The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the seven universal laws
Geschreven door Michael Dallen
Bron: The first covenant foundation
Dit boek is niet te bestellen via een Nederlandse boekhandel, maar alleen via een Amerikaanse boekenhandels zoals Amazone. Om een indruk te krijgen van het boek kun je hier de eerste twee blazijdes lezen van een aantal hoofdstukken. Scroll voor de hoofdstukken door naar benenden naar pagina index.
The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the seven universal laws
by Michael Dallen
Foreword by Rabbi Michael Katz
Published by Lightcatcher Books (Springdale, Arkansas) and the Rainbow Covenant Foundation (New York, New York), 2003
Library of Congress
Control Number: 2003102494
And God spoke unto Noah, and to Noah’s children with him, saying, ‘And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you.’ – Genesis 9:8-9
————————–Table of Contents / Excerpts——————————
Preface [p. i]
Foreword by Rabbi Michael Katz [p. vii]
Introduction [p. xi]
BOOK ONE – The Rainbow Covenant
1. The Permanent Revolution: Sinai [p. 3]
2. The Torah Revolution: Revolutionary Texts 
3. Written Law and Oral Law: The Other Torah 
4. The Rainbow Covenant: Wisdom for the World 
5. Revealed Law: Beginning Noahide Precepts 
6. Unfolding the Code: Theory and Practice 
7. Who Decides What? New Approaches 
BOOK TWO – The Seven Universal Laws
1. Common Principles [p. 91]
2. Dietary Laws 
3. Laws Against Larceny 
4. Sex Laws 
5. Laws Against Murder 
6. Laws Against Lawlessness 
7. Laws Against Sacrilege 
8. Laws Against Idolatry 
Appendix – Revolutionary Doctrine: Israel’s Thirteen Principles of Faith 
Sources and Materials 
Index [p. 343]
About the Author 
And God spoke unto Noah, and to Noah’s children with him, saying, And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you. — Genesis 9:8-9
Seven was a special number to the ancient Israelites. It symbolized the completion and perfection of God’s Creation. The people of Israel believed that God gave the whole human race a set of laws which would lead men and all the children of men to a coming glorious golden age. According to the Hebrews’ ancient tradition, God originally gave humanity six Commandments, and the ordinances that accompany them, by inscribing them on the hearts of Adam and Eve. Ten generations later, He initiated the famous Rainbow Covenant of the Bible’s Book of Genesis. See Genesis 9. He gave all Seven Commandments, including a commandment forbidding certain vile crimes against the natural world, to Noah and Noah’s family.1
Noah’s descendants failed to completely transmit the Law to later generations. Slavery, tribalism, violence, and all the terrible pathologies of paganism degraded the human race.ii The Rainbow Covenant So Heaven, still holding out hope for humanity, tried a slower but surer revolutionary, text-oriented approach. Ten generations after Noah, God taught these seven Commandments to the prophet Abraham, and six generations after Abraham, to Moses. Moses taught them to his people, Israel, and inscribed them in the Bible with loving care. The Seven Rainbow Covenant ommandments represent, in essence, a larger Code of detailed, logically implicit moral and ethical statutes, ordinances, and rules.2 These laws are, according to Israel’s tradition, Divinely revealed. God gave them to humanity’s legendary common ancestors for the good of all mankind, forever. In fact, taking all Seven Commandments together, they constitute the universal, fundamental code of upright human behavior.3
Moses directed his ministry to Israel. From Moses’ time to the present, Israel’s rabbis4 have taught that, through Moses, the Master of the Universe gave the Hebrews Ten Commandments — including a Code of 613 laws, revealed to Israel in the Sinai desert — and obligated the Jews to serve Him in a unique way.5 This Law, Israel’s Ten Commandments’ Code, makes up the revolutionary constitution — the Torah, the “Guidance,” “Teaching” or “Law” — of Moses’ so-called “people of priests.”6 It rules Israel, and Israel alone.7 But Moses taught that God calls on everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike, to live up to the equally revolutionary moral standards — His Code of Seven Rainbow Covenant Commandments — that He gave to Noah and his children.
