The sedra of Noah is full of interesting ideas. Perhaps the most interesting are the laws given to mankind after the flood. These are the seven laws of the children of Noah and we are reminded of them by the seven colours of the rainbow.
They are: You shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not cause distress to animals (eating limbs torn from their living flesh); you shall not blaspheme; you shall not worship idols; you shall not be sexually immoral; and finally, you shall have courts and laws to administer these laws. According to the Torah, a gentile who is God-fearing and keeps the seven laws merits to enter heaven at the end of their life.
Of course, these laws are not all stated explicitly in the Torah. The rabbis derive them from the Torah, and some say they were communicated initially to Adam and Eve, and repeated to Noah. Maimonides states they were communicated to Noah.
The laws might be said to constitute the basis of religion and it is interesting to note they are the basic legal framework for most societies, although some have changed somewhat.
Certainly our understanding of “sexual immorality” has influenced our modern lives in ways that would prove uncomfortable to some of our ancient predecessors.
The intention behind such a legal framework is to avoid chaos and immorality in society, and to ensure a just and equitable world for all. Even today, all these many centuries later, there are non-Jews who identify as Noahides and try to subscribe to these rules in their everyday lives.
- Rabbi Zvi Solomons serves JCoB, the Orthodox Jewish Community in Reading