THE PATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILE
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SEVEN LAWS OF THE CHILDREN OF NOAH
by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky
Copyright © by the authors
Permission is granted for PERSONAL USE ONLY.
The material is published in book format by Feldheim
Imagine how a person might feel if he received a personal
notification from a king asking him to fulfill a mission. Of course,
the person had always been aware of the king, but he never dreamed that
the king was aware of him. And he surely never thought that the king
might one day select him as an emissary.
Moreover, it is the king's promise that if he should succeed in his
mission, which happens to be well within his normal capability, he will
be moved into the royal palace and rewarded with fabulous riches and
glory for the rest of his life.
Chances are that if the foregoing situation happened, the person
would be awestruck and humbled beyond imagining. "The king wants me to
do his bidding? Me, personally?" After the shock and dismay wore off,
this person would experience boundless joy. "The king considers me
capable of fulfilling a mission. I have real worth!."
Finally, the joy would give way to a powerful sense of well-being.
With the king's promised benevolence, the person would never have to
worry about the thing. Such a gracious bestowal from a mighty ruler is
an absolute guarantee of security.
This is precisely the situation that every person on earth faces.
The above is told as a parable.
The king is G-d, Creator of heaven and earth, the Father of all
mankind. The mission is the fulfilment of His commandments and the
reward is eternal life.
By studying and fulfilling the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah,
one enters into a unique bond with the Creator and thereby draws a G-dly
light onto one's soul. The light is eternal and in it one receives an
It is strange indeed that although these Seven Divine Commandments
form the most ancient of all religious doctrines, it is a doctrine that
remains ever-new, practised and studied by only a few exalted souls
throughout the world.
This slim volume is an attempt to popularize these eternal
teachings to make known to righteous people their true religious
obligation and majestic spiritual potential.
The code of Divine Law which we now know as the Seven Commandments
of the Children of Noah has been with mankind since the creation of the
first man, Adam. The very reason that G-d created man last of all the
creations was symbolic of man's choice in the world.
When he is fulfilling G-d's will, man sits atop everything that was
created before him, truly the crown of creation. But when he fails in
disobedience to G-d, he is last and lowlier than all the creatures,
lower even than the mosquito who consumes throughout its life, but never
eliminates waste, the symbol of ultimate selfishness.
Even the lowly mosquito follows G-d's will. Man alone has the
option to transgress it.
When G-d charged Adam, "And the L-rd G-d commanded Adam, saying: Of
every tree in the garden you may surely eat. But from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil you may not eat of it, for on the day that
you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:16,17) this single
commandment contained the source of the Seven Noahide Commandments.
And more, Adam was charged by G-d with the responsibility to teach
the laws to future generations. The verse states that G-d commanded
This word, "saying," is superfluous, and it is a principle of the
Torah that there are no superfluous words, everything comes to teach us
In this case, the superfluous word, "saying," indicates the not
only did G-d say it to Adam, but He meant for Adam to say it as well.
It is a principle in Biblical analysis that when a verse states,
"And the L-rd spoke to Moses, saying..." it means that G-d taught Moses
something and that He expected him to teach it to the Jewish people, or,
as in the case of the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah, to all
And so, Adam taught his children the Seven Universal Laws: Not to
worship idols, not to curse G-d, not to kill, not to steal, not to
engage in sexual immorality, not to eat the limb of a living animal, and
to establish courts of law to enforce these laws. And so mankind
The clear proof that the descendants of Adam knew these laws and
were expected to obey them by the Divine Judge and Father, was that 1557
years later, He brought the Great Flood as a punishment for mankind's
failure in keeping these commandments. "And G-d saw the earth and,
behold, it was corrupted, because all flesh had corrupted its way on the
earth." (Genesis 6:12)
The classic Biblical commentary of Rashi teaches that the
corruption was sexual immorality and idol worship. And in the next
verse, "And G-d said to Noah, the end of all flesh has come before Me,
because the earth is filled with wickedness," Rashi comments concerning
the phrase, "the earth is filled with wickedness," that it was theft.
So for sexual immorality, idol worship, and theft, three of the seven
commandments that Adam was expected to teach his children, and
mankind was expected to obey, the Creator of all destroyed all, except
for the remnant which included Noah, his wife, three sons and their
When the flood waters settled and the earth had been wiped clean of
its taint, we no longer had to fall back on Adam as the father of all
Now, mankind had a new father, Noah. And unlike Adam, who failed
to fulfill G-d's commandments, Noah was "a righteous man, pious in his
generation, and Noah walked with
G-d." (Genesis 6:9).
And so, with a new world and a fresh start at building it in
sanctity, G-d reaffirmed the original seven commandments that He had
taught Adam. G-d blessed Noah and his sons and their wives and promised
him that He would never again destroy the world as He had done, sealing
the promise for all time by striking a covenant with Noah as mankind's
father. "And G-d said, 'this is the sign of the covenant that I am
placing between me and your children and between all the living souls
that are with you for all generations. My bow I am placing in the cloud
and it shall be for a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.'"
The sign of the covenant was the rainbow and it would serve as a
permanent symbol of Divine Benevolence. It was the first time the
rainbow had ever been seen in the world, although it had been created
and readied for this moment at twilight after the sixth day of creation,
between the time Adam transgressed and the Sabbath, when G-d rested from
all He had made. (Chapters of the Fathers 5:6)
The rainbow with its seven colours reflected the beauty and
divinity of the Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah.
* * * *
When G-d created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, this
was to be the prime dwelling place of the Divine Presence. But when Adam
transgressed G-d's commandment, the Divine Presence withdrew and left
the earth in favour of the first heaven.
Then with the sin of Cain and Abel, the Divine Presence withdrew
from the first to the second heaven. Then Enosh evoked idolatrous gods
and the Divine Presence went from the second to the third heaven. And
from there It rose from the third to the fourth because of the
generation of the Flood.
Although Noah was righteous enough to be spared destruction and be
designated the second father of mankind, he lacked the power to effect a
true rectification of Adam's sin, necessary to draw the Divine Presence
back to Its desired residence on earth even though he tried to achieve
it. We learn that one of the first acts he engaged in upon leaving the
Ark was to plant a vineyard.
Most Biblical commentaries are highly critical of this action.
After all, mankind had just been destroyed. To plant a vineyard in
order to grow grapes and make wine seems totally inappropriate under the
circumstances. But there are those who say that Noah was attempting to
rectify the sin of Adam.
The Talmud states that in one opinion, the fruit of the tree of
knowledge was the grape. What Adam had done was drink wine in a profane
manner. It had been G-d's intention that Adam would wait until the
Sabbath, which was to come in just a few hours, and then the fruit of
the tree, the grape, would be used to sanctify the Sabbath and bear
witness to the fact that G-d had created the world in six days and
rested on the seventh. It is argued that Noah knew this deeper meaning
of Adam's transgression and by planting a vineyard and using the wine
for holy purposes, he could achieve the complete rectification of the
sin. But Noah failed. He became intoxicated, and discovered naked by
his youngest son Ham, who shamed him by calling Noah's other two sons,
Shem and Japheth to see their father's drunken nakedness.
Rashi comments on this verse (Genesis 9:22) that Ham either
castrated his father or had homosexual relations with him or both. Shem
and Japheth respectfully covered their father with a garment, but the
damage had been done. Noah awoke and cursed Ham and his descendants and
the Divine Presence looked down in pity, now from the fifth heaven.
The Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah remained, as before
the Flood, unheeded by all but a few, notably Shem and his grandson
Eber, who established Houses of Study for the purpose of understanding
and fulfilling the Noahide Laws.
Then came the generation of the Tower of Babel. This was a
generation of brilliant scientists. Not only did they learn to master
many of the world's natural forces, such as controlling the
weather, but they reasoned in their scientific wisdom that the earth had
no Master, or, at least if it had a Master, that they were His equal,
and they built a tower to the heavens to challenged the authority
They scientifically concluded that, since the Flood of Noah
occurred in the year 1557 after creation, this meant that every 1557
years, the heavens would shake, the depths would open, and the rains
would come to destroy the earth.
And the Bible teaches, "And G-d descended to look at the city and
the tower that the children of men had built." (Genesis 11:5) This was
already from the sixth heaven.
G-d took measures to stop his errant children by confounding their
language and scattering them to distant lands.
Originally, all of mankind spoke one language, the language of
Scripture, Hebrew, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alef-bayt being
the very instruments of creation. But now mankind had lost this merit,
communicating in the seventy languages of the world.
Then King Nimrod arose with a wickedness that was virtually without
precedent. He proclaimed himself g-d of all the earth and commanded all
his subjects to worship him as the actual deity. Those who refused, he
Nimrod was called "a mighty hunter before the L-rd." (Genesis 10:9)
Rashi comments on the words, "a mighty hunter," because he captured the
minds of men with his mouth and led them astray to rebel against G-d.
"Before the L-rd," in that he intentionally provoked Him in His
Nimrod, unlike any man who had lived before him, acted wickedly in
order to defy G-d. He knew his Master and rebelled out of spite against
And G-d withdrew His Divine Presence to the seventh and highest
With G-d's revealed Presence removed to the highest heaven, mankind
dwelt in a world of moral and spiritual darkness.
Then finally, there arose a righteous man whose deeds began to draw
the revealed Presence back to earth. Abraham stood alone against the
world by clinging to the Creator and doing His will. He challenged
Nimrod's idolatry with his belief in the One G-d, and eventually
vanquished Nimrod completely, bringing mankind to the recognition of
the true Deity and His way in the world.
In Abraham's merit, the Divine Presence descended from the seventh
heaven to the sixth heaven. Because of Abraham's son, Isaac, the Divine
Presence descended from the sixth to the fifth heaven, then from the
fifth to the fourth with Isaac's son, Jacob.
Jacob's spiritual might was awesome. He wrestled with an Angel of
G-d and defeated it. Through Jacob and his children, twelve sons and
one daughter, a new and distinct people on earth would emerge. The
Children of Israel were called after their father Jacob, who had been
blessed by G-d and had been given the new name of Israel.
"Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your
name, and He called his name, Israel." (Genesis 35:10) And Rashi
comments about this that the name Jacob implies one who comes with
stealth and guile, but Israel denotes a prince and a ruler.
With the Children of Israel, a people of G-d had come into the
world. Abraham, Isaac, and Israel were each mighty prophets and knew
that their descendants would go down to Egypt in exile and would then be
redeemed by G-d and given His Divine Law on Mount Sinai.
The Patriarchs fulfilled the Seven Commandments of the Children of
Noah, and through their gift of prophecy saw what the Sinai Revelation
would bring, and obeyed those laws as well, even though not commanded
concerning them. When G-d had blessed Isaac, it was "because Abraham
listened to My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statues,
and My laws." (Genesis 26:5)
Rashi comments that "charge" refers to the admonitions of the Torah
which had not yet been commanded, including Rabbinical prohibitions
regarding the Sabbath, whereas "commandments" refers to matters such as
robbery and bloodshed (two of the Seven Noahide Commandments).
In fact, there were times when a conflict over the two codes of law
arose. The initial strife between Joseph and his brothers had to do
with the difference between the Mosaic precept of keeping kosher and the
Noahide commandment forbidding eating the limb of a living animal.
Mosaic Law permits eating the meat of an animal which has been
ritually slaughtered, even at such time as the animal still exhibits
movement in its limbs. Noahide Law does not require ritual
slaughtering, but forbids eating an animal's meat until even the
slightest trace of movement has stopped.
The brothers had a heated discussion about the subject and the sons
of Leah argued that they, by following the Mosaic precept, were exempt
from the Noahide prohibition, and to prove the point, they slaughtered
an animal according to the Mosaic precept, and ate of its meat before
the animal's limbs had stopped twitching.
Joseph felt that they had erred in their judgement and told the
matter to their father. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, but he
had G-d with him and rose to become second in command in Egypt, a
veritable king alongside the Pharaoh.
By the time he had forgiven his brothers their wickedness, the
Divine Presence had descended from the fourth to the third heaven.
Before the Children of Israel settled in the land of Egypt, their
brother, Judah, had preceded them and had established a school in Goshen
for the study of G-d's Law, both of the Seven Commandments which they
were obliged to observe and of the Laws of the Torah, which they
received as a heritage from Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.
Even during the long and bitter period of Egyptian slavery, the
tribe of Levi remained in the House of Study, exempt from the harsh
servitude, in order that the Divine Law would be remembered and
understood and fulfilled.
And G-d's Presence descended from the third to the second heaven.
When Pharaoh decreed against the male infants born to the Children
of Israel, Amram, the leader of the generation and a descendant of Levi,
divorced his wife, Jochebed. His idea was to stop bringing Israelite
infants into the world in order to prevent their murder.
Amram, as leader, knew that his action would be emulated by his
people, which is precisely what happened. But his daughter, Miriam,
told her father that Pharaoh had only decreed against the males, but
that he had decreed against all the infants, male and female, by not
bringing any into the world.
Amram and Jochebed re-married and the child, Moses, was born. And
the Divine Presence descended from the second to the first heaven.
Moses was the most humble man who ever lived. His humility was so
complete that he considered himself as nothing at all. Whatever he
achieved, he saw as coming solely because of G-d.
He felt that if G-d had bestowed another man with as many talents
as he, the other man would surely have achieved more with them. It was
this self-nullification that stood him in direct contrast to Pharaoh,
who claimed to be a deity as Nimrod had.
When G-d redeemed the Children of Israel and decimated the idolatry
of the Egyptians, it was for the purpose of His Revelation at Sinai and
the Giving of the Torah.
Fifty days after the Children of Israel had left Egypt, Moses
ascended Mount Sinai and in full view of 600,000 Jewish men and
approximately a total of 3,000,000 women and children, the
L-rd G-d of Israel spread the heavens out like a pavement of sapphire
atop the mountain and descended to earth from His heavenly abode.
G-d had departed from the Garden of Eden and now had returned on
Mount Sinai with the Giving of the Torah.
It was a Divine Revelation of proportions that the human mind
cannot even begin to comprehend. All the blind and the lame and the
deaf were miraculously healed. All the righteous souls who would ever
be born into this world were called forth by the L-rd G-d to witness
His Divine Presence. This was the seal of G-d, His truth.
With the Giving of the Torah, the G-d of Israel chose the
descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as His Chosen People,
commanding them to fulfill the 613 precepts of the Torah. He also
commanded the righteous of the other nations of the world to keep the
Seven Commandments of the Children of Noah and commanded Moses and his
people teach them how.
It was both the establishment of a new covenant and the
strengthening of the old one.
Both the Mosaic and the Noahide laws were inextricably bound
together. The Children of Noah, the righteous Gentiles, were obligated
to fulfill the Seven Commandments because they were given on Mount
Sinai, not because they were given to Noah. And the Children of Israel
were commanded to teach the righteous Gentiles the Seven Commandments.
When Moses ascended Mount Sinai to meet G-d, earth and heaven came
together in a unique way. G-d took of His holiness and brought it to
earth. For the first time in creation, physical objects could be
infused with actual holiness.
The year was 2448 since the creation.
The Torah scroll and other writings, the sacrifices and other
articles of use in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple service, had
the Children of Israel become holy unto the L-rd, meaning separate
and distinct from the rest of creation with a sanctity uniquely reserved
for the service of G-d.
During the periods when the Jewish people lived in the Holy Land,
their responsibility of teaching the Gentiles the Seven Commandments was
During the 410 years that the First Temple stood and the 420 of the
Second Temple, Gentiles who wanted to dwell in the Land of Israel had to
agree to fulfill the Noahide Laws, and had the right to enter the Holy
Temple and offer sacrifices to G-d.
With respect to the nations of the world, this posed some thing of
a problem. Influential as it was, particularly during the times of King
Solomon, the Land of Israel was but one place on a rather large globe.
And the observance of the Noahide Laws outside of the Land of Israel was
Then, nearly two thousand years ago, G-d took a drastic step to
remedy the situation. He destroyed His Holy Temple, the center of
religious Jewish life, and exiled His people Israel to every corner of
the planet, where they remain, for the most part, to this very day. As
the Talmud states, "The Jewish people went into exile only in order to
make converts, meaning to teach the nations faith in the One G-d."
The intention was for the Jewish people to proclaim the faith in
the G-d of their fathers and to bring all the peoples of the world into
the communion of Israel and G-d by teaching them the Seven Commandments
of Noah. But what the Jews found in the world outside their own land
was a difficult situation. Mixed up with a myriad of foreign cultures,
the Jew had a lifelong struggle to maintain his own traditions without
being swallowed up by the cultures and traditions of the peoples
around him, in fulfilment of the Biblical injunction, "Take heed to
yourself that you inquire not after their gods, saying: How used these
nations to serve their gods? Even so, I will do likewise." (Deut.
Moreover, the Jew found that people were distrustful of him and
hostile, and were far too busy trying to convert him to their religions
to have any time to listen what he might have to say about the
Three factors in recent times have caused a change in the
situation. The first is that the spiritual deterioration of mankind has
reached a desperate stage. Half the world follows an official doctrine
of atheism (which Jews consider the cruelest and most extreme form
of idolatry) and much of the rest of the world is sunken into
immorality and crime.
Second, there exists a spirit of ecumenism, largely due to radio
and television and the information explosion, in which Judaism's view
concerning the non-Jew's relationship to G-d no longer meets with
The third is that G-d has waited long enough, as it says, "And it
shall happen, that whoso will not come up out of the families of the
earth unto Jerusalem to bow down before the King, the L-rd of Hosts -
even upon these there shall be no rain." (Zach. 14:17)
It all depends on us, which includes you. And so, the following
Guide to the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah has been prepared. It
is not meant to serve as a document of legal or spiritual authority, but
as a means by one may become familiar with the subject.
We hope and pray that the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will
forgive any errors this work may contain, and that it will become an
instrument for bringing all of mankind closer to its Father in Heaven.
May His revealed Presence soon dwell among us on earth as well in
heaven. Amen, Selah.
KNOWING G-D'S ONENESS
1. It is the foundation of foundations of all doctrines and
philosophical inquiry to know that there is a First Existence (without a
beginning) and He created all existence (brought everything forth from
absolute nothingness into being). And everything that is found in the
heavens or on the earth exists only as because of the truth of His
2. And if all the creatures in creation should cease to exist, He
alone would still exist and in no way would He be nullified because of
their nullification. For every creation needs Him, but He, blessed be
He, does not need any of them or all of them, and His truth is not like
the truth of any one of them. Their existence is not imperative, but
depends on His existence. Therefore, their existence is relative. But
the First Existence is uncaused. His existence is absolute.
3. Of Him the prophet says, "The L-rd G-d is truth." (Jer. 10:10) He
alone is truth and there is no other truth like unto His truth. And of
Him the Torah says, "There is nothing else besides Him." (Deut. 4:35)
4. This Existence is the G-d of the Universe and Master of the
earth. He directs the planet with a power that has neither limit nor
end, with a power that is uninterrupted, so that the planet always
revolves. And it is impossible for something to revolve without there
being a force causing it to revolve. And He, blessed be He, causes it
to revolve without a hand and without a body.
5. And if it should ever occur to you that there is another G-d
besides Him, it is a rejection of the very Source that everything
6. This G-d is one. He is not two nor more than two, and there is no
single existence as unique and singular as His existence. He is not in
a category that includes others of His species. And He is
not divided into portions or sections as is a body, but His is a oneness
and a uniqueness that has no equal in the universe.
7. If there were many gods, they would perforce have bodies, because
there is no way to differentiate one being from another except by bodily
or material differences. And if the Creator had a body or
any material form, He would have both a limit and an end, and His power
would have a limit and an end, because it is not possible for there to
be a body that doesn't have a termination point and for
everything pertaining to it to also have a termination point. But
because of our G-d, blessed be His Name, Whose power is endless and
uninterrupted, the planet revolves perpetually, for His power
is not a bodily power, and because He has no body, there are no
accidents or occurrences of the body that happen to Him which might
divide or separate Him from another being. Therefore it is
impossible for Him to be anything but One.