One cannot understand the Bible’s total scheme, the nature or purpose of the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel, or, for that matter, of the whole human race, without coming to terms with these Universal commandments. The study of the Seven Commandments is said to provide great advantages. Scripture promises the student knowledge, understanding, riches and might.8 Such study exalts and magnifies a person, according to the Hebrews’ ancient law: He9 will be called friend, beloved of God, lover of God, and lover of humanity.10 Every human being who lives what he learns of that moral life, who fulfills the Universal Law, merits eternal and infinite reward.11 As the Christian Scriptures put it, the Jews and their teachers “sit in Moses’ seat” as the “authorized custodians” of God’s Law.12 Israel’s obligation to transmit His Universal laws to others is much of the reason, Israel’s Sages wrote, for the Jews’ dispersion among the nations.13 Every Jew is expected to try to establish the laws and true morality of the Rainbow Covenant wherever possible.14 Because, if the people of Israel know anything about it at all, nothing less than the basic nature of the future is riding on the outcome. As the Jewish prophets and more than a hundred generations of Hebrew sages and mystics have believed and yearned for it, the nations’ general acceptance of these laws will usher in a new stage in planetary history, a golden era of realized human potential, which Jewish scholars describe as the Messianic Age.15
1. See Genesis 9:8-18 (note the seven separate references to ‘covenant’) and commentaries; Mishnah Tosefta, Avoda Zorah 9:4; Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a,74b, Nedarim 31a; Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 16:6, 24:5, 34:8, Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:25. For more on these sources see, particularly, Yehuda HaLevi (c. 1075-1141 CE) HaKuzari 3:73.
2. Talmud, Sanhedrin 57a (near the end), 74b (in the name of Rava), Avoda Zorah 14b, Hullin 92a; Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, c. 1040-1105 CE) on Sanhedrin 75a; Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides, Rambam, c. 1135-1204 CE), Mishneh Torah (Yad), Hilchot Melachim 9:9; Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Nachmanides, Ramban, c. 1194-1270 CE), Pirush al haTorah (Commentary on the Torah) on Genesis 26:5; Rabbi Menachem ben Shlomo Me’iri, Beit haBechira (c. 1270 CE) on Sanhedrin 59a; Sefer HaHinnuch (c. 1300 CE), Imperative 424; Encyclopedia Talmudica (Talmudic Encyclopedia Institute, Jerusalem, Israel, 1992), Vol. 4, “Ben Noah”; Aaron Lichtenstein, The Seven Laws of Noah (The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press/Z. Berman Books, New York NY, 1981, 2d ed. 1986); Nahum Rakover, “Jewish Law and the Noahide Obligation to Preserve Social Order” with Suzanne Last Stone, “Sinaitic and Noahide Law: Legal Pluralism in Jewish Law,” 12 Cardozo Law Review, pp. 1073/1137 (New York NY, 1991). That each commandment makes up a representative general category containing many particulars should be obvious: look within, for instance, at the single commandment against sexual immorality, forbidding such various specific sins as adultery, incest, bestiality, etc.
3. Talmud, Sanhedrin 56a-56B, 74b, 75a, Yad Hilchat Malachim 9:1.
4. “Rabbi” is Hebrew, literally meaning “my master,” “my teacher.” “Rabbenu” — “our rabbi,” a term of endearment or special affection.
5. See, e.g., Leviticus 26:42-45; Deuteronomy 7:7-11, Jeremiah 31:33; Psalm 147:19-20. See also Talmud, Yoma 4b, Sanhedrin 59a, Shabbat 87a. “All of the [Torah’s] 613 Commandments are included in the Ten Commandments.” — Rashi (classic commentary) on Exodus 24:12. The Hebrew for commandment is mitzvah, from a root meaning “connection.” The Seven Commandments are the Sheva (7) Mitzvot; the 613 laws that directly command Israel are known as the Taryag (613) Mitzvot.
6. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6. See Isaiah 2:3, 26:2, 45:22.
