In the Hebrew language Bnei Noah means “descendants of Noah” and it is a monotheistic religious movement.
The adherents call themselves Noahides. The peculiarity of this modern movement is the promotion of Judaism for non-Jews. According to Jewish canons, non-Jews are not obligated to accept Judaism according to God’s will, but they should observe a sacred religious minimum in the form of seven commandments. These are called the Seven Laws of the Descendants of Noah.
The emergence of the Bnei Noah movement
At the end of the nineteenth century, the early inspirer of the movement was Benamozegh Elijah (Elia or Eliyahu). But the period of the most active development of this branch of Orthodox Judaism was the end of the twentieth century. During this period, interest in Judaism increased throughout the world, spreading in many countries, including parts of Europe and the United States. The reestablishment of the state of Israel and the Six-Day War in 1967 contributed to this. Afterwards, Israel became more consistent with the name “Biblical State” and a public association of people who themselves wished to adhere to the religious laws in strict adherence to the canons of that religion appeared.
The basis of the Bnei Noah doctrine
Bnei Noah is not a separate religion, it is a branch of orthodox Judaism but Bnei Noah offers the practices of Judaism to non-Jewish people.
The Torah (Pentateuch) is the holy book of Judaism, and in the broadest sense of the word, it forms the totality of the traditions and law of Judaism. The Torah texts state that all humans are descendants of Noah. Noah, his three sons (Shem, Ham, Japheth), and their wives survived the Flood. Then they left the ark and spread throughout the earth. Beforehand, God had created a covenant with mankind in which there were seven laws for Noah’s descendants, according to the Talmud. Enforcement of these commandments is required of all human beings. The covenant made between God and the Jewish people requires an increased responsibility on the part of Jews. The Divine Mission of Jews is to disseminate the laws of Noah’s Descendants among all peoples.
From the point of view of Judaism, the conscious observance of the seven laws of God for the non-Jew inspires a divinely pleasing form of life. According to the sayings of the Talmud, which were supported by Rambam (Maimonides), the conscious observance of the divine laws will allow a non-Jew to be righteous in this life (on a par with Jews who observe all 613 commandments), and then, after death, to move to the other world – the abode of the dead (olam ha-ba, or the world to come). In the scriptures of Judaism, there is a special concept “chasidei ummot a-olam” (righteous people of the world), which refers to non-Jews who observe the sacred Seven Commandments.
There is a fundamental work by Rambam called the Mishneh Torah (the first complete code of Jewish law), in which the famous philosopher formulated his commentary on all the divine commandments.
The Tanakh is the holy book of Judaism, it can be called the “Jewish Bible”. It describes the creation of the world and human beings, and describes the divine commandments and the covenant. Jewish religious tradition claims that in the future, all people will observe the commandments of the holy writings of the Tanakh. The prophecy of Tzphaniah states that it will lead to the unity of all humanity with the Jews, and the covenant with God will find its distribution throughout the world. It should be noted that people called the righteous of the nations of the world will be “righteous non-Jews”. The conversion to the religion of Judaism to join the covenant with God will not be obligatory. But whoever wishes to, may perform the rite of conversion of a non-Jew to Judaism (giyur).
The commandments of Bnei Noah
The two concepts of Bnei Noah
The fundamental concept of Orthodox Judaism rejects the active promotion of conversion to this religion by non-believers or believers of other religions. Yet, in view of the Jewish people’s exclusivity and its divine mission, Bnei Noah aims to help promote the Seven Laws of Noah to all people of Earth.
At the present time there are communities called “Noah’s Descendants” – their numbers are several tens of thousands of people – throughout the world. Organizations have been founded to coordinate community action and enhance communication within the Jewish community. Orthodox rabbis have worked out a special prayer book for non-Jews. Under the leadership of one of the most prominent rabbis of our time, Uri Amos Sherki, the World Noahide Centre, Brit Olam, was established.