Rabbi Michael J. Broyde is Associate Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law, Atlanta.
This article has been previously published in Jewish Law. http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html#TOC#TOC
We thank the author and the Editor of Jewish Law for their kind permission to republish this paper.
Table of Contents
II. The Noachide Laws
1. Preliminary Issues
2. The Content of Noachide Laws
III. The Obligation of "Laws" or "Justice"
IV. The Obligation to Teach or Judge Noachides
1. The Obligation to Compel Observance
A. Maimonides' Approach
B. The Approach of Ravad, Nachmanides, Tosafot and others
2. When a Noachide will Certainly Violate the Law, May Jews Assist in the Violation?
3. The Responsa of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
This paper addresses the scope of Jewish law's mandate upon Jews to enforce the Seven Noachide commandments, as well as any other rules Jewish law mandates that Gentiles should keep. Part One of this article outlines what are the Noachide commandments, and their place in a halachic system. Part Two discusses the obligation of both Jews and Noachides under the rubric of the commandment called dinim (literally: "laws" or "justice"). Part Three reviews the various opinions on the obligation of Jews to enforce the Noachide commandments. Part Three will consider not only whether enforcement must be sought, but in situations where enforcement is not possible, whether Jewish law mandates Jews to seek to persuade Noachides to obey their commandments. It will also consider whether — when such persuasion fails — Jewish law, at the minimum, requires that one may not assist a Gentile in violating the Noachide commandments.
This article concludes that notwithstanding a minority opinion to the contrary, Jewish law accepts that Gentiles are obligated to keep the Noachide laws, and they are obligated even for unintentional violations. So too, Jewish law recognizes that Gentiles are obligated to create a system of laws designed to — at the minimum — enforce the Noachide laws. Finally, while Maimonides appears to accept that Jews as well as Noachides are obligated to enforce the Noachide laws, many authorities, early and late, reject this rule of Maimonides and deny that there is a halachic obligation on individual Jews to compel Noachides to observe their laws. Finally this article noted that whether there is (or is not) a halachic obligation to affirmatively enforce the Noachide laws, it is nonetheless still biblically prohibited to enable or entice a Noachide to violate the Noachide laws (if absent a Jew's assistance, the law would not be violated). However, in a situation where the Noachide is able to violate the law without the assistance of any Jew, many authorities rule that there is no obligation to prevent a Noachide from sinning and thus one may even assist the Noachide in sin.
This paper will address the scope of halacha's mandate upon Jews to enforce the Seven Noachide commandments, as well as any other rules Jewish law mandates that Gentiles should keep. It will do so from a purely theoretical perspective, without any attempt to apply the rules developed to America in the 1990's or any other particular (factual) setting. Rather, the purpose of this article is to determine which options concerning enforcement are halachically acceptable. In the field of "Jewish public policy" the first question that must be asked is which (if any) of the theoretical options are, in fact, prohibited by Jewish law. After that question is answered, then one can consider which of the remaining options most closely accomplishes whatever Jewish goal is sought.
Part One of this article outlines what are the Noachide commandments, and their place in a halachic system. Part Two discusses the obligation of both Jews and Noachides under the rubric of the commandment called dinim (literally: "laws" or "justice"). Part Three reviews the various opinions on the obligation of Jews to enforce the Noachide commandments. Part Three will consider not only whether enforcement must be sought, but in situations where enforcement is not possible, whether Jewish law mandates Jews to seek to persuade Noachides to obey their commandments. It will also consider whether — when such persuasion fails — Jewish law, at the minimum, requires that one may not assist a Gentile in violating the Noachide commandments.
II. The Noachide Laws
- Preliminary Issues
Before one can explore the obligation upon Jews to enforce Noachide law, it is necessary to determine if Jewish law accepts that these commandments are still binding on Noachides. The talmud recounts, as one possible resolution of an unrelated tort law problem, that:
God observed the Gentiles of the land — What did He see? He saw that the seven commandments He gave the Noachides were not observed and thus He permitted these seven commandments to them.
Based on this assertion, Bach, Rabbi Chaim Abulafia, Penai Yehoshua, Maharit (and perhaps Chatam Sofer and a version of Tosafot ) all indicate that Gentiles are no longer legally obligated even to keep the Noachide commandments and those who do keep them would be in the status of one "not obligated and observing." This can perhaps be inferred from the comments of Rashi, as well. As noted by Penai Yehoshua, if these commandments are no longer binding on Noachides, the problems associated with assisting a violation or not encouraging observance would greatly decrease, and indeed Penai Yehoshua rules that the only thing that would still be prohibited would be actually enticing them to do something that Noachides cannot do without the assistance of a Jew.
Most authorities reject this insight and accept that the Noachide commandments are fully binding. They argue that it is difficult to accept that all of the talmudic discussions concerning Noachide law are predicated on the unstated assumption of the abrogation of the Noachide obligation or even the abrogation of the biblical obligation. Indeed, this position appears to be rejected by every single one of the early authorities (rishonim) who codified the Noachide laws and the numerous later authorities (achronim) who did so. Thus, it is safe to state that Jewish law treats the Noachide laws as binding. Indeed, there are numerous discussions within the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries which simply assume that the Noachide laws are fully binding.
A second preliminary issue is whether the unintentional violation of one of the Noachide commandments leads to legal culpability in Jewish law. Based on a statement of Maimonides, Minchat Chinuch rules:
When is it prohibited to hand a Noachide something forbidden to him? This is only when he knows that it is prohibited; but when he does not know that it is prohibited, there is no prohibition, since in this case there is complete un-intentionality (lit: shegaga gemorah) and a Noachide violates no rule when his violation is completely unintentional.
If this Minchat Chinuch is correct, a case could be made that Noachides are, in fact, better served by not teaching them laws.
Many authorities disagree with the Minchat Chinuch and limit the permissive ruling to a situation where the Noachide recognizes the category of activity as prohibited, but merely does not recognize this particular action as in violation. However, when the Noachide does not recognize the whole category of activity as prohibited, his actions still rise to the level of legal culpability. Others simply reject the whole insight of the Minchat Chinuch and base their view on an explicit Tosafot that appears to do the same. These authorities rule that Noachides are always obligated to obey the law and culpability is thus always present. Thus, it is well established that Gentiles benefit from being taught the Noachide laws.
2. The Content of Noachide Laws
Having established that the Noachide commandments are binding on Gentiles, and that lack of knowledge does not excuse obligation, it is necessary to explore what the commandments are. The talmud recounts seven categories of prohibition: idol worship, taking God's name in vain, murder, prohibited sexual activity, theft, eating flesh from a living animal, and the obligation to enforce laws. As is obvious from this list, these seven commandments are generalities which contain within them many specifications — thus, for example, the single categorical prohibition of sexual promiscuity includes both adultery and the various forms of incest. As has been noted already, these Noachide laws appear to encompass nearly 60 of the 613 biblical commandments incumbent on Jews, which is nearly one in four of those biblical commandments generally applicable in post-temple times. What might make the practical application of the Noachide laws sometimes difficult is the frequently wide divergence of opinion found within the various Jewish authorities concerning details of many Noachide laws. A simple example illustrates this:
The Jerusalem Talmud recounts that there is no formal divorce according to Noachide law. The rishonim understand this in three completely different ways. Some claim that this means that divorce is legally impossible for a Gentile and once married there is no way to end the marriage. Others maintain that the Talmudic passage means that there is no formal process of divorce, and either spouse can end the marriage by simply leaving the family unit. Yet other authorities insist that in Noachide law a man may never divorce his wife — but she may divorce him at will. Similar disputes touch many core areas of Noachide law, leaving the resolution of many hard cases very difficult to determine. Indeed, before one seeks to apply the details of Noachide law to issues in current society, it is necessary to determine what precisely is the Noachide obligation.
However, disputes about the details should not be overstated to undermine the clarity of the general principles. The application of Noachide law to many general areas is relatively clear. Homosexuality is forbidden, as is adultery and bestiality. Murder is prohibited, and subsumed in the prohibition of murder is abortion. So too, most forms of theft are prohibited, as is eating the flesh of a living animal. Indeed, the general Noachide laws share a common base of "ethics" that most religious peoples would share.
III. The Obligation of "Laws" or "Justice"
The final commandment in the Noachide code is dinim, commonly translated as "laws" or "justice". Two vastly different interpretations of this commandment are found among the early authorities. Maimonides rules that the obligations of dinim require only that the enumerated Noachide laws be enforced in practice. Maimonides states:
How are [Noachides] obligated by dinim?. They must create courts and appoint judges in every provence to enforce these six commandments . . for this reason the inhabitants of Shechem [the city] were liable to be killed since Shechem [the person] stole [Dina], and the inhabitants saw and knew this and did nothing.
According to Maimonides it is logical to assume that other types of regulations that society might make are subsumed under the rubric of either "laws of the land" or "laws of the king." Their binding authority is quite different.
Nachmanides argues with this formulation and understands the obligations of dinim to be much broader. It encompasses not only the obligations of society to enforce rules, but it also obligates society to create general rules of law governing such cases as fraud, overcharging, repayment of debts and the like. Within the opinion of Nachmanides there is a secondary dispute as to what substantive laws Noachides are supposed to adopt. Rama, writing in his responsa, states that according to Nachmanides in those areas of dinim where Gentiles are supposed to create laws, they are obligated to incorporate Jewish law into Noachide law unless it is clear contextually that it is inappropriate. Most authorities reject this interpretation and accept either Maimonides ruling or that according to Nachmanides those rules created under the rubric of dinim need only be generally fair, and need not be identical to Jewish law. This author cannot find even a single rishon who accepts the ruling of Rama, and one can find many who explicitly disagree.
The dispute concerning the nature of the commandment called dinim is extremely relevant to explaining the obligation of Jews to provide guidance and seek enforcement of the Noachide laws. It would appear to this author that Maimonides accepts that the biblical commandment of dinim (or some Noachide cognate of it) compels enforcement by all — Jews as well as Gentiles — of these seven laws, perhaps because Jews too are bound by them. Maimonides in his explanation of the laws of dinim does not appear to limit them to Noachides only. Indeed, writing much more recently, Rabbi Yoseph Engel, Rabbi Meir Simcha MeDivinsk, Rabbi Yecheil Yakov Weinberg, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein all seem to indicate that there is some residual jurisdictional impact upon Jews from their Noachide obligation. For example, Rabbi Meir Simcha recounts that if a Jewish child who is not yet bar or bat mitzva, and thus not an adult according to Jewish law, comprehends the nature of right and wrong, he or she is obligated according to torah law in the Noachide commandments, since according to Noachide law he is an adult. In a similar vein, Rabbi Weinberg states that a marriage entered into between two Jews which is technically invalid according to Jewish law still creates a Noachide marriage between the couple.
The opposite claim could be made according to Nachmanides (as interpreted by those who disagree with Rama). Since the obligation to create dinim according to Nachmanides includes in it other obligations clearly not applicable to Jews (such as the creation of a general civil or secular law system governing all other than Jewish) it would appear that Nachmanides could not accept a Jewish obligation to participate in dinim. That is not to say that Jews need not obey dinim or other aspects of the Noachide code according to Nachmanides. Indeed, it is clear that a number of authorities find some connection between the obligation of dinim and the halachic mandate of dina demalchuta dina, the obligation of Jews to obey the secular law. If Noachides are obligated in the creation of general secular law and not only the enforcement of these six specified commandments, it would seem logical that Jews must too obey these dinim, at least in interactions with Noachides. However, a crucial observation must be made. Merely because Jewish law rules that one is obligated to obey Noachide law does not mean that one is necessarily obligated to assist in its enforcement. The two are not necessarily interrelated.
