Tag Archives: noachide

Where Are All The Gentiles Who Are Drawn To The Torah?

A man with a brambly salt-and-pepper beard, a kippah on his head, and circular glasses balanced on his nose stood behind a podium, lecturing on the parasha, the weekly Torah reading, in a southern twang. He was not a rabbi. He wasn’t even Jewish.

In front of him, an audience of about 20 sat in rows, listening attentively. Some wore head wraps and dresses suitable for a wedding, and others looked like they came in off the street. One man boasted neck tattoos and a gauge earring.

I was the only Jew in the room, but everyone else was here to study Torah. I was here to study them.

-Ilana E. Strauss
“The Gentiles Who Act Like Jews”
Tablet Magazine

Given the nature of this blogspot’s audience, many of you may believe that this article is about non-Jews who practice their faith within the context of Messianic Judaism or the Hebrew Roots movement.

Not so.

They call themselves Righteous Noahides: non-Jews who believe in Orthodox Judaism. According to Jewish theology, there are laws that Jews must obey, the 613 mitzvot, but then there are seven laws for children of Noah—everyone else in the world. They are: Do not deny God; do not blaspheme; do not murder; do not engage in incest, adultery, pederasty, or bestiality; do not steal; do not eat of a live animal; and establish courts.

The group I visited, called Netiv, is a bustling 40-person community located in Humble, Texas—in the United States, Texas is the center of Noahide life. Some members travel over two hours each way, two or three times a week, for classes. They obey the Noahide laws, but they also take the concept further, endeavoring to obey other mitzvot and learn more from Judaism.

If this were a visual, I’d have just done a double-take. A group of forty people, all non-Jews, identifying as Noahides, meeting together regularly and studying the Torah…in Texas?

Up until now, I thought that any Noahide would be found within the context of a Jewish synagogue. Of course, Humble, Texas isn’t a very big place and the closest Orthodox Jew is probably 30 miles away in Houston.

And in reading the (rather lengthy) article, I was astonished to discover that the state of Texas is something of a hot bed for Noahide gatherings. Of all the places, why Texas?

But this movement isn’t limited to the U.S.

Noahidism now encompasses communities around the world, especially in Great Britain, the Philippines, Latin America, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States. According to Rabbi Michael Schulman, who runs Noahide website AskNoah.org, the Philippines may have the most developed community, with well over 1,000 adults and their children living in a collection of agricultural towns. They run Hebrew schools, community meetings, and even a national summit.

The RebbeHow did all this come to be?

But about 40 years ago, Chabad grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a global “Noahide Campaign,” writing and speaking about the need for Righteous Noahide communities, believing Noahide laws would bring about peace and understanding and would hasten the coming of the Messiah. Some non-Jews listened. For example, in 1987, President Reagan signed a proclamation glorifying “the historical tradition of ethical values and principles, which have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws, transmitted through God to Moses on Mount Sinai.”

Here’s something that shouldn’t surprise you too much.

Bryant didn’t always teach Torah; he was a Pentecostal chaplain in the Army during the first Gulf War. He started a small study group in his house that got so large that it moved to a church. Around that time, Bryant began finding inconsistencies in Christian scripture, so he started digging into historical records.

The typical story goes like this: A person starts out Christian. (I’ve yet to meet someone who came to Noahidism from anything else. Bryant said one Muslim girl used to stop by, but her family found out and put a stop to it.) These seekers then find inconsistencies between the scripture and the priest’s or minister’s teachings. They start asking questions their religious leaders can’t answer to their satisfaction, questions like: “Why don’t we keep the Sabbath?” “Why do babies need to be baptized?” “If the Bible says God is one, why do we have a Trinity?”

And so on.

That’s very similar to what draws most of us non-Jews to either Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots. The only real difference is that these “inconsistencies” taught in normative Christianity are seen by Noahides as a problem with the beliefs spawned by the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) rather than a problem with how those scriptures are interpreted by the Church.

In other words (in my opinion), these Noahides have thrown out the baby with the bath water. They have certain issues with Christian doctrine and have determined that not only the doctrine, but the general theology behind it, is totally false and that only normative (in this case, Orthodox) Judaism is a valid expression of the worship of Hashem.

But it’s fascinating the similarities between these Noahides and that group I’ve come to call Talmidei Yeshua.

They obey the Noahide laws, but they also take the concept further, endeavoring to obey other mitzvot and learn more from Judaism.