7. See, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:8 and 33:4: Psalm 147:19-20; Talmud, Sanhedrin 59a.
8. See Proverbs 8.
9. Or she, obviously. This book follows the traditional gender conventions of English grammar. No offense intended: “mankind” and “man” both refer inclusively to womankind and women.
10. Psalm 1:1-2; Mishnah, Pirke Avot 6:1.
11. See Genesis 12:3; Psalm 25; Mishnah Tosefta, Sanhedrin 13:2; Talmud, Sanhedrin 105a; Mishneh Torah (Maimonides’ Yad Hazakah), Hilchot Melachim 8:11. Also see Job 19:26; Ecclesiastes 12:7.
12. Matthew 23:2: “Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees [i.e., Judaism’s mainstream rabbis and religious writers] sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.’” See Matthew 5:18-19.
13. 1 Kings 8:41-43; Isaiah 56:1-8. See Talmud, Pesachim 87b.
14. See Isaiah 2:3; Psalm 96:3,10; Sifra (Midrash) on Leviticus 22:32; Mishneh Torah (Yad), Hilchot Melachim 8:10. [Maimonides wrote the Mishneh Torah (“Repetition of the Torah,” per Deuteronomy 17:18; Joshua 8:32), the Yad Hazaka (“Strong Hand,” per Exodus 6:1; Deuteronomy 7:8,19), or simply the Yad (“Hand” — this also being the name of the customary pointer, a miniature silver hand, that directs the reader of a Torah scroll). The Yad, an immensely authoritative work consisting of fourteen volumes — Hebrew letters have numeric values too; the letters that make up yad add up to fourteen — of stupendous Torah erudition, precision, and remarkably reliable authority, shouldn’t be confused with the much larger and much more ancient Mishnah (“Teaching”). The Mishnah, together with the Gemara, or Talmud, is regarded as the Oral Torah.]
15. See Isaiah 11:9; Daniel 7:27; Zechariah 2:15; Psalm 96:9-10; Hosea
2:25; Talmud, Berachot 54b; Yad, Hilchot Melachim 12:4-5.
Mankind cannot rise to the essentialprinciples on which society must rest unless it meets with Israel. And Israel cannot fathom the deeps of its own national and religious tradition unless it meets with mankind. — R. Elijah Benamozegh1
I set out through this book to provide you with a simple, readable introduction to the Seven Commandments of the Rainbow Covenant. The effort began years ago and “simple and readable” eventually took second place to finally delivering a finished product. Still, the treatment here is really nothing more than common sense analysis based, I hope, on Torah — that immense body of Divine legislation, so closely related to the Noahide Law that God entrusted to Israel. The Noahide laws establish minimal guidelines — practical guidelines — of acceptable human behavior, while also pointing all of us to the Torah’s countless welcoming “paths of righteousness.”2
According to an ancient Hebrew tradition, God revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai in the seventy languages of the nations of the world.3 Israel says, similarly, that the one Torah shows man seventy faces or dimensions.4 And it’s certain that, if a student happens upon two seemingly contradictory teachings based on Torah, he can often truly say, “I think they are both right—both are the words of the Living God.”5 So long as one studies with humility and pure intentions, even the hottest dispute that revolves around the holy Book will — as the sages say — end with love.6 One starts by trying to contemplate just one of the Torah’s faces. “When you are able to do so, you won’t need words of explanation, for it is the Eternal face that is talking to you, visually and directly.”7
Keep My Commandments, and live; and My Law as the apple of your eye. — Proverbs 7:2
My effort here has been to reveal a face of the Torah as I see it, to help give you the foundation necessary to discover further dimensions of Torah for yourself. So I incorporated more than a few footnotes — not just as a way of concentrating information, still less to distress you with the style — and earnestly ask you to use them. Please, go to the sources, not only to uncover my mistakes — I hope there aren’t many — but to develop your own understanding.