Indeed, as noted by Chazon Ish, Jewish law requires respect of the Noachide legal pronouncements even in a situation where the Noachide judges themselves do not fully observe Noachide law. Chazon Ish was asked concerning the obligation to accept legal pronouncements from a Noachide court that does not generally observe (or enforce) all of the seven commandments, but "observes the law concerning sanctity of life and theft of property." Chazon Ish replies that if they are enforcing even a section of the Noachide laws properly, it is halachically necessary to respect those pronouncements. However, respect does not necessarily mean that full participation is mandatory.
In sum, there certainly is an obligation upon Noachides — at the minimum — to create a legal system designed to enforce Noachide law. Jews have an obligation to recognize and respect this system, even if it is incomplete in its observance of Noachide law. According to many, there would appear to be a residual impact of Noachide law in Jewish law.
IV. The Obligation to Teach or Judge Noachides
Moses, our teacher, only willed Torah and mitzvot to the Jewish people, since it states "An inheritance to the community of Jacob." . . . One [who is not Jewish] who does not wish to, we do not compel to accept Jewish law. So too, Moses our teacher was commanded by God to compel the commandments to the Noachides. All who do not accept are killed. One who accepts them [voluntarily] is called a ger toshav [literally: resident alien]. . .
So, too, Maimonides recounts that:
A Jewish court [beit din] is obligated to appoint judges for ger toshaves [literally: resident alien] to judge them in order that the world not be destroyed. If the Jewish court wishes to appoint judges from within their midst, it may; if it wishes to appoint judges from the Jews, it may.
Finally, Maimonides rules that:
One who takes an adult slave from an idol worshiper, and the slave does not wish to be circumcised one may delay up to twelve months . . If one agreed concerning this slave with his previous owner not to circumcise him, it is permitted to keep the slave uncircumcised; however, the slave must keep the seven commandments obligatory on Noachides and if not, he is killed immediately.
This article will address three basic issues that flow from the formulation of Maimonides. They are:
(1) Is there an obligation upon each individual Jew to coerce compliance; or is the obligation only on beit din and if so, which court; or perhaps classical halacha rejects this ruling of Maimonides.
(2) When a Noachide will violate these rules no matter what posture Jews take, may Jews assist in the sin or at the least must a Jew decline to assist in a violation of Noachide laws.
(3) Is there an obligation to induce or persuade a Noachide to comply with the Noachide laws, or even to teach Noachides about their obligations, or (if there is an obligation) is it limited to the obligation to coerce (lekof).
Indeed, the answer to each of these three inter-related questions is in dispute, and each of these disputes is quite central to many of the issues raised in this paper.
1. The Obligation to Compel Observance
- Maimonides' Approach
A simple reading of the rules of Maimonides' would indicate that Jews or a Jewish court are obligated in (at the minimum) coercing Noachides to observe their laws. Such is not the only way, however, to interpret Maimonides' statements. Maharatz Chayut in his responsa seems to adopt a formulation of Maimonides ruling that makes this law a mere historical recounting of facts. He states (quoting the Rashbash):
Sanhedren 56b recounts that the Jews were commanded in ten commandments at Marah; these ten commandments were the seven laws of Noah, the Sabbath laws, dinim, and respect for one's parents. Why did the Jews need to be commanded again [on the seven Noachide laws] since Jews were already commanded from the time of Adam and Noah…Since we conclude that commandments that were given prior to Sinai to Noachides, and not repeated at Sinai, are obligatory only for Jews, the seven commandments had to be repeated at Sinai to obligate Noachides. Based on this Rashbash, the assertion of Maimonides that "Moses, our teacher, only willed Torah and mitzvot to the Jewish people, since it states 'An inheritance to the community of Jacob.'" … and his assertion that 'Moses our teacher was commanded by God to compel the commandments obligatory to the children of Noah' appear logical. Why was Moses also the messenger to the rest of the world to compel observance of the seven commandments, perhaps they are obligated by Adam or Noach? Rather we see that Moses being commanded at Marah on the seven Noachide commandments, even though Gentiles were already commanded, was done to make Noachides obligated in the mitzvot even now.
Thus, according to Maharatz Chayut, there is no obligation for any specific Jew, in any circumstance to compel observance by a Noachide. Rather Maimonides is merely explaining the jurisprudential basis for the obligation of Noachides to their seven commandments — absent Moses' re-commandment at Sinai, only Jews would have been obligated in Noachide law. The most that one could claim according to Maharatz Chayut is that perhaps Moses himself was obligated to compel observance of the Noachide laws; Jews currently are not — apparently neither in the context of a beit din nor in the context of any specific individual. Maharatz Chayut would then limit Maimonides' rule obligating Jews to establish courts and appoint judges to those Noachides who formally accept the obligations of a ger toshav (resident alien) and who live in the Jewish community and who are dependent on it for law and order "lest the world be destroyed". Certainly in the diaspora there are few such communities of Noachides; although if there were, and they could not see fit to enforce the law themselves, a Jew should guide them. Similar claims that Maimonides' rules do not create a practical legal obligation can be found in Aruch Hashulchan, the writings of Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni, Rabbi Shaul Yisrali and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kasher, the author of Torah Shelama, all of whom assert that the opinion of Maimonides itself is to be understood as limited to yemot hamashe'ach (or perhaps less ideally, full Jewish law in Israel).
However, all of these explanations of Maimonides' ruling are difficult and the simple understanding of Maimonides is that (at the least) a person that is capable of forcing compliance, must. Indeed, while Rabbi Karo does appear to limit the application of Maimonides somewhat, he clearly understands Maimonides as requiring compulsion whenever possible, even by an individual. This is similarly understood to be the opinion of Maimonides by Tzafnach Panaich, in his lengthy discussion on this topic. A ruling similar to Maimonides' is found in Chinuch 192, where it states:
The rule is as follows: In all that the nations are commanded, any time they are under our jurisdiction, it is incumbent upon us to judge them when they violate the commandments.
- The Approach of Ravad, Nachmanides, Tosafot and others [RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS]A large number of rishonim appear simply to disagree with the opinion of Maimonides, and rule that there is no obligation upon an individual Jew to impose Noachide rules on Gentiles. Included in this group is at least Ravad, Nachmanides, Tosafot and perhaps Rashi and Rashba. Ravad, in disagreeing with the rulings of Maimonides that a slave who refuses to accept one of the seven commandments ought to be killed states "the slave should be sold. We cannot, now, kill a person." While one could understand this assertion as merely practical, it is more likely that Ravad is limiting the juridical power of the Jewish community in punishing Noachides for violations of the Noachide code. Under this analysis, it would, according to Ravad, take an authorized beit din (Jewish court) of 23 functioning when the Sanhedren is legally empowered to impose capital punishment, to kill for violations of the Noachide code. Thus Ravad disagrees with Maimonides, and at least limits the obligation of Jews to impose law on Noachides to situations that do not now (and will not in the pre-messianic era) exist.Proof that this is in fact the approach of Ravad can be derived from his ruling in Malachim 6:1 which allows the subjugation of Noachides to a Jewish nation in war time without the imposition of observance of the Noachide commandments, as Maimonides requires. This would make the positions of Maimonides and Ravad, in their writings in Milah and Malachim consistent on this issue.
Similarly, Nachmanides agrees with Ravad and does not require the imposition of the Noachide commandments as part of a negotiated peace between Israel and its Noachide neighbors. He indicates that it is the military goals alone which determine whether peace terms are acceptable. According to Nachmanides, Jewish law would compel the "victor" to accept peace terms which include all of the victors' demands except the imposition of Noachide law on the defeated society; Maimonides would reject that rule and permit war in those circumstances purely to impose these laws on a Gentile society. This indicates that Nachmanides too does not require the imposition of Noachide law by a Jewish government.
Tosafot also concurs with the rulings of Ravad and Nachmanides and deny that there is any obligation upon even a Jewish government to impose the Noachide commandments on nations under their control. No systemic obligation is present. Rashi, too, perhaps appears to side with Ravad on this issue. Rashba in his responsa also appears to agree.
A similar approach is found in Hagaot Ashrei, which state:
A Noachide, even though he violates the seven Noachide commandments, and his warning is his execution and he does not need formal witnesses and warning, nonetheless every moment prior to his conviction in beit din, he is not liable for the death penalty and it is prohibited to kill him.
This source clearly disagrees with the opinion of Maimonides discussed above and limits the obligation to punish Noachides to beit din. Indeed, it would seem logical that the beit din needed for this punishment is the same type of beit din needed to execute Jews, which has not been extant since prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. This approach would make the comments of Hagaot Ashrei identical with Ravad. Even if this opinion is not accepted, and any regular beit din can function in this role, it is clear that no obligation is imposed upon individual Jews to punish Noachides for violations.
In the two areas where this issue is codified into the halacha, the obligation for Jews to compel observance by Noachides is clearly left out. In the laws relating to keeping slaves, there is an intricate discussion of the rules relating to the circumstances in which a Jew may keep a Gentile slave who does not undergo (partial) conversion. This matter is fraught with disagreement beyond the scope of this paper. However, one thing is clear: neither Tur, nor Rama nor any of the classical commentaries on Shulchan Aruch quote the obligation to impose Noachide law upon Gentiles living — either as a conditional slave or as an employee — in the house of a Jew (and over whom presumably one could have considerable influence). This is true even though the whole area is generally subject to codification, and Tur and Rama do quote and agree with the various other assertions of Maimonides found in Milah 1:6, but yet do not cite this one. Indeed, the notes to Rama clearly indicate that he accepts the rulings of Ravad on this matter. The fact that Maimonides quotes an obligation to compel observance by Noachide slaves which is deleted by the later authorities is indicative that his opinion is not considered binding according to halacha.
 So too, in both Tur and Shulchan Aruch when discussing the obligation to save Gentiles who do not observe the Noachide laws from life-threatening dangers, indicate that there is no obligation to punish violators of Noachide rules. For example, Beit Yosef states that there is no obligation (mitzvah) to kill Gentiles who do not obey the Noachide laws; similar sentiments can be found in Tur, Bach and Drisha. (Maimonides, in the sources cited above, clearly rejects this.) Rama, in Darchai Moshe He'Aruch adopts this posture also. Shulchan Aruch explicitly incorporates this rule. So too, Shach states "There is no obligation [mitzvah] to kill Gentiles even if they violate the Noachide laws" and Taz agrees with this assertion. This ruling — not mandating the punishment of Gentiles for violating Noachide law — stands in clear contrast to the assertion in Shulchan Aruch encouraging and certainly permitting the punishment (and even killing) of one who (is Jewish and) intentionally defies Jewish law. It is thus clear that Shulchan Aruch and the other various commentaries rule (contrary to Maimonides' assertion) that Gentiles need not be punished by Jews for violating Noachide law according to Jewish law. There is no obligation or duty to compel observance of Noachide law by Gentiles.
On the other hand, even these authorities who reject the obligation could accept the assertion of Sefer HaChasidim, that it is a meritorious thing to do which imitates God's conduct towards the Noachides at Ninveh. Absent other factors, it seems obvious that it is laudatory to instruct a Noachide of his obligations, both for reasons mentioned by Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid, for those mentioned by Maimonides in Malachim 10:11 and for those discussed in the Postscript.
