The 7 Universal Laws.
Imagine a world in which there was no sense of right and wrong. Imagine a world without the concept of justice or system of law, without the family unit or moral and ethical values. Does it seem frightening? Perhaps a little too real? Such a society did once exist. Self-centered, grasping, cruel. A society set to self-destruct 4000 years ago, in the great flood.
Out of its demise, a new world was born beginning with Noah and his sons. G-d entrusted them with a Code of Life, a set of laws on which a new civilization could be built.
This code of seven fundamental laws is so far-reaching that it gives structure and scope to life for all time, guiding mankind to realize his highest potential as a being created in the image of G-d.
1. BELIEF IN G-D: Do Not Worship Idols
Man, a physically frail creature, is surrounded by forces of life and death far greater than he is. Confronted with the vastness of these universal forces, man might well try to ‘serve them’ in order to protect himself, and better his lot.
The essence of life, however, is to recognize the Supreme Being, who created the Universe – to believe in him and accept his laws with awe and love. We must remember that He is aware of all our deeds, rewarding good and punishing evil. We are dependent on him, and to him alone do we owe allegiance.
To imagine that there could be any other power that could protect us or provide for our needs, is not only foolish, but perverts the purpose of life, and, as history has shown, potentially unleashes untold forces of evil in ourselves, and in the world.
2. RESPECT G-D AND PRAISE HlM: Do Not Blaspheme His Name
When we feel disappointed with life, when things do not work out as we feel they should, how easy it is to point an accusing finger and blame … everyone … everything … even G-d.
Loyalty and trust are essential in life. To blame G-d, curse, or to curse others in his name, is an act of disloyalty – akin to treason. It is an act, which undermines the basis of all order and stability, on which a just society must stand.
G-d is certainly just, but a finite mind cannot comprehend G-d who is infinite.
3. RESPECT HUMAN LIFE: Do Not Murder
The record of man’s inhumanity to man begins with the story of Cain and Abel. Man is indeed his brother’s keeper.
The prohibition against manslaughter (including abortion) comes to protect man from the bestial tendency, which lies within him. Man the attacker, denies the sanctity of human life, and ultimately attacks G-d, who created us in his image.
4. RESPECT THE FAMlLY: Do Not Commit Immoral Sexual Acts
The Bible states, “It is not good for man to be alone,” so G-d made a helpmate for Adam, and in marriage “He blessed them.”
In a wholesome family, man’s creativity finds meaningful expression. Wholesome families are the cornerstone of healthy communities, nations and societies.
Nations, which have condoned immorality – adultery, bestiality, sodomy, and incest -, have never lasted long. Sexual immorality is the sign of an inner decay, which spawns a ruthless society, bringing confusion into G-d’s life plan.
5. RESPECT FOR OTHER’S RIGHTS AND PROPERTY: Do Not Steal
Since our sustenance comes from G-d, we should seek to earn it honestly, with dignity, and not through false means.
To violate the property of others, by robbing or cheating, is a fundamental attack on their humanity. This breeds anarchy, plunging mankind into the depths of selfishness and cruelty. It was for this sin, above all, that the Flood was brought upon the world.
6. CREATION OF A JUDICIAL SYSTEM: Pursue Justice
A robust and healthy legal system, administering justice fairly, creates a society worthy of G-d’s blessing. Establishing a system of judges, courts, and officials to maintain and enforce the law is a far-reaching responsibility.
This precept translates the ideals of our personal life into a formal order for society at large. It is the extension and guarantee of all the preceding laws.
7. RESPECT ALL CREATURES: Do Not Eat The Flesh Of An Animal While It Is Still Alive
G-d gave man “dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the heaven, over the cattle, and over all of the earth.”
We are the caretakers of G-d’s creation. Ultimately our responsibility extends beyond our family, even beyond society, to include the world of nature.
Eating meat so fresh that the animal is still alive may be healthy, but it is cruel, even barbaric, displaying a decadent insensitivity to the pain of others. This law is the touchstone, if you will, that provides a measure of how well the other six laws are being observed.
* * *
The Sages teach that when a non-Jew keeps these laws because they are good and reasonable, he is considered wise. However if he observes because G-d commanded them to Moses at Sinai, he is considered saintly and earns himself eternal life in the world to come, with a spiritual reward comparable to that of a Jewish High Priest.
In addition, when man fulfills his potential, the whole of creation is nurtured and elevated to realize its goal. This transforms the world into a beautiful place where G-d will choose to dwell in a revealed way, very, very soon.