Excerpt from Kabbalah and Meditation for the Nations
Chapter 3: The Mystical Symbolism of the Seven Laws of Bnei Noach
The innate identity of the non-Jew is based on the number seven. For example:
- There are 70 (7 ∙ 10) primal national/ethnic roots, whose origin can be traced to the seventy descendants of Noah enumerated in the Torah.1
- The 70 national/ethnic roots relate at their core to the 7 Canaanite nations that occupied the Land of Israel before it was given to the Jewish people by God.2
- Between them, the nations communicate using 70 different families of languages.
The number seven (and the number seventy) also has special significance in Jewish tradition. It denotes “endearment.” In the words of the sages, “All sevens are dear.”2 For a Jew, the seventh day—Shabbat—is qualitatively different from the six weekdays. It is a holy day of rest from worldly endeavor, a time to experience Divine transcendence—God’s presence above all.
For the non-Jew, on the other hand, the number seven depicts the consummation of secular reality. The seventh day is not essentially different from the other days of the week, it is a workday, and as such, is a time to experience Divine immanence—God’s presence within all.
Additionally, the number of descendants of Jacob, who were the progenitors of the Jewish people, is explicitly noted in the Torah as seventy.4 This was also the basis for God instructing Moses to appoint seventy elders5 to the Sanhedrin, the highest court of Torah law.6 At a deeper level, seventy elders were needed in order to give voice to each of the “seventy facets [faces] of the Torah.”7 Later, the Almighty commanded Moses (who transmitted this directive to Joshua) that upon entering the Land of Israel he was to collect some large stones on which he was to clearly write the text of the entire Torah.8 The sages explain that God’s intent, which was subsequently carried out by Joshua, was that the Torah be translated and written on the stones in all seventy languages of the nations of the world.9
This last example of the importance of the number seven in relation to the Jewish people and the Torah is the foundational basis for the task given to the Jewish people to instruct the nations of the world in the ways of God. From this early example of making the entire Torah accessible to every single human being on Earth, without prejudice or pre-condition, we learn that God intended that all people be offered the opportunity to adopt the Torah in full (i.e., convert to Judaism and thereby fully integrating their Divine spark).
The Jewish seven reflects unity—most significantly the Oneness of God—while the non-Jewish seven represents plurality. This is because in the Jewish soul, the seven emotional/behavioral powers are subordinate and serve the spiritual quest of the three intellectual powers (the quest to reveal God’s absolute unity). In the yet unrectified state of the non-Jewish soul, the three intellectual powers serve the earthbound desires of the seven emotional/behavioral powers and thus identify at a basic level with the plurality of the mundane.
And so, for the Jewish soul, the quest to ascend (and descend) the seven levels described above remains secondary10 to its commitment to live a Torah-balanced life, based on the Tree of Life’s three axes of right, left, and middle. The right axis corresponds to the soul’s commitment to fulfill the Torah’s 248 positive commandments, the left axis corresponds to its commitment to fulfill the 365 negative commandments (to refrain from that which the Torah forbids), and the middle axis to the sanctification of all of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds, whether in the context of one of the 613 commandments or while involved in one’s worldly endeavors.
Likewise, the Jewish soul ideally prefers linking opposites, thereby transcending simple, binary logic, not similars.11 For the non-Jewish soul, the reverse is the case.
We now return to our initial observation that before committing to the path of the Torah, the non-Jew’s intellectual sefirot are subordinate to the emotional/behavioral ones. Or, in other words, the non-Jew is innately earthbound. It is exactly to correct this estrangement from all that is Divine and heavenly in nature, that the seven Laws of Bnei Noach were given.
A non-Jew that commits to the Bnei Noach commandments, experiences a refinement of the seven emotional/behavioral powers within the soul. The individual’s physical aspect will begin to serve his or her intellect, and this makes it possible to see through the three uppermost levels of the soul and envision the One.