Most religions are man-made. Except for one, all of humanity’s religions either: 1) emerged from tribal prehistoric nature myths, lacking any original literate tradition or ethical pretensions, like the amoral nature religions of ancient Greece, Japan and Rome; or 2) began with a single individual who claimed to have a special message. He would gather a following and his followers would spread his word, winning converts until a new religion was born. Most of the great world religions followed this second pattern.8 The religion of Israel did not. While Abraham prepared the way, the Hebrew Revolution really began only at Mount Sinai. God proclaimed His message to an entire people there. Every man, woman and child heard Him; the whole nation of Israel became His priests. So the religion of Israel, if we can call it that—rather than a mere faith or just a system of belief, it’s an entire way of life, a way of eating, thinking, and knowingly trying to embody righteousness — is unique.
The First Commandment: Laws Against Idolatry
Know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord alone is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. — Deuteronomy 4:391
The King of the Universe warns and beseeches not only Israel but every creature with the ears to hear and the brain to heed this eternal, Universal Commandment:
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”2
For it is the principal object of the Law, and the axis around which it turns, to blot out these [idolatrous] opinions from man’s heart and make the existence of idolatry impossible. — Maimonides 3 All Divine law comes back to the same all-important point: You shall have no other god nor gods but God, your Maker; whatever other allegiances you may have, you owe your first and last allegiance to the One holy Lord Who sustains you. He Who Created you to honor, follow and worship Him alone reveals this to you (through Israel, His special agent): you shall follow no spirit, force or deity besides God; you shall worship no one and nothing created but only Him, the Creator, your Judge.
People make their bellies their gods, their fine clothes their law, and their household maintenance their ethics. — Ibn Yosef 4
An idol is a false god, a non-god — an imagined or created “god” other than God. Man, the only creature that directly confronts the Universe as he knows it as a thinking individual,5 must always follow either gods or God. Because man needs to devote himself to a leader, a cause, or at least some concept of ultimate good, to guide him. God Created us so, for our own good, for His greater Glory.6[T]here is no god but He in Whom the people of Israel believe.
— Muhammed 7
We — human beings — are creatures who always seek to know who and what and where we are. We constantly need to center ourselves, to fix our position, as it were, in real existence. From the time we can speak we spend almost every waking moment orienting ourselves to personally ruling concepts of ultimate goodness and final purpose. Man takes all those concepts, all his values, from his highest allegiances. In other words, we all pursue either gods or God. Idolatry describes the act of worshipping a non-god: of following, with attachment and devotion, any thing or being or appetite or power instead of or in preference to the One Eternal God. Of course some kinds of idolatry are grosser and more overt than others. One thinks of wild pagan blood-cults. But conforming to peer pressure instead of conscience — what one knows or should know to be right, joined to one’s fear of the AllKnowing Judge — also exemplifies idolatry.
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the Commandments is Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is One Lord.— Mark 12:29 8
Introducing as it does the foremost Teaching of the Hebrew Revolution,9 the law against idolatry outweighs all other Commandments.10 Maimonides puts it first among the Noahide laws.11 Whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, a Ben Israel or a Ben Noah, whoever professes idolatry rejects the entirety — the basis, the essence — of God’s Law.12 At the same time, as the rabbis say, whoever genuinely rejects idolatry affirms Israel’s entire Torah.13
Mystics associate this Commandment with the violet, or purple, of the rainbow. Purple is seen as the royal color, indicating honor and distinction, related to God’s Sovereignty.14 The purple makes up one of the rainbow’s borders, lying opposite theband of dark brown or deepest red that forms the other – the two colors together encapsulating all the other colors between them. Futher, if this deep red band that constitutes the rainbow’s base can be said to symbolize the rule of God’s Law, 15 the purple, or violet, that forms the rainbow’s other border can only stand for Him: that is, for the perfect Unity of the sole Lawgiver Himself.
The Second Commandment: Laws Against Sacrilege
So honest and frank when addressing most other enormities, Israel’s Sages refer to this Second Universal law only in guarded terms. They describe the core crime here as “blessing the Name” — the holy Name of God.1
The true crime, of course, doesn’t involve blessing but cursing, profaning His holy Name.2 Name means identity. “As is his name, so is he.”3
Among human beings, the world’s only creatures who use language to think, a name represents the essence of its bearer. You shall not profane My holy Name. — Leviticus 22:32
Profaning the Lord’s Name — bringing anything directly associated with God into contempt or disrepute, by word or deed — is blasphemy. But this gets into English semantics, muddling Hebrew Revolutionary concepts. Profane comes from two Latin words, pro and fanum, meaning “outside the temple.” That is, secular, desanctified, unholy. Blasphemy comes from Greek and means “evil-speaking,” or impious, godless, god-defying speaking. We could wish for tools more precise than all that Greek and Latin offer to handle the deep and important laws within.
