Commandments between Man and G-d
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz (Jerusalem Court for Bnei Noah)
The basis of all commandments is the belief that G-d who is the creator of all things, and capable of doing everything, has commanded us to fulfill them. Habakkuk summed it up by stating that a righteous person shall live through his belief. Also in Chapter 9:23 of Jeremiah it is stated: “But let he who glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the L-rd who exercises loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the world: for it is these things that I desire, says the L-rd.”
The Gaon, Rabbi Shmuel Ben Hafni, stated that the important commandment for the people of other nations is the belief that the L-rd our G-d is the Creator and director of the world, that He is actively involved in the lives of every person and that He is One.
The Rambam writing to Rav Hasdai stated: “Quoting from our sages, the righteous people from other nations have a place in the world to come, if they have acquired what they should learn about the Creator.”
In the category of the belief in the one true G-d, the seven commandments to the children of Noah include the prohibitions against worshiping other gods and against blasphemy (which includes professing atheism). There are, of course, many commandments connected with the belief in the one true G-d. They include:
- Loving G-d
- Praying to Him
- Thanking Him for His generosity
- Trusting Him
- Honoring Him
- Sanctifying his Holy Name
- Prohibiting the desecration of his Holy Name
- Moving away from those who do not believe in Him such as atheists, infidels and impious people
- Having a direct relationship with Him, not through any intermediaries. This is why it is forbidden to pray among others to any angels or to the dead or to any person past, present or future!
(a) Loving G-d: Inasmuch as the Israelites were commanded not only to love G-d, but that they should also teach all mankind to love G-d, we see that all people are supposed to love Him. One of the first to do so was Abraham the Patriarch (Sifri Vetchanan), and in the Sefer Mitzvot it says, “This mitzvah [loving G-d] includes that we should call every human being to believe in Him and worship only Him… See to it that you make Him beloved to your fellow men just as your forefather Abraham did.”
(b) Praying to G-d: Noah was punished for not praying so that his fellow men might be saved from the flood. According to the sages (Zohar Leviticus p15b)., this is the reason that the flood is named after Noah. However, the destruction of Sodom is another case. This event is not named after Abraham because he did pray to save the people of Sodom before it was destroyed. One type of prayer is a request by a human being to G-d. There is also a thanksgiving prayer that is an important obligation from a person for all the things for which he is thankful such as: his occupation that gives him a livelihood, health, family, etc. and especially if something good has occurred to him personally. This brings us to thanksgiving.
(c) Thanking G-d for His generosity: Again the best example is from Abraham. In the Gemara Sota: 10, Abraham in Beersheva would invite people to eat and drink with him. At the end of the meal he would request from them that they should bless and thank G-d for his generosity.
(d) Trusting in G-d: Joseph was punished by two years being added to his stay in prison because he requested help in getting a prison release from Pharaoh’s wine chief instead of putting his full trust in G-d (Genesis Rabbah 29:3).
(e) Honoring G-d: To honor one’s father and one’s mother is a threshold to honoring the heavenly Creator Father who begat us. One should honor and give credit to all wise Torah teachers and sages, especially those who teach you Torah. He who does not fully honor his Torah teachers dishonors G-d. A person must be very careful in fulfilling this commandment. To give honor to G-d, he must give honor to the Torah and to its wise teachers. Honoring G-d also extends to honoring all of G-ds creations because they are His creations. In particular one should honor elderly persons because these persons have most likely witnessed in their lifetime many instances of G-d’s intervention. Through my giving honor to them I am honoring someone who recognizes the greatness of the Creator. The importance of fulfilling oaths and vows made in G-d’s name can be understood in the framework of giving honor to G-d.
(f) To be willing to make every effort for the Sanctification of His Holy Name: There are opinions that in some situations, a non-Israelite is even called upon to die as a martyr to protect the honor of G-d (i.e. not to worship other gods). All agree that he must be willing to die rather than to commit murder. The person must know that everything occurring is according to the will of G-d and accept it without complaining against Him. This commandment is part of the previous one.
(g) Prohibition against desecrating G-d’s name: This was one of the reasons that the people of Sodom were punished. In this respect a G-d fearing person must be especially careful in the manner in which he conducts himself. If he does not act properly, others will point to him and say. “Look how unethically (or however badly) that person is acting and he is a believer in G-d.” This constitutes a desecration of His name in an indirect way.
(h) Not Having Fellowship With Unbelievers and Impious People: Relations with unbelievers are only for the purpose already mentioned before. It is the duty of everyone to ensure that all human beings believe in the one true G-d and do His will. Consequently a person must be extremely careful that he does not bring another person to sin by his association with the ungodly. Psalms 1:1 says. “Happy is the man who has not been walked/followed after the advice of wicked men, who has not stood/lingered on the path of immoral men, and who has not sat [or made his permanent dwelling] with scoffers.” This is especially true when participating in religious services where the ritual or sermons, songs or prayers are violating the Torah.
- Walking in the Halacha
Faith is Emunah, what you believe, while Halacha means how you walk or conduct yourself in practice of what you believe. We do the things we do because we are what we are. A man will practice what he believes. If he professes to believe in righteousness, but practices unrighteousness, he is a practical, practicing atheist. “Noah was a righteous man in his generation.” “Noah walked with G-d.” “Noah found grace in the eyes of G-d” (Genesis 5:8, 6:9).