Simultaneously, by adopting the seven Laws of Bnei Noach, the individual reaches the understanding that rectification comes only with subservience to the Torah and as defined by its parameters; this, as opposed to the notion that an untamed desire to ascend spiritually is what brings one closer to God. It is then possible to truly comprehend that God has created a world full of opposites in order that they may consciously be united by all people, thereby revealing God’s ultimate Oneness.
When all this happens—and quite often it happens most suddenly—a non-Jew experiences a profound spiritual transformation. But when it does not (and indeed a non-Jew is likely to neglect his or her God-commanded obligations), he or she remains unable to apprehend God’s true unity, and is apt to fall into idolatry. This often manifests itself in a distorted worship of some sort—such as the stars, nature, yogis, the pantheon of “gods,” money, etc. All are forms of idolatry which can be defined as the worship of anything or anyone other than the One God. Even the seemingly innocuous modern day movie stars, music stars, and sports stars all contribute to distorting one’s ability to commit to worshipping the Almighty.
3. Midrash Vayikra Rabah 29:11. Chanoch (a.k.a., Enoch) was the seventh generation of mankind, from Adam, whereas Moses was the seventh generation of the Jewish people, from Abraham. Chanoch represents the epitome of a righteous gentile (a potential Jew), and in Kabbalah is seen to be a spiritual mentor of Moses himself!
4. Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5.
6. Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6.
7. Midrash Rabah Bamidbar 13:15. See Ramban’s commentary to Numbers 11:16.
9. Sotah 32a. The sages learn this from the word “clearly” in the verse. Kabbalah defines that every word in Hebrew has a “frontside” and a “backside.” The frontside is simply the word itself and refers to its literal meaning, while its “backside” is defined as the letters that make up the progressive appearance of the word and refers to its indirect meanings or translations into other languages. How fitting it is that the “backside” of the Hebrew word for “clearly” (הֵיטֵב ) is ה הי היט היטב whose numerical value is 70, thus alluding to the seventy languages of the nations into which the Torah was to be translated.
The numerical value of the “frontside” is 26, the value of God’s essential Name, Havayah. Multiplying the “front” (26) by the “back” (70) we get 1820, the exact number of times that the Name Havayah appears in the Five Books of Moses. Thus, the seventy facets of the Torah that relate to all the nations of the world are themselves illuminated by the power of God’s essential Name.
As noted, the full realization of the vision of the Torah illuminating the entire world only became possible once the Jewish people had entered the Land of Israel. In the Five Books of Moses, the word “clearly” (הֵיטֵב ) appears 6 times, the first of which is in the verse, “And You said, ‘I will benevolently do you good’” (Genesis 32:13) הֵיטֵב אֵיטִיב עִמָךְ , which Jacob said to the Almighty referring to the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel is described in the Torah as “the goodly land” that God promised to bestow upon him and his descendants. The two word idiom “I will benevolently do you good” also alludes to this very point, as the product of the numerical values of these two words in Hebrew is 26 (the value of הֵיטֵב ) . 32 (the value of אֵיטִיב ) = 832, the numerical value of the “Land of Israel” (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל ).
10. When secondary to commitment to live a Torah-balanced life, the quest to ascend (and descend) the sefirotic ladder from rung to rung is positive, reflecting the soul’s desire to consciously unite with God. But when the quest to ascend to higher and higher levels of consciousness is one’s primary driving force, preceding the commitment to fulfill God’s will as revealed in the Torah, it is no other than a reflection of one’s base egocentricity. Anything egocentric is essentially earthbound, and though it appears that one is seeking spirituality, in truth one is only seeking self-gratification, on earth.
11. Voicing this sentiment is a well-known Chassidic saying that “you cannot always have the luxury of traveling over an iron bridge.” Often, the bridges in life are narrow and flimsy. Nonetheless, the Jewish soul understands that bridges must be constructed and used, even if they do not appear to be ideal.