Here would be the place to deal with the most abhorrent of crimes, blasphemy, but the author recoils in horror from doing so. — R. Samson Raphael Hirsch4
Blasphemy and idolatry both belong to the same family of crimes. The two Commandments against them are closely linked,each referring to the other. So it’s difficult to speak of either Commandment alone, without connection to the other. Only man — humanity — treasures sacred symbols, ideas, or language; only human beings feel any inclination to protect them. One can define man as a creature who defends the symbols that are sacred to him. We are also a species, the only species, that both wants and needs to put a fence around the sacred, to protect it from injury — to save it from defilement.
Clearly, no finite being could ever harm the Master of the Universe. He is infinite and eternal; He is the never-changing allpowerful Creator, the Foundation of the entire cosmos, of this and every universe.5 That any man or men could harm Him, God!, in any way . . . the very suggestion is idiculous.6 The truth, which is widely recognized, is that “human nature cannot bear blasphemy.”7 This is a crime that poisons civilizations; a sin — an error and a failing — that attacks man’s mind, sickens his soul, and often even goads him into war.8 Basically, any human action leading others to denigrate or undervalue the things and beings they should esteem is blasphemous, or sacrilegious.9 Blasphemy defames what is holy. It attacks man’s important treasure, his individual relationship to the Ultimate — to God. It attacks the proper idea of God.10 This, “the most abhorrent of crimes,” also presents us with a special challenge. One turns to the great authorities only to find them reluctant to speak on the subject, or willing to discuss it only in very ginger, general terms. Most treatments focus only on narrow aspects of the crime. Of course “blessing the Name” relates especially to speech — to utterance — and the human aptitude for language.
Mystics associate this Rainbow Covenant Commandment with the color orange. 13 Orange “reflects different aspects of the colors which are similar to it” — such as the rainbow’s red (see “Laws against murder”) , the yellow of the laws against larceny, and the deeper red of the laws against anarchy or lawlessnes—- but wich each lack orange’s “all-embracing natue”14
The Third Commandment: Laws Against Lawlessness
Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 1 — Isaiah 1:17
Where is the God of justice?” asked the prophet Malachi.2 Not that the prophet didn’t know. Oppression and injustice deny God. He Whose very holy Name3 is Justice is most evident when we live it among ourselves. Accordingly, God commands us — the human race — to stand up for Him on the Earth where He’s put us to establish laws and fight for Him against injustice. This is a negative Commandment, a prohibition.4 God hates injustice; so should all of us. Man is Divinely obligated to act against it, as a matter of Universal law.5 How do we oppose injustice? By setting up a system of laws, police and courts against it, and by refusing to passively accept it as a fixture of social life. Anarchy is not the path of justice; people must live by civic laws.6 Note that Moses established Israel’s system of courts, police and judges before the people ever even got to Sinai.7
Let justice rise up as the waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. — Amos 5:24 8
Man has no right to leave all judgment up to Heaven. “The Judge of all the world”9 judges each man and woman individually, but “no man is an island, entire of itself.”10 God created Israel as a unique instrument to promote “charity and judgment” in the world,11 but the Torah doesn’t just speak about Jews to Jews. Rather, “all men are responsible for one another.”12 Human beings are social beings. Everyone belongs to someone, to some society, nation-state or culture. So God also judges people collectively, in our respective nations and our generations.13
If there is no justice, there is no peace. — R. Bachya ben Asher 14
