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First Covenant

Covenant Connection

Volume 3, Issue 1

September 2007... Tishrei 5768

Judgment Day


Judgment Day

• Belief and Non-belief

• Canned Prayer?

• Noahide Rosh HaShana, by J&N Reynolds

• Choose Life on Rosh HaShana!

• More Hamas TV

No to Circumcision?

Tearing Out Torah (and U.S. Senator Craig)

Noahide Shabbot


Prayerbook Revisited



"Judgment Day" this year begins at  sunset on Wednesday, September 12th. Jerry and Norma Reynolds describe how they celebrate Rosh HaShana - which, despite being Judgment Day, is actually quite a happy holiday - in this issue. As Noahides, Jerry and Norma celebrate Rosh HaShana and God's other "holy convocations," none more so than the sabbath (shabbos, or shabbot). Let them tell you how they observe shabbot, too.

First Covenant is all about God-consciousness. We spoke here before about prayer and ritual (including the Torah's holidays, HASHEM's  "holy convocations") being absolutely necessary adjuncts to God-consciousness. One needs prayer and ritual to acquire a true cosmology - that is, a correct, accurate worldview. 

We like a lot of the new Noahide Prayerbook - here is the link to it, which should take you directly to a Rosh Hashana/New Year service Click here: http://www.okbns.org/Free.html . We say this even though some of it made us uncomfortable. [See below, Prayerbook Revisited] Use it as a source of ideas, as a prayer-resource. But don't take it as holy writ (even if it includes some holy writ). It's an organic development coming out of the Noahide movement. Organic takes time.

Belief and Non-Belief

Most Americans believe in God or some Supreme Being, they tell pollsters; most people in France and Britain do not (Financial Times/Harris Poll, 2006, reprinted in The New York Times Magazine, September 9, 2007, p. 15.) Christopher Hitchens, a prominent British-Jewish atheist who wrote God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything (Warner Books, 2007), wants more atheism. He calls Sigmund Freud an ally. Quoting from Mark Edmundson in "Defender of the Faith?" in the Times Magazine, cited above: Freud, Hitchens says, "helped expose the weak-minded childishness of religion."

Balderdash. Drivel.  Before Freud died, he argued that "taking God into the mind enriches the individual immeasurably." Belief in a God Whom one cannot see "vastly improves people's capacity for abstraction," he wrote. Freud took inspiration from Moses. In Freud's last book, Moses and Monotheism (1939), just before he died, he called Israel's religion a "triumph of intellectuality over sensuality."

This is not to recommend Moses and Monotheism. We read it years ago. Freud had some really dumb ideas and he knew a lot less than he thought he did.  He never studied Torah in any conventional way. He was interesting, though. He believed that Christianity, by turning away from Israel's God, had taken a step back, in the direction of the pagan faiths.  With all its saints and personalities, it restored "visual intensity to religion." This, he thought, was why it prospered.

Freud learned something about Christianity from Arthur Schopenhauer (b. 1788), a German philosopher and a great pessimist. "To Schopenhauer," the Times' writer says, "life was mostly pain, grief and sorrow." That is why Schopenhauer liked Christianity. "A faith that had a man being tortured on a cross as its central emblem couldn't [to Schopenhauer] be entirely misleading in its overall take on life."

Canned Prayer?

Robert Lido asks about the benefits of personal, spontaneous prayer - "prayer from the heart," one might say, as opposed to "canned prayer." We agreed that one doesn't preclude the other. Ideally, close familiarity with a formal, published liturgy informs and enriches one's personal prayers. 

He also wondered about "ill-informed Noahides acting out Jewish rituals." He writes: "The idea goes from Moses to the people that the Jews are to be a ritualistic, priestly people for the world. Hence the Torah's 613 Commandments, Passover and Rosh HaShana, etc. Isn't it a waste of time for Noahides to conduct themselves similarly, in terms of ritual and worship?"

That's a good question. He and we finally stipulated that Noahides will just have to decide for themselves whether they want more rather than less God-consciousness.

One more question from Mr. Lido: "Does being a Noahide - that is, a monotheistic, HASHEM-fearing Noahide - mean giving up what one has to become something that, as yet, isn't clearly conceived?"

Jerry and Norma help answer that question. (The Reynolds say, to discover the truth, to get at what's real, you first have to strip away what isn't real.) As for the Noahide Way, the Torah's unified plan for all humankind . . . all we can do in this month's issue is try to make it easier for Noahides to be Noahides.

