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March 08, 1991 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-03-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I DETROIT

Gentile Class Meets In Detroit
To Study Biblical Noahide Laws

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM

Assistant Editor

A

directive issued more
than 800 years ago by
Maimonides is
becoming a reality today in
Detroit, where an Orthodox
rabbi is teaching the
Noahide Laws to a gentile
group.
Once a month, Rabbi
Meilech Silberberg of Bais
Chabad of West Bloomfield
meets with the group, all
Protestant men, to study the
seven laws the Talmud calls
the minimum necessary for
a civilized society. The
statutes forbid murder,
theft, worshipping false
gods, cursing God, incest and
adultery and call for the es-
tablishment of laws and
courts of justice.
Maimonides said it is in-
cumbent upon Jews as
Moses' representatives to
"compel the inhabitants of
the world to accept the
Noahide Laws," Rabbi
Silberberg said. "It is a
commandment; it is a mitz-
vah."
The group held its first
meeting last week at Dove
Booksellers, a Detroit store
specializing in academic
biblical studies. Beside
shelves filled with titles like

Discoveries in the Judaen
Desert, The Text of the Old
Testament and A History of
the Hebrew Language sat
seven students including the
store's owner, John Marine,
and Richard Vore, who con-
vened the class.
Mr. Vore became inter-
ested in studying with Rabbi
Silberberg several years ago,
when the rabbi was teaching
a course in the building
where Mr. Vore worked as
an accountant. Long inter-
ested in theology, Mr. Vore
said he was eager for the op-
portunity to learn about
Judaism with an Orthodox
rabbi.
"Study to the Jew is sacred
and to me it's sacred, too,"
he said.
Mr. Vore was disappointed
to learn he could not join the
class. The Talmud does not
permit gentiles to study
Torah, Rabbi Silberberg
said. But Judaism does
honor those non-Jews who
study the Noahide Laws.
Prompted by a call from
the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachern Mendel
Schneerson, to teach the
Noahide Laws, Rabbi
Silberberg decided to begin a

14

FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 1991

class for Mr. Vore and other
interested gentiles.
Speaking before the group,
Rabbi Silberberg explained
why, despite Maimonides'
assertion, so few Jews have
been involved in teaching
the Noahide Laws.
Up to 420 BCE, when the
first Temple was destroyed,
Jews actively promoted the
Noahide Laws. Gentiles who
accepted them were per-
mitted to enter the Temple
and give sacrifices there.
Seventy years later when
the Temple was destroyed,
Jews dispersed to Babylonia
and Persia and the teaching
of the Noahide Laws was all
but forgotten.
Any idea of reviving the
laws was squelched
throughout history as Chris-
tian kingdoms forbade the
teaching of Judaism to gen-
tiles. Converts to Judaism
were regularly burned at the
stake.

Noahide Laws to the gen-
tiles of the world."
A gentile must accept the
laws because they are the
will of God, Rabbi Silberberg
added. He cannot be
motivated by humanistic
ideals that it's simply wrong
to kill or steal. "Our
ultimate goal is to recognize
the God who commands us."
Rabbi Silberberg also
discussed the first Noahide
Law, which forbids the wor-
ship of false gods.
Maimonides said that the
Christian belief in Jesus
violates this commandment.
Other Jewish scholars say
that if Christians accept
Jesus but believe that only
one, true God can be wor-
shipped, they have not tran-
sgressed the law.
After the class, the men
said they were not offended
by Maimonides' remark
about Christianity.
"I understand he (Rabbi
Silberberg) isn't going to
pull any punches," Mr. Vore
said. "But we all know that
starkness is backed by learn-
ing."
"The only way he can
offend as is by withholding
the truth," Mr. Marine add-
ed.

