Cognitive Dissonance and Noahide Law

denial

Leon Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which states that a powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior. [From simplypsychology.org]

Twenty–eight years ago, when I was studying in the Atlanta Kollel, I had a conversation with one of the rabbis. I discussed with him about the halakha concerning sacrifices, and how a Noahide was permitted to build an alter anywhere and offer a korban olah. The rabbi was flabbergasted. He explained that, even though he understood the halakha about the Noahide law, he told me that he simply could not wrap his mind around the concept of building an alter and offering sacrifices since it has been forbidden by Jewish halakha since the destruction of the Temple. This was the beginning to my understanding that there was a difference between Noahide law and Jewish lawsometimes a vast differenceand many of the differences in halakha between the two were beyond the rabbi’s understanding.

This was also an example of cognitive dissonance. All Noahides have been through a bout of cognitive dissonance. The first bout for most was when the Noahide first heard of the Seven Laws, a concept which clashed with whatever belief system the Noahide held. Not only for Noahides, but many Jews experience it when first learning of the Seven Laws.

stone-crab-benedettos

To give another example, here is a Stone Crab. Stone crab claws are a favorite dish in Florida. However, you cannot harvest the crabs; the law in Florida says when you catch one, you can break off the claw but you must return the crab to the water so it can live and grow another claw. For the Noahide, this seems like a blatant violation of the law of the Limb of the Living, not to mention that crabs are non-kosher. But the crab is a sheretz, a crawling creature, as well as a sea-creature (which is considered dead the moment it is removed from the water.) Animals classified as sheretz do not fall under the prohibition of the Limb of the Living. It is also permissible for Noahides to eat crabs, since the kosher laws are not part of the Seven. This means that, halakhically speaking, it is not a violation of the Seven Laws to eat Stone Crab claws when they are harvested in the manner described above.

Where the rabbis are concerned, the incapability to deal with this cognitive dissonance has posed an even greater problem; it has influenced the development of Noahide halakha. The commandment of idolatry, which I have stated many times before, is no doubt the best example. Simply put, the non-Jew does not have the positive commandment to believe in God. The Noahide is only prohibited from worshiping any other god except Hashem. This means that an atheist can be considered an observant Noahide, halakhically speaking.

Although there are some rabbis who understand the halakha about the Noahide not having a positive commandment to believe in God, their cognitive dissonance has prevented them from teaching Noahide law correctly. The inability for the rabbis to grasp the inclusive nature of Noahide law is why their teachings are only directed to a small part of the Noahide demographic, namely ex-Christians.

Since ex-Christian Noahides are the vast majority of Noahides in the USA, this presents a problem. Noahides view rabbis (correctly) as the repositories of Torah wisdom and law. What they do not understand is that the rabbis are essentially clueless about what the Noahide law is all about. This is apparent from their continuing focus on the (Jewish) religious elements of the Torah in lieu of Noahide halakha.

So the question is: how much cognitive dissonance is too much to overcome? Many of these ex-Christians feel like they’ve done their job rejecting the tenets of Christian theology. Whether or not they are able to unshackle themselves from the tenets of Judaism remains to be seen.

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36 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance and Noahide Law

  1. Hrvatski Noahid says:

    “The prohibition of idolatry has two facets: the command to recognize and know God…and the prohibition against serving idols. Anyone who does not recognize and believe in God is a deviant believer.” (The Divine Code by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, Ask Noah International, 2011, p 134)

    This shows that belief in God is a positive aspect of the Noahide prohibition of idolatry and that an atheist cannot be seen as an observant Noahide in the eyes of God.

    The wonderful thing about printed sources is the lasting responsibility of the author for the content. If Jewish Rabbis do not teach Noahide Law correctly, God will punish them. This is not my problem.