We expect to run a piece from Andrea Chester next month about the  "Who is God if He's Irrelevant?" issue from last month. As the Torah indicates - and as pretty nearly all the prayers in Israel's siddur, or prayerbook, teach - if God is irrelevant, He isn't God. That is, if you believe in a god who isn't relevant, it isn't HASHEM in Whom you believe.

One correspondent complains that we at First Covenant are wrong to try to "define God." He is too great for that, she writes; this lady prefers "to leave God undefined." That's a problem, Robert Lido says. "If the Torah doesn't actually define God, it at least defines who and what God isn't." This lady's supposedly respectful, humble refusal to define God, he says, means that she's open to God as a bearded Greek lecher atop Olympus, God as a man or snake or rat, God as a devil, a God "within" ("like indigestion," one rabbi said), etc.

Before getting into Jerry and Norma's two articles, the Reynolds also spoke of a couple of other matters:

1) Prayer. As former Christians, they say, many or most of their prayers tried to "command God." Even more than that, these prayers "commanded the Devil." Their prayers' usual form was, "In the Name of [the Christian God, or Messiah], we command you [someone or something] to [do or stop doing something].

Turning away from their old communion and from that manner of prayer was hard, they said. They "didn't know how to talk to HASHEM." Most of what they knew of prayer was to "try to manipulate Him." So their "mouths were closed." It took some time, they said, before they felt comfortable with prayer again. They had to work at learning how to "communicate through prayer with the Living God of Israel, baruch [bless] HASHEM."

2) Getting to HASHEM is 'way harder than it should be. Jerry and Norma tried to turn to Torah by going to their local Conservative Jewish synagogue. But, like most American Conservative Movement synagogues (and Reform Movement temples) today, it was essentially "a bar and bat mitzvah and wedding mill." As for Torah study, study was mostly "attacks on the Fathers," they said. "Moses and Aaron were patriarchal," they heard - "they were male chauvanists."  "They didn't understand that women are men's equals." "They didn't understand that homosexuality is a perfectly natural, perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice." The whole synagogue experience seemed calculated to drive people away from Torah, they said.

The only Orthodox synagogue or shul where they lived was hasidic. They went there after trying the Conservatives. They liked the rabbi. But much of what he taught was kabalah, they said: mystic vapor, rather than Torah. And a lot of the Torah that he taught was incredible. That is, it wasn't just false, it was completely unbelievable. When they heard him explain the phenomenon of the Plague of Frogs in Egypt in terms of one giant frog appearing, opening its mouth and expelling myriads of little frogs, they said, "enough is enough."

(They were quite happy to tune into the Orthodox Union's radio program and hear about us at the First Covenant Foundation, they say.)




Noahide Rosh HaShana

Norma Reynolds writes: Here in the Arizona desert, the full moon of the month of Elul, shines brightly through the window as I write. This is August 28th, the 14th of Elul, 5767, and the High Holy Days will soon be upon us. Now is a season of reflection and contemplation - what have I accomplished that I resolved to do last year? What do I still need to work on?  Soon Rosh HaShana, the "Head of the Year," will bring a new year with greetings of L’Shana Tova - to a good year - and the hope for being written in the Divine Book of Life for blessing. Time to make plans and preparations.

Being a Noachide may mean something a little different to each of us who walk that path, but in our home, we consider it the privilege of all people who pray to the Creator God of Israel to learn and know His times, His seasons, His appointed festivals, and walk in all His ways. There is an ancient covenant between God and His people, understood even before the Children of Israel entered into the covenant at Sinai, and we have been learning more each year about His Plan and the purpose HaShem has for our lives. We are not Jewish but we realize that the God of Israel is God. He, HASHEM, is our God. So we honor Him.

As we say when we light the Shabbot candles, and will say again on Rosh HaShana, the command is "to remember and observe." We don't do all the things that Orthodox Jewish people do in their observance, but we know that God Himself established the holy days and festivals, and that they have meaning that no man fully understands. We know that, in the days of Messiah, all nations will worship the God of Israel and observe His special days.

As for now, we are making lists and planning activities for the holidays.  Over the past seven years, as we have walked this path, we have learned some of the traditional holy songs, recipes, and blessings. We have adopted a few new activities that personalize our celebrations, just as all families do. When I think back over past holidays, I remember reciting the blessings, lighting candles, picking out special bouquets to adorn the table, putting out our finest place settings and table linens, picking out the kosher wine, and doing all those things that make the holidays such a joy. These times trigger remembrances of people and places and activities that are precious in our hearts so that we re-live them - just as we make preparations for adding to this sacred collection of experiences each new year. 

