A New Direction: Chabad, The Seven Laws of Noah and
Sharing Judaism with Non-Jews
I began conversations with Orthodox Rabbi and director of Congregation Chevra Thilim, Shlomo Zarchi and his wife Chani, and Chabad Director in Berkeley, Rabbi Yehuda Ferris and his wife Miriam about sharing Jewish teachings with non-Jews. I am committed to following the path of this art, so I decided to reach out and ask for an in-person meeting. Nervous as I was, I covered my tattoo, and my hair and went off first to my appointment with the Zarchis and then a week later, with the Ferrises.
I brought examples of my work to show— including a Justice Tzedakah Box, a Garden of Memory Yahrzeit Candle Holder, Shin Tree of Life Tallis Clips, Shaddai Door to the Soul and Shalom Bayit Mezuzot, and jewelry. I explained to them that I have been out in the world sharing the teachings behind these religious pieces with Jews and Non-Jews alike for over 20 years.
I wondered if there were any laws, teachings or opinions for or against teaching non-Jews about our wisdom. My intention, I explained was two-fold. One was to combat anti-Semitism and ignorance, and the other is to teach lovingkindness— so that people can use these spiritual ideas as a benefit to themselves, their families, and others.
I asked them, “Would you be willing to help me, find these writings?” In perfect Torah magic, the Parsha of the week I met with the Zarchis, just happened to be the one explaining the Seven Laws of Noah, which are commanded to be shared with all of humanity. Chani Zarchi sent me a . As I read through the list, it seemed like a near miss. The laws were clear enough, but how did they relate to sharing the teaching of Tzedakah, the Mezuzah, and our Grief Rituals? Both the Zarchis and later the Ferrises replied that I would have to search through the seven laws, and find the commentary— “The Inner Meanings of Mitzvot,” and there I would find answers.
As I looked more closely into the Laws, I realized, that although the seven are important, for my purposes, I may not need to go beyond Law number One. According to , Law Number One says this: Embrace the Relevance of Oneness. The Relevance of Oneness— I thought— Yes! Isn’t that what my art installation “Art for Prayer and Peace: A Bridge to Oneness” is all about? Thrilled and relieved, I read on: “Noah looked upon Planet Earth and saw that every life upon it breathes with purpose and meaning. He saw himself and his children as its stewards, charged with a duty and a mission.” It goes on to explain that G-d spoke “essential consciousness” though Noah. “From Its voice, we learned that acts of kindness, caring, prayer, wisdom and enlightenment put us in harmony with the universe.”
This made me think, is it not an act of kindness to be sure that the human beings around us can use the valuable teachings of the mezuzah, tzedakah and our grief rituals? Wouldn’t the entire world benefit if many more people had tools to help them return to innocence, should they choose to? I believe, these teachings can guide and benefit us all— Jews, non-Jews— even those with no faith in G-d!
After so many years doing this work, I explained to the Chabad Rabbis, “ I am not the Lone Ranger. I cannot do this alone. Would the Orthodox Community,” I asked, “find a way to make the Laws of Noah more accessible?” I offered them the use of my work, and my story to that end.
To my great relief, both sets of Rabbis and Rebitzens said that they would be willing to have me come with my work to their synagogues for future events and partnerships. Miriam Ferris remarked, “Inspiring! You have a global vision of making this world a unified and peaceful place. I’m with you all the way!” Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi joyfully asked, “How can I not approve your wonderful desire to spread Torah and it’s teaching to the world?” The Ferrises also offered referrals to those in their community that they feel I should contact. We talked about having a sale, an artist’s talk, and perhaps inviting a Torah Scribe. We talked about the possibility of future commissions for Judaica and ritual objects for the new space at Congregation Chevra Thilim. We discussed hands-on programs in my studio, where participants can make ritual objects like copper mezuzot.
So, it begins, a new direction and with it renewed hope for uniting our people for the good of us all. I invite you all to share your Judaism with the people around you who want to understand. If you are not Jewish and you want more involvement, I invite you to reach out to me, or those around you and ask questions. Please do not be deterred. If you are a member of the Chabad community and you would like to help make introductions, please let me know. Thank you for your ongoing support. Please stay tuned for more information on upcoming events.