8. If a person would think that there might be two gods, equally
uncreated, what would distinguish one from the other except for their
occupying different places at the same time or the same place at
different times? And if you want to say that they occupy different
places at the same time or the same place at different times, they are
surely not limitless. Otherwise, the concept of two infinities arises
which is by definition impossible. Infinity is one and all inclusive
and supremely indivisible into aspects, extremities, or forms.
9. It is explained in the Torah and the Prophets that the Holy One,
blessed be He, has no body for it says, "Because the L-rd He is G-d in
Heaven above and on the earth below," (Deut. 4:39) And a body
cannot be in two places, and it says, "Because they saw no form," (Deut.
15), and it says, "And who is compared or equal to Me?" (Isaiah 40:25),
and if He had a body, He would be comparable to other bodies.
10. If so, why does it say in the Torah, "And under His feet," (Exodus
24:10), and "Written by the finger of G-d," (Exodus 31:18), "Hand of the
L-rd," (Exodus 9:3), "Eyes of the L-rd," (Gen.38:7), "Ears of
the L-rd," (Num.11:1) and many examples like this? All of this is
because the intellect of man is unable to fathom anything other than
materiality, and the Torah is given in the language of man. So all of
these examples are descriptive phrases, such as "If I whet
the glitter of my sword," (Deut. 32:41), and does He have a
sword? It is all only a parable. The truth is that He has no semblance
nor form, but all of it is the vision of the prophet, as it is written,
"Can you find G-d by searching for Him, or can you delve into the depths
of the Al-mighty?" (Job 11:7)
11. And what was it that Moses sought when he asked G-d, "Please, show
me Your glory." (Exodus 33:18). Moses wished to know the truth of the
existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the point where he knew it
in his heart just as one knows a person whom he recognizes by face and
whose form in engraved in his heart, whom he recognizes as distinct from
other men. Thus did Moses wish to the Holy One, blessed be He, to the
point where He would be distinct in Moses's heart like other existences,
thereby knowing the truth of G-d's existence as it really
is. And G-d answered him that man lacks this power of
intellect while his soul is attached to a body and so he cannot not know
this truth clearly.
12. Since, as it has been explained, G-d has no body, He is not
subject to the accidents of the body, He has neither attachment nor
separation, neither place nor measurement, neither ascent nor
descent, neither right nor left, neither front nor back, neither
standing nor sitting, and just as He has no ending, neither has He a
beginning, and He has neither life nor death as a body has, neither
intellect nor wisdom like a wise man, and He neither sleeps nor wakes,
neither anger nor laughter, neither joy nor sadness, neither silence nor
speech like the speech of man.
13. And such passages in the Torah as "He sits in the heavens and
laughs," (Psalms 2:4) are merely parables and similitudes, which is as
the Sages of Israel say that the Torah was given in the
language of man, and as G-d says, "I am the L-rd, I do not change."
(Malachi 3:6) If he were at times angry and at times joyous, this would
surely constitute change, for all these qualities and
attributes are only found in a lowly body, a physical vessel whose
foundation is dust, but He, may He be blessed, is exalted far, far above
any of this.
1. One should strive to love and fear G-d, Who is honoured and
exalted, as it says, "You should love the L-rd your G-d," (Deut. 6:4)
and its says, "You should fear the L-rd your G-d." (Deut. 6:13)
2. What is the way to love Him and fear Him? At the time a man
ponders deeply about His wondrous deeds and His manifold great
creations, he will realize that G-d's wisdom has no equal or end and he
will immediately love and praise and glorify and desire with a great
desire to know His Great Name. And when he thinks about these things,
he will immediately be awestruck with fear and he will realize that he
is only a small creature, low and inconsequential, standing with
extremely limited knowledge before the One who possess knowledge that is
perfect and complete.
1. "Know this day and take it unto your heart that the L-rd is G-d in
the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other." (Deut.
2. In the beginning, when G-d said, "Let there be a firmament in the
midst of the waters," (Gen. 1:6) the words and letters of His blessed
speech, being eternal as He is eternal, stand eternally in the
firmament of the heavens as the activating life force in creation. Were
G-d to retract His words or cause the letters of his speech to depart
even for an instant, the heavens would immediately return to absolute
nothingness just as they were prior to their having been created by G-d
saying, "Let there be a firmament."
3. Thus it is with each of the Ten Utterances by which G-d created the
world. Were the letters of G-d's speech to return to their Source, the
entirety of creation would instantly cease to exist and become
absolutely nothingness as they were prior to the beginning of the six
days of creation.
4. When one contemplates the foregoing, he can begin to understand how
G-d was one and unique and alone before He created the world and remains
equally one and unique and alone after the world was created, and that
the creation of the world in no way added anything to His completeness
5. This seems to be a paradox. How can it be that the creation of the
world effected no change in G-d? The seeming paradox is resolved by
realizing that compared to G-d, Whose speech is the sole life force in
creation, the world is absolutely and literally nothing and
non-existent. This is because in His Presence everything is considered
non-existent, literally null and void, and there is no place devoid of
His Presence, as it is written, "Do I not fill Heaven and earth saith
6. When a flesh and blood person speaks, the words and the breath of
his mouth are felt and seen to leave the speaker and to be things unto
themselves, but G-d's speech is never separated from Him
because there is no place devoid of Him and nothing outside of Him, for
He is Eternal and Infinite.
7. Even the idea of speech as applied to G-d is not to be taken
literally, but is merely metaphorical. Just as the speech of a person
reveals what was previously hidden in the person's thoughts,
thus it is above with the L-rd of Hosts, blessed be He, Who brought
forth all of created existence from a state of hiddenness to revelation
by saying the Ten Utterances as recorded in the Book of Genesis. It is
this which is called speech in reference to G-d.
8. These Ten Utterances by which the world was created are called the
speech of G-d because through them His Will went from a concealed state
to a revealed state. But this so-called speech is unified
with Him in absolute unity. The difference is only from the
perspective of created beings which receive their life force from G-d's
speech, as it descends from His exalted being and creates
material existence, descending level after level until it reaches this
coarse physical world. Here, created beings are able to receive the
G-dly flow of life without losing their identities through being
absorbed and nullified in their true Source, G-d.
9. This G-dly influx is concealed to avoid a revelation of G-d that is
greater than the world can endure. Therefore, it appears to the
creatures that the light and life-force of the Omnipresent which is
clothed in each creation, and is the true existence of each creation, is
a thing apart from His blessed Self and merely issues from Him, just as
the speech of a human being issues from the person. Yet there is
absolutely no concealment from the perspective of the Holy One, blessed
be He. Nothing is obscured from Him whatsoever. To Him darkness and
light are exactly the same, as it is written, "Even the darkness
conceals nothing from You, but the night shines as the day."
10. Nor does the descent of level after level stop His blessed speech
from remaining in a state of absolute unity with Him, but it is
metaphorically "Like the snail whose garment is part of him," (Midrash
Genesis Rabba 21).
11. The error that mundane philosophers make which leads them to assume
that G-d created the world then abandoned it to its own devices is that
they assume that the creative process of G-d is the same as
that of man. And, in truth, it is far different, as it is written, "For
My thoughts are not like your thoughts," and, "Thus My ways are higher
than your ways." (Isaiah 55:8-9) Man is merely capable of creating
something from something. The human craftsman takes an ingot of silver
and fashions a vessel from it. When the craftsman removes his hand from
his creation, the vessel still remains. This is because the craftsman
merely changes the form of a created substance. However, when G-d
created the heavens and the earth, He made them from absolute
nothingness, and were He to remove His creative force, they would be as
they were before He brought them forth into the state of revealed
creation, that is, non-existent.
12. From the foregoing words of truth, it should be apparent how the
entirety of creation is, in truth, considered null and non- existent
with respect to the G-d's activating force and the breath of
His mouth. This, of course, does not mean that the creation is an
illusion. It does mean, however, that G-d's Divine Force is its true
existence, and that creation has no independent existence of its own.
For it must be remembered that the example of G-d removing His original
ten utterances was hypothetical. G-d has no such intention. The
universe is real.
13. The reason that every created being and thing appears to possess an
independent self-existence is that we do not grasp or see with our
physical eyes the power of G-d and the breath of His mouth that is
within creation. If permission were granted the eye to see the life
force and the spirituality that flows from G-d to every created thing,
then we would no longer be able to see the physicality of material
existence. For, since the physical world is truly nullified to its
Source, if we could see the G-dly source, how could we see the physical
14. This is analogous to a ray of sunlight which may be seen from the
earth, but from the perspective of the sun, the ray's source, all that
is seen is the source's light that fills the sky. From the sun's
perspective, the ray has no existence whatsoever.
15. However, the analogy of the ray of sunlight is incomplete, because
its source, the sun, exists only in one place in the heavens. The sun
does not exist in the heavens and on the earth where its light
appears to have a separate existence. This is in contrast to created
beings which are always within its Source, except the Source is not
revealed to our eyes.
16. It is not sufficient to say that G-d created the world during the
six days of creation, for His creative activity is continuous, truly an
infinite flow of Life force. This is why it is written "He creates
darkness and forms light," rather than He created darkness and formed
light. And this applies to man as well. The man who feels his own self
importance and does not recognize the fact that the Creator is
constantly bringing him forth from absolute nothing into existence is
called one whom G-d created - past tense. This is in contrast to a
person who acknowledges the truth of his existence, that is comes from
G-d alone, constantly. This person is called one whom G-d creates.
(Kedushas Levi, Braishis)
RETURNING TO G-D
1. A person must realize that G-d, blessed be He, is more
merciful to man than anyone or anything else can be.
The Creator, blessed be He, does not conceal anything from a
person which might improve his personal welfare. Remember, man is one
of G-d's creations, and no one can better understand how to
care for a creation than the original maker.
If this principle is applicable to a human craftsman who
really does not create any new form, but merely changes the form of an
already existing creation, then certainly it is true of G-d Who brought
the basic elements of man into being from absolute nothingness and
sustains him at every instance and every second.
G-d is all-knowing in the ways of what is best for man, what
can damage him and what will work to his advantage.
2. A person should contemplate and know that G-d lavishes great
and abundant kindness on man. From the beginning of human existence,
G-d has bestowed these kindnesses even without man being worthy of
them. And it is not because G-d has a need for man, but only because of
G-d's great goodness and generosity.
3. One should also realize clearly that G-d observes him at all
times and that there is nothing hidden from Him. All stand revealed
before Him. G-d knows if whether or not a person has complete
trust in Him. Therefore, it is fitting that a person trust G-d and turn
to Him, abandoning ways contrary to Him.
By observing the Seven Noahide Commandments with care and
deliberation, one demonstrates that he has put his complete trust in
G-d. G-d will then reciprocate with trust in man, leading him to
success and happiness in all matters.
4. There is no miracle in the creation as great as returning to
G-d through repentance. Repentance is greater than wisdom. By means of
wisdom, man can discriminate between good and evil, choosing the good
and rejecting the evil. Nevertheless, the evil remains evil. But
through the power of repentance, man has the power to miraculously
transform evil to good, for the sins themselves and the remorse over
having committed them, are the very actions that draw a person to G-d
with impassioned longing and great love.
5. A Chasidic Rebbe once happened upon a person who was a
notorious sinner. The Rebbe walked up to the man and confessed that he
was envious of him.
"But, Rebbe,' the man said, amazed, "you are a saint and I am
a sinner. Why should you be envious of me?"
"Because," the Rebbe answer, "you can bring a much greater
light into the world than I can. I can only bring goodness to the world
by resisting sin and doing what I am supposed to do. You can
transform thousands, maybe millions, of evil deeds into wondrous merits
by repenting and returning to G-d."
1. If a person had transgressed one or all of the Seven Universal
Commandments, either willfully or unintentionally, when he repents, he
is obligated to verbally confess, specifying his sins in front
of the G-d of kindness, blessed be He. How should he confess? He
should words to the effect, "I beseech you, G-d, I have sinned
(unintentionally), or, I have transgressed willingly. I have
acted out of spite before You and I have done such and such. I regret
my actions and am ashamed of them and will not do such and such again."
This is the essence of confession. Anyone who increases the
content of his confession and elaborates upon it is praiseworthy.
2. Any punishment imposed on a person by a court of law does not
serve as an atonement for the transgression unless the person confesses
his sins to G-d in the above manner.
And similarly, one who wounds his friend or causes him
monetary loss, even though he paid what he owes him, his transgression
is not atoned for unless he confessed to G-d and he resolves never to
repeat such a deed again.
3. Repentance atones for all sins, even if one is evil all the
days of his life and returns to G-d on the last of his days, none of his
wickedness is mentioned to him in the Divine Judgement.
4. What is considered complete repentance? If, after having
confessed, it occurs to the person to repeat the transgression done in
the past, and the opportunity to do it arises, and he resists and does
not do it solely because of his repentance and not because of his fear
of anyone (a policeman is watching the fruit stand, etc.) and not
because he is too weak physically and can no longer do it.
For example, if a man has had a relationship with a woman who
is forbidden to him and he has repented and confessed, and after a time
it happens that he finds himself alone with her again as when he
committed the transgression with her, and now he resists and does not
transgress - this is a person who has done complete repentance.
5. If one returns to G-d (repenting of his transgressions) only in
his old age and it is at a time of his life when he no longer is able to
repeat the transgressions of the past, although this is not the
highest form of repentance - it does help him and he is considered a
true penitent who has returned to G-d.
6. Even if one transgresses all his life and repents the day of
his death and dies a penitent - all his sins are forgiven. Thus if one
remembers his Creator and returns to Him before he dies, he is
7. And what is repentance? It is when the sinner abandons his
sin, removing it from his thoughts and is completely resolved not do it
again. Consequently, he regrets what has happened in the past and
accepts G-d, the Knower of secrets as his witness that he will never
return to such a sin again. And he needs to confess verbally and state
the resolutions that he made in his heart.
8. One who confesses with words and does not resolve in his heart
to leave his sin is similar to one who immerses in a ritual pool while
grasping a dead rat in his hand. The immersion in the pool does not
help all until he discards the unclean object.
9. On the path of repentance, the penitent should cry to G-d with
tears and supplications and should give charity according to his
capability, at least ten percent of his income and preferably
twenty percent. He should also distance himself from the thing in which
he sinned or with whom he sinned. He should change all his deeds and
tread a straight path, and exile himself from his present
residence since exile is an atonement because it brings a person to
humility, and the essence of repentance comes through a broken heart and
a humble spirit.
10. It is praiseworthy for the penitent to confess publicly, even
to the extent of informing others of his transgressions, saying to his
peers, "I have sinned against so-and-so and I have done
such-and-such. But I have changed my ways I deeply regret my past."
11. One who is haughty and does not inform others of his
transgressions, choosing rather to conceal them, does not do complete
12. Public declaration refers to the sins between oneself and his
fellow man. The sins that are between oneself and his Creator need not
be broadcast, and, in truth, it is considered the ultimate of
brazenness to reveal them as it shows that he is not embarrassed about
them. Let him simply return to G-d, blessed be He, specifying his sins
before Him. Any public confession should be in a general way without
specifying actions, and he should consider it a blessing that his
iniquity has not become revealed.
13. Repentance helps only with sins that one commits between
himself and G-d, but for sins that are between oneself and his fellow
man, he has to pacify his fellow and ask forgiveness from him.
14. If a person receives an apology, he should never refuse to be
pacified, but should forgive easily and be slow to feel anger towards
another. At the time a person asks forgiveness of him, he
should grant favour with a full heart and a sincere spirit.
15. Every person should consider himself perfectly balanced
between reward and punishment. Similarly, he should see the entire
world as similarly balanced because of his deeds. If he
commits one sin, he leans the scales of judgement for himself
and for the entire world towards guilt and condemnation, and
consequently he can be the cause of the whole world's destruction. But
if he does one good deed, he can tilt the scales of judgement for
himself and the whole world toward merit and can bring salvation and
deliverance for himself and the whole world.
1. The power of self-determination is given to every person. If he
wants to direct himself towards good and righteousness, the power is in
his hand; if he wants to direct himself to the way of evil, the power is
2. Man is unique in this world and there is not another creation that
can compare to him in this regard. Man is intellectually aware of good
and evil. He does what he wishes to do, and no one can
prevent him from choosing to do good or evil.
3. One should banish thoughts and ideas such as the fools of the
world speak about - that G-d has decreed man's destiny from birth
whether he will be righteous or wicked. There is no such
thing. Every person has the ability to become righteous or wicked,
compassionate or cruel, generous or selfish. And so it is with all
other character traits and abilities to live within the
normative conduct set for man by the commandments of G-d.
It is true, however, that the individual may be born with
tendencies towards specific problematic behaviour, but at all times it
is within his or her power to overcome these natural
tendencies. No one is born a thief and no one is born a sexual deviant.
4. If G-d had predetermined the individual's destiny, whether for
good or for evil, on what basis could the righteous be rewarded and the
wicked be punished? Just as the Creator desired that fire and wind
would naturally rise upwards, and water and earth would naturally
descend, and that a planet would move in a circular motion, and all
other creatures of the world would act in accord with the nature that
G-d chose for them, thus did G-d desire that man should have the free
will to determine his actions.
5. Therefore, man is judged according to his deeds. If he does good,
good is done to him. If he does evil, evil is repaid him. And at a
future time, you must surrender yourself to Judgement for your
thoughts, speech, and actions. If a person fulfills the Seven Noahide
Commandments, thereby doing good in this world, he is repaid with
boundless good from G-d.
6. The reward for doing good is hundreds of times greater than the
punishment for doing evil, for it is written, "visiting the iniquity of
the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth
generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto the thousandth
generation of them that love Me." (Ex. 20:5-6)
1. Whenever a person commits a transgression with his own knowledge
and will, it is proper that he be punished for it so that he be paid for
his deeds. G-d knows exactly how he should be paid. The judgement may
be that the sinner be punished in this world with afflictions to his
body (various diseases or seeming accidents). Or, the punishment might
take the form of a loss of property and wealth or his children might be
afflicted because of his wrongdoings. Also, there are sins that are
judged to be repaid in the World to Come and so no harm befalls the
transgressor in this world. And there are sins that must be paid for in
this world and the World to Come.
2. One should know that it is considered a great kindness for a
person to be punished in this world because the World to Come is Eternal
and everything of it is also Eternal. This will provide a
glimmer of understanding as to why the righteous suffer and the wicked
It is as if G-d says of the wicked, "The little good he did in
this world I will repay him for in this world so that there remains no
reward for him in the Eternal World, and the payment for his sins await
him in fullest measure." And of the righteous, it is as if G-d says,
"For his few sins, I will punish him in this world where afflictions are
transitory, and for his great number of merits I will withhold reward in
this world so I can bestow upon him the greatest possible measure
of eternal good in the World to Come."
3. When we are referring to a man paying for his wicked deeds, this
presumes he does not repent and abandon them. But if he does repentance
it is considered as a shield between him and the punishment.
And just as a man sins because of his own understanding and free will,
he can also repent through his own understanding and free will.
4. There is a circumstance in which G-d does not offer a person the
opportunity to repent. This refers to a person who commits so grave a
sin or commits such an overwhelming number of sins (such as
causing many others to sin by leading them to idolatry or causing them
to follow a false religious doctrine) that this person, who sinned
through his own understanding and free will, is denied the
ability to repent and the opportunity to abandon his evil is not granted
to him in order that he should be lost in the sins that he committed.
However, this only means that it is not made easy for the
person. Nevertheless, it is written that nothing can stand between a
man and repentance, for a person can always overcome the obstacles and
through strength of will return to G-d in full repentance.
5. A person should constantly regard himself in a state where death
is close at hand, and finding himself standing in sin, he should
immediately repent from all his sins. He should not say, "When I grow
older, I will repent." Perhaps he will die before he reaches old age.
6. One should not say that repentance applies only to sins involving
an actual deed, like forbidden sexual relations and theft. For, just as
a man must repent of those, he must become introspective
concerning his evil characteristics and repent of them, from his anger
and his hatred and from jealousy and folly and from pursuit of wealth
and honour and excessive imbibing and gluttony and other base
character traits. From all of them, he must return to G-d. When a
person is sunk into these base pursuits and evil traits, it is harder to
abandon graver sins involving actual evil deeds.
