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First Covenant

Covenant Connection

Volume 2, Issue 8

April 2007.......Iyar 5767

How to Get Rich


• How to Get Rich

• Where are the Churches?

• Seven Candles, by Andrea Chester: Revolutionary Perspectives

The Bible's "Statutes" and Kosher Animals

First Covenant Radio



How do peoples and countries get rich? How do they grow out of poverty?

I was a student at the University of Michigan when I talked myself into a think tank there, the Center for Research on Economic Development. They had answers to those questions.

The center concentrated on just one small country - Ivory Coast, in West Africa, next door to Ghana and Liberia. Blessed with ocean beaches and harbors, Ivory Coast has rich soil, plenty of rainfall, a year-round growing season. . . lots of advantages. It's particularly well-suited for growing coffee and cocoa. If it just made some smart investments, in roads, docks and warehouses. . . The U. of Michigan economists showed its leaders the way it should go. We all thought it had a bright future.

Within a decade Ivory Coast was the most stable and prosperous country in West Africa. It had so much work available that immigrants came streaming in from neighboring countries. Its native landholders and merchants were prospering, the cities were rich with new opportunities - it really looked like Ivory Coast had learned how to get rich. The people at Michigan pointed to it proudly. They said, "See what market economics can accomplish?" 

Then strange things started happening. Quite a few of the cocoa and coffee growers decided to reduce their labor costs by turning hungry immigrant children into slaves on their plantations. The longtime president of the country suddenly decided to turn the tiny village where he was born into the country's new capital. To further memoralize himself, he also set out to construct "the greatest church on earth" - literally, the world's largest Christian church.


Built between 1985 and 1989, it's modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Clad with marble expensively imported from Italy, it's even taller than St. Peter's. In one gallery, you can see the president's own giant image in stained glass, near immense stained glass images of Jesus and the apostles.

Pope John Paul II refused Ivory Coast's president's invitations to come and consecrate the church until the president agreed to also build a hospital. When the pope finally came to visit in 1990, the government arranged for him to see them laying the hospital's cornerstone. Seventeen years later, you can still see it there today - the cornerstone, alone in a field, some distance from the church.

Today, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, "the lavishly built basilica sits in the middle of the African bush in an impoverished city where only a minority of homes have running water and adequate sanitation."

The cost of the basilica, more than a billion dollars in today's dollars, put Ivory Coast deeply in debt. Building a whole new capital city - with eight-lane boulevards to nowhere - put it even deeper into the hole. Then things really got bad. The president died. Civil war broke out between people of different ethnic groups and religions. Not only that, people of the same ethnic group and religion began hating each other. Ivorians - particularly the more well off among them - began questioning the "Ivoriness" of their own tribesmen and neighbors.

Ivory Coast has more than 16 million people. Hundreds of thousands of children were recruited as soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of civilians had their legs and hands chopped off. Hundreds of thousands were murdered.

Naturally, the country is still a bloody mess today. What was, not long ago, the wealthiest and most peaceful country in Africa is now one of the most impoverished and dangerous. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1043014.stm

If my professors at Michigan had looked at Ivory Coast with the Noahide Laws in their minds, they might have seen this coming.


Noahide Metrics

One of the great things about the Noahide Laws is that they operate, in a way, like a grading system. They offer a way of gauging a country's prospects, of measuring its capabilities, its moral health and fitness. They work sort of like a report card.

Take the Noahide Law against larceny. That's a very important metric. "The first question at the Last Judgment," the Talmud says, "will be: did you deal honestly with your fellow man?" A country whose people generally believe in giving an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, for instance, has a huge advantage over one that doesn't.

"To be honest in business is to fulfill the whole Torah." Midrash (ancient rabbinic commentary) on Exodus 15:26

Beyond larceny, consider - for instance - the Noahide Laws against idolatry and sacrilege. When workers are starving and being enslaved, what kind of God would prefer that their fellow men, instead of taking care of their brethren, should put their best efforts into building God a building?

What credit does that do their God?

Or consider the Noahide Law against oppression. This is the so-called "justice commandment" - every people's obligation to establish order and government, including a just and effective system of justice.

