ger toshav / Shabbas #2

One of the great things about exploring Judaism, and walking toward conversion, is that you’re generally invited to live as a Jew prior to becoming one.  In fact, there are plenty of ger who never become — either because they’ve attached themselves to an Orthodox tradition that makes actual conversion difficult, or for some internal reason.  But there’s no prohibition against, and indeed an invitation to, begin living an observant live regardless of your current status.  To do so is to become a ger toshav — a righteous person among the nations.  According to traiditon, it means you’re engaged with and bound by the Noahic Covenant … which is, according to Judaism, the first covenant entered into between God and people.

God_enters_into_a_covenant_with_Noah-_next_to_a_smoking_pyre_Noah_kneels_in_a_gesture_of_prayer,_surrounded_by_members_of_his_family,_a_rainbow_stretches_over_them,_from_a_series_of_engr
Noah and family getting that covenant.  Pretty sure he earned it.

Let’s just pause to check in on what’s actually in the covenant with Noah.  It’s a bit important, since it applies to every person in the world (Jew, Gentile, whatever) and a few of the provisions include the animals too.  So we have:

  • humans must populate the earth
  • humans are in charge of animals (this was not all that clear previously)
  • humans can eat animal meat, but not blood
  • human life is sacred and murder is always prohibited
  • the covenant applies to every living person and animal that was in the arc (fish and other sea creatures are apparently therefore exempt, as perhaps are seabirds?)
  • any animal or person who kills a human being must themselves be killed
  • God will never again destroy the earth with a flood.
  • The rainbow is the sign of the covenant

A few thoughts:

humans must populate the earth: I’m not really going to be able to help much with that one.  Love all my friends’ kids though.
humans are in charge of animals: mixed feelings.  I enjoy being in charge of my pet dog, since the alternatives are not all that attractive.  However, the humans-dominating-everything model hasn’t really worked out that well, and is an idea that tends to be abused by us humans.
humans can eat animal meat, but not blood:. not sure what to make of this one.  I love a good blood-sausage once in a while.  This prohibition obviously survived to later covenants, and indeed became part of the kosher and halal laws.  I’ll add this to my (long) list of things I want to find out more about.
human life is sacred and murder is always prohibited: pretty sure I’m down with that.
the covenant applies to every living person and animal that was in the arc:  I don’t understand why fish or dolphins would be excluded, but hey whatever.
any animal or person who kills a human being must themselves be killed: yah, no.  I’m not into capital punishment or blood feuds.
God will never again destroy the earth with a flood:  no objection.
The rainbow is the sign of the covenant: gay stamp of approval.

In about twenty minutes will begin my second-ever observance of Shabbas, the day of rest.  This is not (yet) incumbent upon me, but I already love it.  One lights beautiful candles, says some prayers, breathes deeply, greets loved ones, eats a meal.  It is the beginning of a 25 hour period where time changes, and we are invited into rest and reflection.  I’m still discovering what this idea means for me, but so far I’ve been doing little things, like avoiding my smartphone where possible, not doing any work, reading, avoiding spending money, eating meals with friends … stuff like that.  More on this in a future post I think.

Shabbas is the third of three covenants between people and God — and the second of two between God and Israel in particular.  So my participation is voluntary, or “even more voluntary” I suppose, since I am learning the Reform tradition, in which many things are voluntary.  But it would be nigh on impossible to imagine a Judaism of any kind without the day of rest, and for that I am grateful.

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