Akiva students David Jerome,_Azriel Chelst, Sarah Chopp, Rechelle
Winkler, Nechama Hochbaum, Chanit Cohen and Shana Schochet
paid a Purim visit to Sinai Hospital patients. Here they visit with patient
Minnie Cowen. Photo by Marsha Sandquist

Karl Porhrt, who owns a
bookstore specializing in re-
ligious studies, came from
Ann Arbor to attend Rabbi
Silberberg's class. He said
he came because "I'm inter-
ested in serious religious
dialogue."
The men said they
welcomed the opportunity to
study part of Judaism with
an Orthodox rabbi.
"It grieves me that many
Christians have neglected
the Old Testament," George
Wind said. "Our ministers
never speak about it, and

we're missing out on a lot."
A University of Michigan
doctoral student in religious
history, David Russell called
the class "an opportunity of
a lifetime." As a child, Mr.
Russell said, he learned
little of Judaism. "What I
heard was that Jews reject
Jesus, who is the true mes-
siah."

Mr. Russell said he felt
challenged by the class. "I
think I'm going to go home
and not be able to sleep," he
said. D

Forgotten Harvest Delivers
Surplus Food To The Needy

SUSAN GRANT

Rabbi Meilech Silberberg:
Teaching the Noahide Laws is a
mitzvah.

Similarly, in the 1900s
East European anti-
Semitism would never have
allowed Jews to preach the
Noahide Laws. "It would
have meant instant death,"
Rabbi Silberberg said.
Despite these obstacles,
the "obligation for gentiles
to accept the Noahide Laws
remains intact," he said.
Maimonides said non-Jews
who accept these laws merit
a place in the world to come.
Rabbi Silberberg noted
that Maimonides, in his en-
cyclopedia on Jewish law,
discusses the Noahide Laws
in a chapter preceding one
on the coming of the Mes-
siah.
"As Jews we believe the
coming of the Messiah is
imminent," he said. "So it
becomes our duty now to
spread the word of the

Staff Writer

L

oaves of sliced bread,
hot cross buns,
doughnuts, muffins
and other bakery goods fill
the two grocery carts Chris
Blakely rolls out of Valuland
Food Center in Mt. Clemens.
He carefully loads the
breads and other items the
bakery had been unable to
sell after two days into the
refrigerated Forgotten
Harvest van.
Finished with that task,
Mr. Blakely is back in the
driver's seat heading for the
Lighthouse, an emergency
shelter in Pontiac where
clients come for food and
clothes. He goes once every
few weeks to drop off some of
the bread he collects at
Valuland.
After making stops in
Birmingham and Southfield
to pick up pastries, Mr.
Blakely goes to a food ser-
vice warehouse in Taylor

where the company has 10
pounds of cheese, two
buckets of pickles, frozen
fish and other food waiting
for him.
Finally, the Forgotten
Harvest van filled with food,
Mr. Blakely winds his way
into a Detroit neighborhood
which combines the beauty
of the Masonic Temple and a
well-respected elementary
school with shells of burned
out businesses. The only
business nearby is on the
corner where men exchange
cash for drugs.
Driving past the elemen-
tary school and an abandon-
ed building, Mr. Blakely
stops the van at the Coali-
tion On Temporary Shelter
building, a homeless shelter
offering various services in-
cluding a soup kitchen. With
help from volunteers, the
food is soon removed from
the van and placed inside
the kitchen.
Since Forgotten Harvest
got off the ground last July,
the refrigerated van has

logged almost 10,000 miles
transporting 7,500 pounds of
perishable food from restau-
rants, caterers and other
food services to Detroit's
needy in four soup kitchens
and shelters, said Mr. Blake-
ly, the organization's ad-
ministrative coordinator.
Started as a project of the
Mazon Council of
Metropolitan Detroit after
learning about a similar
program in Philadelphia,
Forgotten Harvest is a
separate, nondenomina-
tional organization. While
the Jewish community gave
Forgotten Harvest its start,
"we're trying to make
ourselves available to people
throughout the tri-county
area," Mr. Blakely said. The
organization has already
received grants from
Gleaners Community Food
Bank in Wayne County and
Oakland County Food Bank
as well as from Mazon, a
Jewish Response to Hunger.
Although Forgotten
Harvest does welcome in-

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