7. A true penitent should not worry that, as a result of his sins, he
is a long way from the exalted status of the righteous. The truth is
that he is loved and treasured by the Creator as if he had never
committed a sin. And more, his reward is enormous for he has tasted sin
and departed from it, and has conquered his evil inclination. This
makes him far greater than one who has never tasted sin, for he has
achieved a greater spiritual conquest.
8. The ways of the penitent should be humble and extremely modest.
If fools and boors taunt him about his previous deeds and say to him,
"Yesterday you were doing such and such, and now look at you
trying to be so high and mighty." he should pay no attention to them,
but listen silently and rejoice and know that their insults are bringing
him great merit. When a penitent is embarrassed about his
past deeds and is humiliated because of them, his merits are increased
and his spiritual level becomes exalted.
9. It is a grave sin to say to a penitent, "Remember your previous
deeds," or to mention anything of his past ways in order to embarrass
him, or to mention ideas or incidents that will remind him of
what he has done.
10. Great is repentance for it draws a person close to G-d, and the
farther one's distance, the closer and more beloved one can become
through repentance. "Yesterday he was despicable in front
of G-d; he was disgusting, distanced, and an abomination. And today, he
is precious, close, and beloved."
1. The treasure reserved for the righteous is Eternal Life in the
World to Come. This is a life that does not incorporate death. It is a
good that does not co-exist with evil. And the punishment for
the wicked is that they do not merit this life, but they will be cut off
and will die out. And all who do not merit this Life are truly
considered dead. The wicked are cut off in their wickedness and perish
like an animal. That is to say that the wicked whose soul is severed
from the body by spiritual extinction does not merit the eternal life of
the World to Come.
2. Loss of the Life of the World to Come is the most terrible
retribution, for this is considered a total loss and a complete
destruction. It is a loss than can never be regained because
repentance and return to G-d can only be achieved while the soul is in
the body in this material world. Once the soul has separated from the
body, it is no longer time for good deeds or wicked deeds or
repentance. Then it is the time of reward or punishment.
3. There are certain misguided Arabs who fill their lives with
lewdness and who imagine that the reward for obeying G-d's Commandments
and for following the way of truth is to inherit a paradise where they
are able to eat and drink gourmet foods and beverages and to have
relationships with "beautiful forms," to wear linen and brocaded
garments and to be able to dwell in ivory palaces and used vessels of
gold and silver and other similar fantasies. The intelligent among
mankind will easily see that all these images are foolish and vain and
there is neither inner purpose nor spiritual meaning to any of them.
These ideas betray a lack of understanding and reveal a compulsion for
materialism, for it is only because we are a people with physical bodies
and form that these things have any relevancy. All of these dreams,
such as eating and drinking are needed only for the body and
the soul has no longing for them at all. The soul desires bodily needs
only in order to establish and maintain a healthy stature, and takes no
pleasure in physical delights at all.
4. In the time of the Eternal Life where there is no body nor any
physical existence at all, these material things will be entirely
nullified. And there, in the World to Come, the great goodness
is for the soul alone. And there is no way in this world to grasp or
comprehend any understanding of this pleasure whatsoever. But the
delights of the World to Come are glorious beyond human
concept, and there is nothing of this world to compare with their
5. The Sages of Israel call it the World to Come not because it will
exist in a future time and cannot be found here and now. The World to
Come exists now and can be found now. We call it the World to
Come because it is the life that comes to man after the physical life of
this world where the soul is encased in a physical body. The World to
Come is found as it has been found from the very beginning.
6. We are commanded to walk the Middle Path for it is good with
proper ways, as it says, "You should walk in G-d's way." (Deut.23:9)
Just as G-d is called gracious, man must be gracious. Just
as G-d is called merciful, man must be merciful. Man is obligated to
follow the ways of G-d to the fullest extent of his ability.
10. A person can accustom himself to this manner of conduct by
performing deeds that reflect moderation and the middle way, repeating
them constantly until they become ingrained and established
traits. And because these names - gracious, merciful, kind, righteous -
are those which the Creator is called, these ways of the middle path is
called the way of G-d. Whoever walks this path brings goodness and
blessing to himself.
11. Every single person from all the people of the earth whose spirit
is humble and who differentiates between good and evil in order to be
able to stand before G-d, to serve Him and know Him and walk upright in
His path, removing the yoke of the scheming and calculating that a
person normally utilizes in order to conduct his life, sanctifies the
Holy of Holies. G-d will be this person's portion and inheritance in
this world and the World to Come forever and ever. And he will merit
success in all his material efforts in this world.
THE SEVEN UNIVERSAL LAWS.
1. With respect G-d's commandments, all of humanity is divided into two
general classifications - the Children of Israel and the Children of
2. The Children of Israel are the Jews, the descendants of the
Patriarch Jacob. They are commanded to fulfill the 613 commandments of
3. The Children of Noah are the Gentiles, comprising the seventy
nations of the world. They are commanded concerning the Seven Universal
Laws, also known as the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah or
the Seven Noahide Laws.
These Seven Universal Laws pertain to:
5. Sexual relations
6. Eating the Limb of a Living Animal
7. Establishing courts of law
4. All Seven Universal Laws are prohibitions.
Negative commandments are of a higher order than positive
commandments. The G-dly light they elicit is drawn from too high a
source to be enclothed in actions using something of this
physical world. One can merit the divine reward elicited from so high a
source only by rejecting a forbidden action in this physical world.
5. Men and women are equal in their responsibility to observe the Seven
6. It is a matter of dispute as to when a person becomes responsible
for his or her actions under these Laws.
One opinion holds that it depends on the intellectual
development of the individual.
According to this opinion, as soon as a child has attained the
maturity to understand the meaning and significance of the Seven
Universal Laws he is obligated to the fullest extent of the Law.
The other opinion is that a boy reaches the age of legal
responsibility at his thirteenth birthday and a girl at her twelfth
7. When one of the Children of Noah resolves to fulfill the Seven
Universal Laws, his or her soul is elevated. This person becomes one of
the Chasidei Umot Haolam - Pious Ones of the Nations - and
receives a share of the Eternal World. The Holy Scriptures calls one
who accepts the yoke of fulfilling the Seven Universal Laws a Ger Toshav
- a Proselyte of the Gate.
This person is permitted to live in the land of Israel and to
enter to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and to offer sacrifices to the G-d
Although the Children of Noah are commanded only concerning the Seven
Universal Laws, they are permitted to observe any of the 613
commandments of the Torah for the sake of receiving divine reward.
The exceptions to this are:
1. Observing the Sabbath in the manner of the Jews. (resting from
the actions that were needed for the building of the Tabernacle during
the Exodus from Egypt.)
2. Observing the Jewish Holidays in the manner of the Jews. (Resting
in a similar manner to the Sabbath.)
3. Studying those parts of the Torah which do not apply to the
Noahide's service of G-d.
4. Writing a Torah scroll (the Five Books of Moses) or receiving an
aliyah to the Torah (reading a portion of the Torah at a public
5. Making, writing, or wearing Tefillin, which are the phylacteries
worn during prayer that contain portions of the Torah.
6. Writing or affixing a mezuzah, the parchment containing portions
of the Torah, to one's doorposts or gateposts.
7. A prime purpose of the Seven Universal Laws is to teach the
Children of Noah about the oneness of G-d and therefore, those parts of
Torah that pertain to this knowledge are permissible for
him to study.
Also, since the Seven Universal Laws were given on Mount Sinai at
the time when the Torah was given to the Jewish people, scriptural
portions describing the Revelation at Sinai are also
This may be extended to include a Biblical description of
the exodus from Egypt of the Children of Israel, since that was a
preparation for the revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai.
And obviously, any study that brings greater knowledge concerning the
performance of the Seven Noahide Laws is permissible. But clearly, any
Talmudic or Halachic study of commandments that pertain only to Jews is
strictly forbidden, for the Noahide who studies portions of the Torah
that do not pertain to him damages his soul.)
8. If a Noahide is striving in the learning of Torah or keeping the
Sabbath in the manner of Jews or reveals new aspects of Torah, he is to
be beaten and punished and informed that he is liable
for the death penalty, but he is not killed.
The beatings and other punishments are only meant to dissuade him
from doing forbidden acts. If the court that is established in
consonance with the Seven Universal Laws gives the death penalty to a
Noahide, the execution is considered an atonement for this person's
transgression, and consequently one who transgresses and is punished by
the court can merit a portion in the World to Come. Furthermore, the
Noahide must experience reincarnation in order to do atonement for the
transgressions he has previously done.
9. The responsibility of The Seven Noahide Laws is a yoke of faith
in G-d. This means that the laws must be observed solely because G-d
commanded them. If the Children of Noah were to observe
these Seven Universal Laws for any reason or intention other than to
fulfill G-d's will, the performance is invalid and no divine reward is
received. This means that if one of the Children of Noah says, "These
laws seem sensible and beneficial, therefore, I will observe them," his
actions accomplish nothing and he receives no reward.
10. When one of the Children of Noah engages in the study of the Seven
Universal Laws, he is able to attain a spiritual level higher than the
High Priest of the Jews, who alone has the sanctity to
enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.
11. If one of the Children of Noah wishes to accept the full
responsibility of the Torah and the 613 commandments, he or she can
convert and become a Jew in every respect. One who elects
to do this is called a Ger Tzedek - a Righteous Proselyte.
It is a principle of Judaism, however, not to seek converts and one
who requests conversion is generally discouraged. Should the person
persist in his or her desire to convert, counsel should be taken only
with an Orthodox Rabbi or scholar, for conversion not in accord with
Halacha - Torah Law - is no conversion at all, and conversion bestowed
by rabbis who themselves do not follow the Laws of the Torah are null
and void, neither recognized in heaven nor by any
12. It is incorrect to think that since the Children of Israel have 613
commandments and the Children of Noah have seven commandments, that the
ratio of spiritual worth is proportionally 613 to seven.
The truth is that the Seven Universal Laws are general
commandments, each containing many parts and details, whereas the 613
Commandments of the Torah are specific, each relating to one basic
detail of the Divine Law. Therefore, the numerical disparity in no way
reflects the relative spiritual worth of the two systems of
13. The statutory punishment for transgressing any one of the Seven
Laws of the Children of Noah is death.
According to some, it is the same whether one transgresses
intentionally or because of ignorance of the of the Law.
According to others, a transgressor of the Noahide Law
because of ignorance receives the death penalty only in the case of
14. If the courts cannot punish an individual for lack of witnesses or
any other reason (see section on Courts of Law), the transgressor will
be punished by divine decree.
15. Besides the Seven Universal Laws, the Children of Noah have
traditionally taken it upon themselves to fulfill the commandment of
honouring mother and father. A digest of these laws is
presented in a later chapter.
16. Also, some are of the opinion that the Children of Noah are
obligated to fulfill the commandment of giving charity. Others state
that it is proper and meritorious for the Children of Noah to give
charity but that it is not actually commanded of them.
17. If a Noahide who follows the Seven Universal Laws gives charity,
the Israelites accept it from him, and give it to the poor of Israel
since through the merit of giving charity to the poor among the Jewish
people one is given life by G-d and saved from death. But a Gentile
who does not accept the yoke of the Seven Noahide Laws and gives charity
is not permitted to give it to the needy of Israel. His charity may be
given only to poor Gentiles.
18. If one of the Children of Noah arises and performs a miracle and
says that G-d sent him, then instructs others to add or subtract from
any of the Seven Universal Laws or explains them in a way not
heard at Mount Sinai, or claims that the 613 commandments given to the
Jews are not eternal, but limited to a fixed period of time, this person
is deemed a false prophet and incurs the death penalty.
19. There is an oral tradition that the Children of Noah are forbidden
to interbreed animals of different species or to graft trees of
They may wear shaatnez clothing containing both wool and
linen and they may plant different seeds such as grape and wheat in the
same field, which are forbidden to the Jews.
Forbidden interbreeding and grafting does not require the
death penalty in a court of law. A Noahide that strikes an Israelite,
causing even the slightest wound, even though he is theoretically
condemned for this, he does not suffer the death penalty.
20. The Sages of Israel state that Children of Ketura (the sons of
Abraham's concubine, Hagar) who were born after Ishmael and Isaac are
obligated to be circumcised. And since today the
descendants of Ishmael are intermixed with the descendants of Hagar, all
are obligated to be circumcised on the eighth day after they are born.
Those transgressing this are given the death penalty.
21. One opinion holds that the six sons of Hagar only and not their
descendants are obligated to be circumcised. And other authorities are
of the opinion that this obligatory circumcision has only to
do with semitic peoples, although all other nations are allowed to
circumcise if they desire.
22. In accord with the Seven Universal Laws, man is enjoined against
creating any religion based on his own intellect. He either develops
religion based on these Divine Laws or becomes a Righteous
Proselyte, a Jew, and accepts all 613 commandments of the Torah.
Concerning making a holiday for themselves, a Noahide can
participate in a Jewish holiday, such as Shavuoth - The Feast of Weeks -
when the Torah was given since the Children of Noah received their
commandments at that time as well, or Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year
and Day of Judgement, since all mankind is judged by G-d on that day
and, therefore, should be important to the Noahide as well as the
Israelite. Rosh Hashanah also is the day Adam, the first man, was
created by G-d, and all mankind is descended from Adam just as it is
from Noah. Even these, however, the Noahide celebrates only in order to
bring additional merit and reward for himself, and may not rest in the
manner of the Jews. Moreover, the Noahide is strictly forbidden to
create a new holiday that has religious significance and claim that it
is part of his own religion, even if the religion is the observance of
the Seven Noahide Laws. For example, it would be forbidden to them to
make a holiday celebrating the subsiding of the waters of the Flood
of Noah or anything of the like. And, all the more so, it
would be forbidden to institute holidays that ascribe religious
significance to events outside the purview of the Seven Noahide Laws.
Celebrating secular activities or commemorating historical
events, such as the Fourth of July, even if they involve a festive meal
23. The nations of the world acknowledge the existence of G-d and they
do not transgress the will of G-d. Their failing is an inability to be
nullified to G-d and they deny His oneness by thinking that they
themselves are separate entities, calling Him the G-d of gods.
Therefore, we find that when they transgress the Seven Noahide Laws, it
is only because the spirit of folly enters them and covers
the truth, concealing it from them. But from their essential being,
they are not able to transgress the will of G-d. Therefore, even Balaam
the wicked prophet who had sexual relations with an animal,
his ass, which is a clear transgression of the Seven Noahide Laws, said,
"I am not able to transgress the word of G-d." (Num. 22:18 )
24. The commandment to be fruitful and multiply was given to Noah, but
inasmuch as it was not repeated at Mount Sinai, this commandment is not
considered part of the Seven Universal Laws.
However, the Children of Noah have the obligation to make the
whole earth a dwelling place for mankind. This is minimally achieved by
every couple giving birth to a male and female child who are in turn
capable of reproduction. Moreover, the couple that bears more children
are credited with bringing more spiritual goodness into the world,
assuming that these children are reared in an environment of morality by
fulfilling the Seven Universal Laws.
25. By observing the Seven Universal Laws, mankind is given the means
by which it can perfect itself.
The individual, through these laws, has the power to refine
his essential being, and can reach higher and higher without limit. For
it is written, "I call heaven and earth to bear witness, that any
individual, man or woman, Jew or Gentile, freeman or slave, can have the
Holy Spirit bestowed upon him. It all depends on his deeds." (Shaare
Tzedek 60a, 60b)
And it is also written, "Ultimately, all is understood: fear
G-d and observe His commandments, for this is the completion of man."
1. The essence of the Seven Universal Laws is the prohibition
against idolatry. One who worships another deity besides the Creator
denies the essence of religion and rejects the entirety of
the Seven Universal Laws. But one who guards himself against idolatry
demonstrates belief in G-d and affirms the entirety of the Seven
2. A descendant of Noah who serves an idol in its normal manner of
worship, is punished by death. The Children of Noah are forbidden to
perform any act of idolatry forbidden to the Children of Israel. Any
act of idolatry that the Jewish Ecclesiastical Court punishes with
death, the Noahide Courts also punish with death. And every instance in
which the Jewish Court does not punish by death, the Noahide Courts do
not punish with death. A person may be physically restrained or struck
to prevent him from performing forbidden idolatrous acts that are not
punishable by death.
3. The Children of Noah are forbidden to erect a Matzeva
(idolatrous pillar - e.g. the kaaba stone in Mecca) nor to plant an
Asherah (tree or shrub worshipped as a deity) nor to make graven images
(bas relief or full relief images) nor similar objects even for beauty
even though he has no intention to worship these images or forms or
pillars, but just makes them for beauty, it is forbidden. The Children
of Israel are not condemned for any of these transgressions, but receive
lashes, and therefore, neither are the Children of Noah killed for them.
4. Although there are opinions which state that the Children of
Noah transgress the prohibition of idolatry from the moment they make an
idol, the actual law is that the transgression does not
come into effect until the person actually worships or serves the idol.
5. According to many authorities, a Gentile is not warned about the
concept of "Partnership with G-d." The concept of partnership is the
acknowledgment of the existence of the G-d of Israel as
well as the belief of the possibility and existence of a deity
(independent will) other than G-d's. So long as the ascribing power to
a deity besides the Creator remains conceptual, it is permissible to the
Children of Noah according to many authorities. But to worship this
independent being is clearly idolatry. The danger of the concept of
partnership is that it frees people to act in accord with non-existent
gods and opens a doorway to actual idolatry. Most later authorities
agree that Children of Noah are forbidden to believe in a partnership.
But even according to these, the Children of Noah are not forbidden to
swear by the name of an idol in combination with G-d (swearing by the
L-rd of Hosts and a Hindu deity, for example).
6. The Children of Noah are not commanded to sanctify G-d's Name by
refusing to bow to an idol in the face of a threat to one's life. And
there is a dispute whether the Children of Noah are even
allowed to choose to lay down their lives in this manner, since they are
not commanded to do so. However, since we have a general rule the
Children of Noah may perform any of the 613 commandments of the Torah
to receive reward (with the notable exceptions found in the previous
chapter), then it seem that anyone may, indeed, choose to die for the
sanctification of G-d's name rather than bow to an idol, even though he
or she is not commanded to do so.
7. The commandment prohibiting idolatry comes to teach that one
should not serve anything of the creation - no created thing - no angel,
no plant, no star, nothing of the four fundamentals earth,
water, fire and air nor anything that is formulated from them. Even if
the worshipper knows that G-d is the Supreme Being and worships creation
as a way of glorifying G-d's greatness and His ability to
create great beings and things, nevertheless this is idol worship.
8. Perhaps one may ponder about the heavenly spheres and realize
that they do not die like other things and that it is, therefore, proper
to bow down to them and serve them. To do this is to place
them between oneself and the Creator. For although G-d may have
assigned these celestial beings certain roles in the conduct of the
world, nevertheless, man's responsibilities are to G-d and
not to G-d's messengers.
This, in fact, is how idolatry came to exist in the world.
The generations that lived immediately after Adam recognized that G-d
had created magnificent heavenly beings, the sun to rule by day and the
moon to rule by night. And these people began to honor G-d's exalted
messengers. Soon it was forgotten that these messengers had been
appointed by the Creator and the sun and the moon began to be honored
for their own greatness. This devolved to the worship of these creations
as deities themselves without awareness of the G-d that had created
9. Many books have been written by idol worshippers concerning the
nature of their idolatry - what the main service is, what are the
procedures and laws. One should not read these books at
all nor should one think about them nor speak of them. Even studying
the formation of an idolatrous figure or even asking how something is
served without having the intention of serving it might
cause one to turn to it be led to engage in idolatrous practices.
10. Anyone who acknowledges that an idolatrous religion is true,
even though he does not serve the idol, is as one who reviles the mighty
and exalted Name of G-d.
1. Many different types of idolatrous service exist and the service
for one idol is not like the service of another.