Thus, while Maimonides is relatively clear that when possible Jews must impose Noachide law, one could reasonably conclude that the weight of the rishonim and codifiers disagrees with that conclusion and assert that there is no obligation for any individual Jew to compel a Noachide to cease violating the Noachide commandments or that the obligation is limited to messianic times or to resident aliens.
2. When a Noachide will Certainly Violate the Law, May Jews Assist in the Violation?
In a situation where, no matter what a Jew or the Jewish tradition says or does, the Gentile will nonetheless perform an action which violates the Noachide code, is there an obligation to withdraw oneself from the situation? If there is an obligation to separate a Noachide from sin — as mandated by a broad reading of Malachim 8:10 and Milah 1:6 — certainly one cannot assist him in sin.
Pesachim 22b quotes the following statement of R. Natan:
- Natan said from where do we know that one may not extend a cup of wine to a Nazir nor a limb of a live animal to a ben Noach? The source is from the verse "before a blind person thou shall not put a stumbling block."
Thus it is clear that one may not enable a Noachide to sin. If absent the assistance of a Jew no violation could or would take place, it is a biblical violation of lifnei iver for a Jew to assist a Noachide in violating his law.
However, Avoda Zara 6b quotes R. Natan's statement and limits its application to an instance of trei ibra d'nahara (literally "two sides of a river"). Thus only when the Noachide is on one side of a river and flesh of a living animal is on the other side so that he cannot obtain it on his own, is the one who extends it to him in violation of lifnei iver. On the other hand, if the Noachide and the flesh are on the same side of the river (chad ibra d'nahara), so that he could procure the meat on his own, then the person who gives it to him is not in violation of lifnei iver. The assumption is that the prohibition will be violated in any case and the assistance does not enable the sin.
This discussion relates only to the biblical prohibition called lifnei iver; however, is there a rabbinic prohibition to assist a Noachide in violating his seven commandments even when he can violate them independent of the helper? This issue is a crucial one, for it addresses whether there is a general obligation to separate a Noachide from sin (lehafresh ben noach ma'issur). It is impossible to accept Maimonides' opinion that Jews must compel observance of the Noachide laws and simultaneously rule that one need not separate a Noachide from sin.
Two schools of thought seem to exist. The first position is taken by Tosafot, Mordechai, Rama and Shach each of whom accepts that when one is not in a "two sides of the river" situation, there is no prohibition associated with assisting a Noachide who sins. Rama states that there are those who rule that it is only prohibited to sell Noachides supplies used for their idol worship when others will not supply them; however, when others can supply them, there is no prohibition. He concludes by adding "The tradition is in accordance with this opinion; pious people (literally: spiritual people) should conduct themselves in accordance with the stricter opinion".
Shach states this even more clearly:
In my humble opinion, all authorities agree with the opinion of Tosafot and Mordechai that it is permissible to aid a Noachide … [All those] who argue are discussing the case of a Jew whom one is obligated to separate from sin . . Such is not the case for a Noachide … whom we are not obligated to separate from sin.
This ruling has a significant impact on the issue of the Jew's obligation to prevent a Noachide from violating his seven commandments. Essentially, this school of thought accepts that once one cannot actually prevent the violation from occurring, there is no obligation to dissuade or convince a Noachide from violating the law. Indeed, one may actively assist him by providing him with things that he can otherwise acquire on his own.
This approach — which rules that there is no obligation to prevent sinning by a Noachide or convince a Noachide to cease sinning — is accepted by nearly all authorities, including Magen Avraham, Gra, Levush, Beit Shmuel, Machatsit HaShekel, Dagul Merevavah, and Berchai Yosef. Indeed, it is important to realize that a number of authorities reach the conclusion that it is permitted to assist a Noachide while prohibited to assist an unobservant Jew. This is based on their observation that there is no obligation to separate a Noachide from sinning. (The precise rationale to distinguish between an unobservant Jew and a Noachide is beyond the scope of this paper.)
While this author has seen no authority explicitly attempt to harmonize these rulings with Maimonides' ruling cited above, one could easily do so by limiting Maimonides' ruling to a situation where one literally can compel observance of the law, which would then make the situation a "two side of the river case." That would argue that the word "to compel" (lekof) used by Maimonides should be limited to just that situation. Equally interesting, many of those rishonim who clearly argue with Maimonides concerning the obligation to enforce Noachide law discussed in section III, also clearly aver that there is no obligation to separate a Noachide from sin. Their position too is consistent. Indeed, this author would note that any authority who rules that a Jew may assist a Noachide in a violation of the Noachide rules (when the Noachide can do the violation without the Jew's assistance) must rule that there is no obligation upon any particular Jew to convince a Noachide to obey the commandments.
The second position is taken by Rabennu Nissim ("RaN"). RaN states that there is a separate rabbinic prohibition, called mesaya yedai overai averah (literally: "aiding the hand of those who sin") to assist a person — Jew or Noachide — in sin even in situations where the person can do the sin without the help of another. While many authorities accept the opinion of the RaN concerning a Jew who is generally not observant, as noted above this opinion essentially is rejected in Jewish law concerning a Noachide — the classical exception being a lone Tashbetz who rules that it is halachically prohibited to assist a Noachide in sin, since Jews are obligated to separate Noachides from sin.
According to RaN's approach, Maimonides' ruling, cited above, could be understood in two different ways. In situations where a Jew can literally compel observance of the law, that would be a biblical obligation. In situations where compulsion would not work, there would be a rabbinic obligation at least not to assist. This position is neutral on the proper understanding of Malachim 8:10 (which appears to compel observance), as even if there is no obligation to compel observance, one could readily imagine the Sages prohibiting actually assisting in a violation, even if there is no obligation to deter the sin. If one accepts Maimonides in Malachim 8:10, one must at the minimum accept RaN's rule.
Maimonides, himself, however appears to be completely consistent. Maimonides appears to rule that one may never aid a person who is attempting to violate the law — Jew or Noachide — even if, when one declines to aid him, another will do so. This is true whether or not the next person who aids him is also obligated to observe the law. Thus, his position rejects the approach taken in Avoda Zara 6b and makes no distinction between one or two sides of the river. Maimonides' position is thus completely consistent. He prohibits assisting another in sin in all situations, and compels both Jews and Noachides actively to prevent others from violating Noachide law.
3. The Responsa of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
When a Jew contemplates violating Jewish law, there is an obligation upon Jews not only to prevent him (physically if necessary and possible) from violating the law, but also there are obligations to teach him or her about the law and to induce or persuade compliance. Indeed, in a post-emancipation society, limiting Jewish sinning rarely is done with coercion and force, and is typically done through persuasion and teaching. As noted above, in this author's opinion, the halacha as generally understood by most authorities rules that there is no obligation to persuade and teach Noachides about the Noachide law. None of the classical commandments designed to deter sinning by Jews (except the biblical prohibition of lifnei iver, which was discussed in part 2 of this section) is generally thought to applicable to Noachides. Thus, there is no obligation of tochacha (to rebuke) a Noachide who sins, there is no notion of arvout (cooperative activity) that compels collective responsibility, and no obligation to separate a Noachide from sin.
One modern responsa stands out as advocating an approach completely different from that generally accepted by Jewish law. The strongest case that a Jew is obligated to teach and persuade a Gentiles to keep the seven commandments is found in the writings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Lubavitch, in one of his classical responsa. After quoting Maimonides, Malachim 8:10 discussed in part one, Rabbi Schneerson states:
It is obvious that this obligation [found in Maimonides, Malachim 8:10] is not limited only to a Jewish court, since this commandment is unrelated to the presence of a ger toshav (resident alien), and thus what is the need of a beit din. . . . Thus, this obligation is in place in all eras, even the present, when no gera toshav can be accepted and it is obligatory on all individuals who can work towards this goal. So too, this commandment is not limited to using force — where, in a situation we cannot use force, we could be excused from our obligation — since the essence of the obligation is to do all that is in our power to ensure that the seven Noachide commandments are kept; if such can be done through force, or through other means of pleasantness and peace, which means to explain [to Noachides] that they should accept the wishes of God who commanded them in this rules. This is obviously what is intended by Maimonides.
* * *
In Responsa Tashbetz (3:133) it states that even in a case where there is no prohibition of lifnei iver, such as two sides of the river, still it is prohibited to assist Noachides who wish to sin, since "we are obligated to separate them from sin." In reality, we have no source for the obligation to separate a Noachide from sin, if it is not derived from the remarks of Maimonides discussed above [Malachim 8:10] that we are obligated to coerce them into accepting commandments, and thus, of course, we may not assist them in violating them.
Rabbi Schneerson concludes by stating:
From all of the above, it is clear that anyone who has in his ability to influence, in any way, a Noachide to keep the seven commandments, the obligation rests on him to do so, since that was commanded to Moses our teacher. Certainly, one who has connections with Noachides in areas of commerce and the like, it is proper for him to sustain the connection in order to convince and explain to that person, in a way that will reach that persons heart that God commanded Noachides to keep the seven commandments…
In this author's review of the literature, the weight of halachic authority is contrary to this analysis, although it certainly is morally laudatory (all other things being equal) to convince Noachides to keep and observe the Noachide laws. Three proofs can be adduced which indicate that the ruling of Rabbi Schneerson is not accepted by most authorities. First of all, as he himself notes, his position assumes that there is an obligation to separate a Noachide from sin. As noted in detail in part 2 of this section, nearly all authorities reject that assertion. Second of all, it assumes the halachic correctness of the opinion of Maimonides concerning the general obligation to compel observance by Noachides; this author suspects that the normative halacha is codified in favor of those who disagree with Maimonides and thus rejects the rulings found in Maimonides 8:10. Finally, it assumes that even within the position of Maimonides the obligation to compel observance includes within it the obligation to persuade. No support is advanced to that proposition, and by analogy, one could easily assert that merely because compulsion is mandatory (when possible) to prevent a violation, persuasion need not also be mandatory. In addition, proof that there is no obligation upon any individual Jew to teach Noachides their laws can be found in the many responsa that permit the teaching of Noachides about their laws: these many responsa all permit this activity — but none rule it obligatory or compulsory.
In addition, this author believes that systemic jurisprudential concerns within halacha for reciprocity (which are constantly present and which are beyond the scope of this paper) mandate symmetry of obligation between Noachide and Jew. Jewish law certainly does not compel Noachides to enforce their legal system on Jews and certainly does not authorize Noachides to punish Jews for violations of Jewish law. To impose an un-reciprocal obligation upon Jews would violate jurisprudential norms found in Jewish law, where systemic obligations to act for the benefit of others is typically only imposed when those others are obligated to do the same were the situation reversed. Noachides are not obligated to enforce Jewish law; Jews thus are not obligated to enforce Noachide law.
This article started by reviewing the halachic obligation of Gentiles to obey the Noachide commandments, and concluded that notwithstanding a minority opinion to the contrary, halacha accepts that Gentiles are obligated to keep the Noachide laws, and they are obligated even for unintentional violations. So too, halacha recognizes that Gentiles are obligated to create a system of laws designed to — at the minimum — enforce the Noachide laws and punish Noachide violators. This article then continued by noting that Maimonides appears to accept that Jews as well as Noachides are obligated to enforce the Noachide laws; however, many authorities, early and late, including Rama, reject this rule of Maimonides and deny that there is a halachic obligation on individual Jews to compel Noachides to observe their laws. Indeed, Rabbi J. David Bleich states without any equivocations "Jews as individuals are not required to secure compliance with the Noachide Code on the part of non-Jews."