Some rabbis emphasize that Noahides should not perform any mitzvot designated specifically for Jews; they point to interpretations of Genesis 8:22 that argue it is forbidden for non-Jews to keep Shabbat.

Arilio Navarro understands these concerns, but he doesn’t abide by them.

“There are a lot of blessings that come with Shabbat, and I don’t want to leave them on the table,” he said. “I spent most of my life doing that; I don’t want to do that anymore. I have a Jewish soul.”

All the rabbis and Noahides I talked to agreed that Noahides don’t have an obligation to keep more than the seven laws. But the sort of people who go on a spiritual quest that leads them out of Christianity aren’t the sort who are typically satisfied with that. They want to do more.

Path of TorahLook at the last two sentences:

But the sort of people who go on a spiritual quest that leads them out of Christianity aren’t the sort who are typically satisfied with that. They want to do more.

That describes the drive in many non-Jews in both Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots contexts in terms of their preferred praxis. Even those Gentiles who understand and embrace the “bilateral” relationship between Jewish and Gentile disciples of Rav Yeshua tend to take on board more than the seven laws of Noah, and even more than what’s implied in the Acts 15 “Jerusalem letter.”

We all came from a church experience.

We all came to understand that Christian doctrine seemed less than satisfactory in explaining what we were reading in the Bible, particularly about Jews, Judaism, and the Torah.

We all started looking for someone or some group who/that could teach us a more Bible-consistent, Jewish-positive, Israel central interpretation of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Apostolic Scriptures.

But there’s one more thing.

And when Noahides show up at Chabad houses or synagogues, saying they want to learn Torah, they’re frequently turned away at the door.

“What about being a light to the nations?” asked Bryant, the Netiv leader. “Where else are they going to learn Torah? At church?”

One thing about Noahides: They really, really want to be accepted by Jews.

If, 40 years ago, Chabad grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a global “Noahide Campaign,” it is baffling that Chabad houses would turn away the very Noahides that campaign created.

And it’s true, all of us, whether Noahide, Talmid Yeshua, or Hebrew Roots follower, in some manner or fashion want to be accepted by the Jews associated with our respective movements.

“Rod” Reuven Dovid Bryant
“Rod” Reuven Dovid Bryant, Netiv.net

If you visit the Netiv.net About page, you’ll find:

Currently meeting in Humble Texas, Allen Texas, Fayetteville Arkansas, Central Texas, Calgary Alberta, Canada, soon to be Kingsland Texas, and Nashville Tennessee. Netiv Center for Study of Torah was originally established to serve the greater North Houston area in 2010. It began with a hand full of individuals seeking the treasures of Torah knowledge, who are not connected to Jewish community. Rabbinical adviser Abraham Ben Yaakov graciously guides our communities spiritual learning. The center host [sic] people from all over the greater Houston area for weekly classes and lectures. Check out our photo stream on Facebook.

All people benefit from Torah study. The center is designed specifically for those desiring to study but have limited knowledge of the first books of the Bible. Netiv is an education center for Torah study, providing the student with Torah knowledge from it original sources. The classes are geared toward a non-jewish or non-religious jewish audience. Because we believe in the concept of Universal Torah for all peoples, this community is open to all. We welcome all to participate in the study of the Torah. If you are interested in joining our community we would love to have you visit. The environment is casual and full of joy. Join us in the study of the Word of G-d.

Wow! A Universal Torah? There are no end of surprising parallels between these Noahides and some Gentile folks in either Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots. The desire to go “above and beyond” what is required of non-Jews by Hashem runs deep within those of us who are attracted to a more “Judaic” viewpoint and interpretation of the Bible, and particularly the Torah.

I didn’t find a nice, concise definition for “Universal Torah,” but I think the bio on that site for Rabbi Chaim Richman may be illuminating.

Rabbi Chaim Richman is the director of the international department of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Israel. He is an internationally respected and sought after lecturer and teacher on the projects and research of the Institute, as well as the Torah and the Temple as it relates to both Jews and non-Jews. His programs feature his vast Torah knowledge and draw from the diverse resources of the Temple Institute.

The phrase, “…as well as the Torah and the Temple as it relates to both Jews and non-Jews” seems to be the nexus of interest for all of the Gentile groups who are drawn to Judaism. For Jews, their relationship to the Torah and the Temple is well-defined, but for the rest of us, not so much.

JerusalemOh we think it is, but without a thorough understanding of the relevant material from a Judaic point of view that addresses specific Gentile involvement in Torah and Temple, we are often lost and left to our own efforts to create that understanding.