For example, the idol Beor was served by man defecating
before it. (This came about in a similarly devolutionary way as
idolatry itself. Original worshippers of this idol attained
much a state of frenzy and ecstasy that they lost control of themselves
and defecated. Their children saw the effect and misunderstanding the
cause, concluded that the worship was defecation) The worship
of Mercury was to cast stones before it or to remove stones from before
2. Many specific forms of worship such as these were established
for other idols. Therefore, if one would defecate before Mercury or
throw stones at Beor, he is held harmless as this is not the normal
manner of worship. Only when a person worships the idol in the normal
manner does he transgress. Consequently, courts of law have to know the
appropriate service for the idol in any case of idolatry.
3. The preceding law applies to unique forms of worship. If,
however, the person bows down, offers sacrifices or incense or a
libation (the four forms of service of the Holy Temple in
Jerusalem) to any one of the idols, he is liable the death penalty even
though this may not be the way of official worship.
4. Any type of food placed upon an altar as an offering to an idol
is forbidden to be eaten. There is a difference of opinion concerning
foods unlikely to be offered to an idol, such as a
grasshopper or a cockroach. Some say that if an animal is ritually
slaughtered before an idol it always becomes forbidden as food, and this
applies even to grasshoppers or cockroaches or any other
food that is not normally ritually slaughtered. Others are of the
opinion that foods that do not appear to be offerings, such as the
aforementioned grasshoppers and cockroaches, are permissible.
5. Things such as water and salt which are not normally in the
category of offerings to an idol, if they are found directly in front of
an idol or within the curtains that surround the idol,
even these are forbidden.
6. It is forbidden to offer things that honor the idol even by
offering them from outside the boundaries that surround the idol. This
is considering decorating the idol.
(Note: It would seem by this law that throwing coins at an
idol or even into a pool of water that surround any idol - which even
today may be seen with some oriental idolatrous figures - would be in
the category of honoring the idol and symbolically ascribing powers to
it. Otherwise, why throw the money which is clearly an act of
beseeching a power for returned good fortune?)
7. It is not a transgression to place a thing outside of the walls
that surround the idol, so long as this object does not glorify the
8. If something has been prepared to be offered to an idol, but has
not yet been offered, it is permitted. One, however, should be strict
and not use anything found in the house of idol worship.
Therefore, one should never take candles from the place of idol worship
(Note: One should not purchase or use the sticks of incense
sold by any of the idolatrous religions or pseudo- religious groups.
Inasmuch as most hindu sects are pantheistic and idolatrous, health
foods purchased from such groups are questionable, for the foods
themselves may have been worshipped. In truth, any
religious food discipline wherein the foods themselves or the
combinations of the foods themselves are seen to be curatives or
wondrous in their health giving properties may be idolatrous.
Concerning the verse, "And man does not live by bread alone, but every
word that proceeds from the mouth of G-d" we are taught that it is not
the bread itself which nurtures the body of man and gives it strength
but the word of G-d, which are enveloped in the bread and gives the
bread its existence. These letters, "the word that proceeds from the
mouth of G-d," not only give the bread its existence, but when ingested
by man, nurture his physical body. Obviously the same is
true of any food or herb or wonder drug that heals - it is merely the
power of G-d within that food or herb or wonder drug that is the healing
9. If one offers an idol excrement or pours it a libation of urine,
he transgresses as this falls in the category of sprinkling.
10. If one slaughtered an animal that is missing one of its limbs,
he is held harmless unless such is this idol's particular service.
11. If an idol is served by gathering sticks in front of it, and one
breaks a stick before it, he is liable and the stick becomes forbidden
for any use. But if he throws the stick before it the stick
does not become forbidden even though this act is forbidden. The object
becomes forbidden only if the worshipful act is similar to the actual
worship intended for that particular idol. And, whereas breaking a
stick is similar to gathering sticks, throwing a stick is not considered
similar to throwing sacrificial blood or offering a
12. If a man lifts a brick and says to it, "You are my god," and any
such similar speech, he is liable for idolatry. Even if he would
retract immediately and say, "This is not my god," his
retraction is of no help. This does not mean that the person cannot
repent. He surely can repent and G-d will forgive his idolatry. But if
his speech was witnessed, he will be brought to trial and condemned as
an idolater notwithstanding his retraction or his repentance.
Repentance is only good between man and G-d. Jurists and courts of law
lack the power to search a man's heart to determine the sincerity of his
repentance. This only G-d can do.
13. One who worships an idol according to the prescribed ritual,
even if he does it contemptuously, is liable. For example, if one
defecates in front of Beor in order to disgrace the idol or throws a
stone at Mercury in order to show contempt, since he performs the
prescribed worship, he is liable.
14. If a person worships an idol because its workmanship is
stunningly beautiful. Or if he worships it because he fears that some
evil will otherwise befall him, thereby imagining that the
idol has some power to do good or evil - so long as the person accepts
the idol as g-d, he is liable.
15. If a person serves an idol in the manner of one of the four
forms of service used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem - prostrating,
sacrificing, sprinkling sacrificial blood, pouring libations, and serves
the idol with love and fear, but without accepting it as a g-d, he is
held harmless. If he hugs it or kisses it or dusts it off
or pours water on it to cleanse the dust off or anoints it or clothes it
or does other things in order to honour it, these are in the category of
prostrating to it.
16. If a thorn got stuck one's foot while he was in front of an idol,
he should not bend down to remove it as it appears he is bowing down to
the idol. This holds true even if there is no one around to
observe the act. This is also true if he drops his money in front of
the idol and wishes to pick it up.
(Note: There was an idolatrous sect that brought tourists to
its house of worship. The door leading to the room where the idol was
kept was extremely low so that anyone entering the
room had to bend over to enter, thus forcing everyone who entered to
appear as if they were bowing as they approached the idol.)
Rather, the person should remove the thorn or pick up his money
by first sitting, then removing the thorn or picking up the money. Or
he should turn his back to the to the idol or turn to the side of the
idol in order to remove the thorn or pick up the money. And if for any
reason a person has to remove his hat for a personal need, he should not
remove it until he passes before the idol so that it does not appear as
if he is removing it to pay respects to the idol.
17. If there is statuary with faces that draw in or pour out water from
the mouth of the statue, a person should not drink from this water by
placing his mouth to the statue's mouth as it would appear as
if he is kissing it. Even if this statuary fountain is not an idol per
se, one should be strict with oneself and refrain from drinking in this
manner. This is so even if it is an ornamental elaborate fountain that
does not have a face, but was designed primarily for beauty rather than
as a drinking fountain, and it is all the more so if the fountain has a
18. One is forbidden to commission a craftsman to make an idol for
himself even if he does not intend to serve it. Also it is forbidden to
make an idol with one's own hands even if the idol is meant
for someone else and not for him and he does not intend to serve it.
All the more so, it is forbidden to make an idol with one's own hands
19. It is forbidden to make figures or images for ornamental purposes,
even though they are not idols, i.e. one should not make images of gold
or silver that are merely for artistic purposes because he might cause
others to make a mistake and think they are idols. This prohibition
pertains to forms with human characteristics in three dimensional
relief, such as are on forms and vessels in a palace. Though forbidden,
such actions do not warrant capital punishment.
20. But if the image is depressed rather than in relief, or two
dimensional such as paintings or woven tapestry, it is permitted.
21. A ring that has a seal on it in the image of a man (a cameo), if
the image protrudes in relief, it is forbidden to wear it, but it may be
used as a seal. If the image is depressed, it can be worn,
but it is forbidden to use it as a seal (the seal that it creates is an
image in relief).
22. It is forbidden to form images of the sun or the moon or the stars
or the constellations or of the angels or of the four faces (in one
form) of the Chariot, as it is forbidden to make images of the
ministers that serve G-d. Such figures may not even be made in two
dimensional form. It is also forbidden to make the face of a man alone
(not showing the body) even if it is just for beauty.
23. According to other opinions, it is only forbidden to make forms of
the angels and the Chariot in a three-dimensional form that is in
relief. Drawing them on canvas or weaving these images on
cloth or painting them on stone would be permitted since these are
spiritual beings and, therefore, are not three dimensional forms.
However, even this latter lenient opinion forbids the drawing
of the sun, moon, or stars (in their complete form) in a two-dimensional
drawing because they appear to us two- dimensionally in the sky.
24. Concerning a sculpture of man, some say the face is that which is
forbidden. Others say that sculpture becomes forbidden only if the
whole face of a human and its body is made. According to this second
opinion, making a human body with its face is permitted as long one
doesn't make the complete body, but only of a portion of it. However,
it is better to follow the stricter first opinion.
25. One should not physically grasp hold of these graven images even
for a moment as it might give people the wrong idea. However, since
people today do not commonly worship the image of a man as g-d, it is
not forbidden to hold the image of a man unless it is distinctly the
image of one worshipped as a g-d, as these are most certainly forbidden
to keep. But any other human image may be kept, so long as the image is
slightly distorted or damaged, such as by chipping the nose, to dispel
any no suspicion of it being an idolatrous form.
26. It is permitted to make statuary of wild or domestic animals and
of trees, even of animals which are symbols in astrology, such as the
lion, the ram, or the bull. One may make the full form of these figures
and retain them in his possession. However, one may not make one form of
all twelve astrological symbols.
27. There is a further opinion forbidding all three-dimensional forms,
whether they are in relief or depressed. This opinion forbids making
such forms in order to keep in one's possession. It is proper
to heed this opinion.
28. One should never gaze at three-dimensional images of man. But
images upon a ring, since they are commonly found without idolatrous
connotations, may be gazed upon.
29. The three chief idolatrous images in the world are:
A. The dragon, which is a derivative of the primordial
B. A full figure of a man offering the beholder something
from the palm of his hand. This is an idolatrous perversion of Joseph
in Egypt who fed the multitudes in time of famine.
C. A woman nursing an infant. This is the idolatrous
perversion Eve, the mother of all mankind. It became the symbol of the
queen of heaven and is an image that has pervaded numerous pagan
1. There is a difference of opinion whether the Children of Noah
transgress the commandment of idolatry by convincing someone else to
worship an idol. One opinion states that the Children of
Noah do not transgress this commandment by leading others to serve an
idol. The other opinion states that he is liable for the death penalty,
but only if he leads a Jew away from the worship of the G-d
of Israel and convinces him or her to serve an idol. If, however, one
Noahide convinces another Noahide to serve an idol, he is not liable for
punishment in a court of law, but since he has denied
himself and the other person the opportunity of being close to G-d, he
is punished from Heaven.
2. One who leads the majority of a city to idolatry is in a
special category and is called a persuader. If the one who influenced
the city is a prophet, his punishment is stoning. If a
person says, "The idol said to me, 'worship!'" or he says,
"G-d said to me, 'Worship the idol,'" he is a prophet. If he influences
a majority of a city, he is stoned.
3. A seducer is equally liable whether he uses singular or
plural expressions in his seduction. For example, he says, "I will go
an worship the idol," or, "Let us go and worship this idol," he is a
4. One who convinces others to worship him as an idol and says
to them, "Serve me," and they worship him, he is stoned to death. If
they say, "Yes," and accept him as their g-d but do not
serve him, he is not stoned.
5. But if he convinces them to serve another person or any
other type of idolatry, and one he convinced accepted him and said,
"Yes, let us go and serve," even though they have not yet
served, both the seducer and the seduced are stoned.
6. A prophet who prophesies in the name of an idol, for
instance he says, "This particular idol or this particular star said to
me that it is an obligation to do such and such or not to do
such and such," even if his words teach the law correctly,
he is liable the death penalty for idolatry.
7. It is forbidden to establish a law or to refute a law by
the authority of someone who prophesies in the name of an idol, nor do
we ask him to produce a sign or a miracle. If he does so on his own, we
pay no attention to it nor do we reflect about it. Anyone who thinks
about these miracles and says, "Perhaps they are true," transgresses a
law. Such miracles are a test of our faith in G-d.
8. Similarly, a false prophet is killed by strangulation even
though he prophesies in the name of G-d and teaches the Seven Universal
Laws correctly, neither adding nor subtracting from their
9. One who prophesies words that he did not hear in a
prophetic vision or one who hears the words of a true prophet and says
that they were received by him and he prophesies concerning
these words, is a false prophet.
10. One who holds himself back from killing a false prophet is
a transgressor. And it matters not whether he fears to act because of
the latter's exalted position in the realm of prophecy, or
because he is fearful of the false prophet's words.
(Note: A trick of all false prophets and other idolatrous
practitioners is to instill fear in the hearts of their victims.)
11. A man should not use an idol or a house of idolatry as a
signpost, such as telling his friend, "Meet me at the side of this
particular house of idolatry."
1. A forbidden pillar is a pillar that serves as a central point of
worship for gatherings of people is called a forbidden pillar. It is
forbidden even if the people come to it in order to worship G-d, for
this was the way of the idolater. Anyone who erects such a pillar
performs a forbidden act, but is not killed for it. A stone floor with
figures carved on it to attract the eye is called a figured stone and is
forbidden. Even if one bows down on it with the intention of honouring
G-d he performs a forbidden act for this was the way of the idolater,
but he is not killed for it. The way of idol worship was to lay a stone
floor such as this before the idol. All stood on the
figured stone floor, then bowed before the idol.
Therefore, one should not employ a similar practice concerning the
worship of G-d.
2. The previous law applies in all places but the Holy Temple in
Jerusalem where it is permissible to bow down to G-d upon a stone floor.
3. One who bows down on a figured stone floor does not transgress
until he bows in total prostration, spreading his arms and legs. But if
he bows to an actual idol (the figured stone was only a floor placed
before an idol), whether he bows down in complete prostration or merely
bows from the waist, he transgresses the prohibition against idolatry
and is killed for it.
4. It is a commandment to destroy all idols and all things used in
serving them and everything that is made because of it, and in the Land
of Israel it is a commandment to pursue after the idol until it is
destroyed completely from the land.
5. It is forbidden to derive pleasure or benefit from actual
idols and all items needed for their service or sacrifices to the idol
(wine, meat, or incense) and all that may be made to beautify
the idol (candles or clothes that are spread out for its honour).
Anyone who benefits from any of these transgresses, but is not killed
6. One is forbidden any benefit or usage from an animal that has
been offered to an idol, including the animal's excrement, its bones,
its horns, hooves, or skin. Therefore, if there is a skin
with a mark on it that indicates this skin was offered to an idol, such
as a round hole torn opposite the heart of the animal, this skin is
forbidden for use in any way.
7. The difference between an idol belonging to a Noahide and the
idol of a Israelite is that the former is forbidden immediately after
its making is completed event though it has not yet been served. A
Noahide's idol becomes a g-d from the moment it exists as a graven
image. The idol of an Israelite is not forbidden until it is served.
8. The articles that are for the idol, whether they belong to a
Noahide or to an Israelite, are not forbidden for use until they are
used for the idol. And this also applies to any ornament,
that it does not become forbidden until it is actually used for the
9. One who makes idols for others, even though he receives lashes,
his wages for the job are permitted him. This is because one is paid
for a job from the beginning to the end, yet this
craftsman's work did not become an idol till the last blow of his
hammer, which is not worth even a small coin, therefore, the rest of his
wages earned for making something that was not yet an idol
10. A Noahide who purchases scrap metal and finds an idol in it, if
he has taken possession of the article as his own, even if he has not
paid the money for it, it is considered a completed
transaction, as taking possession is the proof of purchase. He should
cast the metal in the sea. And similarly, if a Noahide inherits an idol
from his father who was an idolater, he should cast it into
11. If a Noahide sells an idol in order that the purchaser will
serve the idol, the money is nevertheless permitted him. This is when
it is definitely known that the money is being used for his
personal purposes. But if the usage is unknown and we suspect that he
sold one idol to gain the money to buy another idol, in this case the
money is forbidden to be used.
12. Figures and images that are made for artistic purposes and not
idolatry are permitted for pleasure or profit. Those that appear to
have been made for idolatry are forbidden. A statue that
is found in a city, if it is standing by the entrance to the city and in
the hand of the figure is a staff or a bird or a globe or a sword or a
crown and a ring, it must be presumed to be an idol and it is forbidden
for any use. If not, it is presumed to be of artistic beauty only and
13. Crosses that are publicly displayed are in the category of idols
since people give honour to them, remove their hats before them, and bow
down or genuflect to them. However, the cross that hangs
around a person's neck is only made for and used as a remembrance and is
not considered a forbidden image, and is permitted. In uses such as
this, there is no difference whether the cross is actually hanging
around the neck or not.
14. However, priests in that have crosses in their vestments or
around their neck represent something very different from the cross worn
by a person as a remembrance, since the priest stands as a figure of
religious authority. Therefore, one must never bow to them nor remove
the hat in front of them or do anything that may give the appearance
that one worships the cross worn by a priest. If one bows or removes a
hat as a gesture of giving honour to G-d, it must be discreetly away
from the presence of such a cross, and preferably prior to the priest's
appearance. If it is in a place and a sect where it is known
that these worshippers do not bow down to their images, but rather to
the honour of the priests that wear them, then one can be lenient here
to avoid offending these priests. But where it is known that the people
bow down to their statues and crosses in a manner that would clearly
appear idolatrous, one must be strict with himself and avoid this.
15. In earlier times, when people were strongly attached to their
idolatrous images, they would carve or engrave the images on vessels
that they used. If these carved images were ones that were
served, such carving is forbidden to do and to use these vessels are
similarly forbidden. This is only when the engravings are on precious
vessels such as jewellery and expensive fabric and clothes.
The wearing of a medal around the neck for luck when travelling or such
similar things, since the image on the medal is a remembrance and is not
worshipped, one need not be strict about these.
16. If one finds vessels such as jewelery or expensive fabrics with
images on them, if it is known that these images were made in the name
of idol worship such as those found in India and throughout
southeast Asia, there are certainly forbidden. But if one is not sure
what the images were made for or if they are found on non-precious
vessels, such as crude vessels used for water or other
foods, then they would not be forbidden.
17. Even if it is an image that is sometimes found on an expensive
ring and it is an image that has been used for idolatry, if it is now
found on a vessel of lower quality, then it is considered
not being done for idolatry.
18. If one is in doubt if the vessel is a precious one or not and
the image is known to be sometimes used for idolatry, the vessel and
image are forbidden to carve and to use. Others are more strict and
hold that if the vessel is precious, then it is forbidden to use if it
is unknown whether the image on it has been used for idolatry.
19. However, today the situation is such that people are not as
attached to their idols, even to the images that they serve such as the
cross or a nursing mother with her child. Because of this,
if a vessel is found in western lands, it can be assumed that the images
are for beauty and a general remembrance, and not for idolatry. Thus
the vessel would be permitted for use, but it should not be
allowed to remain in one's possession as it might give people the wrong
20. If one finds vessels and upon them are the figures of a sun, or
a moon, or a dragon, if the vessel is of gold or silver or a cloth of
silk with scarlet colour, or if these were carved on rings
or earrings, they are forbidden.
21. If one finds these images on other, less precious articles, they
are permissible because they presumed to be done for artistic purposes
and merely ornamental.
22. Idols and other articles used for their service cause other
objects that they become mixed up with to be forbidden, even if the
idolatrous articles are but a small factor in the number of
objects. For example: if idols are mixed in with a ornamental figures
and the idol is but one in a thousand of the figures, everything is
forbidden and must be thrown in the Dead Sea or similar
water where the metal will corrode or be lost.
23. Meat or wine that has been prepared as an idolatrous offering is
not forbidden even though it has entered the house of idolatrous worship
until it is actually offered to the idol. Once it has been
offered, it is forbidden forever, and it is of no help to remove it from
the house of idolatrous worship.
24. Anything that is found in the house of idol worship is
forbidden, even salt and water. One eats even the smallest amount
transgresses, but is not killed for it.
25. If a person finds money or vessels on the head of an idol, if
the items appear to be placed there as an expression of contempt, they
are permissible for use. For example: a purse is found
hanging on the neck of the idol, a cloth is draped over its head, a
vessel is turned upside down and placed on top of its head, all these
are permissible. These items were obviously placed there
to disgrace the idol, and so it is with anything similar to this.