Finally this article noted that whether there is (or is not) a halachic obligation to affirmatively enforce the Noachide laws, it is nonetheless still biblically prohibited to enable a Noachide to violate the Noachide laws (if absent a Jew's assistance, the law would not be violated). However, in a situation where the Noachide is able to violate the law without the assistance of any Jew, nearly all authorities rule that there is no obligation to prevent a Noachide from sinning and thus one may even assist the Noachide in sin. Clearly then, classical halacha does not compel a Jew to persuade or entice a Noachide to observe the law. Rama rules that one may assist, but pious people should abstain from this activity. Shach indicates that even pious people need not abstain from this activity. Rama's assertion that pious people should abstain from this activity can be supported both as a minority opinion within halacha, and as the ethical direction of Sefer Hachasidim with which this paper opened.
It is the conclusion of this paper that generally halacha sees no technical obligation in most situations — even as it is morally laudatory — to insure that Noachides obey their laws. Two observations need to be made.
Initially, as with all issues, the outer parameters of that which is halachically permissible do not establish that which is morally laudatory (or perhaps even halachically encouraged). Thus the words of Perkai Avot need to be quoted:
[Rabbi Akiva] used to say, Humanity is precious since people were created in God's image.
The remarks of Tosafot Yom Tov are also relevant. He states:
Rabbi Akiva is speaking about the value of all people…He wished to benefit all people including Noachides…Rabbi Akiva seeks to elevate all inhabitants of the world…
as are the remarks of Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid, with which this paper opened. Indeed, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik continues the theme of Sefer Hachasidim concerning Ninveh when he states:
There may be an additional reason for Jonah's association with Yom Kippur … Ninveh was the capital city of pagan Assyria … It was a country which would later, under Sennacherib in 722 B.C.E. besiege Jerusalem and exile the ten tribes. Yet God's compassion embraces all of humanity … It is, therefore characteristic of the universal embrace of our faith that as the shadows of dusk descend on Yom Kippur day … the Jew is alerted … that all of humanity are God's children. We need to restate the Universal dimension of our faith, especially when we are sorely persecuted and are apt to regard the world in purely confrontational terms.
In a similar vein are the remarks of the Kuzari, which indicates that the moral relationship of the Jews to the nations of the world is similar to that of the heart to the rest of the body.
Thus, there are many theological or halachic reasons why it might be proper to teach Noachide laws generally, and indeed, a claim can be made that halacha obligates a truthful response to an honest query from a Noachide concerning his obligation under the Noachide code.
Secondly, this paper has left unexplored many other rationales for seeking enforcement of Noachide law. The words of Maharam Schick should be quoted:
[I]t appears that any situation that involves judging violators, even if they are Noachides, is a Jewish people's concern, for others will learn from any wrong done in public and will follow suit and, in the least, the sight of evil is harmful to the soul. Thus, it is our concern. In any case, it is inconceivable that any person living among the residents of a given city be beyond the jurisdiction of the court.
Rabbi Bleich puts it a little differently. He states:
Despite the absence of a specific obligation to influence non-Jews to abide by the provisions of the Noachide Code, the attempt to do so is entirely legitimate. Apart from our universal concern, fear lest "the world become corrupt," as Maimonides puts it, it is also very much a matter of Jewish concern and self-interest. Disintegration of the moral fabric of society affects everyone. Particularly in our age we cannot insulate ourselves against the pervasive cultural forces which mold human conduct. Jews have every interest in promoting a positive moral climate.
Thus, there might be many practical reasons why it is a wise idea to teach vigorously the Noachide code, or selective parts of it, to Gentiles.
On the other hand, the apparent absence of a general halachic obligation upon Jews to increase observance of the Noachide code by Gentiles allows for a balancing of Jewish interests to occur. The possibility that there might be circumstances where the unfettered teaching of the Noachide code in the United States, where distinctions based on religious affiliation cannot be governmentally defended, could be deleterious to the observance of halacha by Jews is not to be dismissed. So too, the possibility that a clearly Jewish attempt to seek enforcement of Noachide laws could result in vast antagonism and backlash toward Judaism from those groups whose conduct is categorically prohibited by Noachide law is not to be dismissed. Long term damage to broad Jewish interests might occur.
All of the concerns — on both sides of the issue — are real. How to weigh the likelihood of each of these scenarios and there consequences, is beyond the scope of this paper and perhaps varies from issue to issue and case to case — although once it is established that no technical halachic obligation is present, a broad variety of realpolitik factors comes into play, each attempting to evaluate what will be in the long term best interest of the Jewish people. These political factors are much less relevant when technical halachic prohibitions are on the line, but are certainly significant when discussing the advisability of undertaking discretionary conduct.
* Associate Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law, Atlanta GA 30322. Telephone: 404 727-7546; Fax 404 727-3374; Email; כתובת דוא"> "> firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Howard Jachter commented on a version of this article, and his comments were appreciated.
For excellent works surveying issues concerning Noachide law generally, see Rabbi J. David Bleich, "Mishpat Mavet Bedenai Benai Noach," Jubilee Volume in Honor of Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik 1:193-208 (5754); Rabbi J. David Bleich, "Hasgarat Posh'a Yehudi sheBarach LeEretz Yisrael", Or Hamizrach 35:247- 269 (5747); Professor Nahum Rakover, "Jewish Law and the Noahide Obligation to Preserve Social Order", Cardozo L.Rev. 12:1073-xxxx (1991); Professor Nachum Rakover, "Hamishpat Kerech Universali: Dinim Bebnai Noach" 15-57 (5748); Encyclopedia Talmudit, "Ben Noach" 3:348-362; Professor Aaron Lichtenstein, The Seven Laws of Noah (2nd Ed., 1986). (As a general matter, this article will attempt to provide citations, to both English and Hebrew versions of works when both exist for the convenience of some readers.)
This body of this paper will not address the merits of alternative rationales for enforcing the Noachide commandments, such as, for example, to teach and direct the Jewish community. It is a famous story, often recounted, that Rabbi Yisrael Salanter favored the translation of the Talmud into German and its introduction in the curriculum of German Universities; when asked to explain his support, he replied that if the Gentiles think talmud study is important, maybe the Jews will study it also! For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Dov Katz, Tenuat HaMussar 1:22-25 and Rabbi J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems 2:319-320. So too, that rationale could be advanced to support enforcement of the seven commandments. See also the Postscript for more on this issue. This article was previously published in "Jewish Law and the Obligation to Enforce Secular Law," in The Orthodox Forum Proceedings VI: Jewish Responsibilities to Society, (D. Shatz & C. Waxman eds.) 103-143 (1997).
The term "Noachide" is used in the rabbinic literature to denote anyone who is not Jewish. See generally Rashi, Nedarim 31a and R. Aaron Kirshenbaum "The Covenant with Noachides Compared to the Sinai Covenant" Dinai Israel 6:31-48 (5735). More specifically, as noted by Ritva Makot 9a, "noachide" denotes a gentile who keeps the Noachide commandments, "ger toshav" denotes a gentile who formally accepts the commandments, and "gentile" denotes one who has done neither. An eved kenani is generally not thought to be a Noachide; see Rashi, Sanhedren 58b. See also Rabbenu Gershom, Keritut 9b and Meiri 48a both of whom appear to classify a ger toshav as a partial convert; see also Rabbi Howard Jachter, "Kedushat Yisrael Lechatazin" Beit Yitchak 24:425-428 (5752).
As noted by Sefer HaChinuch 416, although classically referred to as "seven" commandments in the talmudic literature (see Tosephta A.Z. 9:4 and Sanhedren 56a), these commandments include far more than seven obligations. As noted in The Seven Laws of Noah supra note *, at 90-91, these seven commandments correspond to nearly sixty of the 613 mitzvot given to the Jews, or one in four of those obligations practical since the destruction of the Temple and exile from the land.
Even the Talmud readily acknowledges this fact; see Chulin 92a. In this author's opinion, there is a dispute on how to understand this talmudic section. Are the thirty obligations mentioned there explanations and elaborations on the seven, or are they additional commandments not included in the seven? Rabbi Menachem Azaria Mepano, Asara Mamaorot, Mamar Chokar Din 3:21 clearly understands them as mere explanations. On the other hand, Shmuel ben Chofni Gaon seems to understand them as additional commandments; see his commentary on Genesis 34:12; see also Jerusalem Talmud, Avoda Zara 2:1 which states "These thirty commandments Noachides will accept upon themselves in the future." This distinction leads to certain very practical differences; see Rabbi J. David Bleich, "Divine Unity in Maimonides, the Tosafists and Meiri" in Neoplatonism and Jewish Thought, Len E. Goodmann, ed. (1992) pp.237-254 who uses the opinion of Shmuel Ben Chofni to explain an insight of Meiri which has practical ramifications.
As with any specific halachic ruling, but even more so in this one, that application requires evaluation of the impact on society at large. Thus, there might be no halachic obligation to seek enforcement when it is clear that there is no possibility of success (however defined), or that profound harm would befall the Jewish community if enforcement was sought; for more on this, see infra at Postscript. For a discussion of this issue in the context of enforcement of Jewish law within a Jewish community, see Techumin 7:107-144 (articles by Rav Moshe Malka, Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rav Simcha Kook, and Rav Yisrael Rosen).
For more on this issue, see Postscript.
Bava Kama 38a. For a use of this talmudic text in a different context, see Responsa of Rabbi Hildesheimer YD 259.
Hagaot HaBach, Chagiga 13a. The reference in Bach to Ein Yakov is to the version of Tosafot printed in Ein Yakov on Chagiga 13a. See also Responsa Rama Mepano 30.
Sefer Etz Chaim, beginning of Genesis chapter 37 quoting Maharash Algazi from Ahavat Olam.
Responsa Penai Yehoshua, YD 1:3 and EH 2:43.
Quoted in Makrai Kodesh 63a. For a discussion of the opinions of Rabbi Chaim Abulafia, Penai Yehoshua and Maharit, See Yabia Omer YD 3:17(10).
Commentary on OC 39; but see Chatam Sofer CM 185 where he indicates that he does not, in fact, accept this theory as correct.
Tosafot on Chagiga 13a quoted in Ein Yakov on Chaggiga 13a. This author has no explanation for the differences between the Tosafot on Chagiga 13a in Ein Yakov and the version of Tosafot in all of the various talmudic sources. The version of Tosafot found in Ein Yakov is not found in the other alternative versions of Tosafot commonly consulted.
See Kiddushin 29b-30b for a discussion of this status.
Avoda Zara 6a.
He understands even this only a as rabbinic prohibition; but see page 20 of this article which indicates that it is normally considered a biblical prohibition.
Responsa Beit Yehuda YD 17; Sedai Chemed 6:26:22 (in the name of numerous authorities); Yabia Omer YD 2:17(10); Yad Eliyahu 48 and many others.
Whether there could be any Noachide obligation based on a rabbinic commandment is subject to some debate; see Sedai Chemed 2:32-33. To this author it would seem logical that there can be no rabbinic obligation on Gentiles to keep the Noachide laws, as there is no obligation on Gentiles to keep rabbinic rules. That does not, however mean that there can be no rabbinic decrees ever governing Noachides; see id. However, the central obligation to observe cannot be rabbinic; Rashi, Sanhedren 58b (veleklal yisrael lo ba) clearly indicates that a rabbinic decree cannot govern one who is not Jewish. This issue is perhaps related to the question of whether Noachides must follow majority rule. Compare Pri Megadim, YD, Shaar HaTarovet 1:1(3) with Nodah Beiyehuda, Tanyana, Even haEzer 42 with Hatam Sofer, YD 70 and Maharam Shick, OC 104.
