That you should feel a little lost after leaving the Church is only natural. What you are going through is akin to a divorce. Those people with whom you have long socialized and identified now feel distant to you. Some of them resent you leaving; some feel you are a threat to the community. Even those who try to show you understanding and compassion may not share with you the intimacy that they once did. In your search for the truth, you have sacrificed your sense of belonging. It is painful.
You have lost your sense of identity, beyond even your lack of community. You feel that you no longer have any positive identification. Rather, you are identified by what you are not. Every title you apply to yourself appears to be a negation. What are you? Not-a-Christian. You have discovered that the Torah is the truth. Are you then a Jew? No, you are not-a-Jew. This is how you have come to identify yourself: in terms of what you are not. You are a Twilight Man, no longer in the darkness of the Church but not dwelling in the full light of the Torah.
You truly feel that you are trapped between these two worlds in some way. You feel that the full Torah is denied to you. You wonder: Why may I not lay tefillin? Why may I not adorn my doorway with a mezuzah? Why am I not even permitted to study the whole Torah tradition? You have come to believe that the Jew has been granted a full relationship with God, while you are left in the cold, glimpsing the light of Torah from afar. Indeed, you see the Seven Laws as nearly insulting. By and large, they are things that even a schoolchild knows not to do. They appear to you too easy, that God has asked little of you as if you are capable of little. It was unlikely that you were going to eat from the limb of a living animal. So, you are a Twilight Man, receiving just the barest fraction of the Torah, a not-a-Jew.
Even Judaism’s terms for you emphasize your lack of identity. They emphasize that you are not-a-Jew. When you are called a ben Noach, a child of Noah, this is contrasted with being a child of Israel, a Jew. It appears to you that the term is no different than “non-Jew,” just another way of saying not-a-Jew. The term “Noahide” appears to be nothing more than another way of saying, “child of Noah,” or “one that is not a Jew.” “Goyim,” similarly emphasizes to you non-Jewishness: you have the Jewish nation and then all the others. The Torah observant world has created two kinds of people, Jews and those that are not Jews, it seems, and the ones that really count are those in the first class. Others—you—are not given positive identification. You are only identified by what you are not. Not-a-Christian. Not-a-Jew. A Twilight Man.
But you are not a Twilight Man. Though, right now, as you have so freshly divorced yourself from your community, you feel a lack of identity, you should know that the Torah does not see you as a non-being. Rather, you are a human being, among the most precious of God’s creations. You know that the Torah does not teach that it is only the Jew that is made in the image of God. It is the human being that is made in the image of God. And it is this that you are—a human. You have intrinsic worth.
As a human, you have the capacity for the greatest good. It is the human being that is able to act with wisdom. It is the human being that is able to act unselfishly. It is the human being that is not moved solely by instinct but may govern himself through reason. He is the moral creature. And when he acts with wisdom, kindness, and justice, he is the most exalted of creatures. Also, because of his capacity, when he acts foolishly, selfishly, and unjustly, he is the most debased of creatures. It is your humanity that gives you great nobility or ignobility. Your identity is not found in what you are not but what you are—a human being, made in the image of God.
It is a mistake, therefore, to consider yourself a Twilight Man. Not-a-Christian and not-a-Jew are not opposing points on a spectrum. These two means of identifying yourself do not express the same thing. When you state that you are not-a-Christian, this is a statement of rejection. You have rejected the false teachings of the Church and indeed made your way out of darkness. But this is not what you mean when you say that you are not-a-Jew, for you do not reject Judaism. So, when you say that you are not-a-Jew, you are acknowledging that you do not have the same responsibilities as the Jewish people have, just as one from the tribe of Judah does not have the same responsibilities as a priest. Christianity and Judaism are not two points between which you are trapped, then, as the statement that you are not the one is not the same as the statement that you are not the other. You must not see yourself as excluded from the light of the truth of Torah.
Those terms by which you are called and seem to affirm you to be a non-entity generally refer to the difference in responsibility between the Jewish people and the non-Jewish people. The terms “non-Jew,” “child of Noah,” or “Noahide” do not assert the inferiority of you as a person. They do not steal from you a positive identity. They indicate only that you have a different obligation, that of the human generally, in contrast to the Jewish people who have further obligations. A child of Noah must refrain from those actions forbidden to humanity through Adam and again through Noah. (The Seven Laws of Noah are so-called in the opinion of some, because the law forbidding one to eat from a still-living animal was not given to Adam but to Noah, permission having not been granted to eat animals until after the Flood. See Genesis 9.) The term “Noahide” is often employed to mean the same thing. At other times, Noahide is employed to mean, “one that acknowledges that God has given the Seven Laws of Noah and accepts them upon himself.” Some even use the term “ben Noach” or “child of Noah” this way, in which usage the term does not denote a negation. The term “Noahide,” then, can serve as a statement of acknowledgement of Torah, a counterpart to the negative “not-a-Christian,” the rejection of the New Testament and the Church. In any case, Judaism does not deprive you of a positive identity with these terms. They indicate your obligation under the Seven Laws of Noah.