26. An article is forbidden, however, even if it is found on the
idol's head if it is similar to an article offered by the altar, or the
article appears to be there to give honour to the idol. These
particulars refer to an idol that is found outside, in no specific place
of worship. But if they were found inside a house of idolatrous
worship, whether the items appear there by way of contempt or honour,
all of them are forbidden, even water and salt.
27. If there is a garden or pool with an ornamental idol in it, so
long as it is not for the benefit of the idol's priests, one may use
garden or pool. But if it is for the priests, it is forbidden to use
such a garden or pool.
28. If the garden or pool are there for the idol and for the general
populace, even if the priests use it as well, one may use them so long
as no fee is paid.
29. It is permissible to wash in a bathhouse that has an idol in it
as it is there for ornamental purposes. And an idol in a bathhouse is
there as a disgrace, for all urinate in front of it. If, however, this
is the way of worshipping the idol, it is forbidden to enter.
30. Some opinions hold that if the bathhouse fees are not used for
the upkeep of the idol, even if the idolatrous priests benefit from
them, the bathhouse may be used. Other opinions forbid its
use if the priests benefit from the fees.
31. The situation is similar with stores from which profits are used
for the upkeep of an idol. It is forbidden to trade in such a store.
However, if profits are collected by the government and they in turn
support the upkeep of the idol, then it is permissible to trade in these
32. If those engaged in the upkeep of idols collect taxes for the
needs of the idols, it is forbidden to pay them any taxes. However, if
the profits first go to the government which in turn
dispenses money for the upkeep of idols, it is permissible to pay them
33. It is forbidden to use a knife that was used to slaughter
animals as offerings to an idol, but if an animal was slaughtered (not
for an idol) with such a knife, the meat from the animal is permissible.
34. Bread that is given to the priests of an idol is permissible
because this bread is not offered to the idol but is the priests'
35. Wax candles that were lit before an idol for ornamentation are
forbidden even after they were extinguished because the intention may
have been to relight them. But if they were extinguished
without the intention of relighting, they made be used. However, even
if the candles were knowingly extinguished without the intention of
relighting them, they may not be used in any way for the
honour of G-d or to fulfill a commandment, such as to illuminate a
house of worship or to have light to study the Seven Laws.
36. Candle drippings from a candle lit before an idol are forbidden
inasmuch as the candle produced them while used for idolatry.
37. Hunks of wax placed before an idol are permitted. So long as
the rule of not having found them in a house of idol worship is heeded.
38. Some opinions hold that the clothing of idolatrous priests may
be used for they were for the priests' benefit, not the idol's. Others
disagree and say they need to be nullified before they can be used.
(See further for rules of nullification).
39. Clothing used for the idol itself or cloth spread before it must
be nullified before it can be used.
1. Anything that cannot be handled by man nor made by man, even
though it is worshipped, is permissible for use. Therefore, even if
idolaters worship mountains or hills, trees that grow
naturally or were planted for fruit, excluding those planted originally
for idolatrous reasons, public streams (a private stream may have been
dug for idolatrous reasons and may therefore be forbidden), or animals,
all are permissible for use. And it is permissible to eat fruit that
was worshipped so long as it remains in a state of natural growth,
attached to the tree or bush, and it is permissible to eat worshipped
animals. And, to be sure, an animal that is designated for use
in idolatry as an offering, prior to its being offered, may
be used or eaten. This is prior to its being used in actual deed for
the sake of the idol, but if it were used for the idol, even in the
slightest way, it becomes forbidden. For example: if the animal has
been slaughtered for idolatry or has been exchanged for an idol or has
been exchanged for something that has been exchanged for an idol, these
are all forbidden as they are monetarily equivalent to an idol.
2. This previous situation is where the person's own animal is used
for idolatry, but where a person takes another's animal without
permission and slaughters it for idolatry or exchanges it,
it remains permissible for use. A person cannot cause anything to
become forbidden which is not his own.
3. If one bows down to the earth in its natural state, the ground
he bows to does not become forbidden, but if he digs pits, ditches, or
caves in the name of idolatry, this ground becomes
4. If a person bows down to water which has been displaced from its
natural state by a wave washing it into a ditch or the like, it is not
forbidden water. But if he takes the water in his hand and
bows down to it, it becomes forbidden.
5. Rocks of a mountain that a person worships are permissible so
long as they remain in their natural place, but if they are handled and
moved, then worshipped, they become forbidden.
6. If a person erected a pillar or even set up a brick with the
intention of worshipping it, but he did not worship it, then other
idolaters came along and worshipped it, it is forbidden, as this is
considered setting up an idolatrous pillar.
7. Similarly, if a person set up an egg to worship and did not
worship it, but others came and worshipped it, it is forbidden.
8. If he cut a pumpkin or similar object and bowed down to it, it
becomes forbidden. If he bowed down to half the pumpkin and the second
half remains attached to it, the second half is also forbidden because
it is possible that he means it as an offshoot of the half that is being
9. A tree that is planted order that it be worshipped as an idol is
forbidden. This is called an asherah, and is specifically mentioned in
10. A tree that had been planted and then the branches were trimmed
off in order to serve the idol, and even if they were stuck in the
ground or grafted to the trunk of another tree and produced twigs, the
twigs should be cut away from the rest of the tree and are forbidden,
although the rest of the tree is permitted.
11. If a tree is bowed to, although its trunk is permissible, all
the shoots and fruit and branches and leaves that come forth during the
time that it is worshipped are forbidden.
12. If idolaters watched the fruit of a tree and said that the fruit
is there for them to make a drink for an idolatrous temple, and they
made the drink and drank it on the day of their festival, this tree is
forbidden. It must be considered that they planted it for idolatry in
the first place and this is why its fruit was used.
13. If an idol stands underneath a tree, so long as it is there, the
tree is forbidden. It is considered an accessory to idol worship and
any pleasure from this tree, even its shade, is forbidden.
If the idol is removed, the tree becomes permissible for the tree itself
was never served as an idol.
14. If a house was built with the intention of being worshipped as
an idol, or if one bows down to one that was already built, even without
the intention of it becoming an idol, this house is
forbidden. This does not mean that an idolater that passes any house
and bows to it cause the house to be forbidden. The house must be owned
by the one who bows to it.
15. If a house was not made or served as an idol, but was renovated,
plastered and decorated with images that were inlaid or carved in relief
in the name of an idol, one should remove the renovations.
They are forbidden because they were made to serve an idol. Then the
rest of the house is permissible for use.
16. If one brings idols into a house, for as long as they are there
the house is forbidden for use as it is considered an accessory to idol
worship. Once the idols are removed in a way that indicates a
nullification of the house's use as an accessory to them, the house
becomes permissible. If the idols were brought there by a Noahide, and
a Israelite removes them from the house, this does not represent a
nullification, because it may be construed that the Noahide wishes the
idols to remain, but the Israelite did not. Therefore, just as a
Noahide brought the idols into the house, a Noahide must take the idols
out of the house in order for it to be considered a nullification
of the house's status as an accessory to idol worship.
17. One may not use a forbidden house in any way. One may not
enter it, nor sit in its shade. However, it is permissible to pass
through its shadows.
18. It is also advised that one should distance oneself at least
eight feet from the entrance of a house of idol worship.
19. It is forbidden to listen to the music, smell the fragrance, or
gaze at the ornaments of idolatrous worship. All the more so, one is
forbidden to gaze at the idol itself.
20. If one must walk near a place of idol worship, he should cover
his eyes, stop up his ears, and hold his nose to avoid having any
sensory benefit from the idolatry. Even if the person has no intention
of taking pleasure from these sights, sounds, and smells, he is still
bound to conduct himself in the preceding manner, since he will
certainly receive some pleasure from them if he does not act so. And
one is obligated to be cautious even in a situation where there are no
alternative routes. (-Chochmas Adam)
21. Similarly, if a stone was originally carved in order that it be
worshipped, it is forbidden immediately, even before it is worshipped.
22. If the stone was carved, painted and decorated with the intent
that it be worshipped as an idol, the additions to the natural stone
should be removed and are forbidden for use. The rest of
the stone is then permissible for use.
23. If an idol rests on a stone, the stone is forbidden for use for
as long as the idol is there. When it is removed, the stone is
permissible for use.
24. If one has a house with a common wall to a house of idol worship
and his house falls, he should not rebuild it as it was, but build it
completely within his own property so that he shares no
wall with the idolatrous house. The space that remains between his
house and the house of idolatry he should fill with thorns or fertilizer
in order that the house of idolatry not be enlarged to
encroach on his territory. If he has a common wall to an idolatrous
house, he should measure the thickness of the wall and just his half of
the wall as his and the other half of the wall as belonging
to the idolatrous house. The stone or wood or dirt from that other half
is forbidden for any use.
25. The proper manner of destroying an idol and all the articles
that are forbidden because of it is to grind them to powder and scatter
them to the wind, or they should be burnt and dumped in the Dead Sea or
similar body of water to corrode or be forever lost.
26. Any thing that a man's hand cannot grasp that has been served as
an idol, such as a mountain or an animal or a tree, is permissible for
use even though it has been worshipped. But the coverings
(i.e. of gold or silver) of such things are forbidden. Whoever has the
slightest benefit or pleasure from these things transgresses, but the
courts do not punish for this.
27. An idol or any accessory to an idol, if it is nullified as an
idol, it becomes permissible for use. But anything that is offered up
to the idol remains forbidden forever, and nullification is of no help.
28. An idol worshipped by Jews can never be nullified, even if a
Noahide owned it in partnership with a Jew. It is forbidden forever and
must be destroyed. Similarly if the idol of a Noahide
comes into the hand of a Jew and afterward the Noahide nullifies it, his
nullification is of no help at all. It is forbidden forever.
29. An Israelite cannot nullify the idol of a Noahide, even if it is
in the domain of the Noahide and the latter gave the Jew permission to
nullify it. Only a Noahide can nullify his own idol.
30. A minor or a fool cannot nullify an idol.
31. A Noahide who nullifies an idol, whether it was his or whether
it belonged to others (other than Jews), whether it was done because he
was forced to do it, even if a Jew forced him, the idol is
nullified because the Noahide has served this idol. But one who does
not serve idols, his nullification is of no use. In brief, the
nullification process needs the one who performed the idol worship to
nullify the idol. If someone else does it, his act proves nothing.
32. The nullification of an idol automatically nullifies its
accessories. But if only the accessories were nullified, although they
are permissible for use, the idol itself remains forbidden.
33. Vessels that an idolatrous priest holds in his hand, such as a
goblet or incense tray or a recorder or other musical instruments are
considered accessories and require nullification.
34. Idolatrous figures are nullified by chopping off the tip of the
nose or the top of the ear or the top of the finger or by hammering in a
portion of its face (even though no material is lost) or by
selling it to a Jew who smelts metal. All these are nullification.
35. Some authorities hold that one who merely desires to chop off
the ear, etc. achieves nullification provided that he explicitly
declares that this is a willing nullification. If he is forced to
nullify, words mean nothing, he needs the actual deed. Other opinions
hold that even if it is sold to a Jewish smelter, it is not
nullification. (-Chochmas Adam)
36. But if the idolatrous figure is given as collateral or sold it
to a Noahide or to an Israelite who does not smelt or it falls onto a
garbage pile and is not cleaned away or it was stolen by robbers and the
articles were not reclaimed or if one spit in front of it or urinated in
front of it or one dragged it on the ground or threw it into excrement,
this is not nullification.
37. If the worshippers abandoned an idol and it is a time of peace,
it is permissible for use (as a nutcracker, etc.) because it is
considered nullified (since they did not take it with them, it shows
that they no longer value it), but if it is time of war, it is forbidden
because they abandoned it only because of the war.
38. If an idol broke in half by itself or by accident, the broken
pieces are forbidden until they are nullified. Therefore, if one finds
broken pieces of an idol, they are forbidden for use because it is
possible its worshippers did not nullify it.
39. If the idol was made in pieces that fit together so that the
average person could reassemble it, one has to nullify each separate
piece. If the idol cannot be reassembled, only one limb need be
40. An idol's altar that becomes damaged is still forbidden for use
or for any gain or benefit until the majority of it has been smashed by
41. If the idol stands upon one stone or many stones and there is
damage to the stone, it is permissible for use or for benefit because
stones are normally discarded in favour of new ones. This
presumes that the stone has no special character that would make the
idolaters consider it unique.
1. One who consorts with ghosts or raise spirits to know hidden
things or to know the future, and he does it of his own free will and
intentionally, is liable for idolatry. A Noahide is
permanently warned about these things in the sense that he can never
claim that he did not know the law.
2. If he stands and burns certain incense and holds a myrtle branch
in his hand and waves, it and he speaks whispered words that are known
by practitioners of this rite, until the one who is
summoning hears another as if it is speaking with him. And he answers
what he is asked by the speaker in words that are below the earth in a
very deep voice which is not recognized by the ear, but
felt in the thoughts, and he takes the skull of a dead person and he
offers incense to it and uses arts of divination with whispers and other
various rituals to the skull until he hears a low voice proceeding forth
from under his armpit - all these come under the category of raising
ghosts and the practitioner is killed for them.
3. If a person places the bone of a certain bird or other kind of
creature in his mouth and offers incense and performs other rituals till
he falls to the ground like one stricken with an epileptic seizure and
he speaks in this trance things that will happen in the future, this is
a form of idolatry and he is killed for it.
4. It is a matter of dispute whether a Noahide is forbidden to
perform acts of witchcraft.
5. There is also a dispute concerning the permissibility of
divination - the act of interpreting signs. Some authorities hold that
it is forbidden and idolatrous and others contend that it is permissible
and even meritorious, approaching the level of prophecy, and that great
and holy sages engaged in such practices.
6. How does one engage in divination? For example, he might say:
"Since my bread fell from my mouth or my staff fell from my hand, I will
not go to a certain place today, because if I go today, my
needs will not be done," or, "Since a fox passed on my right side, I
will not go out of my house today, for if I do, a sneaky individual will
meet me and trick me."
7. Similarly, those who hear a bird calling and they say, "It will
be thus and it will not be thus," or, "It will be good to do thus and it
will not be good to do thus," are engaging in divination.
8. Also, if a person proposes conditions, saying, "If such and such
happens to me, I will do such and such, but if it doesn't happen to me,
I will not do it."
9. Everything that is similar to the foregoing is divination. But
even according to the opinion that holds it is forbidden, divination is
not punishable by the courts.
10. Certain interpretations of signs are considered permissible by
all, however. One who says, "This house that I built has been a good
luck sign from the moment I built it," or, "My wife has been
a blessing, for from the moment I married her, I started becoming
wealthy," or, "This animal that I acquired has brought me luck. From
the moment I got it, I started becoming wealthy," is doing
11. And similarly, one who asks a child, "What verse did you learn?"
And if the child tells him something which indicates a blessing, and the
man becomes happy and says, "This is a good sign," does no wrong.
12. The difference of opinion occurs only when a person determines
future actions by the interpretations of signs. A person who merely
acknowledges a sign for something that already occurred is not
13. What is magic? It is engaging in exercises or disciplines that
bring one to an euphoric state or that interrupt normal thought
processes in order to proclaim future events. One might say, "Thus and
so will happen in the future or it will not happen," or he might say,
"it is advisable to be careful of thus and so."
14. There are those who engage in magic that use a stone or sand,
and there are those who bend down towards the earth and move around and
emit screams. There are those that look into a brass mirror or a
crystal ball, then predict the future to one who is seeking this
knowledge. There are those that lift a staff in their hands and lean on
it and strike it until they augment their thought processes to be able
to speak about the future.
15. Moreover, one who uses illusion to grasp the viewer by showing
them things that are not in the natural order of things, and makes it
appear to the watcher that this illusionist did a miraculous
deed, he is in this category, and such actions are forbidden as they
lead to idolatrous practices.
16. It is forbidden to practise magic or to consult one who
practises magic, but the courts do not punish for the practice of magic
or for consulting a practitioner of magic. (One must be reminded that
in all instances of transgression which are outside the jurisdiction of
the courts, the transgressor is punished by the Hand of Heaven.)
17. What is observing of times? It is giving certain times which,
according to astrology, indicate that such a day is good and such a day
is bad, such a day is proper to do thus and so and such a
day one should not do thus and so, or such a year or such a month is bad
for such a thing.
18. Astrological forecasts are in a different category from using
astrology to understand a person's characteristics and natural
tendencies, the latter being a permissible practice.
19. It is forbidden to be an observer of the times. It is forbidden
even though an observer of times did not perform an action, but merely
revealed his falsehoods to gullible people, and convinced them that
these were words of truth and contain wisdom. All who conduct
themselves and their activities because of astrological forecasts,
working at a certain time or travelling at a certain time which the
astrologers determined, transgresses the law, but the courts do not
punish for this.
20. What is a charmer? This is one who speaks words which are not
of the language of people and have no essence nor understanding. None
of the vulgar sounds or words or spoken names of the charmer contain the
power to cause harm nor do they do any good at all. But gullible people
accept such things to the point where they will believe a charmer when
he says, "If you will say such and such to a poisonous
snake or to a scorpion, the snake nor the scorpion can do no harm," or,
"If a person has such and such said to him, he is protected from harm by
a snake or a scorpion."
21. The charmer might tell a person to hold a key or a stone at the
time he says the things he is told to say. Anything similar to this is
in the category of dealing in charms and both the charmer and
the one subjecting himself to the charmer transgress the law, but
neither are punished by the courts.
22. If a person was bitten by a poisonous snake or stung by a
scorpion, he is permitted to whisper any kind of spell he chooses over
the place of the wound if he thinks it will help. This is just so the
person, who is in mortal danger, can put his mind at ease and take
courage. And even though what he says will certainly not help at all,
since he is in danger, he is allowed to do it to avoid panicking.
23. One who whispers spells over another's wound or reads verses
from the Torah over one who is sick or dying, and similarly one who
reads verses over a child to prevent the child from becoming fearful is
worse than one who is in the category of a diviner or a charmer, because
by using the Holy Scriptures like this to cure the body, he denies the
truth of the Torah, which comes as a cure for the soul. But one who
studies appropriate parts of the Torah or reads Psalms in order that the
merit of reading them should protect him and save him from danger and
harm, this is permissible. (Note: Of course, it is best to
pray to G-d for protection and healing of every kind.)
24. What is a necromancer? One who starves himself and sleeps
overnight in a cemetery in order to bring the dead to him in a dream to
inform him of something.
25. There are also those who wear certain clothing and speak
incantations and offer a incense and sleep alone in order to bring a
specific dead person to come and speak to him in a dream.
26. In general, all who do various rites in order to bring the dead
to learn information are in the category of necromancy and transgress
the law, but are not punished by the courts for it.
27. It is forbidden to consult one who raises ghosts or spirits,
because these practitioners are liable the death penalty. One who
consults with these and does not do the rituals, transgresses,
but is not punished by the courts.
28. A wizard is liable the death penalty by stoning. This is one
who engages in witchcraft. But if it is not true witchcraft, but merely
using slight of hand or other illusions to fool the onlooker, the
practitioner transgresses the law, but is not punished by the courts for
it. It is, however, a serious matter as such illusion are found in true
29. All the foregoing are acts of deception and are false things,
and through them the idolater deceives the people of the world in order
to gain a following. But all who are wise and possess true
knowledge know by clear proofs that all these idolatrous practices are
empty and vain and contain no value at all. Those who are drawn after
such things lack understanding and depart from the way of
truth. Because of this, the Torah instructs all concerning these
foolish vanities, "Be wholehearted with the L-rd your G-d." (Deut.
18:13), meaning put your trust in G-d and know that everything that
comes to you comes from Him. (Rashbam)
1. Blasphemy is the act of cursing the Creator. It is a deed so
indescribably heinous, that the Talmud, whenever referring to blasphemy,
calls it by the euphemistic term "Blessing G-d," to avoid directly
expressing the idea of cursing G-d, the Father of all.
2. Blasphemy is the only means by which one transgresses the Seven
Universal Laws through the faculty of speech alone.
