Discussions for this daf
1. Learning and Teaching the Seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach 2. There is nothing permitted for an Israelite that is forbidden to a Noahite 3. Teaching the Seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach
4. Peru u'Revu for a Ben Noach 5. Nishneis b'Sinai 6. Teaching Chumash to Non-Jews

Samuel Kosofsky asked:

We learned that regarding a ben noach Meesatan hee azharatan, their execution is their warning. How are they supposed to know their mitzvos? They were never given the Torah. They're not even allowed to learn Torah.

Some of them are logical and everyone should know them such as retzicha/murder, geneiva/robbery and giluy arayos/adultery but some are not as clear. Are we mechooyav to teach them?


Samuel Kosofsky

Rav Joseph Pearlman replies:

The RAMBAM (Hilchos Melachim 10:9) states that a Nochri who studies Torah is liable to death. However, he is encouraged to study the seven Mitzvos applicable to him (as is clear from Sanhedrin 59a).

(Indeed, even for other Mitzvos, the Rambam's view is that he is only liable to death bi'Ydei Shamayim, but not by the Beis Din -- see KESEF MISHNEH there to explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin 59a. Others, such as RASHI and RAN, take it more literally and consider a Nochri's learning Torah as theft, etc., punishable by Beis Din.)

In any event, they are supposed to learn about their own Mitzvos and are punished "Mipnei she'Hayah Lo Lilmod v'Lo Lamad" (RAMBAM ibid. 10:1). "One who knows that the woman is married to another man, but does not know that adultery is forbidden but deludes himself into believing it is permitted -- and similarly killing without realizing that it is forbidden -- is considered 'Karov l'Mezid' (culpable as reckless negligence) and is liable to death. This is not 'Shegagah' (accidental), because he should have known better." Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The Rambam there holds that "Shigegas Ma'aseh" (ignorance of the facts) is different. If one thought that the woman was in fact not married, he would not be punished by death. Similarly, if he was guilty of accidental homicide, Beis Din would not put him to death, although the Go'el ha'Dam would be permitted to do so. RASHI in Makos (9a) and Sanhedrin (57a) disagrees with this and holds that even a Shogeg is liable (see LECHEM MISHNEH on the Rambam there, ARUCH LA'NER on these words of Rashi, and ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN HE'ASID, Hilchos Melachim 80:1-2, the latter giving the rationale that "Adam Mu'ad l'Olam." A human being is fully responsible for his own behavior and cannot exculpate himself by pleading negligence or thoughtlessness. (A case of Ones, completely accident, by force, would of course be different.))

The Asher la'Melech on this Rambam elaborates on why one is held liable (Karov l'Mezid) for not learning: "For it is upon every person to investigate, as a self-understood principle and natural law, what his obligations are in his world, even if he is not commanded as such. Therefore, one cannot claim that 'Hashem does not come with complaints on His creations,' because He placed in the hearts of all men the inclination and the sense of obligation to investigate, as mentioned above. It is because of this natural inclination to search for one's obligations that a Ben Noach is considered an intentional transgressor...."

This indeed is the rationale for the punishment of Avimelech for taking Sarah, and of Shechem ben Chamor for taking Dinah. See Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:14: "And because of this, all of the people of Shechem were liable to death, for Shechem sinned and they saw, they knew, and they did not bring him to judgement."

From this Rambam and from his words in Hilchos Melachim 6:4 it seems that there is no need for a prior hearing in Beis Din, but that a Nochri who fails to fulfill his Noahide obligations can be disposed of summarily. However, TOSFOS in Avodah Zarah (64b, DH Eizehu) disagrees and insists on a proper hearing in Beis Din first. The MINCHAS CHINUCH (end of Mitzvah 35) discusses the view of this Tosfos and of an apparently conflicting Tosfos.

In any event, it is quite clear that we cannot go around killing Nochrim today on the grounds that we perceive them to have failed to keep the seven Noahide laws.