This coming month will bring in the Days of AweRosh HaShana, Judgment Day, which we celebrate with great joy, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, upon which we fast and make our solemn resolutions. The delightful holiday of Sukkot - outside of Israel, most of our Jewish friends call it "sukkos" - comes soon after. It's the harvest time counterpart to the springtime holiday of Passover/Pesach. We have improvised Sukkot some years by eating meals on our porch (covered and screened) in Florida, when we lived there, and another year when we put up decorations inside (extreme heat and humidity that year) to make it like an outdoor  “booth” in which to have our meals.  It has been fun as well as a memorable learning experience. As we say as we toast, L’Chaim  - to life.  Enjoy this time before HaShem and with your friends and family.

May you enjoy the blessings of this season of blessings.


Jerry and Norma Reynolds


Rosh HaShana - "Choose Life!"

A gripping one-minute video, from Aish HaTorah ("The Fire of Torah"). Inspiring. Speakers on, please.

Click here: In The Blink Of An Eye http://www.aish.com/movies/blinkofeye.asp


More Hamas TV

Hamas portrays their violent pro-Palestine colleagues of Fatah as horrible rats.

(They should know.)

All Memri/Hamas TV

Click here: All clips of this channel

Click here: Clip (Al-Aqsa TV, Lion King Hamas vs. Fatah http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1540.htm


No to Circumcision?

We spoke before of the Covenant of Abraham and the Torah's wise and holy statute (statutes: that category of Torah laws that don't make sense logically, outwardly) regarding circumcision.

Men and boys all across Africa are rushing to get circumcised. Science has proven that Abrahamic circumcision helps prevent AIDS, as well as other noxious diseases. But none of that has stopped the anti-Torah, anti-circumcision lobby. This is something to see. The breadth, depth and quality of people's hatred for the Torah and its statutes - circumcision is just one of the Torah statutes on their list - deserves study.

Click here: Index http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/ (We especially appreciate the Ashley Montague site and the argument that religious freedom - of all things! - requires the complete abolition of what these zealots hate.)


Tearing Out Torah

Along these same lines, the Sunday New York Times of September 2nd, 2007, contains a long, adulatory profile of the great Shakespearean actor Ian McKellen. He is portraying King Lear in a New York theatre. McKellen is also known for playing the role of an old wizard in the Lord of the Rings movies. His handsome actor's visage even appears on a New Zealand postage stamp.

Ian McKellen is a proud homosexual, he says. When he checks into a hotel room, he makes a regular practice of taking out the Gideon Bible and "tearing out the page including Leviticus, chapter 20." That's the passage, he explains, that calls male homosexual practices "abominable" - a horrible perversion or abomination, the Torah says, on the level of a repulsive sacrificial offering, of a man having sexual intercourse with his mother, or, for instance, stealing the bread out of the hand of a hungry widow or orphan.

Mr. McKellen, like many self-professedly "progressive" people, believes that that passage of Scripture proves that the Torah is unholy. He and they have a clearer knowledge of God's will than Moses. They also know an awful lot about human psychology, sexuality, anthropology, sociology. . . .

Unfortunately, if Mr. McKellen is only tearing out the page including Leviticus 20:13, he's missing that pesky portion of Leviticus, chapter 18, which says the same thing about the subject - but, perhaps, even more clearly (Leviticus 18:22). 

Regarding U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R., Idaho), "searching for love in all the wrong places," including a notorious men's lavatory at the Minneapolis - St. Paul airport: advocates for "gay rights" argue that Craig's abominable conduct ( trying to have sex with an undercover policeman in the bathroom, not to mention hypocrisy and lying) argues for making the world even more accepting of sex between men. But that's ridiculous. Craig's problem isn't social "homophobia" but the inherently abominable nature of a perversion involving anonymous sex between visitors to public men's rooms.

This is a great video: Click here: YouTube - Video: Keith Olbermann Reenacts Larry Craig Incident http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUxBRu1lHCw


Noahide Shabbot

Norma Reynolds writes: When we first began our walk as BN, we made a decision to honor Shabbot.  This seemed a logical conclusion if we wanted to honor The Creator of time and seasons.  We have zealously guarded this decision over the past seven years. 

Every Friday evening, Erev Shabbat, Jerry opens the Torah and reads this command to rest from the everyday world and pursuit of economic gain from Genesis, Exodus (two places), Leviticus, and Isaiah.  Then, I light the candles and we invite Sabbath into our homes and our lives. We each then speak a blessing to the other for restoration and peace during this special time.

We do not "work" on Shabbot. That is, while we do many things, like turn on lights, that Jews should not do, we will not engage in paid work. This has never been a problem for us, until recently.