  2. Elisheva Barre says:

    The Bnei Noah movement was driven by a desire of Gentiles to get closer to Israel and the Torah which makes of Israel the nation it is. That movement was parallel to the awakening of the Zonist movement which started the wave of return of the Jews to their land and is the beginning of a big change world history. This is history in the making, so we do not see too well how HaShem directs His world.
    And here is someone – a Gentile who studies the Torah and is immersed in the Noahide Code – who advocates “unshackling from the tenets of Judaism” because he decided that the Noahide Laws and not “Jewish” laws.
    And since there is no commandment for BN to worship HaShem, Judaism is not a “religion” either and there is no need to worship the One who gave the Torah – so he is unshakling that too, picking and choosing from it what suits his own purpose, with no need at all to ponder what HaShem’s purpose is and what HE has in mind. There is certainly a cognitive dissonance here.
    On the basis of his premice, he goes on bashing and lashing those rabbis who took upon themselves to teach the BN to Gentiles who want to learn because as he claims, they do not understand these laws (those to whom he grants some sort of understanding are those who say what he wants to have them say).
    Having no clue about the foundations of the Torah and Judaism, the cognitive dissonance is entirely his. I will point to a number of misconceptions:
    1) The Noahide Code is Torah for Gentiles, and in that sense it is Judaism with no need to play on words because the noahide laws are part of the Torah as it commands Gentiles (who may enjoy lobsters any way they like them).
    2) After having studied somewhat (and it seems a lot but not too well), he thinks he knows enough to be able to say that the Rambam does not understand these laws and misrepresents them. But he, this wise man of the nations, will dismiss the Rambam, dissociate himself from “Judaism”, free himself from the authority of the rabbis, and reinvent the Noahide Code to suit some program he has in mind for his own fellow citizens, since Israel does not have sovereignty over foreign lands (which is true). In other words, he is stealing the noahide code for his own purpose.
    He will of course claim he is not stealing since these laws were given to Gentiles. That is not true because they were given to Israel at Sinai, and their APPLICATION was entrusted into the hands of halachic authorities.
    3) When he is corrected (as I tried to do), he simply ignores what is kindly pointed out to him which means he does not WANT to learn. He already knows it all (something the Rambam does not).
    This is how he has indeed un-shakled himself and this is how he intends to en-shakle you. The dissonance is not the Torah’s but his own, and don’t let it become yours.
    .

  3. Elisheva Barre says:

    To Hesedyahu, of course “to know our obligations and be responsible in our own native communities”. That is on a personal level, and it is always applicable.
    The problem Alan Cecil raises is that in our present situation when the legal status of BN is not applicable, and in foreign countries where “the laws of land” are socially and ideologically different, how can we establish a government and social system that goes by the moral standards of the Noahide laws? What in fact he is asking, is what will the world look like when this will happen.
    But he fails to see that UNTIL it happens, many things will have to change – many of which are not under man’s control to force to change. One can’t impose new laws and rules, it has to grow from somewhere – yes, an awakening of the people as he calls for.
    But when you awake people, you have to be abe to tell them “good morning” – by that I men all the elements have to be in place. The world today is in a turmoil, there are many conflicting trends and negative people who will oppose a change, and forcing it to establish a “noahide government” would, today, mean a revolution. In the meantime, in democratic countries, the choice of the people is expressed in a ballot.
    At that point, I suggest to let God suppervise His world and lead it to where He intends it to go. Each man helps by the good he spreads around him, and the rest is not up to us.

  4. “At that point, I suggest to let God suppervise His world and lead it to where He intends it to go. Each man helps by the good he spreads around him, and the rest is not up to us.”

    In other words, “Just keep the Noahide Law as a vehicle for personal salvation and don’t stir up any trouble.”
    Sorry, but that line isn’t going to work any more.

  5. as there was a comment here for me, I guess I can say something.

    Elisheva, you know how deeply I respect your work, your book having a significant influence on me. So my disagreeing with you is nothing personal, only being true to the basics I’ve learnt.