They do, however, have a clear duty to learn and keep them, and they are punishable by death if they do not, because they ought to have learned them and ignorance is no excuse. The AVNEI NEZER (OC 345:4-5) makes it clear that this principle of "Omer Mutar Karov l'Mezid" applies equally to perfectly logical cases, such as those mentioned by the questioner, and to those which are not so clear. (He quotes the examples of euthanasia which humanists rationalize as being beneficial for the suffering patient or for society, but which is a capital offense as far as the Torah is concerned.)

As to teaching them, logic would dictate that although in the case of the rest of the Torah it is forbidden, as mentioned in Chagigah 13a ("Ein Mosrin Torah la'Akum"), this would be illogical in the case of the seven Mitzvos which they have to keep and are obliged to study. This indeed is clear from our text in Tosfos (DH Ein) in Chagigah there (contra Hagahos ha'Bach #40 there) and so rules RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt'l (in Igros Moshe YD III 89).

A great deal has been written on the subject of not teaching Torah to Nochrim and why the Halachic authorities omit the above statement from Chagigah 13a (see Maharatz Chayos there and the Teshuvah he quotes, Igros Moshe loc. cit. and 90 at great length).

Even in the seven Mitzvos, according to Maharsha's interpretation of Chagigah 13a which distinguishes between "Mosrin" which is forbidden and "Melamdim" which is permitted, it would be wrong to teach the Nochri the deepest secrets (Ta'am v'Sod), but only the basic outline. He assumes it is obvious that we have to teach them the basics of their obligations, but not the deeper hidden aspects. Rav Moshe Feinstein (YD III 90), however, rejects this distinction as it clearly does not accord with Tosfos either in Chagigah 13a or in Bava Kama 38a (DH Karu). He rules that the distinction is not in the quality or depth of the teaching but in the subject matter.

Incidentally, Rav Moshe also deals there with the whole question of a Nochri who is preparing for conversion as to what Torah he should or should not be taught.

(As to what I have written in English on this topic, I have published in HaMeir 5750, vol. 9, #14 (issue 286), Parshas va'Era, an analysis of the whole allied subject of "Tov she'b'Mitzriyim Harog" (and some texts have "she'b'Goiyim"). If it is of interest, please let me know and a copy can be posted or perhaps faxed. It is of course not directly relevant to the questions asked here, but it is of tangential interest.)

Joseph Pearlman

Rav Joseph Pearlman comments:

See my previous response.

Regarding the Nochri's obligation to learn and to fulfill the seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach and his liability if he does not do so, about which we responded in a previous discussion, there is a remarkable Chidush in "His'orerus ha'Teshuvah" of Rebbi Shimon Sofer (Budapest, published between 1923 and 1934; vol. 4, Yoreh De'ah #186). He writes as follows (translation):

"He is 'Karov l'Mezid,' considered to have sinned intentionally, since he should have learned and he did not learn, as the Rambam writes. In my humble opinion, this applies only when we are living in our land and we have governing control, and all those who live among us are either Gerei Toshavim (who accepted upon themselves the seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach), or they are Nochrim whom we must put to death, as the Rambam writes (Hilchos Melachim 8:10). Consequently, the Nochri who transgresses any of the seven Mitzvos should have learned from what he saw around him -- all of the other Nochrim acting as Gerei Toshavim and observing the seven Mitzvos. That Nochri certainly knows how the other Nochrim around him are conducting themselves as he hears and sees them himself, and thus he certainly should have learned from them.

However, now, when we are in exile, the Nochri [who transgresses the seven Mitzvos] has not heard nor has he seen nor does he know anything about the seven Mitzvos saw. Hence, from where should he have learned about the seven Mitzvos and about his obligation to observe them, if he has never heard of them? Even though we are not permitted to cause him to transgress them because of 'Mipnei Iver,' nevertheless he is an absolute Shogeg. Proof to this can be found in the Rambam who writes (in Hilchos Mamrim 3:3) that those Karaites who were raised by their fathers in a way of falsehood, even though they hear afterwards about the laws of the Jewish nation, they are considered as though they sin against their will (Anusim) and they have the status of 'a baby who was taken captive among the Nochrim....' Further proof to this can be found in the Ra'avad and Kesef Mishnah (in Hilchos Avodah Zarah 10:6).

