In other words, they're one and the same, just different labels.
(Note: The Me'am Lo'ez is a master translation & commentary on the Torah written in Ladino and first published in 1730.)
The Me'am Lo'ez notes that Hashem commanded Adam Harishon to keep 7 rules:
These would apply to him and, equally, to all his descendants.
That means us.
The translator notes these 7 commandments apply primarily to Adam's non-Jewish descendants (because Jews not only observe laws that include these commandments, but Jews committed themselves to much more).
Some of this blog's readers aren't Jewish, so maybe they'll find the following helpful.
But Jews also need to know.
Sometimes, a seeking non-Jew asks a Jew a question about what they should be doing, and the Jew either doesn't know or unknowingly offers the wrong guidance.
It also helps us understand what's going on in our society.
When the majority of society regularly transgresses commandments meant for & self-evident to all descendants of Adam for all generations, then Hashem must respond to them in ways meant to wake them up, and show them that yes, there are consequences for their behavior and their self-delusion.
So here they are: The 7 Universal Commandments:
1. Don't Worship Idols
Hashem expects people to know that an image fashioned out of wood, stone, or metal by human hands cannot possibly possess any power.
Furthermore, He expects people to know that planets & stars cannot possess any power.
In the face of such obvious complexity, clearly a Master Orchestrator is at work.
As shown from Avraham Avinu's destruction of his father's shop of idols until today's earthquakes & lightning strikes, idols lack the power to protect even themselves, let alone assist anyone else.
Even if a person believes that the idol is merely a conduit for the spirit to enter the idol & do stuff, it's still very wrong because the spirit possesses the power, not the idol (so it's foolish to worship the idol).
And the spirit is one of impurity meant to deceive & harm human beings, so why get involved with that?
Anyway, everything is under Hashem's Mastery, so it's best (and true) to always turn straight to Him, without any thought of any intermediary.
2. No Forbidden Physical Relationships.
(1) Between a son & his mother.
No need for further commentary.
(2) Between a son & his father's wife.
This includes any woman the father was ever with physically, whether he was married to her or not, and whether it was consensual or not.
(3) Between any man & a married woman.
Because the only Jewish definition of marriage is the halachic Jewish ceremony, Judaism allows non-Jews to define marriage according to their society's norm.
Meaning, if a non-Jewish culture performs marriage by the couple jumping over a broomstick, then that's a marriage according to Judaism.
If it's performed by taking vows in front of a judge or clergyman, then that's a marriage.
Basically, Judaism defines a non-Jewish "marriage" as any situation in which a couple lives together as man and wife. (I'm guessing this means they've set up a home together with a monogamous commitment to each other, whether they underwent an actual marriage ceremony or not.)
Likewise, Judaism does not recognize a non-Jewish divorce.
As soon as the non-Jewish couple separates (I guess this means that one of them decides to physically leave permanently), then Judaism no longer considers them married.
The modern situation, in which a couple decides to live together as a married couple for years before either separating or getting legally married, presents a problem within universal law.
The couple do not consider themselves married, yet it's not clear that Judaism concurs.
I don't know how it's viewed by Chazal.
In Western society today, an enormous amount of infidelity occurs, both among officially married couples and couples living together as if they're married.
We see from this prohibition that Hashem views this very severely.
Also, with so many stories & songs glorifying the very infidelity that Hashem so strictly forbids, how do you think Hashem views that?
(4) Between a brother & a sister.
(5) Between 2 males, even if one is a minor.
Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to violate this prohibition.
Also, it's interesting that Judaism emphasizes the inclusion of minors in this prohibition.
It's true that several cultures throughout history consider this okay when done to a young boy, which is sick & people should know that it's sick (which is why it's one of the universal commandments—these are ethics people can figure out without Torah m'Sinai).
For around 300 years, Greek upper-class men were very into this with pre-teen boys.
Even cultures that strictly forbid toeva between adult males look askance when an adult male does it to a boy because it's considered playing around—but it's not. Not at all.
This is why you see Islamic cultures slaughtering in cruel ways men & teenage boys who engage in toeva, yet when it's done to, say, an 8-year-old boy, there usually aren't repercussions.
Anyway, this prohibition (at least between males from their teens and onward) is now celebrated as permissible in modern society.
You are now castigated if you support Hashem's prohibition & oppose society's permissiveness.
That doesn't exactly bring bracha to society.
(6) Between a human & any animal.
This really doesn't need any commentary, however, a frum friend of mine read me the opening chapter of a popular novel that opened with this kind of scene. It lacked the revolting details and was presented in a light-hearted manner, and mentioned that the person involved fought to make this a legal marriage recognized in law & society.
