The Responsibilities of the Gentiles:

What does G-d require from the Gentiles? How can they achieve a moral life in this world, and the rewards of the world to come?

First we will present a synopsis of the commandments which are applicable to all of the Gentile nations, and then we will present a detailed explication.

Seven Commandments for the Gentiles, called the Sheva Mitzvos B'nei Noach:

The Path for Gentiles to Enter into the World to Come and to Avoid the Flood of Immorality in this World.

1. No worship or prayer to anyone except G-d. No images of G-d. No prayers to intermediaries. G-d is one, not none, not two, not three, not many.

2. No murder. Execution of criminals is however not murder, and is required. See 7.

3. No sexual iniquity which means no adultery, no incest, no homosexuality and no bestiality.

4. No stealing, even of an inconsequential amount.

5. No eating flesh removed from a living animal.

6. No cursing of G-d. No blasphemy.

7. Must set up law courts to judge on the other six. All seven are capital crimes. If the country does not set up courts to judge on the other six and to punish transgressors with death, then all of the inhabitants who could do anything about it are punishable

[The word punishable is used throughout this document as a translation of the Hebrew word חייב. In this context, it means that the person has committed a sin and therefore is liable for the punishment, whether or not there are courts who judge on these matters, and whether or not he is convicted. .]

Additional restrictions: No cross breeding of species nor grafting of trees. No castration.

A gentile who scrupulously obeys these commandments has a place in the world to come.

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A fundamental text which deals with these issues is the Mishneh Torah, written by Rabbi Moses son of Maimon, called Maimonides and Rambam. In chapters 8-11 of the Laws of Kings he describes the path of the righteous Gentile and the commandments which pertain to him. The following explication of the commandments to the Gentiles is taken from the Rambam. [In general words in square brackets are our explanation rather than translation of the Rambam's text.]

1. Our teacher Moshe (Moses) did not bequeath the Torah and the commandments to anyone except Yisroel (i.e. the Jews), as it is written "an inheritance of the Congregation of Jacob" [Deuteronomy 33:4], and to anyone from the other nations who wishes to convert, as it says :"like you, like the convert"

[Numbers 15:15 "One Law will be for you and for the convert who dwells in your midst throughout your generations the convert will be like you before the L-ord.. But one who does not wish [to convert], one should not force him to accept the Torah and the Mitzvot (commandments). And so too did Moshe our teacher command from the mouth of G-d to force all of the people of the world to accept the Commandments which were commanded to the children of Noah]

This refers just to the seven commandments which will be described subsequently, not to the entire Torah.. And accept them before [a court composed of] three Chaveirim [i.e. Rabbis]. And whoever accepts upon himself [i.e. vows] to be circumcised

[This is not one of the seven commandments.] and does not do so within twelve months, is like a min [heretic] from the nations [i.e. he loses his status as a Ger Toshav]. [Since he made a vow and did not keep it, he loses his status.]

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2. Whoever accepts the seven commandments and is careful to do them, behold he is from the righteous of the nations of the world, and he has a portion in the world to come.

[To be a Ger Toshav, with the rights and privileges thereof, requires accepting the commandments in front of a Rabbinical Court. Courts for this purposes will not be reconstituted until the majority of the Jews, and representatives of all of the 12 tribes live in the Holy Land. However a person can be one of the righteous of the nations of the world just by accepting and following the commandments, even without being accepted by the Rabbinical Tribunal.]

And that is if he accepts them and does them because the Holy One Blessed be He commanded them and informed us about them through Moshe our teacher, that the children of Noah were commanded to obey them. But if he did them because of his own philosophical conclusions, he is not a Ger Toshav and is not from the righteous of the nations nor from their wise ones

[There are three levels. One who does not violate the seven commandments, whether for the right reasons or the wrong ones, is not punished in the way that a violator is punished. One who accepts upon himself and follows through by properly fulfilling the seven commandments for the right reason - because the G-d of the Jews commanded them - is one of the righteous of the nations and has a place in the world to come. One who accepts the seven commandments in front of a Rabbinical Court properly constituted for this purpose (and fulfills them) is a Ger Toshav and has certain additional rights and privileges.]