The Jewish people have certain obligations that have not been imposed upon the rest of the world. The Jewish people are commanded to study the Torah; you have no such command. They are commanded to affix mezuzot to their doors; you are not. They are forbidden to perform any creative work on the Sabbath, while you may perform such tasks. This is because the Jewish people have a mission on behalf of the rest of the world. They are a nation of priests and God’s witnesses. Within that nation the priests also have certain obligations that do not apply to non-priestly Jews. However, this does not diminish the non-priestly Jew; nor are you diminished by the priestly nation.
Indeed, the Jewish people are a gift to you. If they are priests, they are priests on your behalf. If they are witnesses, they bear witness to divine truth for you and me and the entire non-Jewish world. The Jewish people were given the Torah. You and I were given the Jewish people. They are appointed by HaShem to be our teachers. You must not suppose that their special role means that God loves only the Jewish people. On the contrary, the creation of the Jewish people is proof of God’s love for you.
Nor must you believe that the Seven Laws of Noah, due to the seeming ease with which they may be upheld, indicate your inferiority. If they were so easy to uphold, the world would not be full of murder, theft, and all manner of injustice. But it is. This is to say nothing of idolatry and sexual degradation. Without question, the world would be much improved if the greater number of humanity refrained from the unjust actions proscribed by the Seven Laws. Humanity would experience a much greater harmony than is now known. Peace would be nearly found. Virtually no one would deny this; yet injustice flourishes.
It requires attention to live in accordance with the Seven Laws. Most people acknowledge that it is wrong to steal, yet many steal anyway. How is it possible? Multiple reasons can be found for this. For example, it is often the case that when someone steals, it does not occur to him that he has even performed a theft. Or, the theft may appear insignificant. Or, he is overcome by desire. The danger of taking the Seven Laws for granted is that one may find himself violating them when opportunity and temptation presents itself, because they are not internalized. No philosophy is ever internalized by hearing the summation of a matter and asserting that one understands and accepts it. Whoever treats the Seven Laws cavalierly, as so obvious that they need no reflection, will not be truly guided by them.
This need not mean that he will violate them, but that they will not be his guiding philosophy. The idea of eating from a living animal does not appeal to many. To some, the law will appear superfluous, even insulting. The law may appear to him to be necessary only for the most barbarous of peoples, not to the modern American. However, this attitude is of no benefit. First, one must consider why the law is kept. If one only adheres to the law because he does not find eating from a live animal appealing, then he obeys his own code and not divine law. His action is correct, but it is devoid of piety. Second, the one that shrugs off the law as obvious will have little reason to contemplate its philosophical underpinnings. A law against eating from a living animal preserves a sensitivity in the human being. He is not to allow himself to inflict unnecessary pain, lest he turn himself cruel. Moreover, such a law rests upon the principle that the world and all that is in it belongs to God and not to human beings. Humans may only use what is in the world with God’s permission. If this is the case, he ought also not to use the objects he finds in the world wastefully. He should not use resources thoughtlessly. One can benefit greatly from studying and reflecting upon the laws, rather than briefly acknowledging them.
Similarly, though the Seven Laws are all prohibitions, with greater reflection, one will find positive actions he should take in order to align himself with the philosophy of the Seven Laws. It is tempting for one to say that he was not going to murder anybody and so the law did not much enlighten him. However, when one considers the reason given in Genesis 9 for not taking a human life, one must ponder the further consequences. Genesis 9 emphasizes that the human being is made in the image of God. The human is sacred and of intrinsic worth. If one truly sees the intrinsic worth in others, he will not merely refrain from murder, he will promote the welfare of others. When he sees that others are sacred, he will treat them always with dignity. The Seven Laws, therefore, inform one’s philosophy and actions beyond the actual prohibited actions.
The Seven Laws are not a consolation prize for the non-Jew. He has not been given an inferior Torah, one that does not allow him to draw close to HaShem. The rabbis famously taught that the child of Noah that studies the Seven Laws is like a high priest. He can indeed draw close to HaShem through the Seven Laws. One must not disregard them, then, but devote oneself to their study. He must internalize them and let their philosophical underpinnings become the foundation for his thought and action. In so doing, he begins to understand God’s will for humanity and to fulfill that will. He draws close to God.
He will not be a Twilight Man, receiving only the faintest light of the Torah. Rather the Seven Laws—his Torah—will illumine his life. His actions and thoughts will be informed by the Torah. He will no longer resent not receiving the commandments of the Jewish people, for he has been given the Jewish people themselves, as teachers. He will not feel like a non-entity, for he will have the full dignity of being a human being. He will be defined by what he does and not by what he rejects. Give yourself time to heal. Leaving a community is a painful experience. Just know that the Torah does not see you as an inferior being.