My friend thought it was very funny & innovative, which is why she wanted to read it to me. "I just came across the most unique opening I've ever read in a novel. Wanna hear it?" was how I got roped into hearing it.
But I was like, Can't you see what they're pushing? They're trying to break down more boundaries in society by making this seem "cute" rather than really abhorrent.
In modern American society, you can get away with almost anything as long as you are cute & funny enough.
3. Don't Murder Anyone.
He says this also applies to a person so ill, he's considered dead & sure to die no matter what. (Euthanasia, anyone?)
This also includes killing by passive means, like by "tying the victim before a lion or leaving him to starve to death."
Needless to say, infanticide of female or weak or deformed children regularly occurred in some cultures by "exposing them to the elements"—100% forbidden by God.
Today, euthanasia is often performed this way.
They remove the feeding tube and allow the unconscious person to starve to death.
This happened to one of my non-Jewish family members in the pricey, reputable old-age home in which he resided.
(Yes, I tried to stop it, but it happened in the States and I live in Eretz Yisrael. And the man's children were so yippy-skippy about it, there was no stopping them.)
To my horror, the staff decided to push the dying man's bed right against that of his wife's so that they could spend his dying week close together. (Yes, it took around a week.)
I received cheerful emails describing how his skin started mottling and stuff during the starvation.
When I wrote back questioning the appropriateness of forcing his wife to experience this, my relative insisted it was fine and that his wife wasn't "with it" enough to notice.
(And yes, I also pointed out that just because someone is unconscious, that doesn't mean they aren't aware and can't feel either emotional or physical pain or suffering. Maybe they can! Some do! However, in our very rationalist Darwinian society, no one cares...especially if it's an old person.)
I found the whole thing ghoulish.
Later, I discovered that the wife was definitely "with it"! Maybe not 100%, but definitely enough so that when people visited her, they told me how she sat up and talked and made comments on their appearance. They engaged in real conversations with her.
In a photo of her, I noticed a shelf of novels next to her bed.
I felt even worse knowing this.
But the entire ghoulish process occurred among lots of good cheer & "compassion" among both the family members & the staff of the old-age home.
I felt very grateful that Hashem had brought me to Torah so that I could know that this was all horribly wrong & immoral, despite how cheerfully & "sensitively" they carried out the whole ghoulish murder.
Also, many places use morphine to murder their patients, yet they don't present it that way to the family members.
(Please read this excellent article on the topic by a very devoted & courageous Jewish woman: Hospice: A Jewish View.)
- In the "Noachide Laws" link at the end, you'll notice that murder includes hiring someone to do it. Using a hitman doesn't absolve a person of this crime.
Here's a bit on killing as defense:
- If a non-Jew sees a person pursuing someone to murder or violate them, then it is permissible to kill that person before he commits murder or violates a woman.
- But if the pursuer can be stopped by wounding him or cutting of his hand, then one is guilty of murder if he actually kills him.
That's basically the answer to how police are allowed to respond.
Most American police officers do not want to actually kill anyone.
But if they do, whether they needed to or not, the people who respond by looting innocent businesses & shooting random police officers are also committing grave & unforgivable offenses against Hashem's Universal Laws.
The people (like politicians & professors) who support looting & murder are also in big trouble according to these laws. (Please see below the commandment to appoint judges & police officers.)
I don't know if defunding the police literally violates God's Law, halachically speaking, but it certainly isn't going in the right direction.
4. Do Not Steal.
No stealing any amount of money, including something worth less than a penny.
If a non-Jew is employed in an orchard, he may not eat the fruit, even while working, because it belongs to the owner. To do otherwise is stealing.
If one withholds a worker's wages, that is stealing.
According to the above, this means that all those jolly looters & shoplifters are in big trouble.
In general, all sorts of stealing is seen as permissible in society today.
5. You Must Appoint Judges & Police Officers
The role of the judges & police officers is twofold:
- To enforce these 7 Universal Commandments
- To punish those who violate them
- In a non-Jewish court, the judge may accept the testimony of a witness, even if the witness did not first warn the accused that he was transgressing.
Presumably, at least one reason for that is because the 7 Universal Laws are self-evident.
For example, you may need to warn a Jew first that he is transgressing Shabbat. The Shabbat laws are numerous and it could be that a Jew honestly did not guess that his action was prohibited.
However, regarding the Laws for all people, Hashem expects people to figure out on their own the wrongness of murder or stealing, or eating from a live animal braying or squeaking in pain, and so on.