3: Adam, the first man was commanded about six things: 1. Strange worship [That is worship of other gods. This is often translated as idol worship, but in fact worship of anyone or anything either in addition to or instead of G-d is a violation, whether or not images of any kind are used.] 2. Cursing G-d, 3. Murder, 4. Sexual crimes, 5. Theft or robbery, 6. Laws [I.e. the children of Noah are required to set up courts to judge on these commandments.] Even though all of these are a tradition from Moshe our teacher, and they are logical, we can see from the words of the Torah that they were commanded. He [G-d] added for Noah the commandment not to eat meat removed from an animal while it was still alive, as it says [Genesis 9:4] "But meat with its life [I.e. it was removed while the animal was still alive], which is its blood, you shall not eat.

[This commandment was not given to Adam because he and his descendants until the flood were not allowed to eat meat. After the flood, the animals owed a debt of gratitude to Noah, and from then on, Noah and his descendants were allowed to eat meat, as long as the animal was dead before the meat was removed. Genesis 9:3 says: "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."]

Thus there are seven commandments. This is the way it was until Avraham (Araham) our father. In addition to these [i.e. the seven] Avraham was commanded about circumcision, and he instituted the morning prayer service [called Shacharit]. Yitzchak (Isaac) instituted tithing [I.e. giving ten percent of his goods for the service of G-d], [Rabeinu Avraham ben David of Posquierre points out that Avraham began tithing.] and added another prayer service in the afternoon. And Ya'akov (Jacob) added the commandment not to eat the gid hanasheh (sciatic nerve) and prayed the evening service. And in Egypt, Amram was commanded additional commandments, until Moshe our teacher came, and the Torah was completed through his hands.

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4: A Gentile who worshipped other gods is punishable [i.e. deserves punishment], and this is if he worshipped it in its way.

[There are general modes of worship, such as prayer, declaration of faith, bowing down, animal sacrifice, etc. which are applicable to any kind of "other god", and there are specific modes of worship associated with specific cults. For instance the worship of Markolis included the throwing of stones into a pile. This was not part of the worship of Ba'al. Someone who throws a stone in worship of Markolis is guilty, whereas someone who throws a stone in worhip of Ba'al is not.]

And every strange worship which the Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) of the Jews gives a death sentence [to Jews] for, a Gentile is executed if he did it. And every strange worship which the Beit Din does not execute [Jews] for it, a Gentile is not executed if he did it. But even if he wouldn't be executed for it, it is all still forbidden. And we don't allow him to raise a pillar [as a focal point for worship], nor to plant a sacred grove and not to make images, nor similar things.

5: A Gentile who curses G-d, whether he used the special four letter name of G-d, or any other name of G-d, in any language is punishable.

6. A Gentile who murdered a person, even a fetus in its mother's womb, is executed for it. And so too if he killed someone with a physical defect which would have caused him to die anyway. Since he killed him in any case, he is executed. So too if he killed a rodeph

that he could have stopped by wounding him in one of his limbs, he is executed.

[A rodeph is someone who is chasing after another person to kill him. It is permitted to stop the pursuer, even by killing him if he could not have been stopped with lesser force.]

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7.Certain sexual crimes are forbidden for Gentiles. The Torah specifies six relationships in this prohibition: a man with his mother, a man with his father's wife, a man with someone else's wife, a man with his maternal sister, a man with another man, and a man with an animal. This is derived from the verse [Genesis 2:24] "Therefore a man shall leave his father" (this is the prohibition of cohabiting with his father's wife) "and his mother" (the prohibition to cohabit with his mother) "and shall cling unto his wife" (his wife and not his friend's wife, his wife and not another man) "and they shall be one flesh" (to exclude cohabiting with a domestic or wild animal or a bird with whom he can not be one flesh)]. And from the verse [Genesis 20:12] "And also in truth she is my sister the daughter of my father, not the daughter of my mother and she became my wife" we derive the prohibition of cohabiting with his maternal sister.

[Female homosexuality is not specifically mentioned here by the Rambam, but it is condemned in the verse (Leviticus 18:3) "And you should not do the deeds of the land of Egypt in which you dwelt nor should you do like the deeds of the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you. and you should not follow their practices." Maimonides elsewhere explains that the deeds of the land of Egypt included a man marrying a man, a woman marrying a woman and a woman marrying two men. (This means that she may not have two husbands at the same time. Divorce and remarriage is permitted.)]