When the crazy old president decided to move the country's government from Abidjan, the former capital, the so-called "Paris of West Africa," to his ancestral village, common sense and justice should have said "No!" When he decided to build the world's fanciest church in the middle of nowhere, the people of Ivory Coast, through the courts and the peaceful power of the ballot, should have been able to stop him. They couldn't, of course. The president dominated the government as he did the courts. That's a real big failing - another 'F' on the country's Noahide report card. Ivory Coast had the same kind of democracy as Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world does: none. Its courts were and are just as corrupt, dominated by its "big men."

"The great conservative truth is that culture is everything," said Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York State's late great senator. We've quoted this before. ("The great liberal truth," he added, "is that government can help change culture for the better.")

It's not just Ivory Coast or Saudi Arabia that gets an 'F' for Justice. One of the more ghastly cultural trends today was featured on CBS News' last "60 Minutes." "Stop Snitchin'," it's called. If you see a murder, say, and help to put the killer behind bars, you're a snitch, a bad person.

Anderson Cooper interviews rap star "Killa Cam," who explains his "code of ethics," as he puts it. Do nothing to help the police. Cooper asks him, what if you knew that you lived next door to a serial murderer, who goes out killing people? Would you call the police? Cam answers, "No, I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him. But I'd probably move. . . . "  The story is "Stop Snitchin', Rapper Cam'ron: Snitching Hurts His Business,"Code Of Ethics" - CBS News

That's what the culture is telling kids, says Geoffrey Canada, an educator, who is featured on the show. This, he says, "is now a cultural norm that is being preached in poor communities." In fact, it's being preached all over the world, wherever people listen to rap music.

Mr. Canada believes that he knows who to blame for this calamity: the executives at music publisher like Warner Brothers. (Because "they make money" off the rappers' vileness.) Killa Cam, a true cultural leader, who makes a pretty fair living off it himself, knows better: "No record company in the world would say, "We're not promoting you if you keep calling somebody a snitch. They know what makes money. A record company would never be that stupid. Ever."

Question. Where are the churches in all this? If the churches don't teach the basics of the Noahide Laws, who will? Or, to put it another way, what good is a church that doesn't teach the Noahide Law? What kind of God would such a church serve?



Seven Candles, by Andrea M. Chester

Revolutionary Perspectives

Two months ago, Michael Dallen began a series explaining some of the "revolutionary" ways of the Torah. Within this revolution, God is repairing His world. He is restoring it, from a planet polluted since mankind disobeyed Him, to its original purity and purpose. This restoration is a process, called “tikkun olam.” Like polishing a gem, it is painstaking and deliberate. Sometimes we wonder if anything good can be happening. But God gives us His Word, and the words of the Torah.

Words are powerful. They can soothe a frightened child or inflame a mob. They can bore us to tears or inspire us with patriotic zeal. What we say can even promote harmony among us or incite us to war. So, I find it invigorating to unearth an exciting nuance to a tired, familiar word.

Most of us have similar notions of what specific words mean…. Most people can agree whether something is a dog, or a cloud, or a tree. Some words, however, have hidden depth. They defy easy definition. They embody entire concepts. Over the next few months, I’d like to share several of those ideas with you.

Growing up in Christianity, I heard a lot about certain words. One of them was charity. Technically, it meant “love,” and was often considered synonymous with “tithe.” The pastor exhorted us to “dig deep, because you can’t out-give God.” It always conjured up images of beggars, with hollow eyes and swollen bellies. We were supposed to give because we “loved them,” as God loved us. Many of us gave with the expectation that God would honor our generosity with more riches, but we also gave because we felt guilty. As little as most of us had, none of us had been reduced to begging or starvation.

Then I came across a revolutionary concept. The Hebrew word most often translated as charity was tzedakah. It wasn’t about being “nice.” It was about acting in righteousness and justice, about balancing the scales, about giving a “hand UP, not a hand OUT.” WOW! That took it to a totally different realm. I learned that it was a great mitzvah, a living connection to God, to give someone a job or other opportunity to become self-sufficient. It wasn’t synonymous with a tithe: that was more on the lines of a “temple tax.” And you could give too much. I found out that the rabbis discouraged anyone except the very wealthiest to give more than twenty percent of their income.

Suddenly, it was meaningful to look for opportunities to givetzedakah. I was partnering with God in the restoration of the world. Although more dollars were finding their way out of my checkbook, it was less of a chore and more of a blessing. I was participating in tikkun olam, through tzedakah!

Next month, I will write about the Hebrew words for prayer. If you have suggestions for future columns, or if you have other ideas, we’d like to hear from you. If you are a Noahide, or just interested in knowing what the Noahide movement is all about, contact us. Let’s learn and grow….together!