3. The prohibition against blasphemy comes to teach us not to speak
evilly against G-d, nor to detract from His exaltedness in any way by
intentionally using words to lessen the reverence and faith befitting
4. As with any of the Seven Universal Laws, before one can be tried
in a Court of Law for having transgressed a commandment, there must be a
witness to the deed who is willing to testify against the
accused. This poses something of a legalistic problem, for how can the
witness testify against the accused unless he repeats the blasphemous
expression used, which would be a further transgression of this
5. In the Jewish Courts of Law, the matter was handled in the
following manner: the witnesses during the entirety of the trial was
directed to use a euphemistic phrase for the actual blasphemous
utterance that he heard, eliminating reference to G-d in the phrase.
Then, at the conclusion of the proceedings, the courtroom was cleared of
all but those essential to the trial, and the witnesses were obligated
to repeat the actual blasphemy that they heard. Upon hearing the
blasphemy, the judges rent their garments as one does for the
death of a parent or any other tragedy that befits a response of grief.
6. Rabbi Chiya declared that after the destruction of the Second
Temple one who heard blasphemy was no longer required to rend his
garments, otherwise all would be walking around with their
garments in tatters. (Sanh. 60a)
7. The Code of Jewish Law, which is the final word in determining the
religious obligations of the Jew, states that a person who hears
blasphemy is commanded to place the blasphemer under a ban of
excommunication, regardless of whether the blasphemy was uttered against
G-d's Name or any of His divine attributes, whether in the Hebrew
language or any of the other languages of the world, or whether the
blasphemer was a Jew or a Gentile. (Yoreh Deah 340.37) This ban of
communication means that the person has no rights as a member of the
community and that all are forbidden to speak to him or her.
8. Profaning the L-rd of Hosts with one's lips, G-d forbid, is a
transgression similar to, but a more refined than idolatry. Whereas
idolatry is the act of worshipping a creation and thereby denying the
true existence of the Creator, blasphemy is an acknowledgment of His
existence, but a denial of His greatness or His goodness. The
blasphemer denies the truth that everything comes directly from G-d
solely for mankind's benefit and as a bestowal of goodness. Often the
goodness is unrevealed, as with a person's pain and suffering. At these
times, one with a coarse consciousness or without a sufficient degree of
faith in G-d can come to verbally expressing dissatisfaction
with his lot through blasphemy, and thus transgress the law.
9. We see the essence of this problem in the Book of Job.
Job, G-d's faithful servant is struck down by Satan with
boils from his feet to the crown of his head. As he sat in agony from
the affliction, his wife scolded him, saying: "Are you still
holding fast to your integrity? Curse G-d, and die." But he answered
her, "You speak as one who is despicable. Should we accept only the
good from G-d and not also accept the evil?" With all this, Job did not
sin with his lips.' (Job 2:9-10).
10. And consistent with this, it is a Jewish tradition to bless G-d
for the bad as well as for the good. Even when one, G-d forbid, hear
news of a person's death, he responds by saying, "Baruch Dayan
Emet - Blessed be the True Judge."
11. Blasphemy as an expression of an incomplete faith in G-d is
consistent with the false notion that there are two powers, G-d's and
Satan's. The theology that believes this remains constantly at the
level of blasphemy, for it denies that G-d is the L-rd and Master of
12. We need look no further than the very Book of Job just cited to
see clearly that G-d, indeed, is the Ruler of Satan as well as everyone
and everything else, for when Satan wishes to test Job, he first
petitions G-d for permission whereby G-d sets definite boundaries for
the Satan, commanding him not to take Job's life, saying, "Behold, he is
in thy hand, but guard his life." (Job 2:6).
13. The notion that the evil force rebelled against the L-rd and set
up a separate kingdom is, in itself, the teaching of blasphemy for it
denigrates the Creator and denies His infinite majesty.
14. Some authorities state that false oaths or meaningless oaths
whereby one invokes the Name of G-d are forbidden under the category of
blasphemy. An example of a false oath would be for one to take an oath
in G-d's Name that a tree is a rock, and a meaningless oath would be for
one to swear in G-d's Name that a tree is a tree. There is a difference
of a opinion as to whether delaying acting on an oath is a violation of
1. The commandment of blasphemy is transgressed even if one uses
another term for G-d, e.g. an attribute or the like, such as the
Merciful One, the Father, or any other descriptive term. No matter how
one curses G-d, and no matter in what language, one transgresses this
commandment is subject to the death penalty by a court of law.
2. Anyone who acknowledges that an idolatry is true, even though he
does not serve it, it is as if he reviles and blasphemes the mighty and
exalted Name of G-d. Whether a person is an idolater or a blasphemer it
is the same in that both deny G-d. One who blasphemed and instantly
retracted his words is nonetheless guilty if he blasphemed in front of
witnesses. If he blasphemed in private and his words were heard no one
other than himself and his Creator, let him repent and G-d
will forgive his transgression.
4. One who curses G-d in the name of idolatry is subject to being
attacked and killed by zealots, who are, in turn, held harmless by the
law. But one who is not a zealot, but seeks reprisal against a
transgressor because of a desire for justice, must begin proceedings
through due process of law against the accused.
Note: a zealot is one who serves G-d with a passionate love
and is jealous for G-d's honour. Reacting to a desecration of G-d's
Name, the zealot takes immediate action to stop the desecration. If one
has to ponder the situation or ask the opinion of another, wiser than he
in such matters, his hesitation or intellectual inquiry takes him out of
the category of the zealot, and he and is forbidden to take action. The
scriptural source for the action of a zealot is seen by heroics of
Phineas, who stopped a plague among the Children of Israel when he slew
a prince of the tribe of Simeon and the Midianite woman with whom he was
having forbidden sexual relations. (Numbers 25:7-8)
5. Anyone who acknowledges that an idolatry is true, even though he
does not serve it, it is as if he reviles and blasphemes the mighty and
exalted Name of G-d. Whether a person is an idolater or a blasphemer it
is the same in that both deny G-d.
6. It should be the goal of every one of the Children of Noah to
strive to do more than the minimum that the law requires, for this is
the idea of piety and one who fulfills the Seven Universal Laws
is called one of the pious of the nations.
Bearing this in mind, a person is well-advised to withhold
negative comments against his fellow man as well as against his Creator,
for in G-d's image was man created and one who reviles his
fellow, insults G-d as well.
7. This concept has no limit for the commandments of G-d are as deep
as the ocean and as wide as the sky. Since everything in creation
reflects the hand of the Creator, a truly pious person
withholds himself from speaking negatively against anything. There are
times, however, when it is appropriate and even mandatory to speak out
against someone, for instance when one is engaged in wicked
pursuits and it appears that others will follow the transgressor's lead,
then it becomes a great kindness to speak in condemnation of that
person. But in the main, gossip, calumny, and tale-bearing
against one's fellow man, even when the statements are true, will stand
in the way of the individual's spiritual and moral growth.
1. The commandment prohibiting murder is explicitly stated to Noah
by G-d, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,
for He made man in the image of G-d." (Genesis 9:6)
2. A Noahide who kills a human being, even a baby in the womb of
its mother, receives the death penalty. This means that one who strikes
a pregnant women thereby killing the fetus, incurs the
death penalty. The fetus must be 40 days after conception. Before 40
days, the act is in the category of destruction of man's seed and he is
liable for punishment from Heaven, not by a court on earth.
3. Men and women are equally responsible to observe the prohibition
against murder, and any act for which a man is held liable, a woman is
equally held liable.
4. If a person kills one who is terminally ill or is falling from
the top of a cliff or is certain to die even momentarily for any other
reason, he transgresses the prohibition against murder and is liable for
punishment by the courts. This places the idea of mercy killing or
euthanasia squarely in the category of murder.
5. If one pushes a person onto a subway track and a train
subsequently comes and kills him, or if one leaves a person in a
situation where he will surely starve to death, although the action only
indirectly causes the person's death, it is murder and the act is
punishable by the courts.
6. If a person sees someone pursuing another for the obvious or
suspected intent of committing murder or with the intent of causing the
pursued to commit a sin, and the observer is able to stop the pursuer by
wounding him, but kills him instead, he transgresses this commandment
and receives the death penalty. If, however, the person himself is
being pursued, he is free to take any action necessary to
save his own life.
7. Authorities are in disagreement about the permissibility of a
Noahide killing a fetus in order to save the life of the mother. But
all agree that taking the mother's life to save the fetus is murder and
punishable by the courts.
8. If a Noahide kills someone through a messenger, both the
messenger and the one who sent him are liable for punishment as
9. A person is commanded to allow himself or herself to be killed
rather than kill. This means that if a person is threatened on pain of
death to kill someone, he must not commit murder regardless of the
10. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the Seven
Universal Laws include the commandment forbidding the willful
destruction of a man's seed through masturbation or any other act of
wasting semen. All agree, however, that sexual relations with a woman
who is incapable of bearing children is not considered wasting semen.
One opinion is that the commandment to be fruitful and
multiply, having been giving to Noah but not repeated to Moses, was in
force only during those generations before the historical event of Mount
Sinai. In those early times, wasting semen was considered among the
most heinous of sins and a chief reason that G-d brought the Flood to
destroy the world. Moreover, the Torah clearly teaches that Judah's two
sons of Er and Onan were killed by G-d for, "the thing which he did was
evil in the eyes of the L-rd." (Genesis 38:10) But this also occurred
prior to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This opinion concludes
that since the commandment against wasting seed was not
repeated at Mount Sinai, it is no longer in effect as part of the Seven
The other opinion states that despite its not being
repeated at Mount Sinai, since it was originally part of the Seven
Universal Laws, man must not willfully destroy his seed,
though the act is not punishable by the courts. After a man has
fulfilled his minimal obligation of bringing a son and a daughter into
the world, and wishes then to use contraceptive devices, he should use
those types that do not act directly on the semen. Also, according to
this viewpoint, masturbation would be strictly forbidden.
In spiritual terms, the reason for the great concern and
strictness concerning a man wasting his seed is that it is considered
the willful destruction of his life-giving force and equated with life
itself. Therefore, the destruction of one's seed is related closely to
murder, and, more than that, to murder of one's own children.
1. It is written: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his
mother and shall cling to his wife and they shall be one flesh." (Gen.
2:24) According to the Holy Spirit this verse comes to instruct mankind
concerning forbidden relationships.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother" -
this forbids sexual relations with the wife of his father
(not his mother) even after the death of his father when she
is no longer considered a married woman. Obviously, this
includes his natural mother. "cling to his wife" - comes to
teach us that he shall have relations with his own wife and
not another man's wife. "to his wife" - comes to teach us
that he shall have relations with the opposite sex, not with
male. "and they shall be of one flesh" - comes to exclude
animal for an animal is not of one flesh with a man.
2. A Gentile is forbidden to have relationships with certain
relatives and others to whom he or she is not related. These are:
A. His or her mother.
B. His or her father
C. His or her daughter.
D. His father's sister.
E. His mother's sister.
F. His uncle's wife.
3. Under the Seven Universal Laws, one is permitted to have
relations with individuals related through marriage after the death of
the relative. According to some opinions, this even includes his
father's wife (not his mother) after his father dies. Those falling in
this category are:
A. His father's wife, not his mother.
B. His brother's wife.
C. His wife's sister.
D. His daughter-in-law.
E. His father's new wife and his stepsister.
It is the opinion of some authorities that the father's wife
is forbidden even after the death the father, and they include even
women that the father merely had relations with, even if they were
seduced or raped by the father. Others permit the father's wife after
his death, but forbid relations with either the father's or the mother's
4. It is argued in the name of Rabbi Akiva that all relationships
that warrant the death penalty in a Jewish court of law also will
receive the death penalty in a Gentile court of law. This
includes a relationship that exists through marriage (i.e. mother-in-law
or daughter-in-law). The reason is that since one's father's wife is
forbidden and this is a relationship that came about through marriage,
we extrapolate and say that all relatives that are related through
marriage are forbidden and such relationships are punishable
by the courts. Others say that only the father's wife is in this
forbidden category and they exclude other relatives through marriage.
5. Forbidden relationships, other than relatives, are:
A. Another man's wife.
B. A male with a male.
C. A person (male or female) with an animal.
6. A man is forbidden to have relations with another man's wife,
whether she is the wife of another Gentile or the Jewish wife of a Jew.
Since the Gentile wife of a Jew is not considered his wife, she is
permissible. Under the Seven Universal Laws, a woman is considered to
be a man's wife when the couple has sexual relations with the intent of
7. If a married woman performs an act of sodomy or abnormal
intercourse with a man (anything other than vaginal penetration), he is
not liable for his act inasmuch as this is not considered the way for a
man to be with a woman. But concerning other forbidden relationships, a
man is liable for punishment even if the relationship is sodomy and not
in the normal manner of intercourse.
8. A man is liable for punishment even if there were only slight
penetration during the act of intercourse. Some are of the opinion that
one is free of liability if there is only slight penetration.
Note: this category of being free of liability refers to punishment by
the courts, but in every instance where a person violates the essence of
a commandment, even where the courts have no
jurisdiction, he still liable for punishment from G-d even if her
leaving is against his will.
9. A man is not punished by the courts for having relations with a
married woman unless he has intercourse with her in the normal manner
(vaginal penetration), and not until after she has
consummated her marriage with her husband. But if she is engaged and
not yet married, even if she is standing under the wedding canopy, and
there has been no consummation of the marriage, he is not liable for
punishment by the courts. By this law, we are referring to a Noahide
man with a Noahide woman. Regarding an Israelite woman, if she is
engaged and has not yet consummated the married, he receives death by
strangulation. If she has consummated the marriage, he receives
decapitation by sword, and if she is an unmarried maiden, he is stoned
to death (as is a Jewish man).
10. In times when there was slavery, if a Noahide man designated a
specific female slave for his male slave, and then had relations with
her, he was killed because of it. She was considered another man's
wife. However, the master was not condemned until it had become public
knowledge that such and such a slave had been given to each other. And
when did she become permissible again? When she separated from his
slave and uncovered her head in the marketplace (i.e. demonstrates
publicly that she is available to any man).
11. The concept of divorce with regard to Noahides is a matter of
dispute. One opinion holds that there is no divorce possible. (The
Ran) Another opinion states that there is no writ of divorce necessary,
rather that divorce is dependent solely on the volition of either
spouse, even if the other is against the divorce. They separate due to
the desire of either one and the thing is done. (The Rambam) Others
contend that the woman can divorce her husband, but that the
husband cannot divorce his wife.
12. One who caresses a forbidden member of the opposite sex, or hugs
or kisses in a manner of lust, or has close personal contact for the
sake of pleasure, transgresses the commandment prohibiting forbidden
relationships, but he is not punished by the courts. In all cases where
the courts are not empowered to act, punishment is meted out by G-d.
13. It is forbidden to signal with the hands or the feet or to wink
at any person who is in the category of a forbidden relationship. One
should not be frivolous or light-headed with anyone in this category,
nor should one deliberately smell the perfume nor gaze at the beauty of
a woman who is forbidden.
14. A man is guilty of transgressing this commandment by having
relations with a male whether the male is an adult or a child, whether
the male is consenting, coerced or forced, in public or in the privacy
of one's own domicile.
15. Though it violates the spirit of the Seven Universal Laws,
lesbianism is not explicitly stated as one of the forbidden
relationships. Lesbianism is, however, deemed an immoral and unnatural
relationship that destroys the order of the world.
16. Relations with an animal are forbidden at any stage of the
animal's maturity, even the day of its birth. One who has copulated
with an animal is liable for punishment, but the animal is not killed.
This is not the case of a Jew with an animal where both the person and
the animal are killed.
17. The Children of Noah are considered related only through the
mother. Those on the father's side are not considered relatives. This
means that a man's half-sister of the same father but a
different mother is not considered related to him, and is permissible to
18. There is an argument in the Talmud whether a Noahide is
permitted to have a relationship with his daughter inasmuch as she is
not considered his relative. The conclusion is that, despite the fact
that his daughter is not considered to be his relative, she is
nonetheless forbidden because she is in the same category as his mother,
and his mother is forbidden.
19. If one has relations with an animal, the person is punished,
but the animal does not have to be killed. (In Jewish law both the
person and the animal are killed.)
20. In a homosexual or bestial act, one is liable even if there
were merely partial penetration.
21. It is forbidden under the Seven Universal Laws to castrate any
male, whether man or animal or fowl. This aspect of the law neither
clearly fits under the laws of Forbidden Relations nor does it fits
clearly under Limb of a Living Animal, although it may be construed as
adjunct to either. In either case, castration of oneself is a
transgression, but castration of another is questionable as to whether
it represents a transgression of the Seven Universal Laws, despite its
being clearly in the realm of damaging one of G-d's creatures.
Nevertheless, even here, where man commits an irreversible act,
repentance and forgiveness is possible through G-d's great mercy, as it
is written, "For thus has said the L-rd concerning the eunuches that
keep My Sabbaths and choose that which pleases Me, and take hold of My
covenant. I will give to them within My house and within My walls a
place and a name better than sons and daughters; and an
everlasting name will I give them, that will not be cut off."
1. Of all the categories of the Seven Universal Laws, theft may be
the hardest to fulfill. Human history and psychology are in clear
agreement with the Talmudic statement that "man's soul has a craving and
longing for incest and robbery." (Makkot 23b) But committing theft,
unlike incest, is often a simple matter in which the opportunity
presents itself almost constantly. Moreover, the commandment against
theft includes aspects that, without thorough study, might elude a
person and be thought of as acceptable behaviour. Therefore, a frequent
review of the laws of theft is important.
2. Theft in The Seven Universal Laws is one general category with
many parts and is virtually identical to Torah Law which has seventeen
laws dealing with the general subject of taking what does
not belong to a person. This means that G-d's will concerning theft are
identical whether the person involved is a Israelite or a Noahide. The
only difference being the return of a stolen object worth less than a
pruta. If such an object is stolen from a Jew it need not be returned,
for the Jew is willing to forgive the theft of so small an object and
forego its return, but the Gentile does not forego an object worth less
than a pruta, and, therefore, such a stolen object must be returned to
3. The commandment prohibiting theft holds men and women equally
liable in every aspect and detail.
4. One is liable for punishment whether he or she brazenly robs in
public or sneaks into a house on a moonless night.
5. One is liable whether he steals money or a person (kidnap) or
object. And he is liable no matter from whom he steals.
6. A Noahide who steals a beautiful woman from the enemy during
time of war is liable for punishment. It is presumed he kidnapped her
and that she is a married woman.
7. This act of taking a woman during time of war is permitted to a
Jew. However, this is a leniency that is granted only during of a
certain kind of conquering war, called a Milchamot Mitzvah, wherein the
Jews are commanded to engage in a war of land conquest. Since Noahites
have no counterpart to these wars of conquest, and are commanded to
remain on the land given to them, this leniency is not given to them.
8. However, if a Noahide does conquer a land, what he acquires of
this new land belongs to him, ex post facto.
9. One man may not acquire the body of another for himself. For
example: During times of slavery, if one were to have a sexual
relationship with a slavewoman whose master had already
designated as his slave, he is liable for punishment as one who had
stolen a body. Even though this is not considered in the category of
having relations with a married woman, nevertheless it is considered
10. Later authorities cite that a man that rapes or seduces a woman
who is not forbidden to him is liable for punishment because he is
stealing from the woman's worth for one's own personal self. This only
applies to a man who seduces a woman, not to a woman who seduces a man.
A woman is considered as unable to truly seduce (and all the more so
rape) a man, as a man must have an erection to have intercourse and,
therefore, his involvement in the act is one of acceptance and volition.
11. The early Sages are in disagreement as to whether Children of
Noah were warned concerning usury and over-pricing prior to the giving
of the Torah. But these commandments are all in effect today because
they were given to Moses at Mount Sinai, not because G-d
commanded Noah to follow them. The great sage Nachmanides states that
overcharging is clearly one of the tenets of the commandment prohibiting
theft. (commentary on Genesis 24:13) This means that a transaction
whereby one is greatly overcharged is considered an illegal transaction
and may be dissolved. Usury, the act of lending money at unfair
interest rates, is in the same category and is forbidden and considered
an illegal transaction.