    Alan is not anti-rabbi. the Torah does not equate to being Judaism. A dictionary would show that. Judaism is essentially the religion of the Jews. The seven laws are part of Torah, but they are not religion for Jews, but rather laws that are meant to govern Gentile lands as law of the land. We Gentiles have to learn enough to govern ourselves as the seven laws are primarily Gentile responsibility to apply and adjudicate, not the Jews. Yes, we have to learn from Torah true Jews the truth of the seven, but then, in Gentile lands, the jurisdiction is that of the gentiles, not of the Jews, as rambam’s seventh law in laws of kings chapter 9 implies.

    neither Alan nor I desire top down imposition of the seven laws, but rather grassroots approaches and education. and violent revolution only leads to more of the same nonsense. education is key. but the seven laws are not simply personal. the aim must be obedience to the societal implementation of the seven.

    to say to the rabbis, “you’re not in charge,” is not to cut oneself off. they can be advisors and teachers until we know enough, but not leaders.

  6. Elisheva says:

    I have read with tremendous interest the articles on both on your blogs and gave a lot of thought to your opinions. The relation between Israel and the Nations is not a one-way street and Israel has not been set apart to live in a vacuum.

    To Academy of Shem:
    Your “in other words” is not a correct translation because the concept of “salvation” is not a Jewish concept and “don’t stir any trouble” is the contrary of progress. The Torah speaks of values and offers a way to implement them. One of these values is elevation (and not salvation) and to implement it one needs a ladder. According to which, of course what you say in your “translation” of my words is not going to work, neither has it ever worked. I suggest you supplement your study of Torah with a meditation of its basic concepts.

    To Hesedyahu: You may always speak out! All the more so on your own blog!
    1. Dictionaries are useful but they are not the final word.
    2. The Torah created what we call “Judaism” when Israel became a nation of Jews, as opposed to being before that Bnei Noah.
    The name Yehuda and Yehudit appear in the Torah before there were Jews and it was later taken to designate the whole nation because the tribe of Yehuda was elected to be the leader of that nation. Israel is another name, because Yaakov who was given that name is the father of the tribes. By virtue of which Torah IS “Judaism” for being the doctrine and constitution revealed to the Jews. And wonderfully, it also CONTAINS a Torah for Gentiles, and that too was revealed to Jews. (You certainly know the Midrash which says God offered it to the other nations, but they refused it).
    3. Judaism is considered a religion because of the need to categorize it in opposition to other religions. It is ALSO a religion, but not ONLY a religion.
    4. Now, the main point of discussion has been indeed “how do Gentiles govern themselves in their own lands on the basis of the Noahide laws?”
    The law you quote in Ch. 9 of the Book of Kings talks of the obligation to institute Courts – Courts whose function is to “warn the people” of their obligations to the 7 BN commandments and judge them with a capital punishment for any transgression of any one of them. That means:
    a) that civil laws and social ordinances not covered by these commandments are left up to them to institute and judge according to their own governance.
    b) that how to judge what is, or is not, a transgression of any one of the seven is prescribed by the Halacha of the Bnei Noah laws. This cannot be revised, amended, or invented by gentiles who wish to apply the Noahide laws in their own countries. They need to go by the Torah’s Halachic prescriptions.
    5) You quite rightly say that “the seven laws are not simply personal. The aim must be obedience to the societal implementation of the seven”.
    Israel has the SAME problem as you have: The 613 Mitzvot boil down today to only 60 “personal” mitzvot valid at all times for men, and 46 for women. Where did the “societal implementation” of the other 553 Mitzvot disappear?!
    So Israel, like Gentiles, face the same challenge to create a society that implements, each one, its own laws, according to the Torah’s prescriptions and guidance for the creation of a society that governs by them. In the absence of which, the BN commandments and Jewish Mitzvot remain “personal”.
    On the basis of these premises and especially my point 5) we can go on to discuss how societal and national governance by Torah Law will come to be, for both Israel and the nations. But the fact Torah was given to Israel, necessarily means that Gentiles are subject to halachic authority WITHOUT however making foreign countries vassal to Israel. That is a wonderful thing pertaining to the divine project for mankind for when all will be said and done, God will be King.

