Rabbi Alon Anava, an inspirational speaker who addresses audiences around the world, gave a lesson last week in Safed (Tzfat) on the 23rd anniversary of the death of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. In his sermon, Rabbi Anava revealed the most crucial last stage before the arrival of Messiah: for Jews to teach the Seven Noahide Laws to the nations.
One of the greatest Jewish leaders of the 20th century and the spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch branch of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Schneerson was a strong advocate of Torah outreach as a means of bringing the Moshiach (Messiah). During his lifetime, Rabbi Schneerson sent out emissaries all over the world to educate and inspire people to come close to God.
Carrying down his teachings, Rabbi Anava taught that Rabbi Schneerson believed the final step before Moshiach was dependent on one thing: Jews teaching Torah to non-Jews.
“We know what we as Jews need to do to bring the redemption, and actually, we already reached the quota of what is needed,” Rabbi Anava explained. “[Rabbi Schneerson] said, ‘We are all ready. All that is needed is to polish the buttons’.”
“You know what is missing?’ Rabbi Anava asked rhetorically. “The nations of the world. Now, all we need to do is involve a couple billion people from the other nations to be part of the redemption.”
Rabbi Anava cited the biblical source requiring Jews to teach non-Jews.
Yea, He saith: ‘It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Yaakov, and to restore the offspring of Yisrael; I will also give thee for a light of the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.’ (Isaiah 49:6)
The ‘Rebbe’, as Rabbi Schneerson was known to the millions of people who looked to him for enlightenment, became the head of the Chabad movement in 1950 when his father-in-law passed away. In the early 1980’s, he began urging his followers to disseminate teachings about the Seven Noahide laws to non-Jews.
“This is where most people, most leaders of our generation fail,” Rabbi Anava explained. “[Jews] have already reached our capacity. Now, we have the responsibility of bringing that awareness to the world, and we are failing big-time”.
The Chabad Movement is very much an exception to Rabbi Anava’s statement. Today, over 3,500 Chabad-Lubavitch institutions exist in more than 85 countries on six continents. In addition to providing services and education to Jews, these institutions are active in outreach to non-Jews.
The rabbi noted there is a Jewish tradition in which the Jews at Mount Sinai accepted the Torah unconditionally, observing the commandments with the understanding that they will learn and understand them more fully at a later date. This is referred to in Jewish theology as naaseh v’nishmah (we will do and we will hear).
And all the people answered together, and said: ‘All that Hashem hath spoken we will do.’ Exodus 19:8
Rabbi Anava explained that according to Jewish tradition, this acceptance was on seven commandments best known as the Seven Noahide Laws. When Israel accepted these at Sinai, all of the other nations were present as well.
“It happened to be we were in the front row because we got the information in order to give it over,” the rabbi said semi-humorously.
Rabbi Anava explained that the Torah was given to the Jews but, according to Jewish tradition, it doesn’t actually exclusively belong to anyone. The Talmud explains that God gave the Torah in the desert because a desert is designated by Torah law as a makom hefker (an ownerless place). The Torah was not given in the Land of Israel for that would have meant it was intended solely for the Jews in the Land of Israel. The rabbi explained that for a Jew to say the Torah is ‘mine’, contradicts that concept entirely, and renders the Torah useless.
“It is like a child grabbing a toy that doesn’t belong to him,” Rabbi Anava explained.
He noted that the history of relations between Jews and Christians make this goal difficult.
“When people say, ‘We were always persecuted and murdered’, I can understand,” Rabbi Anava said. “There are millions of Jews who don’t even know how to say shema (the prayer proclaiming God’s Oneness). It is our responsibility to inspire them. But we have a greater obligation to go out and inspire the world to follow the seven laws of Noah.”
Rabbi Anava often lectures about his own near-death experience and how it affected his return to Torah. In his lecture last week, Rabbi Anava related a question he was asked by a non-Jew concerning the rabbi’s near death experience. The questioner asked the rabbi if, when he was in heaven, did they tell him that he had to follow specifically Judaism.
“In heaven, they didn’t mention the word Judaism,” Rabbi Anava said. “They spoke only of Torah, and Torah belongs to everybody.”
The rabbi noted that the obligation to teach Torah requires knowledgeable Jews to approach everyone and ask, ‘Are you Jewish?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, they should help them with the commandments that are specific to Jews. But if the answer is ‘no’, the rabbi notes that an additional stage is required.
“The question should then be ‘Are you human?’” Rabbi Anava said. “If they are human, you have to teach them about the Noahide laws.