8. A Gentile is punishable for cohabiting with a woman who was previously seduced or raped by his father [even though she was not married to his father]. He is punishable for cohabiting with his father's wife even after his father died.. He is punishable for cohabiting with another male whether a child or an adult and for bestiality whether with a young or a grown animal. And the person is executed himself, but the animal is not. [If a Jewish person has sex with an animal, the animal is killed also.]

9. A Gentile is not punishable for cohabiting with someone else's wife unless the marriage had been consummated and unless he had natural intercourse with her. [Even though he is only executed for natural intercourse, all sexual activity with someone else's wife is of course forbidden.] If she were merely engaged, or even if they had a marriage ceremony, but the marriage had not been consummated, someone who cohabits with her is not punishable as it says [Genesis 20:3] "And she is a man's wife". [The Hebrew term for wife used here is בעולת בעל which literally means that she had been "husbanded" by her husband.] This is the case for Gentile wives, because the Torah does not recognize the marriage until it has been consummated. But the Torah considers Jewish wives to be fully married after the ceremony, even if the marriage has not yet been consummated. [One is punishable for adultery with a Jewish wife whether it is vaginal or anal intercourse.]

Note that adultery refers only to the case of a man who cohabits with someone else's wife. It does not matter whether he is married or not. If a married man cohabits with an unmarried woman or girl, it is not considered adultery.

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10. A Gentile who designated a female slave to be the wife of his male slave, and then cohabits with her himself is executed for adultery. But he is not punishable until the word has gone out and people say "this is the wife of so and so." And when does she become permitted again? [I.e. when is it considered as if she is divorced and free to be with another man?] When he [the master] separates her from his slave and uncovers her hair in public.

[Jewish married women are required to cover their hair. According to Maimonides, Jewish unmarried girls are also required to cover their hair. Apparently Maimonides also feels that Gentile married women should cover their hair, but that unmarried ones need not.]

At what point is a Gentile married woman considered divorced so that she can resume relations with other men? When he puts her out of his house and sends her off by herself or when she leaves by herself and and goes off by herself. Gentiles do not require a written divorce document the way that Jews do. Either party can choose to end the marriage. Whenever he or she wants to separate [that is divorce] they may do so.

11. A Gentile is punishable for theft, whether he stole from a Gentile or a Jew, and whether he stole money [or property] or stole [i.e. kidnapped] a person. [The crime of rape also falls under the heading of theft. The actual relationship is not forbidden, it is the lack of consent which makes it a crime.] This also includes someone who didn't pay his hired worker. Even a worker who ate produce not during working hours. [A farm worker is allowed to eat from the produce while he s working on it, but he is not allowed to save any for later. See Deuteronomy 23:25.] In all of these cases he is punishable and is a thief even if he stole something of insignificant value. Even if one Gentile stole an insignificant amount, and another stole it from him, they are both executed.

12. A Gentile is forbidden to eat even a small amount of meat that was removed from an animal while it was still alive, and is punishable for it. Blood from a living animal is permitted for Gentiles. [Jews are forbidden to eat blood, whether from a live or a dead animal.]

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13. Whether the meat comes from a domestic or a wild animal if it was removed while the animal while it is alive, it is forbidden. [According to our text of Maimonides, he excludes fowl from the prohibition. The Ra'avad assumes that this is a copying error, and that Maimonides intended to say that one may eat insect meat which was removed while the insect was still alive, but not meat of fowls.]

14. If a Gentile slaughtered an animal, it is forbidden to eat meat which was cut off of it before the animal ceased to move.

15. Gentiles are forbidden to eat meat removed from a living animal, whether of a clean species or an unclean species, even if the animal had kosher slaughter if the meat was removed before the animal ceased to move it is forbidden.

16. In what way are the Gentiles to set up law courts? They must establish judges in every single town to judge on the other six commandments, and to warn people against violating them. A Gentile who violates one of these seven commandments is killed by the sword. It is for this reason that all of the residents of the city of Shechem were punishable by death. [See Genesis chapter 34.] Because Shechem stole [i.e. he kidnapped and raped Dinah] and they saw and knew and they did not judge him. A gentile is executed on the testimony of one witness without a previous warning. Relatives are accepted as witnesses.