    When terms such as Judaism, religion, and rabbinic authority are not put in their proper context and not correctly conceived, it leads to the highjacking Torah laws to fit a worldview that is foreign to it. In turn it is cutting off God from His project (NO “religion” implied here!). This must be clearly understood before we can go on with our discussion. I hope I made it clear to you both.

    • “Your ‘in other words’ is not a correct translation because the concept of ‘salvation’ is not a Jewish concept and ‘don’t stir any trouble’ is the contrary of progress. The Torah speaks of values and offers a way to implement them. One of these values is elevation (and not salvation) and to implement it one needs a ladder.”

      “Anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these seven mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of ‘the pious among the gentiles’ and will merit a share in the world to come” (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 8:11). Rambam does not speak of “elevation” in introducing the Noahide Laws in the Mishna Torah—he speaks of having “a share in the world to come.” This is exactly the non-Jewish concept of “salvation.” The most important “value” the Torah speaks of (as far as Noahides are concerned) is that of social justice. Your understanding of Torah values is questionable at best, as the following comments from earlier blogs indicate:

      “Without being a rabbi, at this precise moment, I would say: Vote for Donald Trump! I am very serious. Although it is a personal opinion, it is based on my Torah learning.
      (Hesedyahu asked something about the obligation to vote – see what I replied to him on his blog if you want.)”

      I did so, and this is what you said:
      “As things stand today, voters are not required to vote on issues (such as abortions and same-sex marriages), but for a person. This, it seems to me, rules out the claim that the voter would be accomplice to such practices if they are not the main and central platform the candidate stands for. If this candidate is a good person, if his overall stands are positive and if he is capable of fighting for them, eliminating corruption and uplifting the people, I think he does deserve a vote – taking into account that within the democratic system, shaking the consensus requires to choose priorities. Once such a candidate has gained power and the people’s trust, he will be able to steer the boat towards clean waters…”

      Besides the fact Trump is not a “good person.” Trump fights for the oligarchy. There is no better embodiment of Esau than Donald Trump. This is why I question your “Torah learning.”
      You imply we must stay within the “democratic system.” The problem is, we are not in a democratic system. If we were in a democratic system, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000. There was a “good person” in this election, but the DNC made sure he did not get the nomination.

      “According to which, of course what you say in your ‘translation’ of my words is not going to work, neither has it ever worked. I suggest you supplement your study of Torah with a meditation of its basic concepts.”

      I can say the same to you. Unless you are a citizen of the United States, you have no authority to try to influence the politics or legal system of sovereign Noahide states. Even if you were a citizen, you would only have the authority as a “citizen,” even if you were a rabbi. Telling Noahides to vote for a man who brags about his ability to avoid paying taxes (which means he is subsidized by the lower classes) shows your inability to grasp the most basic of Torah values.

  7. Elisheva says:

    I will send you a detailed reply after the High Holidays. In the meantime, I have a question: You fear Jewish influence and interference in your own sovereign country. Do you mind if we pray for your peace on Rosh HaShana?

  8. Elisheva says:

    The noahide movement is not being run into the ground – you are. If you don’t like certain rabbis chose others, they can’t all be that bad -.or are they?
    In the same way Jews don’t put words of prayer into a Gentile”s mouth who DOES want to pray, you cannot words of prayer into my mouth, can you?.
    And of course, YOU don’t need no check!
    Alan, what game are you playing?
    What makes you so embittered?
    And why do you stick yourself into a no-exit corner?
    And why do you try to influence good people to follow you there?
    All that is not reasonable, or is it?!

    • “The noahide movement is not being run into the ground…”
      It already has been run into the ground.

