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.
for the Gentiles, called the Sheva Mitzvos B'nei Noach:
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
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
Additional restrictions: No cross breeding of species nor grafting of trees. No
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.]
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
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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
[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.]
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
[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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.]
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.
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
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.
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
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