12. In the category of overcharging is the admonition against using
false weights and measures. This applies to any store owner or
salesperson, whether he is selling fish or precious stones,
or measuring land for sale, as it is written, "You shall do
no unrighteousness in judgement, in measuring land, in weight, in
measuring liquids." (Lev. 19:35). And inasmuch as the act
of false weighing and measuring is forbidden, it is
similarly forbidden to have such false weights or measuring devices in
one's possession, as it is written, "You shall not have in your bag
diverse weights, a great and a small," (Deut. 25:13)
13. The idea here is that since one's sustenance comes from the hand
of G-d, a man should earn it through honesty not chicanery. In the
Talmudic times, the fair amount of profit gained was thought to be six
percent, but profit margins are considered a somewhat relative and
subjective thing and it remains to be determined by the norms set in
14. A Noahide is not obligated to return an object he stole. But
since he stole it, he is held accountable for the prescribed punishment
in a court of law. This is according to the opinion that
holds that when a single act warrants two punishments, the stricter
punishment is enforced and the lesser one is foregone. (This is Rashi's
opinion) Other authorities argue that this principle only
applies to the Jew and the laws of the Torah, and that when a Noahide
has stolen, he is obligated to return the stolen article to its rightful
owner, despite the fact that he has incurred the death penalty.
15. One may well ask why the thief, who is going to be executed
anyway, should bother himself to return the stolen object. He could
just as well leave it to his wife or child or a friend and,
therefore, have some benefit. To understand this strikes at the heart
of understanding the intent of G-d's Law, which is just and merciful at
the same time. Every punishment meted out through the
justice of the Noahide Courts serves as an atonement, sparing the
transgressor punishment in the Eternal World. This, of course, assumes
that the convicted criminal repents for his transgression and
returns to G-d before he is executed. Because of the justice of the
courts, therefore, a man can transgress and still receive a share of the
World to Come as a righteous person.
16. How is it then if a man commits a crime and is not punished by
the courts? Suppose there were two men, one who killed negligently but
without premeditation and another who killed with malice of
forethought. There were no witnesses to either crime. G-d will bring
the two men together through Divine Providence. For instance, it might
be a crowded street. The one who killed unintentionally might be
driving a car, the other one might be crossing a street as a
pedestrian. Not paying attention to what he is doing, the driver will
run a stop sign, killing the pedestrian. So what has G-d
wrought? The murderer is killed and the manslaughterer is now held as a
17. When a Noahide steals less than the worth of a pruta (the
smallest coin denomination in times of the Talmud) from an Israelite,
the Noahide does not have to return this, as the Israelites do not
consider less than the value of a pruta to have worth. However, this
same amount (less than the value of a pruta) must be returned to another
Noahide, for in his eyes it is reckoned as having worth.
18. A Noahide that strikes another Noahide transgresses the
commandment of theft and is liable for punishment by the courts, for the
damage he caused brought a physical and psychological loss to the person
struck. A Noahide that strikes an Israelite also violates the
commandment of Kedushat Yisrael - violating the sanctity of the Jew.
19. A person is forbidden to desire the property and physical
dwelling place of another as expressed by the scriptural verse, "And you
shall not desire your neighbour's house nor his field, nor his
manservant nor his maidservant nor his ox nor his ass nor anything that
is his." (Deut. 5:18)
20. Since the Children of Noah are commanded to withhold themselves
from theft, they are similarly commanded concerning deterrents to that
transgression, namely desire. (The Chinuch) Coveting the belongings of
another is in precisely the same category as desiring them, except it
takes it a step farther, involving action. Whereas desire remains
something of the heart, coveting presupposes that the
person does something to fulfill his desire, such as plead with the
owner to sell him his house or field.
21. When mankind is judged each year on Rosh Hashanah (the first day
of the Hebrew month of Tishrei), G-d apportions each person's income and
sustenance and all forms of material acquisitions for the coming year.
Nothing a person will do will add to what he has been allotted and no
one can take away what has been given to him. So the idea of desiring
what belongs of another, and all the more so coveting it, is an act that
betrays a lack of faith in G-d, as it says, "Who is happy? One who is
satisfied with his portion." (Chapters of the Fathers)
22. One is forbidden to enter another's property stealthily and take
even one's own object, for thereby he acts as a thief. Instead, one
should confront the other and say, "This belongs to me, I am taking
it." (Baba Kama 27b)
23. One is forbidden to add to one's own property by moving
surreptitiously moving the landmarks into the neighbours property, as it
is written, "You shall not remove your neighbour's landmark." (Deut.
24. This act of usurping one's land through moving a landmark
involves the idea of unfair competition. For example, if a person has a
business in an area which will only support one business of that type,
and someone moves in across the street and opens the same kind of
business, this is said to be removing one's neighbour's landmark. Or
today, the prevalent act of duplicating audio or video cassettes without
permission, even for one's private use, is an act of moving your
neighbour's landmark, for one who does this denies his neighbour the
right to make a living.
25. It is forbidden to withhold the salary of a worker. If one
hires a worker, it is incumbent on the employer to pay the worker his
wages at the conclusion of the day's work, unless a
different arrangement had been a greed upon ahead of time.
And it is similarly forbidden to refuse to repay a loan of money when
one has the means to repay or to refuse to return a borrowed object.
All these are enjoined by the verse, "You shall not oppress your
neighbour, nor rob him," (Lev. 19:13)
26. An employer who works in a field or in a restaurant is permitted
to eat the fruits of the field or of the restaurant's food as he works
if it is in connection with his work. For instance, if a
person harvests grapes, he is permitted to snack on the grapes as he
works. Similarly, if he is a cook, he is permitted to snack on the food
he prepares. But if he merely irrigates the land on which
grapes grow, his snacking on grapes is considered theft. Similarly, if
he is a dishwasher in a restaurant, his snacking on the restaurant's
food is considered theft. Even in permissible cases, the
employee may snack only as he works. If he loads up a basket and takes
the food home to feed himself or his family, it is theft.
EATING THE LIMB OF A LIVING ANIMAL.
There is some discussion as to whether the prohibition of eating
the limb of a living animal was originally given to Adam the First Man
One opinion states that it was, indeed, included in the original
commandment forbidding the eating of fruit of the tree of knowledge of
good and evil. (Rabbi Yochanan in Mesechta 00).
According to this opinion, Adam who was clearly given vegetation
for food, as it is written, "And G-d said, Behold I have given you every
herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the whole earth, and every
tree upon which there is fruit of a tree bearing seed, to you these
shall be for food." (Gen. 1:29), was not forbidden to eat meat, but was
merely forbidden to kill animals for food. If the animal had died of
itself, it was permissible as food. What Noah was given, therefore, was
a refinement of this commandment, in which G-d allowed man to kill
animals for food, but forbade him to eat the flesh of any animal while
the animal was still alive. According to the other opinion, Adam
had received six of the Seven Universal Laws and had been forbidden to
eat the flesh of an animal in any manner. Only after the Flood was the
leniency of permitting animal flesh instituted. (Maimonides)
This commandment is one which is revealed explicitly in scripture,
as it is written, "Every moving thing that lives shall be for you for
food; just as the green herbs, I have given you everything. But flesh
with its living soul, its blood, you shall not eat." (Gen.9:3-4) This,
of course, does not mean that an animal's blood is its soul and that
what man was being forbidden was animal blood. It is taught by the
sages that the vitalizing animal soul is contained within the blood, and
this is what the commandment refers to, for when an animal dies, this
vitalizing soul departs. So long as this vitalizing soul remains within
the animal, its flesh is forbidden to man as food.
At first glance, this commandment seems peculiarly out of place as
one of the Seven Universal Laws. How can eating the limb of an animal
take its place side by side with such obvious fundamental principles of
human morality such as those prohibiting idolatry or murder? Besides a
few bizarre and isolated sociological perversions in Africa and China,
one is hard put to imagine who would even consider eating an animal's
meat while the animal lives.
And yet, this is precisely why this commandment may well represent
the essence of the Seven Universal Laws. Although mankind is enjoined
to obey these commandments as they appear, the letter of the law only
serves as a minimum, a starting point, which guarantees G-d's favour and
insures human morality. But if man wishes to realize his greatness
spiritually, he must tap into the infinite potential of the seven laws,
using them to refine and elevate himself. We see here that eating the
limb of a living animal serves as a hint as to the potential refinement
that man can attain through his eating habits and by practising kindness
to every creature.
For what man ingests as food is absorbed in his bloodstream and in
every cell of his body and thereby becomes part of his essential being.
The person who eats snakes and monkeys will surely be different
from the man who eats nuts and berries. And the mystical teachings
state that the Holy Spirit will never rest on one who kills any
creature, even the lowliest insect, purposelessly. (Teachings of the
AriZal, Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi)
1. The early sages differ concerning the act of consuming the blood
of an animal. The sages say that the Children of Noah contend that they
are not forbidden blood as food.
2. The Children of Noah may eat the flesh of an animal that dies by
itself, but there is an opinion that states that only the flesh of an
animal killed through slaughtering is permissible.
3. One is guilty of transgressing this commandment subject to
punishment by the courts whether he eats the limb of a living animal or
for merely the flesh of living animal, even the smallest
amount. The actual transgression is the eating of a limb or any flesh
while it lives. Use of an animal's hide or any other benefit is
4. Although a person is subject to punishment for eating the limb or
the flesh of a living domestic or wild animal, he is not so condemned
for the limb or flesh of a living chicken. It is, however, forbidden to
eat this as well. Fish and other creatures, including animals, that are
killed may have a limb or flesh taken from them and eaten. Slaughtering
does not have to be in a ritual manner as with Jews. However, the
killing of any animal for food must be done in as humane a
manner as possible. Fish are considered dead the moment they are taken
out of the water, but even so, one may not eat a fish while it appears
to be alive as this is a lack of refinement and the chief reason for the
giving of the Seven Universal Laws was to refinement the nature of man.
5. When one slaughters an animal, even if its windpipe and esophagus
are severed, so long as the limbs are still moving, the limbs and the
meat that are separated from them are forbidden to a Gentile because of
this law. However, if one eats the limb or flesh of an animal after it
has been killed, but while it is still moving, he is not punished for
this by the courts, for it is not actually considered the limb or flesh
of a living animal.
6. Everything that is forbidden to a Jew because of the law of the
Limb Of A Living Animal is similarly forbidden to a Gentile, except that
the Gentile has the added strictness of being guilty for this particular
transgression whether the animal is spiritually clean or unclean. The
Jew is guilty only if the animal is a type that is spiritually clean.
Animals, together with their lives, were given into the hands
of mankind. The higher spiritual rank of man dictates that he not eat
the limb of a living animal. Even though the flesh of man and
the flesh of animal are related, the one may be incorporated within the
other through eating. But the soul of an animal may never be
incorporated within the soul of man. The soul of an animal must first
be separated from its physical being before the animal body may be
absorbed within and become part of the human body. (Samson Raphael
Hirsch commenting on Genesis 2:16 and 9:5)
COURTS OF LAW
1. The Children of Noah are commanded to establish courts of law
that will carry out justice in accord with The Seven Universal Laws. A
court system that perverts justice by handing down rulings in conflict
with the Seven Universal Laws is an instrument for driving G-d's
blessings out of the world. Anyone who fails to establish a court
system, that is, who lives in a community or city in which there are no
courts, and does nothing to correct the situation, is punishable by
One who establishes or sustains courts of law that operate
contrary to the Seven Universal Laws is similarly liable.
In the book of Genesis (34:25) we learn that two of Jacob's
sons, Simeon and Levi slew every male in the city of Shechem. The
prince of the community, Shechem son of Hamor, had raped their sister,
Dinah, and the city failed to execute justice by bringing him to a court
of law. The city was, therefore, guilty of transgressing this seventh
of the Seven Universal Laws and every citizen was liable for punishment.
2. The commandment to establish courts of law, though it might
appear to be a commandment describing affirmative action, is considered
a prohibition because failure to establish appropriate courts inhibits
the performance of justice throughout the nations. In effect, the
commandment to establish courts of law is a prohibition
against failing to establish courts of law.
3. The only punishment meted out by the Noahide courts of law in
criminal cases is the death penalty.
4. One accused of a transgression of the Seven Universal Laws and
brought to trial in a Noahide court may be convicted only if he or she
is found to be mentally competent.
5. Every individual must accept a legal decision he or she has
received. It is forbidden for the individual to render a judgement
himself without going to a court of law.
6. Arbitration and mediation or any other means to finding an
amicable settlement or compromise thereby avoiding a court trial is
desirable, and, more than that, it is a commandment to seek
7. In civil matters, that is, cases between individual parties,
later authorities question whether the Noahide is commanded to follows
the same principles as Jewish law and Jewish courts, or
whether he is to follow rulings established according to his own Noahide
courts and laws as necessary to establish and maintain human
righteousness and morality.
Although the Noahide courts are responsible for only the
Seven Universal Laws, not the 613 Laws of the Torah, there is an opinion
that each decision of the Noahide courts must follow its
counterpart in Jewish law. The accepted opinion, however, is that
Noahide judges and courts of law are to render legal decisions only
according to their own laws and principles of law.
8. The Noahide courts of law cannot impose fines in any legal
9. Circumstantial evidence is admissible in the Noahide courts of
10. The Children of Noah are responsible for knowledge of the Seven
Universal Laws and, therefore, one does not have to be warned that he or
she is committing a transgression in order to be accused in
a court of law.
11. It is forbidden for a court to have compassion on a murderer,
saying that since one person has already been killed, what purpose could
there be to kill another? And the court may not delay the
execution because of compassion.
12. Similarly, in financial litigation, the court may not have mercy
on a poor person, taking the attitude that a rich plaintiff has an
obligation to support the poor, therefore by finding this poor defendant
innocent in judgement, he will be supported with an honorable
13. It is similarly forbidden to pay prejudicial respect to a great
person. If two litigants appear in court, one a great wise man and the
other a simple person, the judge may not ask the welfare of the great
one nor express pleasure at being in his presence in any way, nor give
him honour in any way. Otherwise, the arguments of the simple person
would be stifled. He would think, "What's the use anyway?" The judge
must not favour either party until judgement is finished. And the sages
warn that a judge must not think that since the litigant is so great a
person, it is unseemly to embarrass him or see him in his embarrassment.
14. If two litigants appear in court and one is a righteous person
while the other is a wicked person, the judge should not say that since
this one is a wicked person, it is presumed that he does not tell the
truth, and it is presumed that he will not change his ways, and
therefore the judgement should go against him.
15. One should not judge unrighteously, acquitting the guilty and
condemning the innocent. And a judge who delays the judgement,
lengthening the time of the testimony or cross- examination,
in order to cause either of the litigants suffering, falls under the
ruling of judging unrighteously.
16. One who judges haughtily, without fearing his awesome
responsibility and without due deliberation, then comes to a decision
quickly before he has taken the time to carefully consider the case, is
considered stupid, wicked, and coarsely egotistical.
17. The courts should not establish a standard judgement by which
numerous cases may be judged according to a precedent system, but
consider each case individually on its own unique merits.
18. Judgement in a case concerning a large sum of money and that
concerning a small amount of money should be given equal and individual
19. It is a positive commandment to deliver a righteous judgement,
treating the two claimants equal in every respect. The judge may not
permit the one to explain his case at great length while telling the
other to keep his words brief. Nor should be pleasant and smile at one
while being short and gruff to the other.
* * * *
(Note: The goal of justice is to function as impartially and
righteously as possible unto the ultimate. The following section
delineates some of the details of the standards of the Jewish Bais Din,
ecclesiastical court. The Noahide courts are not obligated to follow
these rules, but must be acquainted with them as a point of reference.)
20. Two litigants appear before a judge. One is dressed very
elegantly with expensive clothing and the other is wearing the clothes
of a pauper. The judge should tell the elegantly dressed
one: "You should clothe the other one till he is dressed as elegantly as
you are or you should clothe yourself to appear as he does, and then you
can enter judgement with him."
21. The litigants should both sit or stand, not one standing and the
other sitting. If the judge wishes to seat them both, he may do so. If
they sit, they should sit side by side, neither one higher than the
other, and they may so sit during the entire time that the judge is
listening to the case. But when the judge's decision is being
announced, then both litigants should be standing. The 'decision' is
the judge's announcement finding for the defendant and against the
plaintiff or for the plaintiff and against the defendant. Witnesses for
either side should always stand during testimony.
22. If there are many cases before the judge, the case of an orphan
should precede the case of a widow, and the case of a widow should
precede the case of scholar (one learned in the Seven Universal Laws),
and the case of a scholar should precede the case of an unlearned man,
and the case of a woman should precede the case of a man for a woman's
embarrassment is greater.
23. It is forbidden for the judge to hear the plea of one of the
litigants unless the other one is also present. To listen to even one
word of the case itself is forbidden. And we warn the litigant that he
should not allow his words to be heard before the other litigant
24. The judge may not hear testimony through an interpreter or a
translator, as the truth is reached only by hearing the words of the
litigants themselves. He must understand the language of
the litigants and hear their testimony and proofs. If the judge does
not speak their language fluently, he may use a translator to reply to
the litigants to inform them of the judgement and the reason he found
for this one and against that one.
25. The judge must hear the arguments of the litigants then review
the arguments in their presence to be sure that he understands them
clearly. Then he righteously decides the case in his heart and
afterwards he reaches the final decision.
26. The judge should not defend the words of the litigant, but he
should sit silently each as litigant says what he feels he must. And
the judge should not instruct either of the litigants in their
presentation of any argument.
27. If the judge sees a favourable point in the case of either of
the litigants and the litigant does not know how to bring forth the
point or gets angry and confused to the point of being unable to state
his case clearly, the judge may come to his aid slightly and put him on
the right track to state the beginning of his case. But the judge must
be careful in how he does this so as to avoid instructing the litigant
in how to present a meritorious case, for if the judge did this,
he would be perverting justice.
28. Prior to the judge's hearing the case, if he feels personally
threatened by either of the litigants, he may refuse to sit in
judgement. But if he has already heard their words and
knows which way the judgement is leaning, it is not proper
for the judge to refuse to pass judgement due to fear of one of the
30. If there is more than one judge in a case, it is forbidden for
any of them to say after the trial, "I judged in your merit, but my
colleagues found against you and inasmuch as they were the majority,
what could I do?"
31. A judge is forbidden to sit in judgement with a colleague that
he knows to be a thief or a wicked person. He must not sit in judgement
with another until he knows with whom he is sitting. And no one should
sign a contract until he knows with whom he is signing.
32. A judge is forbidden to take a bribe. Bribery will certainly
corrupt any judgement. A judge that takes a bribe is obligated to
return the bribe if the giver demands it.
33. It is also forbidden to offer a bribe to a judge. The category
of bribery is not limited to money, but includes any type of gift or
34. Any judge that sits in judgement and attempts to magnify his
importance in order to increase the wages of his bailiff or the court
clerk is in the category of one who leans after the wrong
Once a judge was entering a boat to cross a river. A man
who had a case in litigation before the judge was on the boat and
stretched out his hand to help the judge aboard. The judge
told him, "Behold, I am disqualified to judge your case."
35. A judge is forbidden to judge someone he loves, even though it
is less than a great abiding love. Nor can he judge one he hates, even
though the person is not his enemy. Ideally, the litigants
should be equal in the eyes and heart of the judge. If he recognizes
neither them nor their deeds, he can render the most honest judgement
36. Men of learning who are contemptuous of each other should not
judge a case together. The judgement is likely to be distorted as the
contempt would incline one to contradict the opinions of
37. A judge should imagine himself with a sword resting on his neck
and the Pit of Hell open below him. And he should know Who is the Judge
(G-d) and in front of Whom he judges, and Who will seek retribution from
him if he strays from the truth.
38. If a judge feels deeply in his heart that one of the litigants
is in the right, and there is no proof for it, or if the judge feels
that there is deception and trickery afoot by one of the litigants or
with one of the witnesses, and there is no proof for it, or if he feels
he cannot rely on the words of the witnesses even if he is not able to
disqualify them, or if another similar situation arises, then this judge
must disqualify himself from the case to be replaced by one who can
judge with a whole heart in the matter. But if the judge knows for sure
that one of the witnesses is lying, he should not remove
himself from the case, but judge it according to his understanding of
the truth. And all these things are handed over to the heart.