      “In the same way Jews don’t put words of prayer into a Gentile”s mouth who DOES want to pray, you cannot words of prayer into my mouth, can you?.”
      Of COURSE the Jews want to put “words of prayer” into a Noahide’s mouth. They already have.

      “Alan, what game are you playing?”
      I’m not playing a game.

      “What makes you so embittered?”
      What makes you such a control freak?

      “And why do you stick yourself into a no-exit corner?”
      I’m already out the door. You’re the one in the corner.

      “And why do you try to influence good people to follow you there?”
      To make them understand that it is people such as yourself who want to control them. This isn’t any of your business.

      “All that is not reasonable, or is it?!”
      Yes, you are being unreasonable.

  9. Elisheva says:

    You are irreparably full of hatred, and what’s more you have NOTHING to say. But we will not let spray your venom on the web. .

    • Excuse me? Did I come on YOUR blog and tell you that you’re ignorant, full of hate, embittered, etc. ad nauseum? Who’s doing the hate-spraying here? You are. You’re all butthurt about my wanting to teach Torah from a perspective you do not agree with, even though it is solidly based on rabbinic teachings. You’re all bent out of shape because I do not accept Rambam as the ultimate halakhic authority. You’re just a busy-body with nothing better to do. Well, I have a solution…

      It is taught that if all Jews kept just one Sabbath correctly, haMoshiach would come. Or, how about having ALL frum Jews do aliyah at one time. That many observant Jews in Israel would no doubt affect state policy. In other words, the Jews have it in their hands to tikkum olam. Why don’t you do something positive rather than occupy yourself with business that is not yours?

  10. “In the same manner God also needs in His kingdom of humanity both Jews and non-Jews. Jew and non-Jew each has been assigned his own calling and his own law, and God’s sublime purpose will be attained only if each one, Jew and non-Jew, will gladly and faithfully carry out that calling and obey that law which God has set for him, and in so doing will make his own contribution to the common good as God expects him to do.” (Rav S. R. Hirsch)

    You’re overstepping your bounds. You are violating halakha by wanting to place a stumbling block in front of the Bnai Noah. Sorry, but you’re wrong.

    • “Jew and non-Jew each has been assigned his own calling and his own law, and God’s sublime purpose will be attained only if each one, Jew and non-Jew, will gladly and faithfully carry out that calling and obey that law which God has set for him…”

      Yes. Each has their own law. Noahide Law is NOT Jewish Law as you maintain.

  11. The rabbis I studied under were excellent.
    You know, there are millions of xians and muhammadeans out there who study Torah and twist it to their own evil purposes. Why not go after them?

  12. Guys , guys,

    Let’s be pursuers of peace here! It’s a shame the differences of opinions have resulted in this. You both have taught me much and it’s a shame there is such a divide. We can all disagree without it getting personal.

    I believe that both of you want Torah now all over the earth! I hope we get to that end!

  13. Elisheva says:

    Thanks David. At first I overlooked Alan’s despising remarks about my “poor understanding”, I discussed ISSUES but Alan never responded as a scholar. Peace is not something to be had where there is no truth, and his bashing proves he is not in search for truth.
    Alan, I am not “going after” you and it is strange you feel that way. I still have some answers to the long post I said I am withholding till after the High Holidays. I wonder now if there is any point to discuss the points you raised there since obviously you are going to reject anything I can say off hand, and with a slap too. You may redesign and interpret the Noahide laws any way you want, with the blessings of your rabbis.
    David, spread Torah over the whole world? No! Jews are not missionaries.

    • “At first I overlooked Alan’s despising remarks about my “poor understanding”, I discussed ISSUES but Alan never responded as a scholar. Peace is not something to be had where there is no truth, and his bashing proves he is not in search for truth.”

      Well, I went back and looked at the posts. I’m afraid your assessment is incorrect. If you want to see my scholarship, please read my book. I have hundreds of citations from rabbis, philosophers, historians, etc. My book speaks for itself. That being said, I need to point out that the purpose of this blog wasn’t to be scholarship-heavy.