See e.g. Maimonides, Malachim Chapters 7-9 and various other rishonim discussed in part II-V of this article who refer to the seven commandments in a way which indicates that they are biblical in origin.
See e.g. Aruch HaShulchan He'Atid Malachim 78 and the numerous achronim cited in parts II-V of this article all of whom discuss the issue of Noachide obligation assuming that it is biblical in nature.
This author would be inclined to read the authorities cited in notes 6 to 10 (and the related talmudic text) as perhaps standing for a lesser proposition — Noachides are only obligated to obey the seven commandments based on logic or Natural law, and that they are released from adhering to them solely because of a divine revelation. This perhaps can be implied from Tosafot Chagiga 13a (which seems to indicate that observance of the seven commandments is possible independent of the study of torah), Rabbenu Nissim Gaon in his introduction to Talmud (printed as the preface to Berachot) (which discusses the obligations upon all people to obey logical rules) and Maimonides, Malachim 8:11 (which discuss whether Noachides who rationally observes the commandments are meritoriously acting assuming the text is changed from velo to ela, as indicated by Maharam Alshich). Supporting this alternative reading of Maimonides, Rakover, supra note *, at footnote 28, states in part:
The reading, "of their wise men," ("ela mehakhmeihem") is to be found only in manuscripts and not in printed editions of Maimonides' Code. The same reading may be found at Y. ben Moshe, Introduction to Ma'aseh haEfod (1403) (Rabbi Yitzhak ben Moshe is also known as Profiat Duran haLevi of Catalonia); and at Y. ben R. Shem Tov, Kevod Elokim 29:1 (1556). See also Z. Hayyot, [1 Kol Sifrei Maharatz Hayyot 61], at 66; Maharatz Hayyot, 2 Kol Sifrei Maharatz Hayyot 1035 . . .; A. Kook, Iggrot Re'iyah, Iggeret no. 89, 100.
See, for example, Rama OC 156:1; Shulchan Aruch YD 169; EH 5:14 (and comments of Chelkat Mechokek). Many such citations could be brought.
See Malachim 10:1 which states "a Noachide who unintentionally violates one of the mitzvot is excused from them all."
Kometz HaMincha 232 (reprinted as part of the text in the new Minchat Chinuch 232).
See also Pri Megadim OC 443:5 and 444:6 which is argued with by Drisha YD 297(1-2).
For example, it would be permissible for a Noachide to eat a piece of flesh from a living animal in a situation where he did not know that this meat comes from a living animal, but knows that if it had, he would not be allowed to eat it.
For example, it would be prohibited for a Noachide to eat a piece of flesh from a living animal in a situation where he knows that this meat comes from a living animal, but is unaware that such flesh is prohibited.
See Tosafot, Bava Kama 79a.
See Avnai Meluim EH 5; Seda Chemed 5:26:13; Terumat Hadeshen 299; Aruch HaShulchan YD 62:6; Responsa Rav Betzalael Askenazi 3 (in the name of Radvaz also).
Sanhedren 56a. Indeed, the source for these laws plays a role in their interpretation. As noted by Rama, Responsa 10 (to be discussed infra) if the source for these rules is biblical verses directed at Adam or Noach, they then are to be interpreted independent of the subsequent revelation at Sinai. Rama states:
It is recounted in Sanhedren 56b. Rabbi Yochanan states that the seven Noachide laws were given based on the verse 'God commanded Adam stating: from all the trees in the garden you may eat' [Genesis 2:16]. "veyetzav" is the source for dinim since it states . . .; "elokeim" is the source for berchat hashem, since it states …. Contrary to this is the opinion of Rabbi Yitzchak who states that "veyetzav" is the source for the prohibition of idol worship; "elokeim" is the source for the dinim….
Rabbi Yochanan, who learns dinim from "veyetzav" understands that Noachide law only obligates observing the customs of the community and judging people . . . However, Rabbi Yitzchak has a completely different approach and he learns dinim from "elokeim" as a gezera shaveh from the verse "and the litigant shall approach the judge ("elokeim") [Ex. 20:3]. He rules that Noachide laws are the same as those laws commanded to the Jews at Sinai, and thus he learns them from a verse announced at Sinai.
According to Shmuel ben Hofni, 30 specific commandments are included; see generally appendix to Encyclopedia Talmudic 3:394-396 and supra note 2.
See The Seven Laws of Noah, supra note *, at 90-91.
Jerusalem Talmud Kiddushin 1:1; see generally Malachim 2:16.
See Chedushai haRaN Sanhedren 58b; see also Penai Yehoshua, Kiddushin 13b who insists that this applies even after the death of the spouse.
Maimonides, Ishut 1:1-2 and Malachim 9:8
Opinion of Rabbi Yochanan, Bereshit Rabbah 18:5 and see also commentary of Rashi on id for an elaboration on this.
For example, the nature of the monotheistic obligation and its application to contemporary religions; see Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note *, at 350-351 or the obligation of dinim discussed in part III; whether Noachides are prohibited to perform castrations or grow kelaim; Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note *, at 356-357, and many others.
This paper is not the place to address the details of the Noachide laws. For such an analysis, see The Laws of Noah, supra note *.
Encyclopedia Talmudic, supra note 1, at 353-354.
Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note 1, at 353-354.
Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note 1, at 354.
Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note 1, at pages 351. As noted by Rabbi Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 9:51 (page 239), what flows from this assertion is that if a Jewish woman is permitted to have an abortion according to Jewish law, it is preferable that the doctor performing the abortion be Jewish and not a Noachide.
Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note 1, at pages 354-55.
However, many things that are considered general wrongs by both Jewish law and the general western legal codes, are not always considered violations of the Noachide code. For example, various forms of incest considered wrong by most western legal systems and Jewish law are permitted in the Noachide code; see Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note *, at 351-2.
For an excellent review of the Noachide commandment of dinim, see Rakover, supra note * (both articles).
See Genesis Chapter 34.
As to why Maimonides uses the word "stole" see Sanhedren 55a and Chatam Sofer YD 19.
See generally Teshuvot Chachmai Provance 48 which clearly distinguishes between regulations based on the Noachide laws and regulations based on the law of the land or the law of the king. For more on this distinction, see Arnold Enker, "Aspects of Interaction Between the Torah Law, the King's Law, and the Noahide Law in Jewish Criminal Law", Cardozo L. Rev. 12:1137-xxxx (1991).
Commentary of Nachmanides, Geneses 34:14.
Responsa of Rama 10. His ruling is also accepted by Chatam Sofer CM 91 and R. Yakov Linderbaum (melisa), Responsa Nachalat Yakov 2:3.
See Rabbi Y. Elchanan Spector, Nachal Yitzchak CM 91; R. Abraham Issaih Karelitz, Chazon Eish on Hilchot Malachim 10:10 and Bava Kama 10:3; R. Isser Zalman Meltzar, Even HaAzel, Chovel Umazek 8:5; R. Yecheil Michael Epstein, Aruch HaShulchan He'Atid, Law of Kings 79:15; R. Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, Haamek Shealah 2:3; R. Abraham Kook, Etz Hadar 38, 184; R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, Har Tzvi, OC II, Kuntres Mili de Berachot 2:1; R. Ovadia Yosef, Yechaveh Daat 4:65; R. Yitzchak Yakov Weiss, Minchat Yitzchak 4:52:3. For a more complete analysis of this issue see N. Rakover, Jewish Law …, supra note * at 1098-1118, and App. I & II.
Most authorities do not accept Nachmanides' opinion; see e.g. Maimonides, Hilchot Malachim 10:10; R. Yom Tov Ashvealli (Ritva), Responsa 14 (quoted in Beit Yosef CM 66:18); Tosafot, Eruvin 62a ("Ben Noach"). The comments of Albo are also worth citing:
One finds although torah law and Noachide law differ in the details, the principles used are the same, since they derive from the same source. Moreover, the two systems exist concurrently: while Jews have torah law, the other peoples abide by the Noachide code.
Sefer Haikarim 1:25.
Maimonides asserts in his commentary on the Mishnah (Chulin 7:6) that the reason why these seven commandments are obligatory is because God commanded these seven laws as part of the divine revelation at Sinai. Based on this, the Bal HaTurim notes that 620 commandments were revealed at Sinai which he remarks is hinted at by the 620 letters in the Ten Commandments. Interestingly, Machzor Vitri notes that only 606 commandments were given to the Jews at Sinai, since the Jews were already commanded in the Noachide laws prior to that; this is also noted by Gra as derived from the word "Ruth", whose value is 606, which Gra asserts is the additional commandments she became obligated in. See also Maimonides's Sefer Hamitzvot Aseh 176-177. For a general discussion of the Noachide laws and the counting of commandments, see Noami Cohen, "Taryag and the Noahide Commandments", Journal of Jewish Studies, 43:46-57 (Spring 1992).
See Rabbi Yosef Engel, Beit Otzar Marechet 1-1: '7, 9. "The seven Noachide commandments are still obligatory to Jews, and their authority derives from their pre-Sinai obligation. The Torah . . . merely added to Noachide laws . . ."
Rabbi Pinhas Hayyim Sheinman "Teshuva be-inyan yeladimn mefagrim legabe hinukh u-mitsvot" Moria 11:(9-10) pp 51-65 (1982). (This article contains an appendix written by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).
Iggrot Moshe YD 1:6. Rabbi Feinstein there discusses whether one who is legally excused from observance of commandments generally because of blindness (according to one opinion) is nonetheless obligated in the Noachide laws.
Is a bar deah (understands right and wrong).
Although this goes almost without saying, there is no general difference in level of obligation in Noachide law between men and women; see Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note *, at page 348.
Or Samach, Issurai Beah 3:2. This presupposes the correctness of the Minchat Chinuch famous assertion (Minchat Chinuch 190; also found in Chatam Sofer YD 317) that Noachides become adults — and thus obligated in obedience of the law — not when they reach any particular age, but then they reach intellectual maturity. It is likely that the correctness of this assertion is itself in dispute between Rosh and Rashi; compare Teshuvot HaRosh 16:1 and Rashi commenting on Perkai Avot 5:21. See also Yabia Omer YD 2:17.
See also Sefer Hamikaneh 1:8(5) which states "for violations of the seven commandments Jews certainly are to be punished . . ." Perhaps similar sentiments are expressed by Rav Kook when he states "in our time, when Torah is not upheld . . . still it seems that the principles of fairness applied by force of torah law of dinim to Noachides applies, since we are no worse than they" Etz Hadar page 42.
Seredai Eish 3:22; Rabbi Menashe Klein, Mishnah Halachot 9:278 also agrees with this.
This author has found no authority who explicitly notes this in the name of Nachmanides. However, it would appear logical to this author that there is no obligation to participate in the creation of a legal system that is not binding on one who creates it. Other factors, such as lifnei ever or its analogs, would be in place according to Nachmanides to prevent Jews from enticing Noachides to violate; indeed, even dina demalchulta might be such rule.
See Rashi, Gitten 9b and Rabbi Bleich, Jewish Law and the State's . . . , supra note *, at 856.