39. If a judge errs in his decision in a financial matter, he should
retract his decision, restore everything to its original status, and
retry the case. If it is not possible to retract and restore, for
instance one of the litigants went to a foreign land and took the money
awarded him, or the like, then the judge is held harmless
from making restitution of the money. It is clear that he had no
intention of causing damage.
40. Every judge should possess the following seven attributes:
c. fear of Heaven
d. fear of Sin
e. contempt for money
f. love of truth
g. beloved by his fellow man
h. a good reputation
41. When is one beloved by their fellow man? When he views things
in a favourable light and is humble, and he speaks and conducts business
in a pleasant manner. He should be meticulous in fulfilling
the commandments of G-d and he should have conquered his evil
inclination to the point that he is without blemish. His name should
serve as an outstanding model for the generation. He should
be courageous in order to exact a righteous judgement against
strong-willed wrong doers. Money should not be precious to him so that
he will not chase after it, for it is taught that one who
desires to be rich, poverty will come upon him. He should not need to
be exhorted to strive after truth, but should pursue truth from his own
desire for it. They must love truth and despise whatever opposes
truth. And they must flee from all forms of transgression.
42. If a judge who possesses all these noble attributes cannot be
found, then one should strive to find one who meets as many of these
requirements as possible.
1. A person may be convicting in a Noahide court on the testimony of
a single witness, but only if the witness is known to be righteous. If
the character of the witness is not known, it takes two witnesses to be
able to convict the accused.
2. A person may testify against himself in a court of law, but since
he is the accused, his character is definitely in question, and a second
witness is necessary to be able to convict him.
3. The witnesses are subjected to a thorough and systematic
scrutiny to reveal any inconsistencies and other flaws in their
4. One is commanded to give truthful testimony in a court of law
even if he knows the testimony will damage a friend or exonerate an
enemy. And this refers to civil litigation. In a criminal matter,
he is commanded to come forth and give testimony even if the court does
not request him to do so.
5. There are ten classifications that are disqualified as a witness
or as a judge in a court of law, and these are:
c. small children
d. fools and the insane
e. the deaf and the mute
f. the blind, even if he recognizes voices
g. known transgressors
h. people who care not how they behave in public
I. husbands of women involved in the trial
j. people relevant to the case
6. A wicked person is disqualified as a witness. This means the
testimony of anyone who is known to transgresses the Seven Universal
Laws is inadmissible.
7. Therefore, the courts should not admit the testimony of anyone
unless it is ascertained that this person is involved in keeping the
Seven Universal Laws and does acts of kindness and conducts himself in a
straight way and is honest and upright.
8. The judge who admits testimony from a witness before it is
ascertained whether the witness is qualified to testify is held
responsible. This judge is considered as one who distorts justice.
9. Whoever disgraces himself publicly is disqualified as a
witness. These are people who walk and eat in a coarse, impolite
fashion in public, or who go naked in public, or who are involved in any
disgusting work or activity, or anyone who feels no
self-embarrassment. All these people are considered on the level of a
dog, and we cannot trust them to be stringent against giving false
10. Even if a multitude of wise, G-d fearing people tell one that
they saw such and such a person commit such and such a crime, and even
though he believes it in his heart to be true, he is forbidden to
testify in court unless he saw the incident with his own eyes. Anyone
who testifies on the hearsay of others is considered a false witness
which is tantamount to conspiring against another, and this is a grave
transgression. If one gives false testimony which convicts a person
and causes him to be executed, the false witness gets the
HONOURING MOTHER AND FATHER
Although the Children of Noah are not commanded to honour father
and mother, they have accepted this meritorious act from the beginning
of time, and have through the ages distinguished themselves with this
The Talmud tells the story of Doma ben Nessina, one of the Children
of Noah who excelled in the performance of honouring his father to the
highest degree. Doma ben Nessina lived in a small village and it was
learned by the sages of Israel that he had possession of a rare gem that
the sages wanted for adornment of the Holy Temple. They travelled to
Doma ben Nessina's village and offered him a fabulous sum of money for
the gem. He refused their offer because the key to the chest where the
gem lay safeguarded was with his father, and his father law asleep.
Rather than wake his father, he turned down the sages' offer, and
they returned to Jerusalem. As a reward for his performance of the
commandment of honouring one's father, the next year a Red Heifer was
miraculously born in Doma ben Nessina's herd. The Red Heifer is a
unique creation that is born only through a miracle, and is essential
for the performance of one of the ritual purifications in the time of
the Holy Temple.
The Sages travelled to Doma ben Nessina again and offered him
anything he wanted for his Red Heifer. Seeing that it was all a miracle
from G-d, he took the same amount they were willing to pay him for the
precious gem the year before.
1. One should be extremely meticulous in honouring and respecting
one's mother and father, for it is compared to honouring G-d.
Three partners share in the creation of a child - the
mother and the father provide the child with a body and G-d provides the
child with a soul.
2. What is considered respecting? One should not occupy the
designated place for one's father in a council of elders nor should one
sit at the designated place of one's parents during meals, nor should
one publicly contradict the words of parents.
3. What is considered honouring? One must provide them with food,
drink, and clothing from the parents own funds. If the parents have no
funds, the child is obligated to provide for them from his
private charity funds.
One should escort and help them to and from the house and
supply all their needs cheerfully. Even if a child provides fattened
hens for his parents, but does so rudely, this person will
receive divine punishment.
4. If one's mother or father are sleeping and the key to the
child's place of business is under their heads, it is forbidden to wake
them even if there would be a loss of profit. But if the parents would
benefit from the profit and be saddened by the loss if they are not
awakened, it is the child's duty to awaken them and cause
them to rejoice over the situation.
If, however, the parent wanted to intentionally cause the
son or daughter a financial loss, for example by throwing away money,
the child can stop the parent. This is only where the
parent has no means of reimbursing the child through the child taking
legal recourse. Some say that even if the parent has the means to
reimburse, the child should prevent the parent in order to avoid the
anguish of a legal battle. If the money has already been thrown away,
one may not shout at or insult the parent, but may quietly initiate
5. If the child needs a favour from the community and knows that
the favour will be granted because of the esteem that is held for his
parent, and the child also knows that he can obtain the favour based on
his own position of esteem, he should not say, "Do it for me because of
me," but rather, "Do it for me because of my parent." This way it is an
honour for the parent. If, however, the request can be made without
personal mention, one does not have to mention the parent.
6. If one's mother asks the child to do a task and the child
complies and then, later, the father asks, "Who told you to do this?"
If the child feels that by stating, "Mother told me to do it," the
father will become angry at the mother, then the child should incur the
father's wrath rather than implicate the mother.
7. Children must rise and remain standing in the presence of their
mother and father.
8. One is obligated to honour their mother and father after their
death. For example, when the child mentions the deceased parent's name,
he should add, "may his or memory be blessed in the World to Come," or,
"May there be peace bestowed upon him or her."
9. Even if the father or mother are wicked and transgress the Seven
Commandments, the child must honour and revere them. Even a child that
was born to a forbidden union is obligated to honour and
revere his or her parents. Others hold that one does not have to honour
and revere wicked parents until they repent of their deeds, but it is
forbidden to cause them grief. However, it is better to follow the
10. If a child sees a parent transgress one of the Seven
Commandments, the child should not chastise the parent in a rude way by
saying, "You have violated one of the commandments." But the child
should put it in the form of a question, such as, "Father (or mother),
doesn't it state in the Seven Laws of Noah such and such?" In this
manner, the correction comes in the way of the child seeking information
rather than reprimanding. The parent will understand the implication,
correct himself or herself, and will not be embarrassed.
11. If the parents tell the child to transgress one or more of the
Seven Universal Laws, the child should not listen. The reason is that
the parents have an obligation to honour G-d, and therefore the child
has to honour G-d's wishes before the wishes of the parent if they
13. Both a man and woman have an obligation to honour and revere
their parents. However, a married woman owes her devotion to her
husband and is exempt from honouring her mother and father. But if he
does not object, she is obliged to honour her parents as much as
14. Whoever shames his or her mother or father, even with words or
gestures, is considered cursed by G-d, as it says, "Cursed is the one
who dishonours his father or mother." (Deut. 27:16)
15. If the mother or father have a splinter deeply imbedded, the son
or daughter may not remove it because a wound may result, and a child is
forbidden to inflict any kind of a wound on a parent. Even
if the child is a doctor, he may not operate though his intention may be
only to heal. However, this is only in the case where there are other
doctors available. Where the need is pressing, and only the child can
help, he or she may do whatever is necessary.
16. If one's parents have become mentally ill, G-d forbid, the child
should attempt to act with them in accord with their mental state until
G-d will have mercy on them. If the situation becomes more aggravated
and the child can no longer handle the situation, then he or she must
leave the parents in the charge of professionals.
17. A parent should not be too exacting in demanding honour from the
child, and should be forgiving and overlook the shortcomings of a child
as seen fit and consistent with a proper upbringing.
18. A parent should not strike a grown child. This refers to the
child's maturity, not his chronological age, and is based on the
specific nature of the child. If one see that a grown
child has a rebellious nature, he should reason and discuss the
situation with the child. Striking the child will only aggravate
19. A child is obligated to honour his or her stepmother as long as
the father is still living. Also the child must honour the stepfather
so long as the mother is still living. It is also proper conduct to
honour the stepmother or stepfather even after the death of one's own
20. One must honour and older brother even if he is only of the same
father or the same mother.
21. A man must honour his father-in-law and mother-in-law as one
would honour any other important elder, through kind words and good
22. One who truly wishes to honour his mother and father should
study and observe the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah and should
perform good deeds. It is the greatest honour possible for
the parents when people say, "Happy are the parents who raised such a
But a child who does not walk in the right path, brings reproach
to the parents and disgraces them in the most severe way. Furthermore,
parents who are concerned about the welfare of their children should be
involved in the learning and practice of the Seven Laws of the Children
of Noah and should perform acts of kindness so they may please G-d and
fellowman and make their children proud of them. One who does not do so
disgraces the children. And worse than this, children die for the sins
of their parents, as it says, "Visiting the transgression of the fathers
upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
Me." (Exodus 20:5). There is no cruelty greater than causing the death
of one's own child because of one's sins. Conversely, no one exhibits
more compassion for his children than a righteous person, as it says,
"And showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me."
LAWS OF CHARITY
1. It is a positive commandment to give charity, as it says, "The
life of your brother is with you." Anyone who sees a poor person that
is requesting funds and purposely ignores this person and
does not give him charity has transgressed, as it says, "You should not
harden your heart, nor should you close your hand from your poor
It is a general principle that a person does not become poor
by giving charity. Nor does an evil or destructive thing occur through
one's giving charity. Also, if one has mercy on others, the One Above
has mercy on you.
G-d is close to poverty-stricken people, as it says, "To The
cries of the poor You listen." (Job 4) Therefore, one has to be careful
about the supplications of poor people.
2. Every person has the obligation to give charity according to his
ability. Even a poor person who supports himself from charity is
permitted to give charity from these funds. Though he can only afford a
little, this should not prevent him from giving charity. A little
charity from a poor man is considered as important as a great amount
given by a rich person. As the sages say, "When one offers a sacrifice,
it does not matter if the offering is an ox or a bird or flour, whether
it is a large offering or a small offering, the main criterion is that
the giver directs his heart to his Father in Heaven." (Menahot 110a).
But if one has only enough for his sustenance, he has no
obligation to give charity. A person has a priority of providing for
himself before he provides for others.
3. The community should supply every need that a poor person lacks. If
a poor person receives money in a discreet way, that is, few know that
he is receiving it, then the people of the city are obligated
to supply him whatever he is lacking to maintain the level he was
accustomed to before he became poor.
If a poor person is collecting from door to door publicly, one
should give him a small donation according to the poor man's situation.
The community should provide each poor person with at least the
equivalent of two meals a day and a place to sleep.
4. A person should give charity in the following manner: The first year
of his going into business, he should donate at least 10% of his
capital. After that he should give 10% of the profits earned
from his capital after first deducting his living expenses. This the
average way to give charity. The most preferably way to give is 20% of
his principle the first year, and in succeeding years 20% after
annual profits. One who is not self-employed, but earns his money on a
salary basis, should give the 10% - 20% amount based on his income after
taxes are taken out.
5. One who wants to conduct himself in an honorable way should conquer
his evil inclination and widen his hand. Anything that is done for the
glory of G-d should be done gracefully. If he feeds a starving person,
he should feed him with the finest foods that he can offer. When he
clothes someone who is threadbare, he should clothe him in the finest
apparel he can offer.
6. Gifts given to ones parents, whom can only be supported through
charity, are considered charity. Furthermore, they take precedence over
Charity to relatives takes precedence over strangers. The
poor living in ones own house take precedence over the poor living in
one's city. The poor of one's city takes precedence over the poor of
another city, as it says in the verse, "to your brother, to your poor
and to your needy." (Deut. 15:11) However, one whose responsibility is
the distribution of communal funds for charity and just his
own contributions alone, should be careful that he does not give more to
his needy relatives than to other people.
7. Anyone who gives charity to a poor person, and gives it with a sour
countenance and a feeling of condescension, even if he gives gold
pieces, has lost all the merit of his actions. This person has
transgressed the verse, "And your heart shall not grieve when you give
to him." (Deut. 15:10)
One must give with a sense of joy and a cheerful countenance,
and he should console the poor person on his tributions, cheering him up
with words of comfort.
8. It is forbidden to reject the requests of a poor person and turn him
away empty-handed even if all the person can afford at the time is a
morsel of food. If there is really nothing in one's hand to give, then
one should the person kind words indicating that he sincerely wishes to
give him something, but that it is not possible at this time.
It is forbidden to rebuke or to raise your voice to the poor as
their hearts are broken and humbled. Woe to one who disgraces a poor
person. Rather one should be like a parent to the poor, demonstrating
mercy in deed and word.
9. If one should say, "I am obligating myself to give such and such
amount to charity," or, "I am giving this specific bill of currency to
charity," the person is obligated to give the money he has pledged
immediately. It is considered a transgression to delay if one has the
ability to honour the obligation. If there are no poor people to give
the money to, it should be set aside till a poor person is found.
10. If a person says, "I will give such an amount of money to this
specific person," he can wait until the person comes to him.
(He does not have to seek him out.)
Anyone is permitted to set aside money for charity to
distribute it according to the manner and to the person he sees fit.
11. One who convinces others to give charity earns greater reward than
one who actually gives.
One who distributes money to the poor and the poor in turn
insult him, should not be concerned, as his merit is now far greater
because of the humiliation he has borne.
12. The highest level of giving charity is to assist a person
financially before he becomes poor, and thus prevent him from becoming
poor. Such assistance should be given graciously in the form of a gift
or a loan or an offering of partnership in a financial venture or a job
placement so the poor person will not be forced to seek financial
assistance from others.
13. One should attempt, if at all possible, to give charity secretly.
The best way of giving charity is when the giver does not know to whom
the money is going and the receiver does not know from whom it came.
One should not boast about one's personal acts of charity, for
by glorifying oneself, the merit that has been attained is lost. But if
one donated any object for charity, he may inscribe his name
on it so that it will serve as a memorial. Also, one may publicize his
acts of charity if the public knowledge will inspire others to give.
15. A person should distance himself from receiving charity. Even
suffering a certain degree of hardship if preferable than having to be
dependent on another person. It is however improper to subject others
to hardship, such as a wife and child, because of an unwillingness to
16. Anyone who does not need charity, but through deceit obtains such
funds will come to be dependent on other people. Conversely, one who
truly needs charity to the extent that he cannot really live without
such funds, such as an old person without an income, or a sick person,
or one with a large family to support and many daughters whose
marriages he must pay for, and because of pride refuses to accept
charity, is considered like one who spills blood and he will be held
responsible for his actions. All he will have to show for his suffering
are sins. However, one who needs charity, but chooses to
suffer deprivation, not because of pride, but because he does not want
to become a public burden, will not die before he risen to support other
Animal sacrifices as offerings to G-d is seen by modern man as a
cruel and primitive practice, and yet the most lofty souls who ever
lived, Adam and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses and
Aaron, and David and Solomon and Samuel as well as countless thousands
of other exalted spiritual beings offered animal sacrifices to the G-d
The truth is the opposite of what modern man imagines, for the
ancients of Israel saw far into the heavenly spiritual realms in a way
that we can only regard with wonder and awe.
The reason man lacks a sensitivity and understanding of animal
sacrifices dates back to a period of time just prior to the destruction
of the Second Temple. It was a time when idolatry was rampant. Man
was said to truly lust after idol worship. The situation was so
desperate that the sages of Israel prayed to G-d to remove man's deep
yearning for idolatry.
As the prayers were accepted, a lion of fire burst forth from the
curtain of the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The sages understood G-d's
answer. Since He had created the world in such a way that good and evil
were balanced to afford man free choice, when the desire for idolatry
was removed, so was man's understanding of sacrifices.
Since the time of the destruction of the Holy Temple, the Jews were
promised that study of the laws of sacrifices and prayer would be
acceptable to G-d in lieu of the actual sacrifices, as it is written,
"We will render the prayer of our lips in place of the sacrifice of
bullocks.'" (Hoshea 14:3)
What about the Children of Noah?
The righteous among them who followed the Seven Universal Laws were
permitted to dwell in the land of Israel and to enter the Holy Temple
and to offer sacrifices to G-d.
Moreover, sacrifices were offered on the behalf of the nations of
the world by the Jewish priests, most notably the seventy bullocks
offered during the Holiday of Sukkot, the Festival of Booths.
If the Jew could offer his sacrifices to G-d in a spiritual way by
prayer and study, what could the Gentile do?
The answer is a great surprise.
Although the Jew is forbidden the offer sacrifices anywhere but in
the Holy Temple, the Gentile, in the opinion of many authorities, is
permitted to build private altars and present offerings to the G-d of
Israel upon them - even today!
Although the laws of sacrifices are complex indeed and outside the
scope of this volume, the following is a brief digest of their general
1. During the times when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, a
Gentile was permitted to bring a Korban Olah - a burnt offering wholly
consumed by fire, even one that had a permanent blemish such
as a scar or other minor disfigurement.
The Gentile is permitted to bring spiritually clean wild
animals, such as members of the deer family, as well as spiritually
clean domestic animals.
Spiritually clean animals are those that have split hooves
and chew their cud. He could also bring spiritually clean birds, even
roosters. Roosters and spiritually clean wild animals are
permissible only when the Gentile is offering them on his private
altar. When he brings an offering to G-d in the Holy Temple, it must
correspond to those kinds prescribed by the Torah and Jewish Law.
The offering of a Gentile must have all its limbs to be
valid. Other blemishes and minor disfigurements do not render the
This leniency is applicable only when the sacrifice is
offered on one's own private altar. When the Children of Noah bring
sacrifices to the Holy Temple, they are acceptable only they
it meets all the criteria of a Jewish offering.
2. The Children of Noah may construct altars and offer their
sacrificial offerings in any location.
3. One may only offer an ascension offering, which demonstrates a
desire to cling to the G-d of Israel. This offering is entirely
consumed by fire and is among the most holy of the sacrifices. It is
slaughtered on the north side of the altar and its blood is received in
a service vessel at the north side of the altar. Its blood is then
dashed against the northeast corner and the southwest corner of the
altar, thereby spreading out along all four walls. These sacrifices
require that the hides of the animals be given to the Kohanim (Jewish
Priests). The flesh of the animal is then to be flayed and cut in
pieces before it is entirely consumed by the altar's fire.
Since most authorities today forbid Kohanim to accept their
portion of the sacrificial offerings, it casts doubt on the
permissibility of these sacrifices from the Children of Noah.
One who knowingly offers an invalid sacrifice is liable for
4. Some authorities contend that if a Gentile offers a sacrifice that
is missing a limb, he transgresses a positive commandment, but it is not
a transgression of one of the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah which
would require punishment in a court of law. Others say that there is no
transgression at all, but the sacrifice is not valid.