      As far as your accusation of “poor scholarship,” I noticed you were the one who started being condescending in your attitude. You let your emotions overpower your logic. You have some work to do before Yom Kippur.

  14. Elisheva says:

    Putting aside your kind advise which you could take for yourself, if you want to reform the laws and constitution of your land to reflect your world-view, you need too learn Law and Poltics, run for President, and get elected on your platform. GL.

    You might find inspiration in the BN laws just as the authors of the Constitution of your country did, which gave a wonderful (albeit non-commital) tribute to the Lubavitch Rebbe for teaching these laws. Civil and financial matters are left up to Gentiles to rule as they see best in their own countries, and they may even question the “morality” of a death sentence for stealing less than a cent.
    We are (or I thought we were) discussing Torah Law and its areas of application. It does require logic, the logic of proper classifications. Oh well…

    • You. Don’t. Get. It.

      “We are (or I thought we were) discussing Torah Law and its areas of application.”

      Yes. That is EXACTLY what I am discussing. Torah Law and its areas of application.

      “Civil and financial matters are left up to Gentiles to rule as they see best in their own countries.”

      These ARE the “areas of application” for the Noahide Law. Please allow me to respond as a scholar:
      [Noahides were commanded by God] “Concerning the laws of theft, overcharging, withholding wages, the laws of bailees and of the rapist or the seducer of minors, the various categories of damages, personal injury, the laws of creditors and debtors, the laws of buying and selling, etc., comparable to the civil laws about which Israel was commanded.” (Ramban, Bereishis 34:13).
      In other words, our so-called “secular law.” Civil and financial matters.

      “if you want to reform the laws and constitution of your land to reflect your world-view, you need too learn Law and Poltics, run for President, and get elected on your platform.”

      No. What we need to do is to toss the current system of laws and current Constitution in the trash, and start over with a Noahide Law-based system. The type of government doesn’t matter—socialism, constitutional monarchy, whatever. Personally, I would prefer a parliamentary system instead of the inane winner-take-all system we have now. Your naive “world-view” of “you need too learn Law and Poltics, run for President, and get elected on your platform” is about working within the current system, a system designed to PREVENT Noahide Law from becoming the basis of our legal system and government.

      “You might find inspiration in the BN laws just as the authors of the Constitution of your country did, which gave a wonderful (albeit non-commital) tribute to the Lubavitch Rebbe for teaching these laws.”

      The Framers (your “authors”) of the Constitution did nothing of the kind 200 years ago. If you are referring to Public Law 102-14, that was a nod to Rabbi Schneerson, and a simple recognition of the Seven Laws. It has nothing to do with the legal status of the Seven other than acknowledging their existence.

      “It does require logic, the logic of proper classifications.”

      Yes, it requires logic. And the system which we need to use is that of a combination of Torah im Derech Eretz and sevarah. In the case of Torah im Derech Eretz, the Noahide must not only use it to filter out the corrosive Esavian ideas, mores and values of our present society, but to weed out the elements of Judaism that are not applicable to Noahide Law. As far as sevarah goes, this is exactly what I am working on: a logical system of philosophy designed to integrate Noahide Law with our society’s legal system as well as being a philosophy for individual moral conduct.

      Selah.

  15. Elisheva says:

    So – in some foreseeable future? – there will be two sets of Noahide Laws and legislations: The one you will work out for your own society after you tossed the Constitution, and the one that will be applied to residents strangers in our land after we have restored the conditions for the application of this status.

    Of course, there are many consequences to this difference. I leave it up to your own understanding.

    • You obviously do not understand the Noahide Law. There is ONE Torah, ONE set of Noahide Laws. These laws are (supposed to be) the foundation for the legal systems of ALL non-Jewish societies. It is not the Noahide Laws that are to be changed, but how they are implemented into each society.

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