See for example, Rashi commenting Gitten 9b. Rabbi Issar Zalman Meltzar Even HaAzel, Nizkai Mamon 8:5 freely mixes as near synonyms the terms dina demalchuta, din melech, benai noach metzuve al hadinim in a discussion about why a Jew must return property lost by another when such is required by secular law and not halacha. See also Rabbi Meir Dan Polachi, Chemdat Yisrael, Ner Mitzvah 72 Mitzvah 288. See also the discussion in section IV:3 of the position of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson on this issue.
This article does not address one very significant issue — the scope of a Gentile's obligation (both as an individual and as a society) to enforce Noachide law. As is clear from Maimonides' formulation (cited in text accompanying note 46), Gentiles are obligated not only in formulating a legal system, but also in actually enforcing it; after all the inhabitant od Shechem were punished because they declined to enforce the law. On the other hand, as noted by many authorities (see sources cited in notes 90 and 158 and more generally the sources cited in notes 90 to 99) it is clear that Noachides need not punish all violations with death. Indeed, a claim can be made that a Noachide system of law fulfills it's mandate as a system of justice (dinim) even if it were to occasionally decline to criminally punish a clear violation of Noachide law (such as theft of a nickel). So too, it is reasonable to suppose that Maimonides's formulation of the difference between the obligations of an individual to enforce law and the obligation of society to enforce law (see Rotzeach 1:5) has some place in the Noachide system also. This is even more so apparent according to the approach of Nachmanides that incorporates vast amounts of general law into Noachide law. Clearly not every violation of this general law requires death or even criminal punishment. On the other hand, it is reasonable to assert that the Noachide obligation is not fulfill merely by legislative action without any enforcement activity. What is missing from this discussion is the halachic parameters of the discretion, and that task shall be left to another time.
This was first noted in a different context by Rabbi Bleich, who was commenting on the permissibility to assist in the punishment of criminals. He states:
Nevertheless, one point requires clarification. Punishment of malfeasors may be a royal prerogative. That, however, does not establish an obligation [for Jews] to assist the king in exercising that prerogative. . . . Reason demands that a murderer be brought to justice and punished. Reason similarly demands that punishment be carried out only in accordance with legal procedures and only by duly constituted authorities because the alternative would similarly lead to a breakdown of the social order. Just as reason forbids a person to take the law into his own hands, it also mandates that there be no interference with the administration of justice by properly constituted authorities.
Rabbi Bleich, supra note 61, at 856.
Something that would be completely unacceptable in a Jewish court, where complete observance is mandated for service as a judge; See generally, Choshen Mishpat 35-37 for a list of disqualifications.
Chazon Ish Bava Kama 10:15. A similar situation is also discussed in halacha: Does Jewish law recognize the right of the Noachide government to punish Jewish violators of the Noachide code. Two distinctly different approaches have been taken by the authorities on the permissibility of a Jew aiding the secular government in criminally punishing Jews; For an excellent analysis of this issue, see Rabbi J. David Bleich, Hasgarat Posh'a . . , supra note *. The dispute revolves around the proper understanding of Bava Metzia 83b-84a which states in part:
- Eleazar son of R. Simeon met a police officer. R. Eleazar said to him, "How can you detect the thieves . . .? Perhaps you take the innocent and leave behind the guilty." The officer replied "And what shall I do? It is the king's command." [R. Eleazar then advised this policeman how to determine who was a thief and who was not] . . . A report was heard in the royal court. They said, "Let the reader of the letter become the messenger." R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon was brought to the court and he proceeded to apprehend thieves. R. Joshua son of Karchah, sent word to him, "Vinegar, son of wine! How long will you deliver the people of our God for slaughter?" R. Eleazar sent the reply, "I eradicate thorns from the vineyard." R. Joshua responded, "Let the owner of the vineyard come and eradicate his thorns."
Rabbi Eliezer was rebuked for assisting the government in the prosecution of criminals, thus indicating that this conduct is not proper or at least the subject of a dispute between Rabbi Eleazar and Rabbi Joshua.
A number of commentaries advance an explanation for this reprimand which changes its focus. Rabbi Tom Tov Ashvelli (RiTVA quoted in Sheta Mekubetzet on id.) states that even Rabbi Joshua admits that it is only scholars and rabbis of the caliber of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yishmael who should not assist the government as prosecutors or police officers — and even for these individuals such conduct was not prohibited, but only frowned upon. Many authorities agree with this explanation; See RaN, commenting on Sanhedren 46a; Rabbi Shimon ben Adret, Teshuvot Rashba 3:29; Rabbi J. Karo, Beit Yosef, CM 388; Taz, YD 157:7-8; R. Tzvi Hirsh Eisenstadt, Darchai Teshuva, commenting on YD 157:1; R. Simcha Medivinsk, Or Sameach, Malachim 3:10; R. Moshe Shick, Teshuvot Maharam Shick, YD 50. According to this analysis, it is only the pious who should not engage in this type of work as it is undignified for scholars also to be government agents — but all others may, since the secular government has "jurisdiction" over Jewish violators of its laws. Additionally, Rashi, commenting on the Talmud, seems to argue that any action which the secular government may take within the scope of the rule of dina demalchuta dina (the law of the land is the law) which is binding on Jews, the government may enforce; See e.g. Rashi commenting on Gittin 9b (dinim). Keeping law and order is unquestionably one such function. A proof to this proposition can perhaps be found in Rabbi Feinstein's decision allowing one to be a tax auditor for the government in a situation where the audit might result in the criminal prosecution of Jews for evading taxes; Iggrot Moshe, CM 1:92.
The second approach rejects the opinion of Rabbi Eleazar, and states that Rabbi Joshua, who rebuked Rabbi Eleazar, represents the normative opinion which prohibits this conduct; Such an approach can be found in Meiri, Bava Metzia 83b and can be implied from Maimonides, Hilchot Rotzeach 2:4 and Tosafot, Sanhedren 20b; R. Moshe Sofer, Chatam Sofer Likkutim responsa no. 14. If Rabbi Joshua's opinion is the one accepted by Jewish law, then the only time it would be permitted to assist the secular government in criminal prosecutions is when the criminal poses a threat to the community through his conduct. This is based upon the rules of rodef (pursuer); see R. Shimon Duran, Tashbetz 3:168 and Rabbi Isserless, (Rama), CM 388:12. Obviously where the criminal poses a threat to the community through his conduct, it is proper to apprise the secular authorities of his activities; see e.g., R. Shmuel DeMidina, Responsa Maharashdam, CM 55:6; Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, Teshuvot VeHanhagot 1:850. This threat need not be limited to the possibility that the criminal will actually harm another, but includes such factors as the possibility that in response to a Jew being apprehended committing a crime, other Jews will be injured or anti-semitism will be promoted; see Rama commenting on Shulchan Aruch, CM 388:12, 425:1. According to this approach it is only when there is a likelihood that the lack of punishment of this criminal will lead to other crimes, that the secular authorities should be informed. One authority has argued that on a functional level there is no difference between the two approaches because disobedience of the law generally will surely lead to anarchy and crime, and thus all significant violations of the law can be punished under the pursuer rationale. Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Chayes (Maharatz Chayes) Torat Neviem Chap. 7.
Perhaps among the most significant impacts is whether Noachides are valid witnesses as a matter of biblical law or not; for more on this, see "Goy", Encyclopedia Talmudit 5:337-343.
Maimonides, Malachim 8:10. In explaining the source for this ruling of Maimonides, Rabbi Karo states in Kesef Mishnah Mila 1:6 that "Rabbenu learned this rule from what is stated in Sanhedren 57a;" see also Yevamot 48a. The dispute between Maimonides and others revolve around the talmudic statement (Sanhedren 57a) that "on seven commandments Noachides are killed." Maimonides understands this as not limited to judaical punishment in a court of 23 when the Sanhedren is functioning (as is required to execute a Jew for a violation) but includes "extra-judaical" activity. Those who argue (see section 2) limit this statement to judicially sanctioned executions.
Maimonides, Malachim 10:11. As noted by Radvaz, commenting on Malachim 10:14, ab initio it is preferable that Noachides serve as judges on there own tribunals. It is only be'devad that Jews should seek such roles. I would suggest that the rationale for that assertion is that it is generally better that a mitzvah be done by the principle and not through an agent. In this case the mitzvah is dinim, the Noachide is the principal, and the Jew is the agent.
It is worth noting that Maimonides explicitly adopts a universalistic formulation of the obligation to love our Maker in his Sefer Hamitzvot, Aseh 3.
Maimonides, Mila 1:6. Ravad notes "Nowadays we cannot kill a person." See part IV:1:B for a discussion of Ravad's assertion.
It is clear that once a person is actually a full ger toshav (resident alien) there is an obligation to judge that person (at least in Israel). Most likely, no such people exist in the United States. This paper will limit its discussion to Noachides. For a discussion of who is a ger toshav, see Rabbi Berel Wein, Chekrai Halachot 5-45 (Mossad Harav Kook, 5748 and Aruch HaShulchan He'atid Yovel 49.
Rabbi Shlomo Ben Shimon Duran, Rashbash 543.
See "Dinim" Encyclopedia Talmudit 7:396-397 for a discussion of this issue.
The general rule is that commandments apparently directed to all recounted in the bible prior to revelation at Sinai are binding only on Jews; commandments recounted twice in the bible, one before revelation and once after are binding on all; see generally Encyclopedia Talmudit, supra note *, at 359-360.
Ellipses are by Maharatz Chayut.
Maimonides Malachim 10:11.
Although some Noachide communities do exist. See e.g., "Ex-Christians Drawn to Noah's Law," San Jose Mercury News, Saturday January 26, 1991 Page:11D. The article reads in part:
Some are former Christian clergymen who no longer consider themselves Christians. They use many Jewish practices, but don't convert to Judaism. About 250 of them met in Athens, Tenn., recently, reports Ecumenical Press Service. James D. Tabor, member of an advisory council, says members tend to be "disenfranchised former Christians" who "do not denounce belief in Jesus" but the "most they would say is that he was a great teacher." Tabor says members want to identify with the "ethical monotheism" of Judaism without converting to it. He says they uphold the "laws of Noah," such as those against idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed, sexual sins and theft.
It is worth noting that these communities do seek rabbinic guidance; see "Tennessee Church Studies Judaism" Sun Sentinel, Friday May 31, 1991 Page: 5E discussing involvement of local orthodox rabbi.
Whether such is obligatory is dependent on issues discussed infra in this paper and the additional issue of whether such communities have the status of ger toshav communities or merely Noachide communities. This is a classical dispute between Maimonides, Ravad and many others. For a lengthy discourse on many details of ger toshav, see Rabbi Berel Wein, Chekrai Halachot 9-46 and particularly pages 44-46 which discuss whether such a status can currently exist.
YD 267:12-13. For more on the context in which Aruch Hashulchan is speaking, see infra, text accompanying notes 100 to 107. There is some tension between the remarks found in Aruch HaShulchan He'atid Yovel 49:1-3, Malachim 78:10-11 and YD 367:12-13. This author would be inclined to assume that the remarks found in Aruch HaShulchan He'atid are not intended for current practical use, and while that is not stated explicitly in them, that flows logically from the nature of the work generally. (Although even that rule is not without exception, as teruma and maser rules are found in He'atid, notwithstanding their clear relevance even in the life of the writer.)
Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni (Mishpatai Melucha 2d ed. pages 232-234) also understands Maimonides' rule so as to impose no real obligation. He understands the force of the relevant rules as designed to limit what a Jewish court can do, and not to expand on it. He understands Maimonides as ruling that Noachides are commanded from Moses only in these seven laws, and a Jewish court, while it might think that it can impose on Noachides additional obligations or portions of the remaining 613 commandments, it cannot. He argues that Maimonides' statement ("So too, Moses our teacher was commanded by God to compel [only] the commandments obligatory to the children of Noah") should be understood as a limitation on that power. The same he states is true for the second example ("A Jewish court is obligated to appoint judges to ger toshaves (resident alien) to judge them for these laws …"). This interpretation is quite novel and original to him.
Amud Yemini 12:1:12. Rabbi Yisraeli posits that Maimonides cannot possibly mean that there is a general obligation to compel observance of the Noachide laws everywhere in the world as "where do we see that in the writing of the Sages." Rather he argues that Maimonides' rule must be limited to the land of Israel itself, where there is a halachic imperative to prevent violations of the Noachide law. Thus according to him, Maimonides' rule is inapplicable in the diaspora.
Torah Shelama 17:220. The most fascinating explanation for the opinion of Maimonides is found in Responsa Maharam Shick, where he avers that the primary motivation for this ruling is that if Noachides are allowed to sin unpunished, impropriety will occur in the Jewish community also; Maharam Shick OC 144. Indeed, Maharam Shick indicates that the basis for this rule is that society cannot stand if the justice system cannot regulate a portion of the community. Similar insights are made by Rabbi Bleich in Hasgarat Posh'a . . ., supra note *. See also Postscript.
Kesef Mishnah Mila 1:6. Similar sentiments as to the opinion of Maimonides can be found in Lechem Mishna commenting on Avodah Zarah 10:1
Rabbi Joseph Rosen, Tzafnach Paneach, Maimonides, Milah 1:6.
Maimonides, Milah, 1:6.
As Kesef Mishnah does; see Kesef Mishnah Milah 1:6.
For an understanding of why that approach is "more likely", see Tzafnach Paneach on Mila 1:6, Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, "On Noachides", Beit Yitzchak 19:335-338 (5747) and Rabbi J. David Bleich "Mishpat Mavet . . ., supra note *.
See Rabbi Aharon Soloveitchik, "On Noachides" supra note 89. Of course, a person who violates the Noachide laws and thus poses a danger to others could be killed using the pursuer rationale; Indeed, even a Jew could be punished under that rationale. However, a violation of the purely theological components of the Noachide law cannot result in punishment according to this rationale.
So too, it is likely that Jewish law recognizes as proper a Noachide law which provides a sanction for violations other than the death penalty. Noachide law is authorized even to execute. It is not, however, obligated to execute for all violations. See generally, Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik cited above and Rabbi Bleich, Mishpat Mavet …, supra note *. See also Chelkat Yoav Tanyana 14. In particular this must flow logically from the opinion of Nachmanides that dinim incorporates the obligation to create a system of financial law.
See Comments of Ravad on Malachim 6:1 and Issura Beah 12:7-8.
Commentary of Nachmanides on Deuteronomy 20:(1) and (11). While Nachmanides does mention subsequent adoption of Noachide laws by these nations, it is in the context of self incorporation of these rules by these nations and not through compulsion.
Except, as noted above, upon those who are garai toshav.
Tosafot, "velo moredim," Avoda Zara 26b. This can also be re-enforced from the assertion of Tosafot, Shabbat 3a that there is no obligation to separate Noachides from sin. For more on this, see IV:2.
For a general discussion of this, see R. Yehuda Gershuni Mishpatai Melucha, 165-167.
Commenting on Deuteronomy 20:1,11 which cites only the obligation of taxation, and deletes the obligation of observance of the Noachide commandments. This is also in harmony with Rashi's opinion (Yevamot 48a) that does not appear to require observance of Noachide laws by Noachide slaves of Jews. This too is consistent with Rashi's broad conception of dina demalchuta noted in Gitten 9b (see notes 61 to 64). Merely because there is an obligation to obey does not mean that there is an obligation to assist in enforcement. It is logical to infer that that concept is present in Noachide law also according to those who accept Nachmanides' general framework; see Nachmanides on Genesis 34:11.
Responsa of Rashba 1:59; see also comments of Rashba to Yevamot 48b. In this responsa Rashba discusses at some length the status of slaves that do not observe Noachide law without giving any indication that ownership of these slaves is prohibited, thus indicating agreement with Ravad (for reasons that will become apparent once the next paragraph is read).
Hagaot Ashrei, Avodah Zara 64b. This sources was refereed to me by Rabbi Yehuda Herzel Henkin of Jerusalem, in his comments on a draft of this paper.
See note supra 90 and sources cited therein.
See generally Aruch HaShulchan YD 267 for a review of this area.
The opinion of Shulchan Aruch itself is unclear, In YD 276:4 Rabbi Karo appears to simply disallow any temporary slavery absent circumcision, and thus he does not even discuss the imposition of Noachide law. In Beit Yosef 267 (beginning with the words veharambam) R. Karo appears to accept the approach of Maimonides. However, in Bedek Habayit (on id.) he appears to retract this ruling and condition this whole issue on the presence of a ger toshav (resident alien), something which is impossible currently in the opinion of R. Karo. Thus, the situation appears to be that Kesef Mishna and Beit Yosef rule in accordance with Maimonides that these rules are applicable currently, whereas Bedek Habayit rules that (at the least) Maimonides opinion is inapplicable currently or the halacha is not in accordance with Maimonides. Shulchan Aruch is unclear. See generally Chikrai Lev 2:53 and Sedai Chemed 9:16 for a discussion of these types of situations in the writings of Rabbi Karo. Particularly given the discussion found in text accompanying notes 108-117, one is inclined to understand Shulchan Aruch as in agreement with Rama.
Maimonides and Rama are both discussing a simple relevant case: May one employ household help that violates one of the Noachide commandments or must one terminate the help (perhaps either by terminating the help or terminating the employment). This issue is relevant even in the 1990's. Rama and the latter authorities indicate that there is no obligation upon a Jewish employer to compel observance of the Noachide laws by employees. It is difficult to assert that Rama left this law out as there was nothing they could do to compel observance, since certainly, even in those times, one had the right to fire such employees/slaves, if not more than that. Rather, Rama thought that there was no halachic obligation to compel Noachides to observe the Noachide commandments.
A slave acquired with the explicit condition that conversion not be done and whom Maimonides explicitly required to observe the Noachide laws. See Milah 1:6 for a description of this status.
Given the secular law relating to servitude, indentured servants and slave found in Europe until the emancipation, it is difficult to claim that Jewish law declined to address this issue because it was not relevant. On the contrary, this issue is quite relevant and employees/owners had considerable latitude in regulating the conduct of employees/slaves even in issues unrelated to their work; see generally Jonathan Bush, "Free to Enslave: The Foundations of Colonial American Slave Law" Yale J.L. & Humanities 5:417 (1993).
Unlike those rules found in Malachim chapters 8-11.
Shulchan Aruch YD 267:4. The notes to Rama were not written by Rama. A close read of Iggrot Moshe YD 3:103 (particularly the second-to-last paragraph) indicates that Rabbi Feinstein agrees with Rama on this issue.
Further proof that Jewish law did not perceive an obligation to compel observance by Noachides (absent Messianic times) can be found in part 2 of this section, where once again, the approach of Maimonides is a minority opinion.
Tur and Shulchan Aruch YD 158:1. Portions of this can be found in repetition in CM 425.
YD 158 s.v. rebenu umekol makom. For more on this, see the uncensored version of Beit Yosef CM 425 that has recently been incorporated into various editions of the Tur (and is forthcoming in the new Machon HaTur).
YD 158:1 (new Tur numbers).
YD 158 s.v. umekol makom.
YD 158:1. Similar sentiments can be found in Sema CM 425:15-19 in his attempts to distinguish Gentiles from heretics.
YD 158 s.v. ain moredim. For a long discussion of this topic which reenforces this understanding of the halacha, see the commentary of Aruch Meshar on Darchai Moshe.
Shulchan Aruch 158:1.
Shach YD 158:2. It is worth noting that he cites Yam Shel Shlomo's commentary on Semag mitzvah 48 as in agreement with that. Nikudat HaKesef on id. is equally clear on this issue.
Taz YD 158:1. For a discussion of this issue, see Responsa Beit Yehuda Yehuda YD 4.
See also, for a recent reformulation, Rabbi Yitzchok Blau, Pitchai Choshen 5:2(18).
See note ).
The Mishnah LaMelech (Malveh ve'loveh 4:2) states (perhaps reflecting his understanding of the Maimonides) that in order for the action to become permissible according to Torah law, it has to be doable by a non-Jew, or a person otherwise not obligated in this commandment of lifnei iver generally, rather than be able to be done by any person. The Mishnah LaMelech's approach is based upon his understanding of Tosafot (Chagiga 13a, ein mosrim) that chad ibra d'nahara ("one side of the river") means when the principal can do it on his own or through the assistance of a non-Jew. This makes sense only within the conceptual framework of Tosafot and the RaN (which will be explained below), as it seems irrelevant that others can aid in the prohibited act if they too are obligated not to do so.
The reverse (which is not the contra-positive) is not true. See the discussion relating to the opinion of RaN, infra.
Tosafot, Avoda Zara 6b, s.v. minayin; Mordechai, Avoda Zara 6b; Rama YD 151:4; Shach, YD 151:6.
The ellipses in this paragraph all refer to the case of a mumar, apostate, and assisting him in sin. That topic is beyond the scope of this paper; For more on that topic, see Broyde and Hertzberg, "Enabling a Jew to Sin: The Parameters", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 19:5 (1990).
OC 347:4. Magen Avraham rules that it is prohibited to assist an unobservant Jews to sin even when he can do it without assistance; however, he clearly permits one to assist a Noachide in sinning.
YD 151:8. Gra rules that it is prohibited to assist an unobservant Jews to sin even when he can do it without assistance; however, he clearly permits one to assist a Noachide in sinning.
YD 151. Rabbi Feinstein, Iggrot Moshe 3:90 states that this is obvious, "proper and true."
And the harmonization of apparently inconsistent talmudic texts using this Nochide/mumar distinction to separate the various cases; see comments of Gra and Magen Avraham cited in notes 125 to 126.
For a discussion of that issue, see "Enabling a Jew …", supra note 123.
It is worth noting that Shach (YD 151:6), in his list of authorities who he feels agree with his assertion that there is no obligation to separate a Noachide from sin, leaves out Maimonides.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson unambiguously rejects this reading of Maimonides and accepts that Maimonides means that one should do anything in one's power, to encourage or compel observance. For more on his position, see infra Section IV:3.
Thus for example, Tosafot Shabbat 3a clearly indicates that to be his rule, as does Nachmanides, cited by Ran in AZ 7a.
This is analogous to the tension between the obligation of tochacha (rebuke) to an unobservant Jew and the permissibility to assist him in sin (according to Shach and Dagul Merevavah). As noted by many, once one is permitted to assist a Jew in sin it is logical to assume that there is no obligation also to rebuke him.
See RaN, Avoda Zara 6b (1a in Rif pages). This author finds very difficult the assertion of Shach that even Ran would agree that even for a Noachide there is no obligation him from sin, as Ran explicitly asserts this rabbinic obligation in the case of a Noachide. Most likely Shach is referring to the opinion of Nachmanides cited in Ran, Rif pages 7a. This opinion of Nachmanides is consistent with the opinion of Nachmanides cited in Section III:1:B. Tosafot too is consistent on this issue.
