d’s love and care for His people, and it has become a Jewish custom to decorate synagogues and homes with greenery and flowers. Noahides can adopt this tradition and decorate their homes and gathering spaces beautifully if they find this meaningful.

Overview of the first six days of Sivan

This overview is a chronological timeline to illustrates the buildup to the receipt of the Torah on Sivan 6 and places the confirmation of the Seven Noahide Laws on Sivan 4 in the context of the days before. It is not a prescription for religious observance.

  • Sivan 6: Receipt of the Ten Commandments.
  • Sivan 5: Writing down, among other things, the seven commandments.
  • Sivan 4: Confirmation of the Seven Noahide Laws by G-d, after the people promised to heed them.
  • Sivan 3: Moses ascends Mount Sinai again, reports to G-d, receives His next instructions, and descends to convey the Jewish people’s answers to G-d.
  • Sivan 2: Moses ascends to the top of Mount Sinai to receive instructions from G-d, and then descends. G-d tells Moses that He not only wants to give the Torah to the Jews, but also wants to make them His chosen, holy nation who will follow His commandments. The Jews wholeheartedly agree, responding, “All that G-d has spoken, we will do.”
  • Sivan 1 (Rosh Chodesh): The Jews reach Sinai and encamp at the foot of the mountain.

Learning Points


Receiving the Torah: 3,300 years ago, G-d gave the Torah on Mount Sinai, shaping Jewish identity forever.

The Significance of Shavuot: Commemorating the giving of the Torah, Shavuot is a time for study and reflection.

Miracle of Languages: The Torah was heard in 70 languages, emphasizing its universal significance.

Renewed Hope: G-d affirmed the Noahide laws, offering hope for a better world.

Confirmation at Sinai: The reiteration of Noahide laws underscores their importance.

The 7 Noahide Laws: Basic moral laws for all humanity, signifying universal ethics.

Celebrating Shavuot: Noahides can celebrate Shavuot, reflecting on their commandments.

Decorative Tradition: Adopting the custom of adorning spaces with greenery and flowers. (There are some communities who are not doing this, because of the Vilna Gaon’s ruling, because it resembles what non-Jews do on their holidays.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources

[1] Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer oh Midrash Sheloshim VeShtayim Middos. Ed. H. G. Enelow. Bloch Publishing New York, 1933

Article Chabad: What Is Shavuot?
Article Chabad: Shavuot
Article Chabad: What Happened at Matan Torah?, and Shmos Rabbah, end of ch. 28.
Time-line AskNoah
Text: Sefaria.org

See also the blog: Parshat Mishpatim – Where Do We Find the 7 Noahides Laws?

With Thanks to Rabbi Tani Burton for the feedback

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