I sort of see the appeal of certain groups (I found the link to this article in a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles”) to derive some of their identity from Noahides because there is obviously a lot more material available serving them than there seems to be for us.

No, I’m hardly disdaining those fine individuals and organizations who are providing educational materials for we so-called Talmidei Yeshua, but these Noahides and their Jewish advisors have perspectives on the intersection between Judaism and the Goyim that I haven’t typically found in my own experience and from my usual information sources.

For any non-Jew who is attracted to Jewish praxis as a way of drawing closer to Hashem, we have a few options. I’ve mentioned most of them.

Join a Hebrew Roots group.

Join a Messianic Jewish group.

Join a group of Noahides.

Convert to Judaism.

The article mentions that a number of Netiv attendees would like to convert, but there’s no Orthodox Jewish community nearby to support such a thing. My wife, who is associated with both the local Chabad house and our Conservative/Reform shul here in town says the Chabad Rabbi won’t perform a conversion, first of all because there’s no local Beit Din, but also because there isn’t an Orthodox Jewish community to support a convert.

The Rabbi at the other synagogue has performed both Reform and Conservative conversions, but if like the Noahides I’ve cited from the Tablet article, you are specifically attracted to Orthodox Judaism, that’s not an option, either in Boise, Idaho or in Humble, Texas.

Oh, becoming a Noahide or converting to Judaism both require denying Yeshua (Jesus) as our Rav, Messiah, and King. For most of us, that’s a deal breaker, but obviously, for these Noahides, they were willing to exchange a Christian faith for a “Jewish” one, at least “Jewish” as it applies to Righteous Gentiles.

I’ve previously mentioned that the advantage for Talmidei Yeshua is that we are more than Noahides. Through Hashem’s mercy and grace, and through Rav Yeshua who is the mediator of the New Covenant, we are allowed to have access to many of the New Covenant blessings, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, resurrection in the life to come, and in the Messianic Kingdom, an apprehension of Hashem equal to or greater than the Prophets of old.

Yes, I understand Noahides merit a place in the world to come, at least as understood by the Talmud and the Sages, but I don’t believe that encompasses the other blessings Yeshua-disciples experience:

The Noahide laws, which are derived from passages in the Torah, were enumerated in the Talmud. In the Middle Ages, Maimonides urged their observance on non-Jews, writing, “Anyone who accepts upon himself and carefully observes the Seven Commandments is of the Righteous of the Nations of the World and has a portion in the World to Come.”

leaving churchBut after the Rambam’s proclamation, non-Jewish participation in any sort of Noahide movement was minimal to non-existent, at least up until about 40 years ago or so. Now it seems to be booming, but unless you have your finger on that particular pulse, you’d never know it (I didn’t).

Is the church bleeding members like a ripped artery, and are they flowing into some expression of Jewish theology and praxis more so than at any other time in the past twenty centuries? If so, there must be a reason. Maybe Hashem really is preparing His remnant of the people of the nations for the coming/return of Moshiach.

Not a Noahide

I periodically “lurk” in a private Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles.” I was actually surprised to have access to this group, but discovered that a friend of mine, who was already a member, added me as a member as well (I guess ordinary group members can add anyone they want without having to go through a moderator).

Anyway, I peek in every now and then to see what people are talking about. As it turns out, there are a lot of comparisons being made there between these Messianic Gentiles and Noahides. Some of the recent references have been posts originating at the Noahide World Center, specifically a free e-book download of a Siddur for Noachides as well as the same siddur as an app for Android.

I too have wondered in the past if there’s a favorable connection between being a non-Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah King and being a Noahide, at least relative to a non-Jews’s status and role in Jewish religious and communal space.

To that end, I began to peruse the AskNoah.org forums and even, at one point, exchanged messages with a Rabbi.

That didn’t end well and I concluded that my journey into considering myself a “Ger Toshav” with an unusual Messianic twist had hit a brick wall.

I took another look at their forums just now but can’t quote anything because each one displays the disclaimer:

All material posted to this forum becomes the exclusive copyright property of Ask Noah International Inc., and may not be published or re-used elsewhere without the express permission of Ask Noah International Inc.

OK. I’ll respect that.

So let’s go to the source:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-17 (NASB)

NoahAccording to numerous sources including Jewish Virtual Library, the seven general laws for all of humanity derived from this portion of Genesis 9 are:

  1. Do Not Deny God
  2. Do Not Blaspheme God
  3. Do Not Murder
  4. Do Not Engage in Incestuous, Adulterous or Homosexual Relationships.
  5. Do Not Steal
  6. Do Not Eat of a Live Animal
  7. Establish Courts/Legal System to Ensure Law Obedience

Whether or not God holds the entire human race to these standards in the final judgment we’ll just have to wait and see. However, is this applicable to the non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus)? Does our devotion to our Rav not distinguish us at all from a non-believing world of secular atheists?