Injustice is a negation of religion.15 Because the problem is a social one, this Third Universal Commandment addresses people both as individuals and on the collective level. God requires each of us to pursue justice in his everyday relations with other creatures, to act in a just and upright manner personally.16 The Hebrew Revolution’s most basic, general Rule of conduct is the Golden Rule: “what is hateful to you, do not do unto another.”17 To fail to act when the time comes to act, to take a decent public stand against injustice, is both hateful and a crime in the Noahide law. In fact, it carries a possible capital penalty.18 Because the God of justice also commands men to pursue justice collectively, as social beings — as responsible members of society.19
Mystics associate this Commandment with the dark brown or deepest red of the rainbow — that is, with the initial band of color, the foundation. In other words, it’s seen as the point of departure or the underpinning for the other colors and Commandments. In a sense, this is the reality underlying the whole structure.20
Oppression and injustice deny God. Law and order is fundamental to the stability that makes civilization possible. Laws must be just. Order must not be oppressive. At a minimum, every nation is Divinely obligated to establish effective systems and institutions to justly enforce the terms of the Universal Commandments.21 They must render decisions founded upon the Universal Laws, and teach and admonish the people concerning the Law’s observance. 22
The Fourth Commandment: Laws Against Murder
Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God. — Mishnah1
God commands all men and all women, including every Gentile and every Jew, “You shall not commit murder.”2 The Hebrew phrase is lo tir’tzach; it doesn’t mean “you shall not kill” but, in precise prohibitory language, “you shall not deliberately kill an innocent human being.”3
Behold, all souls are Mine. — Ezekiel 18:4
Obviously, people may kill plants and animals for food.4 Man has a perfect right to kill, at times, as he exercises the privileges of worldly dominion. Since dominion involves duties and responsibilities as well as privileges, God sometimes even requires people to kill, in certain circumstances, to preserve justice and maintain order, as His stewards over the Earth. Soldiers must sometimes kill their nations’ enemies in wartime.5
Courts may execute criminals who have been justly convicted of terrible crimes.6 A person may, or even must, use killing force if necessary to protect oneself or others.7 The real nature of man is the issue here. This Commandment centers around these three very basic Torah principles: everyone on Earth is truly “of ” God; every living person is an “image” of and a child of God, and all of us belong to Him.8 As we all have the same Heavenly Parent, Who also happens to be our Owner, we see that God has made each of us ultimately a brother or sister to everyone else — to the whole species of man.9 Further, because God deliberately created all of us, alone of all His earthly creatures, in His very “Image,” we understand that God especially cherishes humanity, above His other creations, and that all of us partake, in some sense, of the infinite holiness of our Maker.10 Since any fraction of infinity is itself infinite, everyone born of a human mother — regardless of any bodily, emotional or mental defects, infirmities or wounds — has infinite value. Since infinity equals infinity, we see that man by his very nature must never “trade flesh,” or sacrifice even the least of his brothers in order to save one or some of the rest.11 No one’s blood is any sweeter than the blood of anyone else.12
Whoever destroys a single human life is considered by the Torah as if he had destroyed an entire world. . . . — Mishnah13
No other crime so defiles the earth.14 Murder deforms civilizations; it pollutes them and the very places where it occurs; it overturns the natural order of the world.15 Murder constitutes a kind of blasphemy.
