New Year Sweetness of Systemic Civility

  Our sages say that, before Rosh Hashana, even before Torah, our greatest leader Moses taught us civility at the well of Mara. In fact, these precepts were given to all of mankind starting with the 1st humans, Adam and Eve. Civility (derech eretz) comes before Torah. These concepts of civility are stated and have been taught as the Seven Noahide Laws.

Have we lost them? Has the noise and news of our polarity and division drowned them out? Sadly, these seven mitzvahs that form the bedrock of a civil society seem to be breaking down. The world sometimes seems to be spinning out of control.

Let’s look back to find our way forward. Adam and Eve walked the earth some 2,000 years before the first Jew was born and nearly 2,500 years before we were proclaimed a people at Mount Sinai.

Historically, long before the Children of Israel received the Torah with its 613 mitzvot, Adam and Eve were given the fundamental laws of civilization. Later, these were reiterated to Noah and his sons and became known as the "Seven Noahide Laws.” And when we stood at Sinai to receive "our" mitzvot, we were also given the job of "prevailing upon all inhabitants of the world to accept the laws commanded to the Children of Noah" (Maimonides' Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings 7:10)

The mitzvah of Rosh Hashana, as its name proclaims, is the ‘head’ of the Jewish year. And as the Chassidic masters point out, the head of a thing is its primary and most encompassing component. 

As the very "head" of our year it is the one festival which relates to humanity as a whole as the birthday of humanity; Adam and Eve. Sukkot, with it’s inclusiveness of all ‘seventy nations’ relates to all mankind as well. Our Jewish holiday season is a blessing for all humanity highly contrasting Covid’s worldwide curse. We’re all in this together!

On Rosh Hashanah we remember, and remind the world, that G‑d created man and woman, G‑d gave them the gift of life, and G‑d laid down its 7 rules: 

Do so not only because it makes sense to you, not only because it "feels right," but because you are a subject of G‑d and you accept your Sovereign's decrees. This sweet systemic civility is the foundation of our existence. Without this, what do we have?

The Noahide code’s central theme is civilizing the world, for “He formed it [the world] to be settled,” (Yeshayahu 45:18) to the point that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation” (Michah 4:3)

This year, let the Shofar blasts remind us of the systemic civility of the Seven Noahide Laws. Let’s live by them and share them with all of our family, friends, and neighbors for a sweet civil year of health and peace!

Shana Tova!