A few weeks ago, Jerry applied for a part-time position at a local western-wear store. He interviewed and they hired him. He had explained that he wouldn't be able to work Friday evenings and Saturdays, and they made out his schedule for other days. However, when he reported to work on the first day, they told him that they had changed the schedule. They insisted that he work Saturdays.

When Jerry walked back into our house that morning, I was surprised to see him, thinking that he must have forgotten something. His first words were, “I guess that's a price that one pays for honoring Shabbot.” Then he told me what had happened. I felt bad for him since he had looked forward to working with this company. Then, I thought, and said to him, that the price for NOT honoring Shabbot - breaking covenant - would be more than we would want to pay.  He nodded full agreement.

After spending a few minutes to himself, Jerry opened up his laptop computer and pulled up the First Covenant website.  He did something very unusual by sitting there almost four hours (he's not that big an Internet fan) , reading through its articles and the other material there.  When I asked what was holding his attention so long, he replied that there is so much of interest here, and I feel really good about what is being said.

The Scriptures say that we have a covenant, and I felt inside that HASHEM would honor this commitment to honor His appointed times.  “Blessed is He who keeps covenant and shows mercy to those servants who walk uprightly before Him.”  This we know we can trust.

Michael Dallen and I talked about this piece earlier. We agreed that we both hated stories that follow along the lines of "we did God's will, we got clobbered for it, we thought, and then everything turned out better than we ever could have imagined. We did the right thing and God rewarded us - and then some - right away." "We're nothing if we don't stick to what's true," Michael says. The only problem is that, in this one case, Jerry quickly got a great job, a much better job, with better pay and benefits and entire weekends off, and we still keep shabbot holy.



Happy New Year! Rosh HaShana is the birthday of the world. It's for everyone. It starts on the evening of September 12th, this year, when the sun goes below the horizon. In the Land of Israel it's a one-day holiday - it ends when three stars (stars, not planets) are visible in the night sky. In the rest of the world, it's a two-day holiday. But Noahides, presumably, will do fine if they just celebrate it for one day. It's a happy holiday - it's Judgment Day, but we expect to be judged favorably (despite everything). Eight days later, starting the evening of Shabbot, on September 21st, comes Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Everyone needs atonement. Yom Kippur, too, is for everyone. 

Five days after Yom Kippur, starting the evening of September 26th, is the harvest-time festival of Sukkot, or Sukkos. Some call it Tabernacles. It's a terrific holiday, very happy, when one is supposed to "dwell in booths," or "sukkot." It's the harvest-time counterpart to the springtime holiday of Passover, or Pesach. It lasts for seven days. Then there's yet another holiday, Shemeni Atzeret, the Eighth Day of Assembly. In Israel, this is also known as Simchat (Simchas) Torah (literally, the happiness or joy of Torah). Outside Israel, Simchat Torah starts on October 6th, which is a Shabbot. Jack Saunders and some of his people, we know, will celebrate Simchat Torah at the Orthodox synagogue or shul of Chattanooga. Naturally. Why shouldn't everyone celebrate the Joy of Torah?

That's a lot of holidays. This is a good time of year, but it's demanding. It's hard to just go with this flow, especially alone. Don't forget, though: no one ever manages to live up to the whole Torah. Some do better than others; some mess up worse than others. The more capable the person, the more that God expects. And doing something that's Torah is infinitely better than doing nothing.

Noahide Prayerbook, revisited

We mentioned that parts of the new Noahide prayerbook made us uncomfortable. In fact, Rabbi Katz suggests that, instead of calling it a prayerbook, a finished work, we call it "an ongoing conversation."


One can take what one wants from a conversation. One doesn't have to take everything or leave everything.


In this work as it appears now, some of the interjections in the prayers from other, traditional Hebrew prayers or from pieces of Scripture seem incongruous. They just don't fit.


Some of the customs that someone - some rabbi, perhaps, or possibly some Noahide - wants to impose by way of the siddur, or prayerbook, are simply ridiculous. For instance, someone - at least we know that it's not coming from our rabbi, Rabbi Katz - tells Noahides to light their holiday candles well after dark, rather than before it gets dark (as Israel does), "to distinguish between their practice and Israel's. " As if Noahides aren't good enough to light their candles when Jews do!

This "conversation" includes other examples of this sort of thing. They have, we believe, no basis whatever in Torah, nor in any coherent philosophy. They are tone-deaf and insensitive - and they stick out like sore thumbs. Which is great, really: the silly stuff can be easily distinguished from the good. And, thank God, the good far outweighs the silly stuff.


Every religious movement needs prayer and ritual. We really believe that this "ongoing conversation" can help. A lot of people have worked hard on it - it's definitely worth exploring. Click here: http://www.okbns.org/Free.html



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.

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