By Tzvi Freeman 

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I really want to become Jewish. What's my next step?
Your next step is to become a better person. Develop greater faith in your soul, in your destiny,
and in your Maker. Do more good, reach out to more people. Learn more wisdom, apply
whatever you learn, and make life worth living.
But you don't need to become Jewish to do any of that. Plenty of wonderful people doing
beautiful things in the world are not Jewish, and Gd is nonetheless pleased with them. And if
you're worried about going to heaven, Jewish belief is that all good people have a share in the
World to Come, as long as they connect their lives to the oneness of G‑d and keep the Seven
Laws of Noah.
You see, there's Judaism and there's Jewishness, and the two are not one and the same. Judaism
is wisdom for every person on the planet and beyond. We call it the Torah, meaning "the
teaching," and it's a divine message to all human beings containing the principles that much of
humanity has already accepted as absolute truths. The idea that human life is beyond value is a
teaching originating from Torah, as is the related concept that all human beings are created
equal. So too, the right of every individual to literacy and education was brought to the world
through Torah. And world peace as a value and goal was preached exclusively by the Torah and
its prophets thousands of years before it became popular in the rest of the world. And of course,
the idea that there is a single, incorporeal Being who creates and sustains all of reality, and is
concerned over all that occurs with each individual, thereby giving each person, creature, event
and object meaning, purpose and destiny—this is a core teaching upon which everything else
rests, and the central teaching of the Torah.
This teaching was not only preserved, but unfolded, explained, illuminated and applied in so
many different ways by Jewish sages since it was given, over 3300 years ago. They've applied it
to serious matters of medical ethics, business ethics, politics, personal enlightenment—every facet
of human life. Today it is all readily available for all humanity to partake of and learn from, as a
beacon of light and an inspiration to all.
That's Judaism. Then there is Jewishness. To be Jewish means to belong to an ancient tribe,
either by birth or by adoption (a.k.a. conversion). It's a strange and unique tribe, because it is the
only one to have survived into modernity while retaining most of the characteristics of a Bronze
Age tribe. Anthropologist Jared Diamond describes in his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel," how a
New Guinea tribesman, when visiting a nearby village of the same tribe, will immediately start
the conversation with an investigation of, "So, who are you related to? Do you know so-and-so?"
to establish tribal relations. Well, that's exactly what Jewish people do today when they meet one
another all over the world. Because, whether living in Manhattan or Joburg, Tel Aviv or
Vladivostok, we are still all one tribe.
And for good reason: To preserve the teachings of an ageless Torah for the world, the Jewish
People themselves need to be ageless, remaining outside of time, as it were, even while traveling
within it.
Tribes have rituals. So do Jews. Males of the tribe wear particular items of clothing, such as
tzitzit and kippot. Women keep a certain mode of modest dress and married women cover their
hair. Men also wrap leather boxes containing parchment scrolls on the heads and arms every
morning, while robed in woolen sheets with more of those tzitzit tassels. In our services, we
chant ancient Hebrew and read from an ancient scroll. We have holidays that commemorate our
tribal memories and establish our identity as a whole. Certain foods are taboo and other food is
supervised and declared fit-for-the-tribe. Nope, you can't get much more ancient-tribal than any
of that.
The point is, none of that ritual stuff was ever meant as a universal teaching, except perhaps in a
more generalized way. Modest dress—yes, a good idea for all. Why should the human being be
reduced to a body icon? A chat with your Maker every morning? How can a human being do
without it? And injecting some spirituality into your food consumption—what a great way to
transcend the mundane. But as to the particular rituals in their Jewish form, as meaningful as
they are to us, there's simply no meaning in someone outside the tribe taking them on. (If you
don't believe me, take a look in the source-text, where Gd tells Moses, "Speak to the Children of
Israel and tell them to...")
G‑d decides who you are, and the best you can do is discover it. Let me illustrate with a story.
Two friends of mine joined the Peace Corps back in the sixties and were posted in Southeast
Asia. Together, they visited a little-known guru in the jungle to whom they announced, "We
want to become Buddhists."
"Well, what are you now?" he asked them.
"Nothing,"; they replied.
"Where did you come from? What were your parents?"
"They were Jews."
"So why are you coming to me?" he asked. "Go and be Jews."
Now it's my turn to return the favor and tell the Southeast Asians, the Italians, the Nigerians, the
Inuits and all the rest of humanity this little piece:
I believe that what G‑d wants from each person is that s/he examine the heritage of his ancestors,
discover the truths hidden there and live in accordance with them, knowing that this is what his
Creator wants from her/him. The truths are there because all of human society was originally
founded upon the laws given to Adam and to Noah, along with those laws that all the children of
Noah accepted upon themselves. These truths are found by examining one's heritage through the
light of Torah. The Jewish Tribe are the bearers of that light. But you don't need to become
Jewish to partake of it. Light shines for all who have eyes.
How to Live like a Jew without being Jewish:
According to the sages of the Talmud, there are 70 families with 70 paths within the great Family
of Man. And each individual has his or her path within a path. Yet, there is one universal basis
for us all.
What is this universal basis? At the dawn of creation, G‑d gave Adam, the first human being, six
rules to follow in order that His world be sustained. Later, after the Great Flood, he charged
Noah with one more. So it is recounted in the Book of Genesis as interpreted by our tradition in
the Talmud.
Anyone who lives by these rules, acknowledging that they are what G‑d wants of us, is
considered by our tradition to be righteous. That person is a builder with a share in the world as it
is meant to be.
The creed of Noah is a sacred inheritance of all the children of Noah, one that every person on
the face of the earth can recite every day. And if enough of us will begin to say these same words
every day, we will see a different world very soon. Sooner than we can imagine.
Here is a phrasing of the Creed of Noah, according to ancient tradition, with a touch of
I, child of Noah,
caretaker of our precious Planet Earth,
accept upon myself the responsibility for peace and oneness in our world,
as accepted by Adam and by Noah,
transmitted by Moses and his people over the ages:
1. I will not worship anyone or anything other than the One Creator, who cares for the
creatures of our world, renewing the Act of Creation at every moment in infinite wisdom,
being life for each thing.
In this is included prayer, study and meditation.
2. I will not show disrespect for the Creator in any way...
This may be seen to include respect for the beauty and life of the Creation
3. I will not murder.

Each human being, just as Adam and Eve, comprises an entire world. To save a life is to
save that entire world. To destroy a life is to destroy an entire world. To help others live
is a corollary of this principle. Every human being that G‑d has created is obliged to
provide for others in need.
4. I will respect the institution of marriage.
Marriage is a most divine act. The marriage of a man and a woman is a reflection of the
Oneness of G‑d and His creation. Dishonesty in marriage is an assault on that Oneness.
5. I will not take that which does not rightfully belong to me.
Deal honestly in all your business. By relying on G‑d, rather than on our own conniving,
we express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.
6. I will not cause needless harm to any living thing.
At the outset of his creation, Man was the gardener in the Garden of Eden to "take care
of it and protect it." At first, Man was forbidden to take the life of any animal. After the
Great Flood, he was permitted to consume meat—but with a warning: Do not cause
unnecessary suffering to any creature.
7. I will uphold courts of truth and justice in my land.
Justice is G‑d's business, but we are given the charge to lay down necessary laws and
enforce them whenever we can. When we right the wrongs of society, we are acting as
partners in the act of sustaining the creation.
May the nations beat their swords into plowshares. May the wolf lie down with the lamb. May
the earth fill with wisdom as waters cover the ocean floor. And may it be very soon in all of our
lifetimes, sooner than we imagine.