Only a murderer altogether renounces the obligations of brotherhood. — J.H. Hertz16
God has so much love for humanity, the rabbis teach, that He has made all men aware, and not merely Israel, that man exists in His Holy “image.”17 To deliberately and wrongfully take such a life, before God Himself has called for it, is like erasing God’s image, like assaulting the world’s Creator. It’s a completely irrevocable, terrible, arrogation of Divinity’s own jealously held prerogatives. God will hold the murderer to account as if he had diminished God’s Divinity.18 Mystics associate this Fourth Universal Commandment with the red of the rainbow.19 Traditionally, study begins with the Lord’s warning and Command to all men: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of every man, even every man for his brother-man, will I require the life of man. Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his
The Fifth Commandment: Sex Laws
A man shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is an abomination. Nor with any animal, to defile yourself therewith. Nor shall any woman defile herself thereby: it is perversion. 1 Never defile yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations which I cast out before you are defiled: And the land is defiled. — Leviticus 18:22-25
Of all God’s laws, the prohibitions that most people find most difficult to keep are those pertaining to perverse sex.2 Sheer ignorance has a good deal to do with this. If more people simply knew what His law requires, they would surely find it easier to keep. Human beings are sexual beings. Our Maker knows it. Based on His total awareness of our actual nature, He doesn’t command us to suppress our animal urges but only to express and channel them appropriately. His law simply sets out the line between the wholesome and the unwholesome. Guiding animals by their instincts, the same Holy God who created human sexuality gives us law and not just instinct to guide thinking beings — human beings — in His Ways. Rather than condemning the union of a man with a woman, the Revolutionary Tradition celebrates heterosexual love.3 Sexual intercourse can — and should — be a source of great holiness and purity.4
Man does not fulfill his destiny without woman, nor woman without man, nor the two together without the Divine Presence among them. — Midrash5
Sexual love can bring people much closer to God. Our Creator didn’t give us our sexual appetites just to ensure reproduction: the love between a man and a woman expands their capacity to love Him; it can magnify both their power and their inclination to follow Him.6 Sex may even be a means to become more directly like Him. Mystics say that, just as God has, in a spiritual sense, both masculine and feminine characteristics — He created man and woman “in His own Image,” “male and female He created them”7 — and would be imperfect except as these two aspects of His Being are perfectly united, a man must join with a woman, and a woman with a man, to unite the two aspects, to make a fully complete human being.8
Many scholars disdain this mystical theology. God is universally called “He” rather than “She” or “It” because He is an active, not a passive, conscious Force in the Universe.9 Otherwise, the Almighty Creator of sex and gender, Who made and sustains the Universe not by sexual means but by His pure Will alone,10 exists far beyond any consideration of sex or gender. Putting aside, for the moment, the deeper secrets of God’s Essence, He speaks quite clearly to us on this point: a man or woman alone is almost like a fractional person, a mere part of what God intends each of them to be.11 Marriage is the human ideal: a man should “cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”12
Not all love is holy. God commands humanity — all of us; everyone — to refrain from certain acts of perverted love and self-destructive sexuality. We ignore our species’ own inherent seasons and limitations at our peril. Just as sex offers us a means to make ourselves more human, it can also educe us below the level of the animals.
Mystics associate the laws of the Fifth Commandment with the rainbow’s blue.16
The Sixth Commandment : Laws Against Larceny
You shall not steal. — Exodus 20:15
The first human crime, some say, was a Sixth Commandment violation, a crime against property: Adam and Eve ate fruit in the Garden of Eden that was not theirs to use.1 God’s laws against theft, the Torah tells us, are nearly as difficult to obey as His laws against sexual sins [See the Fifth Commandment, following].2 Most people possess a natural impulse towards larceny, as the Torah defines the term,3 and opportunities to commit the crime present themselves almost constantly.4 But few sins do more to disrupt civil society or degrade humanity’s capacity to worthily make use of God’s good earth. Larceny, the Torah teaches, actually defiles the Earth.5
Mystics associate this Commandment with the yellow of the rainbow.6
The broad heading or category of Rainbow Covenant law represented in the universal prohibition here goes beyond the protection of property rights and the sanctity of property. It sets out at least two fundamental monotheistic principles:
• Every human being stands on an equal footing before the Lord. Even against a monarch or a saint, the person who has the best claim and greatest right to a thing is the person who already owns it.7 II · 3130 The Rainbow Covenant
• The Lord is the ultimate Owner of all Creation’s riches.8 The mere things that most people lust after are just “dust” — literally, star dust. Only God and His law are eternal.9 Anyone who practices unrighteousness in regard to the possessions of another denies the whole of God’s Law and everything that the Bible teaches about God, say the rabbis. “Just as God gave a body to the human spirit as a tool for his human activities, and the body must be respected for the spirit within it; so He gave him (that is, all of us) the Earth with all that is on it and belongs to it so that he may freely acquire it and dispose of it according to his destiny.” 10 The sinner’s act of larceny implies that he believes that “the Lord has abandoned the Earth” — that those who sin against their fellow men will not ultimately be punished.11
The Seventh Commandment:Dietary Laws
And God said to Adam: ‘Behold My works! See how beautiful and commendable they are. All that I created, for your sake I created it. Pay heed that you do not corrupt and desolate My world, for there is no one to repair it after you.’ — Midrash, Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28
Every living creature eats. This Commandment requires man to treat the animals he eats — and also, ultimately, every creature subject to human control — with some self-control, self-respect, and at least the semblance of a decent regard for other life. The Revolutionary Law sweeps away the taboos of paganism.1 God has given men and women complete dominion over His earth.2 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb, I have given you everything.”3 But this awesome gift is no license for depravity or piggishness: freedom imposes responsibilities. The Eternal King who elevates us above the animals forbids us from acting like animals.