17. A Gentile who sinned in error is not punished. However if a Gentile killed someone by accident, and the closest relative killed him in revenge, that relative is not punished. But the courts do not execute one who killed by accident. What kind of error is not punished? If he erred about the object of his actions, for instance he cohabited with a woman whom he thought was his own wife or unmarried, and it turned out that she was married to someone else. But if he knew that it was someone else's wife, and he thought that that was permitted, or if he murderd and didn't know that murder is forbidden, this is close to purposeful crime and he is executed.This is not considered an innocent mistake, because he should have learned the commandments.

18. A Gentile who was forced to violate one of the commandments [e.g. with threat of death if he refuses] is allowed to violate it. Even if he is forced to worship other gods he may do so if forced. [This is derived from the story of Na'aman II Kings chapter 8. After Elisha healed Na'aman, and Na'aman was returning home, in verse 18 Na'aman asked Elisha's understanding in that he would be forced by his king to bow down to the idol Rimon. Elisha answered him "go in peace".] For Gentiles are not commanded about sanctification of G-d's name. [This is not the case for Jews. A Jew must give up his life rather than violate the laws of worshipping other gods, murder and sexual crimes.] We do not punish Gentile children nor deaf mutes nor crazy people for violating the commandments.

19. A Gentile who converted to Judaism may not later change his mind and go back to just fulfilling the seven commandments of the children of Noah.

[Conversion is accomplished through three things: 1. Circumcision (for men only. If he was already circumcised, a symbolic drop of blood is drawn from the place of the circumcision), 2. accepting the Torah and all of its commandments and rejecting all other gods and religions, and 3. immersion in the Mikveh (ritual bath). All three of these must be done under the auspices of and in the presence of an Orthodox Rabbinical Court. A conversion performed under the auspices of a non-Orthodox group is not accepted by Orthodox Jews anywhere, nor by the majority of Jews in Israel, whether orthodox or not. If a woman had a non-Orthodox conversion, her children will not be able to marry a Jew in Israel and not an Orthodox Jew anywhere. Even many non-Orthodox Jews recognize the importance of continuing the unbroken chain of the Jewish people and reject non-Orthodox conversions. Unscrupulous non-Orthodox so called rabbis perform bogus conversions for money, not warning people of the tragedy and confusion that may await them. Anyone who sincerely wishes to accept the entire Torah and accept to comply with all of the commandments and to become part of the Jewish people can contact the author at for further information.]

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20. The punishment for violating any of the seven commandments of the children of Noah is execution, generally by the sword.

21. Through tradition we also know that Gentiles are prohibited from cross-breeding different species of animals. They are also forbidden to graft one kind of tree onto another. They are not executed for violations of these two prohibitions.

22. Circumcision was only commanded to Avraham and his descendants as it says [Genesis 17:9] "You and your seed after you". This excludes the seed of Yishmael because it says [Genesis 21:12] "for in Yitzchak (Isaak) thy seed will be called". This excludes Esau because Yitzchak said to Ya'akov (Jacob) [Genesis 28:4] "And He will you the blessing of Avraham to you and your seed". This implies that he alone was the seed of Avraham who held to Avraham's religion and his righteous ways, and they are the ones obligated in circumcision.

23. The Sages said that the children of Keturah who are the seed of Avraham who came after Yishmael and Yitzchak are obligated in circumcision. And since they got mixed up with the children of Yishmael, they are all [i.e. all of the Arabs] obligated in circumcision on the eighth day but they are not punished by death for violating this.

24. A Gentile should not study Torah except those parts which are relevent to him, i.e. the seven commandments. So too a Gentile should not keep the Sabbath like a Jew. He must do at least one of the labors which Jews are forbidden to do on the Sabbath [such as turning on a light]. Gentiles also should not make up holidays for themselves. The general principal is that they should not make up new religions or commandments They should either convert and do all of the commandments or they should just fulfill the commandments discussed above and neither add nor subtract.

25. If a Gentile wants to do additional mitzvot of the Torah in order to receive reward we don't stop him. In a time when the Temple is standing, we accept animals for burnt offerings from them. If someone who follows the seven commandments wants to give charity, it is permitted to accept it from him and the money can be distributed to the Jewish poor. But if an idol worshipper wishes to give money to charity, it should only be used for the non-Jewish poor.

All of the above is based strictly on the Rambam (Maimonides), one of the greatest codifiers of Jewish law.

Some of these concepts may seem strange to the so called modern westerner. It is very important to understand that G-d is the boss, and our job is to do his will, even when we don't understand it. God does not change, nor do his laws. They are just as relevant and in force as they were the day that they were given.

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