Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Seven Mitzvot

Jewish law places great emphasis on the way a Jew must live and the rewards for living according to Jewish law. Laws such as Shabbat and kashrut create a lifestyle in which Jews mingle mostly with other Jews, and thus are separated from the rest of the world. That does not mean, however, that the Torah ignores non-Jews.

While many of the other major religions of the world insist that their way of life is the only way to live, Judaism expresses a very different opinion. According to the Torah, Jewish law is the ideal way for a JEW to live, and by living that way a Jew will receive great reward in the next world. However, a non-Jew may also receive reward in the next world by faithfully following the Seven Laws of the Sons of Noah (Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach).

The seven laws are:

1. Prohibition of idolatry.
2. Prohibition of murder.
3. Prohibition of theft.
4. Prohibition of sexual immorality.
5. Prohibition of blasphemy.
6. Prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
7. Requirement to have an effective judiciary to establish civil laws and enforce the preceding six laws fairly.

In recent years there has been a small, but growing, movement of non-Jewish people who observe these seven laws and have formed “Noahide” communities. They are dedicated to living their lives according the path set out by the Torah for non-Jews. These groups often associate with their local Jewish community, which supports the Noahides and gives them strength and encouragement to face the challenges of living a lifestyle that differs from the majority culture.

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