I have been researching the Seven Noahide Laws. I understand these are the biblical commands to all humanity—the children of Noah—and they provide the basis for ethical living. But looking at the list, there seems to be one that does not fit with the others:
- Do not worship idols—agreed, we have to believe in G‑d.
- Do not curse G‑d—have respect for Him. I can dig that.
- Do not murder—obvious.
- Do not steal—okay.
- Do not commit adultery—fine.
- Set up courts of justice—needed to ensure the other laws are kept.
- Do not eat the limb of a living animal.
I am bewildered as to why you would include the seventh law, “Do not eat the limb of a living animal.” While I have no intention of tearing off any animal limbs, I can’t see how that would be in the top seven most important things for all of humanity to observe.
Thank you for any help in enlightening this Noahide!
What is the true test of a moral person? How do you know that someone is truly a good person, and not just preaching?
One test is to observe the way they treat subordinates. Someone who can show concern for those who are lower and more helpless than themselves is a person who is truly good.
And so, in formulating laws for all mankind, the Torah gives seven commandments that are considered seven categories of ethical behavior. The prohibition to steal includes all dishonest and unethical business practices. The outlawing of adultery encompasses all inappropriate relationships. And the ban on eating the limb of a live animal is a general law which commands us to be kind to animals. In fact, Jewish law prohibits inflicting unnecessary pain on animals.
These are not arbitrary categories of law. They cover the full gamut of moral obligation toward our fellow beings: respect for G‑d who is above us, respect for human beings who are equal to us, and respect for the animal kingdom beneath us.
There is a clear hierarchy here. We are not equal with G‑d, and animals are not equal to humans. The myth of equality is necessary only to protect the weak in a world devoid of morality. But moral beings with a clear code of ethics can recognize the innate inequality of nature without exploiting it. Being higher means being more responsible. Nature is here to serve us, but we are here to serve G‑d, and that means treating all His creatures, equal or not, with respect.
Please see more on the Seven Noahide Laws on The Judaism Website.