God created human beings in His image and as His elect.4 Men and women are obviously totally unlike God in having absolutely undeniable animal needs,5 but He requires us to behave better than mere animals. People must serve God, rather than use His world as though it exists solely for one’s own engorgement. Man’s divine right of dominion entails special obligations: human beings are God’s planetary stewards. This Seventh Commandment connects vile gastronomy to idolatry, and to the moral pathologies associated with idolatry, including the pollution and defilement of God’s good Earth. It applies equally to men and women, and to their children, in all respects. Mystics associate the laws connected to this commandment with the rainbow’s green.6
Scripturally, the Seventh Commandment doesn’t emerge with Adam, but only as part of a later Revelation: God’s Rainbow Covenant with Noah and his children.7 This gave rise to the Hebrew custom of referring to all the Universal laws as Noah’s laws or, more precisely, as the “Laws of the Sons [Descendants] of Noah.”8 Latest and last of the Rainbow Commandments, this Seventh Commandment, often called “the Law of the Torn Limb,” is certainly very old. It is so old, as various wits have joked, that God gave it to man in an age when it was still necessary to tell people to kill their food before they ate it! Yet, quaint as the law here may sound to modern ears, this ancient Rule, focusing on nothing less than humanity’s relationship to the natural environment, has earth-shaking current — and eternal — implications. While it can be fully understood only in the context of God’s more detailed Revelation to Israel, it exemplifies the whole thrust and spirit of the Rainbow Law.
Revolutionary Doctrine Israel’s Thirteen Principles of Faith
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. — Psalm 42:3
What is most essential to emphasize at this point is that the fundamental principles of our faith are embraced in thirteen basic principles. — Maimonides1
After finishing with idolatry, we need to attend to idolatry’s opposite. If you try to break Revelation down into its fewest common elements, or consistent core ideas, you come out with just Thirteen Principles.* These are the underlying doctrines of the Hebrew Revolution. They can be divided into three groups. The first five set out Israel’s theology:
1) God exists.
2) He is one.
3) He is spirit, not matter.
4) He is eternal.
5) He alone may be worshipped.314 The Rainbow Covenant The next four deal with the inspiration, or Revelation, of the Written and the Oral Torah:
6) God communicates with humanity through His prophets.
7) Moses is and was unique among all God’s other prophets.
8) The Lord Revealed His Law — His Torah — through Moses.
9) His Law is eternal and immutable — the Law won’t be replaced by another set of laws. The last four go to man’s responsibility, and reward and punishment:
10) The All-Knowing One knows every action and every thought.
11) He rewards those who obey His will and punishes those who reject Him.
12) Before the Earth ends, the Messiah will come.
13) Some of the dead will live again.
Israel has collectively accepted these Thirteen Principles, which are restated in every Hebrew Siddur, or prayerbook, and repeated in the daily Hebrew prayers.2 Naturally, every Ben Noah — every non-Jew — need not personally subscribe to each and every Principle. Even though Israel believes that one needs no inspiration but only logic to distill them from Revelation for oneself. Correct knowledge of God has never been one of the minimal requisites of decent human conduct. But study, and logic, always lead back to these same Thirteen Principles. Most of the commentary below follows the classic commentaries of Maimonides.3
I believe with perfect faith. . . . — Siddur 4