With regard to forming free-loan societies for the Nochrim, it can be said that this is a Mitzvah and there is reward for doing so, and that these things should be done because of the Kidush Hashem involved and the recognition of the greatness of the faith of the Jews who do good for all. Indeed, the verse says, 'Hashem is good to all and His mercy is upon all of His creations' (Tehilim 145:9), and it says, 'Her (the Torah's) ways are ways of pleasantness, and her paths are of peace' (Mishlei 3:17)."

It seems to me that his words are contrary to the plain meaning of the Rambam, who --= although clearly referring only to when "Yadeinu Tekifah," when the Jews govern themselves -- nevertheless would sure have made this distinction if it were valid, to point out that it was not applicable in his day. The proof from the Karaites being "Anusim" is also refutable, as that is referring to the 613 Mitzvos which we cannot possibly expect them to follow, while the Nochrim, in contrast, certainly can learn and fulfill the seven Mitzvos of Benei Noach on their own, for that is the minimum which common sense obligates each and every person to observe.

Nonetheless, it is a powerful and interesting source and opinion.

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Pearlman

Antonio Hernandez responded:

Shalom Aleichem,

Your work, mentioned in my subject line, was interesting. It had always been my understanding that bene Noach are allowed to study Torah and everything else, except maybe Kabbalah. Also I understood that they could belong to a synagogue in a peripheral sort of way, and could consult with the rabbi.

So, this teaching of yours I find most difficult to understand... a Nochri (ben Noach) is clearly not a Jew, not Jewish in any sense, only a follower of the Shel Mtzvot. Yet you all say the Jews have the right even to sentence them to death!

I do not wish to argue or criticize on worldly levels, but do you know how fascist and Islamic that sounds, when you say and write these things?

You must be more clear, I know the general outlines of the Chillul ha-Shem of a goy pretending to be a Jew. But your words are inflammatory, and not conducive to peace or understanding.

I guess I would also ask you: is this, what you are doing, is this the promise of Torah?

Respectful Thanks,

Most Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernandez

Founder of the Order of

American Buddhist Hermit Fathers

The Kollel replies:

Greetings Reverend Hernandez,

The Jewish outlook on non-Jews is entirely different from the impression that you have from reading various texts out of context.

The Talmud discusses every facet of life and law. The overwhelming majority of discussion of capital punishment in the Talmud focuses on the capital punishment administered to *Jews*. Since, in the times of the Holy Temple, when the Jewish courts had jurisprudence in the land of Israel, and the laws of the land were binding on all of its citizens, the courts had clear guidelines how to deal with both Jews who broke the law and resident non-Jews who broke the law (this is in a sense not different from the court systems in most modern countries today, where the laws of the land apply to all people residing in that country). It is important to remember that for a Jew, there are several hundred laws for which the transgression or failure to fulfill is punishable with death, while the Ben Noach living under the authority of the Jewish courts is punishable only for transgressing the 7 Noahide laws. If anything, it seems that the Jewish courts are prejudiced *against* Jews and show favoritism to Benei Noach.

There is no allowance whatsoever for unjustified sentencing of any person to death, whether Jew or non-Jew, and such unjustified sentencing in fact itself is punishable with death. Moreover, the Talmud states clearly that capital punishment was so rare in the times when the Jewish courts had authority, that "a court that killed one person in 70 years was called a bloody court." Please consider how this compares with the overwhelming majority of all "legal" systems of all the nations throughout the history of civilization.

As we have written elsewhere, the early Talmud commentaries point out that many of the laws that apply to non-Jews as discussed in the Talmud apply "only to those peoples that do not conduct themselves in the ways of ethical behavior and proper etiquette, such as the Gemara says about them, 'See the B'nei Noach who accepted upon themselves the Seven Mitzvos and who do not fulfill them...', which applies only when they themselves act in a way deserving of it. But when they are fulfilling their Seven Mitzvos, then their law with regard to us is the same as our law with regard to them, and no favoritism in judgment is to be shown to ourselves. And now, it goes without saying [that this certainly applies] with regard to the nations that conduct themselves in the ways of ethical behavior and proper etiquette" (Me'iri to Bava Kama, and Shitah Mekubetzes there).

I hope this is helpful for you.

Y. Shaw