- In a non-Jewish court, the testimony of relatives is accepted, even when judging a capital case.
6. Don't Curse God.
It's really bad & forbidden for Jews too, but because you can't make a death penalty for so many prohibitions (like the hundreds for Jews), Jews have some leeway, even though some prohibitions (like murder) still call for the death penalty.
He doesn't explain more about how that's defined.
I could think of many examples in society that I consider cursing God, but not sure if they literally are.
Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, a person should make a point of thanking & praising God.
7. Don't Eat Flesh from a Living Animal.
Even if the animal underwent proper shechitah, with the windpipe & the gullet severed, as long as the animal shows any sign of motion, one may not cut off a piece of meat and eat it.
This doesn't seem so applicable in our times; Western culture considers this repulsive. (Although some chomp live bugs on camera for shock value & ratings, but I don't know if live insects are forbidden under this Law—though it certainly is disgusting.)
Yet we know that in some restaurants in China, they eat live mice & octopus, and enjoy the sensation of the dying animal moving around in their mouth.
I even read there is a Chinese dish called Huo Jian Lu, which literally means "Live Braying Donkey."
And yes, it's as it sounds.
In Japan, there's a dish in which the diner eats the still-beating heart of a frog.
Not all Chinese or Japanese engage in such disturbing cuisine, of course, but the ones who do are in big trouble.
And no, I've no idea of the parameters of this, like if this includes seafood and insects.
A Final 4 Prohibitions (connected to the above 7, but not unanimously agreed upon)
(1) Not to sterilize any living creature by castration.
This has become common in modern society; it's even considered a responsible thing to do.
(2) Not to engage in witchcraft.
Like with toeva, this has become fashionable today. I remember signs posted in the hallway of my college advertising a weekly "Wicca meeting."
Witchcraft is also glorified in so many books & movies.
And however "cute" and appealing witches & witchcraft are made to be, it's the occult and includes some very nasty things, in addition to being a denial of Hashem's Mastery.
(3) Not to interbreed any creature with another not of the same species.
You can't even make a mule (horse & donkey combo).
It also makes me wonder about those people who like to interbreed big cats together ("ligers"—lion-tiger) for curiosity or to make money showing these "freaks" at their zoos.
Like other universal mitzvot, you can figure out on your own that this isn't a good idea.
For example, many modern animal conservationists consider this kind of cross-breeding as unethical. They arrived at that conclusion without knowing that some Torah Sages forbid this.
(4) Not to eat blood from a living animal.
The primary prohibition concerns eating a limb from a living animal.
But some authorities include the animal's blood in this too.
Please note the Me'am Lo'ez's final encouraging words on the 7 Universal (Noachide) Laws (page 252 in the English translation):
If a gentile keeps them because they are God's commandments, he is counted among the "Righteous Gentiles" (Chassidei Umoth HaOlam), and he has a portion in the World to Come.
If you have questions, I'm unfortunately not knowledgeable enough to help you (whatever the Me'am Lo'ez wrote here is all I know now).
There is also this article at "Ask the Rabbi—Din Online," which is very learned, well-sourced, and may not be for beginners, but is an intelligent and valuable resource to clarify these 7 Universal Laws:
The Noachide Laws: A World of Order & Peace
It seems to me this resource is written more for knowledgeable Jews than non-Jews, and that's helpful because I know of at least 2 seemingly Orthodox rabbis who unintentionally ended up misguiding both Jews & non-Jew due to their...well, I'm not sure what. Cognitive dissonance?
Anyway, it's good for Jews to know the parameters.
The above-linked article also contains a very interesting discussion on how Islam & Christianity are viewed within the framework of the Universal Laws, which Jews also need to understand.
Also, if you ever wondered about the responsibility of non-Jews trapped in a society of unethical courts & police (like a Communist system), then the article addresses that too.
If you have further questions, you can ask your rabbi or you can leave a comment at the end of the linked article or you can contact them in their question form. (You can use an anonymous name too.)
*Please note that while your name will not show up there in the question, the comment form is totally different and if you leave a comment with your real name, it will show up in the comment.
Final Food for Thought
We see that the most fundamental laws of ethics given to Adam millennia ago are now being violated with abandon.
Even worse, much of society even glorifies & romanticizes many of these violations.
Some are encouraged by society in the name of "compassion" & "freedom."
Or "rights." (The "right" to die, the "right" to abortion, the "right" to be happy, etc.)
Western courts uphold transgressions of some of these violations.
Needless to say, these are serious dysfunctions.
It can't continue like this.
May we all do teshuvah and may Hashem please bring the complete Redemption with mercy & compassion.