We are honored to feature this article, specially written for First Covenant, by Rabbi David Eidensohn, of Monsey, New York.
For more about Rabbi Eidensohn, see below.
Jew and Noahide
By Rabbi David Eidensohn
What is a Jew? What is a Noahide? What is a gentile? What, for that matter, is a pagan? All these are souls created by God to be placed into clay bodies. Challenge and spirituality thus exist, in all of us, side by side. Inside our collective essence, soul and body, spiritual and otherwise, is our “self,” and this must decide each moment how to proceed.
A Jew can, in one moment, become a pagan. A pagan can, in one moment, become a saint. The Talmud tells of a rabbi being burnt to death by a Roman executioner. The rabbi was wrapped in a Torah scroll, and was being punished for defying the Romans and teaching Torah publicly. As the Torah scroll burned, and the rabbi suffered, the executioner sensed a mighty holiness, and began to fear. He turned to the rabbi and repented. A heavenly voice went forth, “Rabbi Chanina and the executioner are prepared for Eternal Bliss.” Rabbi Judah the Prince heard of this and cried out, “Some earn their paradise in one moment.” We can earn our paradise in one moment, or we can lose it all in one moment. Each moment is therefore truly powerful and important.
God created the universe without Jews. Adam and Eve were not Jews. For two thousand years Noahides were the population and the clergy of the human race. Even Abraham, when he began his path to serve God, brought tithes to a gentile, Malki-Tsedek, the High Priest of the Noahides. Finally, God gave the role of clergy to Israel, and He gave them a Torah at Sinai. But the basic thrust of humanity was originally for Noahides. What happened then?
Adam and Eve, created directly by God, did not succeed in passing on the spiritual path of heaven to their progeny. Two thousand years after Adam and Eve, a new era began with Abraham.
God patiently waited for someone in the Noahide family of nations to search for Him. But things were going in the wrong direction. Cain killed Abel. People sinned and God brought the Flood. A few hundred years after the Flood, people began sinning again, this time building a Tower of paganism and rebellion against God. When God confused the tongues of the builders of the Tower, Abraham searched for God and found Him. This began the Jewish people.
But what about the Noahides?
The bible and the rabbinical literature make it clear that exile of Israel is a central theme of the Torah. As soon as God made His covenant with Abraham He specified that Israel would go into exile, a terrible one. This is the lot of Israel. But why?
The gemora says that the reason God constantly exiles Israel is not just because of their sin; it is so that gentiles can see Jews and learn about Torah. Thus Israel lives with exiles in order to provide a light unto the nations, for the nations. The purpose of Creation, therefore, is for Israel, as a clergy of the human race, to inspire gentiles. Some would convert and become Jews; some would convert from paganism and become Noahides.
Are we doing what we can to promote Torah on the universal level? Or are we keeping the secret for ourselves? The rabbis say, “One who loves God wants to spread the teaching of Torah to others.” This was the way of Abraham.
And this must be our way. True, the world often seems mired in the antithesis of Torah. But in one moment, the lowest executioner can become inspired to repent and reach the heights of spirituality.
We must speak to ourselves. We must find inside a spark and a love that can only be nourished by lighting others with a love of Torah.