Granted, a non-Jew who becomes a self-declared Noahide is not an atheist, since he or she is professing faith in the God of Israel, but then again, the seven basic standards a Noahide adopts are also the standards that the rest of humanity will be judged by. No difference in expectation, except the Noahide voluntarily acknowledges those expectations while the non-Noahide either couldn’t care less or has some other moral/ethical/religious orientation that may or may not embrace some or all of the Noahide laws.

To be fair, I don’t think the private Facebook group I mentioned above sees non-Jewish Messianic disciples as wholly equivalent to Noahides in all respects. I think it’s a model for attempting to construct a relationship between (Messianic) Gentiles and Jews in (Messianic) Jewish religious and communal space.

It may also be an attempt to equip said-Gentiles with a set of tools and resources that are at once consistent with (Messianic) Judaism and also specifically crafted for the Judaicly-oriented non-Jew (hence the siddur for Noahides).

MessiahHowever, I think we need to be exceptionally clear that we take on board more as disciples of Yeshua than what the Noahide receives. While we non-Jews are not named participants in the New Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:27), through Hashem’s great grace and mercy, we non-Jewish devotees of our Rav are granted access to many of the blessings of the New Covenant, which includes the indwelling of the Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection into the world to come.

These are blessings identical to what the named participants of the New Covenant, that is, the Jewish people…Israel, will receive in Messianic Days. God made the covenant with them, but He also is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The plain text of Genesis 9 really only promises that God won’t destroy all life by flooding again. It’s not even made exclusively with human beings, but with every living species. There’s no mention of attaining a spiritual knowledge of Hashem through His Spirit dwelling within us. Nor does this covenant speak of forgiveness of sins, and certainly not of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Messiah.

However, these blessings are all well documented in the New Covenant language we find in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36 and elsewhere in the Tanakh (what Christians call the “Old Testament”).

I prefer to think that being a disciple of our Rav gives us a different role and status than the Noahide, although there certainly can be some overlap.

I’ve been approached online, both in the comments section of this blog and privately by email, to “come over to the Noahide side, we have cookies.” Both Jews and Noahides have attempted to induce me to abandon Rav Yeshua, and while I don’t doubt their motives are sincere, I have asked them to respect my wishes and my faith and desist.

I know there are non-Jews who consider themselves Noahides in the two synagogues in my local community. More power to them. We don’t interact, mainly because I don’t have a connection to local (or remote for that matter) Jewish community.

isolationBut even in isolation, once we have declared our devotion as disciples of our Rav, we have an obligation to stay the course, regardless of the personal difficulties involved. Who said a life of faith was easy? Who said you’d be accepted by everyone or anyone?

If I were a “standard” Christian, going to church each week and being in Christian community would serve my needs (but not my family’s needs), however those of us who view God, Messiah, and the Bible through a more “Jewish-focused lens,” are really neither fish nor fowl. We don’t fit in the Church and it would be disingenuous of us to attempt to enter Jewish community in the guise of a Noahide.

The aforementioned Facebook group is an attempt to offer the “Messianic Gentile” some sort of interface into Jewish community on their own grounds and using their own resources to define their roles, both among Jews and among themselves. That’s probably a good thing, though no one group can meet the needs of everyone who may identify as one of them (or something similar).

However, at the end of the day, you need to know who you are in relation to God and what that means (and doesn’t mean) for your life. Assimilating into a church as a Christian might be the easy way out, but it’s not who we are. Assimilating into a synagogue (Messianic or otherwise) as a Noahide might be the easy way out, but it’s not who we are (and forget about converting to Judaism, Orthodox or otherwise…the people of the nations are to have a role in the Kingdom).

WaitingWhether the rest of the Christian and Jewish world likes it or not, we were granted a unique place and role in relation to God and his plan of redemption, first for Israel, and then for the rest of us. Our particular perspective takes into account the primacy of Israel, the Jewish people and nation, in God’s plans, but it also acknowledges the special and specific place Rav Yeshua has as the mediator of the New Covenant and what that means to both Israel and the nations.

Traditional Christianity does (somewhat) the latter but not the former, while Noahides in Jewish community do the former but not the latter.

We do both…even if we have to do it alone.