Noahidism is a monotheistic Jewish ideology based on the Seven Laws of Noah. According to Jewish law, non-Jews are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah. Those who subscribe to the observance of such laws and their supporting organizations are referred to as B'nei Noah (Hebrew: בני נוח), Children of Noah or Noahides.
Technically, the Hebrew term B'nei Noah applies to all non-Jews as descendants of Noah. However, nowadays it is also used to refer specifically to those non-Jews who observe the Noahide Laws.
According to the Hebrew Bible, all humanity are descendants of Noah. Noah and his three children Shem, Ham, and Japheth survived the Flood aboard the Ark, along with their wives. Once the survivors were able to leave the ark for dry ground, they began to start new families and repopulate the earth. When Noah's family left the Ark, God made a covenant with them. According to the Talmud, this covenant included the Seven Laws of Noah. Thus, to the B'nei Noah, all living humans, as descendants of Noah, are subject to the Noahide laws—although Jews as the people chosen to bear the light of Torah before humanity, have further responsibilities placed on them.
Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, also known as "the Rambam") collected all of the talmudic and halakhic decisions in his time, and laid them out clearly in his work the Mishnah Torah; in addition to Jewish laws and their explanations, Noachide Laws were also collected with their explanation in Maimonides' Sefer Shoftim ("Book of Judges") in the last section Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot ("The Laws of Kings and Wars") 8:9-10:12, which is available in English online. Some details of these laws are also found in the Midrashic literature.
The seven laws listed by the Talmud are:
It is important to note that a knowledge and recognition of God is not one of the commandments for Noahides, while it is considered a commandment for Jews to recognize as such.
A modern movement known as the B'nei Noah or B'nei Noach has appeared in which members endeavour to follow the Noahide Laws.
Orthodox Judaism does not usually promote conversion to Judaism but does, on the other hand, believe that the Jewish people have a duty to provide information to the people interested to implement the Noahide Laws, based on Maimonides. Some Jewish groups have been particularly active in promoting the Seven Laws, notably the Chabad-Lubavitch movement (whose late leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, launched the global Noahide Campaign), groups affiliated with Dor Daim, and strict students of Maimonides.
Small groups calling themselves the B'nei Noah (children of Noah) have recently organised themselves to form communities to abide by these laws and lead their lives with morality. The High Council of B'nei Noah is particularly reflective of an apparent success at forming ties with Orthodox Judaism and Observant Noahides. There are several very different approaches within Judaism to B'nei Noah, and in recent years tens of publications and websites have appeared.
Some of their organizations include:
A High Council of B’nei Noah was endorsed on January 10, 2006 by a group established in Israel in 2004 that claims to be 'the new Sanhedrin'; this Council was set up to represent B'nei Noah communities around the world.
In April 2006, Noahide leader Billy Jack Dial founded a noahide council called the "United Noachide Council, Inc." to serve the needs of Noachides worldwide. It was the second council to be formed in conjunction with the Jerusalem Court for Bnei Noah
Chabad-Lubavitch has been the most politically active in Noahide matters, believing that there is spiritual value to non-Jews by even just acknowledging the seven laws. In 1991 they had a reference to these laws enshrined in a congressional proclamation: Presidential Proclamation 5956, then-President George H. W. Bush, recalling Joint House Resolution 173, and recalling that the ethical and moral principles of all civilizations come in part from the Seven Noachide Laws, proclaimed March 26, 1991 as "Education Day, U.S.A." Subsequently, Public Law 102-14, formally designated the Lubavitcher Rebbe's birthday as "Education Day, U.S.A.", with Congress recalling that "without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos", and that "society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society".
In April 2006, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel, Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, met with a representative of Chabad-Lubavitch to sign a declaration calling on all non-Jews in Israel to observe the Noahide Laws as laid down in the Bible and expounded upon in Jewish tradition. The mayor of the Galilean city of Shefa-'Amr (Shfaram) — where Muslim, Christian and Druze communities live side-by-side — also signed the document.
In March 2007, Chabad-Lubavitch gathered ambassadors from six different countries to take part in a gathering to declare, in the name of the states they represent, their support of the universal teachings of Noahide Laws. They represented Poland, Latvia, Mexico, Panama, Ghana, and Japan. They were part of a special program organized by Harav Boaz Kali.
In April, the Abu Gosh mayor Salim Jaber accepted the seven Noahide laws as part of a mass rally by Chabad at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.
In May, the newly elected president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, met with a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, Dovid Zaoui, who presented him with literature on the universal teachings of the Noahide Laws.