The Bible's "Statutes": Kosher Animals

The Bible's "statutes" are the more mysterious parts of the Torah. In the last issue, we mentioned that the Torah's food laws, particularly, exemplified the class of Divine legislation known as statutes. These are the laws of God which, unlike Noah's Laws, aren't necessarily logical. Even so, G'd promises, a time will come when mankind somehow comes to recognize the greatness of these statutes (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).

This is a huge subject and we can't cover much of it in one article. But when it comes to which animals are kosher - literally, fit - for "a holy people," "a people of priests" to eat, a pattern emerges from the details of Torah.

Here is just one of the attributes which is common to all of the kosher food animals: of all God's creatures, man can kill them - admittedly, it doesn't always work out so well in practice - without causing them fear or pain. This according to Dr. Temple Grandin, a famous animal scientist who, along with her academic work, designs slaughterhouses. (See her book, Thinking in Pictures, or read about it in Rainbow Covenant, p. 122.)


Let's take just the kosher mammals. They are, basically, cattle, deer, bison, goats, and sheep. (As a matter of fact, giraffes are kosher too, but they're hard to manage.) They are all herd animals. According to

This Seventh Commandment connects vile gastronomy to idolatry

Dr. Grandin, they aren't bothered by proper herding in the slaughterhouse, or even by the smell of blood or death. They don't know that they are going to their deaths. The slaughterhouse itself may frighten them, but Dr. Grandin insists that it doesn't have to be frightening. It's just a matter of process, or proper engineering, she says.

If they are slaughtered properly - a lightning-quick swipe of a razor-sharp knife or sword across the throat, causing immediate unconsciousness from a massive, sudden loss of blood pressure - they die, she says, without feeling any pain at all.

Pigs can't be killed that way. They can smell blood. They recognize the smell and sounds of death. So do dogs and cats and monkeys. It's the same with such other non-kosher animals as, say, rabbits, rodents, horses, camels, or even llamas. Like the pig, or dog, or cat, they "see it coming."

So these kosher food laws are not just "taboos" - irrational prohibitions based in superstition. They don't just impinge upon man's physical health.

Most Americans who give this any thought at all believe that the Torah prohibits the Jews from eating pork only because pork, more than beef, needs refrigeration. This is the politically correct, "progressive" view - that it's an antiquated law, now obsolete. But this view exemplifes smug ignorance. If anything, it's proudly ignorant - it doesn't "stoop down" to really think about the Torah.  It's a terrible slur against the Torah. The truth is that these kosher food laws go 'way beyond the merely physical.



First Covenant Radio


Hear us speak - check us out on radio. We're on Zelda Young's Global Jewish Connection show on CHIN FM - 100.7 on the FM dial in Toronto, Canada - every other Wednesday, starting around 9:30 (Eastern Daylight Time). You can hear us on Internet radio live - http://www.zeldayoung.com - and you can also listen to most of the shows that we've already done there. 

On the First Covenant website, go to http://1stcovenant.com/pages/voiceandvideo.htm.

Michael Dallen takes Zelda's questions. Rabbi Michael Katz and Reverend Jack E. Saunders have already been on Zelda's show. And on Thursday, May 17th, starting about 9AM, all three will join on an open-line phone-in show, a special hour-long show, taking callers' questions.

We invite you, especially, the members of the First Covenant Foundation, and everyone who takes Covenant Connection, to call in.

Steven Savitsky, president of the Orthodox Union, interviews Michael Dallen and Jack Saunders on the Orthodox Union's online radio show. The approximately half-hour interview will be broadcast sometime close to the holiday of Shavuot (literally, "Weeks," also known as Pentecost), around May 23rd, and you can replay it from the OU's website after that.  http://www.ou.org/

Mishpacha Jewish Family Magazine recently ran a story about Noahides and the Noahide movement - read their interview with Michael Dallen. . . if we could find it at the moment. . . 


We call on God for help. As the prayer that Israel says every morning just before reciting the Hebrew statement of faith known as the shema asks (please understand that this is much richer in Hebrew than in English): Our Father, the merciful Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy on us, instill in our hearts to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah's teachings with love. Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah, attach our hearts to Your commandments, and unify our hearts to love and fear Your Name.

Amen.Questions? Comments?

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