AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NOAHIDE LAWS

 

Euthanasia

Suffering is one of the most difficult things for many of us to ignore. The idea that a person must suffer and that is somehow pleasing to God is hard to swallow. There is no other issue that brings this issue to the front more than euthanasia.

Euthanasia is a procedure where we end a person’s life with the "excuse of mercy.” This is one way that it is presented although it is also used to relieve the suffering (often economic but also emotional) of family whose loved ones languish in bed, comatose, never able to wake.

Euthanasia is another very emotional subject. In America it is an issue almost as hotly debated as abortion. However, it is slightly different from abortion in that there is often choice involved in the decision to end a life. Usually it is the decision of the person suffering to end their life. If the argument “my body my choice” works for abortion then it certainly works for euthanasia.

As to those who are unable to make this decision it lay at the feet of their loved ones who now make a very hard decision. The moral defense for their action “the person is better off,” or like the mother considering abortion who feels it unfair that such a responsibility be thrown on them especially when economically it does not seem that they are capable of carrying the burden, the good of the family member is primary to that of the person who is sick. None of these are reasons according to the Torah.

Allowing a Person to remain in peril

According to Hilchot Melachim29 a person who directly places another person in peril is just as guilty of murder as the intentional murderer. If someone puts another in a state of peril as a result of an action, a person bound or trapped before a dangerous animal for example, it is the individual and not the animal that is guilty for murdering the person.

IV. Illicit Sex

Marriage in the Noachide world is at once straight forward and complex. The complexity mainly comes from the consensus that marriage is only real if two people are called “married” in a written contract. The Noachide model does not require a contract, or any formal documentation or ceremony to signify that two people are married.

This is backward to our way of thinking but not to the Torah’s approach to the issue. Marriage with the first man and woman had nothing to do with contracts, only a mutual decision to be one. The patriarch Isaac and his wife Rachel were married when Isaac took Rachel into his mother’s tent (with her consent).Without consent, it is rape, a form of theft of the person.

Part of what adds to our confusion over the simplicity of Torah marriage is that those who know anything about Judaism know that a contract is required for a Jewish marriage. One might ask why a contract is required for a Jew but not a Gentile. The answer to this question is the same to most other situations where the Jewish people are called on to do something extra, or to do something in a slightly different way. As a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation the Jewish people must always be separate or distinct from the rest of humanity; and as priests they are required to be holy. Their status as a holy nation, a kingdom of priests, means that they must hold themselves up to a higher level of strictness.

Although the Noachide laws are less strict on the definition of marriage, if properly observed the Noachide laws maintain and promote holiness within marriage. All human beings are required to be Holy. We all must strive to separate ourselves from the profane and attach ourselves to the Holy One-God. Marriage, universally accomplishes this.

Who Can Marry?

In our day there is debate on what constitutes marriage. Given the gay rights movement that wishes to have its relationships recognized as marriage, it is important for us to have a clear understanding of what marriage is. There are those that say marriage is only constituted by a piece of paper or by a ceremony. If this is so then anyone should be able to get married. Others argue that because it is only a piece of paper it cannot give voice to what a real relationship is between a man and a woman or two men or two women or between a man and his sheep or a woman and her dog and so forth.

It appears that people have become confused over the entire marriage business. In the non-Jewish world the marriage contract is an invention of society to clarify business and legal matters. A determination of who is married and who is not will lead to taxing status, financial rights in banking matters, and life and death decisions. Such contracts have nothing to do with the spiritually significant relationship between a man and a woman in a Holy relationship blessed by God.

Marriage understood from the Torah perspective is defined primarily as a relationship that is not one of six kinds of relationships (for Noachides). A Noachide Marriage cannot exist if it is between a man and his mother, a man and his father’s wife, a man and a married woman, a man and his maternal sister, a man and another man, a man and an animal.This leaves a relationship of a man with an unmarried woman as the proper definition of who can get married for Noachides.

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