Among the commentaries, see Magen Avraham, OC 347:4 and Gra, YD 151:8. Among the responsa, see R. Yakov Ettlinger, Binyan Zion 1:15; R. Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, Meshiv Davar 2:32, R. Aharon Kotler, Mishnat Rav Aharon 1:6
See sources cited in notes 125 to 131. Perhaps one could claim that the opinion is accepted by Rabbi Karo himself writing in YD 151:1, although as noted by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 2:15(8-9)) this is difficult to prove.
Tashbetz 3:133. It is worth noting that even Rabbi Ovadia Yosef cites no later authorities in agreement with Tashbetz on this issue. He too perceives him as standing alone; Yabia Omer OC 2:15(2-10). Perhaps a claim could be made that Tosafot Yom Tov, Perkai Avot 3:14 agrees with Tashbetz (see postscript). This author is more inclined to read his remarks in the same light as those of Sefer Hachasidim cited in note ) and also note 146.
Maimonides would maintain that the statements by R. Natan in Avoda Zara 6b represent only R. Natan's opinion, and are not accepted by most of the Amoraim; to support this he would cite the fact that this limitation on R. Natan is not quoted in the Talmud in any other place.
Although Maimonides does not state so explicitly, this position can be inferred from a number of his comments. First, in Sefer HaMitzvot, negative commandment 299, Maimonides does not limit the scope of the prohibition of lifnei iver to situations where others cannot help. Secondly, he never quotes this limitation in any of the instances he deals with lifnei iver in his primary work, the Mishnah Torah. In addition, this understanding of Maimonides is found in Minchat Chinuch, Negative Commandment 232;3, and Melamed LeHoil 1:34.
See also Chavat Yair 137 who appears to adopt the opinion of Maimonides.
For a general discussion of the parameters of this obligation, see R. Yehuda Moreal, Bederech Tovim 124-129 and Moshe Weinberger, Jewish Outreach: Halakhic Perspectives.
In generally, lifnei iver is a different type of obligation, since it discusses assisting or enabling sin, which logic would indicate is more restricted than merely not preventing sin. Thus, merely because one is under no obligation to teach a person that murder is wrong, does not mean that one can sell the person a gun to commit a murder or provide directions to the victim's house.
See generally Sanhedren 75a and Rashi on id. (excluding even a resident alien). It has been claimed that Rashi, according to an alternative version not found in our text, maintains that there is an obligation of rebuke applicable to a Jew when a Noachide sins. See Minchat Yitzchak 4:79(4), who relates this to the sources cited in note ). This author would be more inclined to understand the ruling of Sefer HaChasidim as imposing an extra-halachic moral duty; but see notes of Rabbi Meir Arik to Sefer Hachasidim, supra note ), which cross-references this to Maimonides, Malachim 8:10.
For a long discussion of this issue, see R. Aaron Kirshenbaum, "'Covenant' with Noachides Compared with Covenant at Sinai" Dinai Israel 6:31-48 n.37 (Hebrew).
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson Sheva Mitzvot Shel Benai Noach, Hapardes 59:9 7-11 (5745). This responsa has been reprinted in a number of places; see e.g. Responsa Shavit 7:1. For Rabbi Stern's reply, see Responsa Shavit 8:3 (asserting that Maimonides' ruling is limited to enforcing acceptance, rather than observance). In this author's opinion, Rabbi Stern's distinction is difficult to accept as Maimonides, in the three sources cited above, appears to be speaking about observance as well as acceptance. Any other reading leaves Maimonides internally inconsistent and not based logically on the talmudic source found in Sanhedren 57a, as Kesef Mishna states he is.
However, even Rabbi Schneerson concedes that the obligation to induce compliance is limited to situations where "no financial loss is caused, even the loss of future profits." This limitations is itself a little difficult, as halacha does not recognize "loss of profit" generally as a claim.
Of course, Rabbi Schneerson — himself a preeminent authority of Jewish law — is quite within his purview to argue with the overwhelming weight of authorities.
See Section IV:1:B.
For example, in the area of lifnei iver, if one's actions are needed to allow another to sin, there is a biblical prohibition in doing the activity; that is analogous to compulsion. On the other hand, if the sinner can sin without assistance, it is at best a rabbinic violation to assist the sinner; it might even be permissible. That would be analogous to persuasion.
See for example, Melamed LeHoil YD 77; Yabia Omer YD 17; Seredai Ash 2:92; Teshuvot Maharil 199 and Zekan Aharon 2:71. For a survey of this issue, see Rabbi Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems, ("Teaching Torah to non-Jews") 2:315-316.
Indeed, even Maimonides, who permits the teaching of scripture to Christians based on the rationale that they accept the divinity of the Bible, merely rules that one may teach them the proper commandments, and not that one must; Teshuvot HaRambam 1:149 (Blau).
See generally Rashbatz, 1:158-162, 59-61. See also Shmuel Shiloh, Dina Demalchuta Dina 422-32 (1974).
This idea is a paper in and of itself; see Broyde and Hecht "The Gentile and Returning Lost Property According to Jewish Law: A Theory of Reciprocity" forthcoming in the Jewish Law Annual.
Perhaps even to create a general legal system, according to Nachmanides.
See note 66.
It is important to note that the overwhelming consensus of halachic scholars accept that there is no obligation upon Noachides to execute every violator of the law. Within the rubric of dinim is the right to create a hierarchical system of law which invokes punishments other than death for violations; See Rabbi Bleich, supra note *, and Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, "On Noachides", Beit Yitzchak 19:335 (5747).
Rabbi J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems ("Teaching Torah to non-Jews") 2:338.
Or perhaps even any fellow Jew. See note 120.
"When one sees a Noachide sinning, if one can correct him, one should, since God sent Jonah to Ninveh to return them to his path"; Sefer HaChasidim '1124.
Reflections of the Rav:Man of Faith in the Modern World (adaptions of the lectures of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) by Abraham Besdin, pages 142-144
Kuzari, 2:36; see also Kuzari 1:47 and 1:57 for similar insights. It is based on this Kuzari that Rabbi Yakov Kamenestsky indicated that Torah Umessorah should close its various yeshivot on the day of President John F. Kennedy's funeral in 1963. (After citing the Kuzari, he stated "it is the role of the Jews to teach morality to the nations, and thus, whenever some terrible wrong occurs, we should feel implicated for not having completed our mission;") Yonason Rosenblum, Reb Yakov, pp. 182-183. Rabbi Howard Jachter pointed out this source to this author. Similar thoughts can also be found in Moreh Nevuchim 3:51 concerning the role of the Jewish forefathers.
Support for this proposition can be found in Seforno, commenting on Exodus 19:6 which clearly indicates that Jews must answer such questions from Noachides. See generally comments of Maimonides, Maseh Karbanot 19:16 and Meiri 59a. Rabbi Bleich states:
It seems to this writer that while there exists no obligation to volunteer information (although it may well be laudable to do so), there is an obligation to respond to requests for information. Jews are commanded to disseminate Torah as widely as possible among their fellow Jews, but there is no obligation to seize the initiative in teaching the Seven Commandments to Noachides. Nevertheless, when information or advice is solicited there is a definite obligation to respond. When a non-Jew takes the initiative in posing a query, the Jew must respond to the best of his ability.
Rabbi J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems 2:339.
Limiting the obligation to respond to sincere solicitations relating to personal conduct (as I suspect Rabbi Bleich intended), this can also perhaps be inferred from Pri Megadim OC 443:5 and 444:6 whose assertion as to the obligation to remove passive obstacles might rise to the level of a "one side of the river" case when a particular Jew is asked by a Noachide what his law requires of him. This raises the question of whether lifnei iver can be violated through passivity; for more on that see Enabling Jews to Sin, supra note 123.
Maharam Shick OC 144. An example of this can also be found in the letter of Rav Moshe Feinstein sent to the New York State governor favoring the implementation of the death penalty for certain crimes; Iggrot Moshe, CM 2:68.
So too, the mandate of tikkun olam might provide some direction; see generally See R. Nissim, Derashot haRan, Number Eleven, (which uses the term tikkun siddur hamedini to refer to Noachide activity.) For a brief discussion of this issue, see Suzanne Last Stone, "Sinaitic and Noahide Law: Legal Pluralism in Jewish Law", Cardozo L.R. 12:1157 (1990). On the use of tikun olam, it is also important to examine the way that term is used by Maimonides, in Malachim 11:4 in the uncensored versions of his text (for example, see Rambam Le'am). This issue is quite crucial, as Maimonides image of tikkun olam seems to be directed at the reason for religions other than Judaism; see also Responsa Kol Mevasser 1:47 and Hechail Yitzchak OC 38.
Additionally, there is the issue of chillul hashem, desecration of God's name. It is possible that there could be situations where public institutional silence by Jewish groups as to the propriety of a particular activity by Government or other groups, perhaps particularly when other religious groups are protesting this activity as immoral, could lead to desecrations of God's name. On the other hand, the more clearly known it is that governmental policy is areligious in nature and that Jewish law imposes no obligation on Jews to protest, the less serious an issue this becomes.
Finally, there is the philosophical mandate to be a "light onto the nations of the world." As noted by Radak commenting on the words or legoyim (Isaiah 42:6) "because of the influence of the Jews, the Gentiles will observe the seven commandments and follow the right path." While this concept is beyond the scope of this paper, and deserving one of its own, a brief review of the use of the term "light onto the nations" indicates that it is normally used to mean that the Jews should behave in an exemplary manner such that Gentiles will wish to imitate Jews, and not as a mandate to proselytize observance. This is exemplified by Issiah 60:3; for examples of that in rabbinic literature, see Bava Batra 75a; Midrash Rabbah Esther 7:11; Midrash Berashit 59:7 and Midrash Tehilim (Bubar) 36:6. For a sample of its use in the responsa literature, see Tzitz Eliezer 10:1(74); Yavetz 1:168 and particularly Chatam Sofer 6:84; see also Responsa of Rosh 4:40 which is also cited in Tur OC 59. None of these authorities use the citation in a legal context to direct Jewish participation in Gentile activities — all of the citation are homolitical (Maharit EH 2:18 does appear to use it in a legal context concerning an inter-Jewish dispute; however upon further examination one sees that not to be so). This concept plays yet a more prominent note in cabalistic literature; see Sefer Rasesai Layla, '57 s.v. techlat and vezehu. For a defense of this beacon-like (i.e., Jews behave properly and this illuminates the world) understanding of the verse as the proper understanding of the literal meaning of the bible itself, see Harry Orlinsky, "A Light onto the Nations: A Problem in Biblical Theology" in Neuman & Zeitlin, The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Volume of the Jewish Quarterly Review (1967) pages 409-428. For an indication as to why Radak might use both the phrase "observe the seven commandments" and the phrase "follow the right path," see Iggrot Moshe YD 2:130 who indicates that the two are separate concepts.
Rabbi J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems ("Teaching Torah to Non-Jews") 2:339. See also material cited in supra note 164.
See Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni, Kol Tzofech (unnumbered pages in the back of the book, seven pages after numbering ends) (2nd ed. 5740) where he discusses the possibility of selective teaching of the Noachide laws.
For example, the promulgation of an abortion law in the United States consistent only with the Noachide code would cause situations to arise where halacha's mandates could not be fulfilled.
For a discussion of such a case see this author's "Bullets that Kill on the Rebound: Discrimination against Homosexuals and Orthodox Public Policy" Jewish Action 54(1):52 and the reply to it by Rabbis Goldberg, Stolper and Angel in Jewish Action 54(1):53.