Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course

Site: Academy of Shem
Course: Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course with Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel
Book: Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 1:43 AM

Table of contents

1. Preface & Overview

For the Jewish people, the twentieth century was the century of the unforeseeable and the unpredictable. The holocaust, the establishment of a Jewish state, the massive Torah-educational system – these are all things that no one could have predicted even 80 years ago. Among these many surprises is the resurgent interest in the seven Noahide laws.

It is peculiar, though certainly apropos, that the impetus for this interest has come not from within the Jewish world, but from without. Since at least the 4th century CE, the identity of Noahide had languished, relegated an arcane, obscure corner of Torah thought. Eventually, Noahism was no longer viewed as an independent religious identity, but as a fence [geder], an academic category or classification, in Torah law. Its renewal as an autonomous belief system began in the late 19th century, emerging from the correspondence between Aime Palliere and Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh.

However, their vision of Noahism is somewhat troubling. R’ Benamozegh’s theology, unconventional and Universalist, saw in Noahism a theological bridge, a tool, to be used to unite and explain his egalitarian vision. Their Noahism was not, therefore, explored via its retroactive position in Torah tradition and thought, but prospectively as part of a proposed theological approach. The subtle use of Noahism in advancement of proposed ideologies became a lamentable trend in the latter half of the twentieth century.

A number of institutes and individuals, holding beliefs atypical of mainstream Torah thought, have found in Noahism material that can be used to advance their ideas and build a base of support among non-Jews. In many cases, this is because these parties have been unable to find popular Jewish support for their agendas. The net effect is that many of those purporting to teach the Noahide laws are actually presenting a skewed vision that fails to examine Noahism independently.

The problem was compounded by the fact that most of the mainstream Torah-observant world remained wholly unaware of contemporary Noahism. This lack of awareness has allowed many of these groups, some of whose teachings are outright heterodoxy, to gain footing as “legitimate” authorities on Noahism.

In the early 21st century, however, this trend has started to reverse. As the mainstream Torah-observant world has become more aware of the resurgent non-Jewish interest in Noahism, it has also become aware of the problematic and often misleading presentation of Noahism by these aforementioned entities.

The response of the Torah-observant mainstream has been to produce a number of studies on Noahism examining it as an independent, autonomous identity in the Torah tradition. Most notable is Rabbi Moshe Weiner’s Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem, translated as The Divine Code, which was the first comprehensive study of Noahism in Torah tradition and law that is wholly unconnected to particular ideologies or movements.

The most important contribution of Rabbi Weiner’s Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem is that it elucidated many necessary, fundamental mechanics of Noahism that should have been properly clarified at the outset of Noahism’s resurrection as a religious identity.
Our program was originally created exclusively for the Rabbinic community, to provide Rabbis with a practical understanding of the Noahide laws. More and more Rabbis worldwide are being approached by non-Jews seeking connection with the Torah. Either they are looking to convert, Judaize, or explore Noahism. A fuller understanding of the Noahide laws and Noahide identity not only presents a solution to the difficulties caused by those looking to Judaize, but also empowers the Rabbinate with a solution to the numerous problems posed by conversion. Many prospective converts are unaware that the Torah does not require conversion to Judaism in order to enjoy a full relationship with the God of Israel.

As we began developing the program, we received tremendous interest from the Noahide community who hungered to know the source material of their faith. In response, we decided to produce a parallel program for Noahides. However, we soon realized that a great gulf existed between the religious needs and backgrounds of the Rabbinic and Noahide communities. After much discussion with Noahide Nations, a Texas-based Noahide organization, the decision was made to merge the two programs into a single track that would satisfy the needs of both communities. The program can thus be studied by Rabbis and Noahides as well as used as a curriculum for teaching both Jews and non-Jews.

Since launching the program with our initial group of Rabbis and Noahides in spring 2014, we have attracted the attention and support of a number of prominent Rabbis, including Rabbis Shalom Arush and Lazer Brody, who graciously offered their enthusiastic endorsement and support of our program.

This program, the first on the Noahide laws produced by a mainstream orthodox institution for the orthodox Torah world, is an ongoing project. The input and feedback of the Noahide community is essential to make certain that the material is presented clearly.
This project was originally made possible via a partnership between Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim and Noahide Nations.

We also owe a great debt of gratitude to HaRav HaGaon Chaim Kanievsky, HaRav HaGaon Asher Weiss, and HaRav HaGaon Moshe Shternbuch, whose tremendous wisdom, guidance, and clarity have helped to resolve many difficult questions in the study and production of this material.

May the Holy, Blessed is He; provide us with strength and clarity to present the Noahide laws thoroughly and in truth.

Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel
Author & Editor of the Noahide Laws Project



2. Introduction to the Noahide Laws

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Misconceptions & Tragic Histories

2. Jews & Non-Jews

3. Law & Love

3. An Overview of Noahide History

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Ancient Noahide History
2. Aimé Pallière & R’ Eliyahu Benamozegh
3. Vendyl Jones
4. R’ Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, The Lubavitcher Rebbe
5. The Aftermath of The Rebbe’s Call
6. The Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem
7. State of Noahide Outreach Today
8. Role of This Course

4. Gentile Identities in the Torah

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Non-Jews in the Torah: Many Identities

2. Idolaters & Idolatry

3. Ger Tzedek

4. Ben Noach, Bat Noach, Bnei Noach

5. MiChakhmei Umos HaOlam – Of the Wise of the Nations

6. MiChasidei Umos HaOlam – Of the Pious of the Nations

7. How Does One Become a Noahide?

8. Ger Toshav

5. Interpreting the Torah

Outline of This Lesson:

1. The Uniqueness of the Torah Tradition

2. The Jewish View of Tanakh (Scripture)

3. The Prophets & Writings

4. The Many Facets of Torah

5. Torah She-Baal Peh – The Oral/Experiential Torah

6. Mesorah - Transmission

7. Writing Down the Oral Law

          a. The Mishnah (Teaching)

          b. The Gemorah (Learning)

          c. The Talmud

8. Other Torah Texts

          a. Midrash

          b. Mystical Texts

9. Rabbinic Authority

10. Deciding Halakhah (Practice)

11. Eras of Torah Scholarship & Authority

          a. The Gaonim

          b. The Rishonim

          c. The Koviim

          d. The Acharonim

6. Deriving the Laws I

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction to this Lesson

2. Sources of the Noahide Laws & Principles of Deriving Them

3. Explicit Commandments
          a. To Adam & Noah
          b. Commandments Recorded Before Sinai

4. Implicit Commandments

5. Repetitions at Sinai

6. Noahide vs. Jewish Law

7. Post-Sinai Commandments

8. Applying the Principles

9. How Many Noahide Laws Are There?

10. The Earliest Source

11. Statements of the 30 Noahide Laws
          a. Rabbi Shmuel bar Chofni Gaon
          b. Rabbi Menachem Azaria da Fano

7. Deriving the Laws II

Outline of This Lesson:

1.  Introduction

2. The Importance of Maimonides

3. Later Authorities and the Noahide Laws

4. The Importance of Torah Study

5. Introductions to the Seven Noahide Laws
          a. Dinim
          b. Positive or Negative Commandment?
          c. Torah Law vs. Civil Law
          d. Talmud Sanhedrin 56b

8. Deriving the Laws III

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction

2. Blasphemy
          a. Definition
          b. Belief in God
          c. Prayer

3. Idolatry
          a. Definition
          b. Shituf
          c. Shituf, Christianity & Islam
          d. Creating New Religions

8.1. Deriving the Laws III - Supplement

9. Deriving the Laws IV

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction

2. Incest

3. Homicide

4. Theft

5. A Limb Torn From a Living Creature

10. Noahide Identity I - Defining the Ger Toshav

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction

2. Defining Ger Toshav

3. The Prohibition of Non-Jewish Residency in Israel

4. Non-Idolatrous Gentiles in Israel

5. The Ger Toshav

6. The Benefits of Ger Toshav

7. How Does a Non-Jew Become a Ger Toshav?

11. Noahide Identity II - Does the Ger Toshav Apply Today?


Outline of This Lesson:

1. Does Ger Toshav Apply Today

2. A 20th Century Problem

12. Noahide Identity III - Maimonides (Rambam) on Ger Toshav

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction

2. Two Very Difficult Paragraphs From Maimonides

3. Identifying the Problems

4. Making Sense of the Paragraphs 10 & 11

13. Noahide Identity IV - What is a Noahide?

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction

2. Bava Kamma 38a

3. Bava Kamma 38a & The Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer

4. Chiddushei HaGriz, The Ohr Somayach, & Rabbi Malkiel Tannenbaum

5. Understanding Maimonides

14. Noahide Identity V - Becoming a Noahide

Outline of This Lesson:

1. How Does a Noahide Accept the Sinaitic Aspects of the Noahide Laws?

2. Possible Answers

3. Maimonides’s Own Words

4. How Does One Become a Ben Noach?

15. Chiddushei Dat I – Definition and Fundamental Principle

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Maimonides Hilkhos Melakhim 10:9 & 10
2. The Sources
3. Maimonides According to the Radbaz

16. Chiddushei Dat II – Rav Moshe Feinstein, ztz”l

Outline of This Lesson:

1. HaRav HaGaon Moshe Feinstein, ztz”l
2. The Source of Chiddushei Dat
3. Voluntarily Keeping Other Mitzvos
4. Rav Moshe’s Reading of Maimonides & the Radbaz
          a. The Most Important Point
5. To Summarize Rav Moshe
6. Rav Moshe Weiner in the Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem (The Divine Code).

17. Noahide Prayer: Daily Prayer I

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Obligations in Prayer
3. Texts of the Prayers
          a. The Siddur, the Jewish Prayer book
          b. The Psalms – The Universal Prayer book
          c. Modern Collections of Noahide Prayers
4. Practical Advice: How to Pray
5. Index of Suggested Psalms

Noahide Siddur

18. Noahide Prayer: Daily Prayer II

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Siddur
3. Noahide Prayerbooks
4. Other Details of Prayer

Noahide Siddur

19. Noahide Prayer: Blessings I

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction & Types of Mitzvos
          a. The Three Classes of Mitzvos
2. The Source For Making Blessings
          a. The Blessing After Meals
          b. The Blessing For Torah & Certain Species
          c. Other Blessings
3. The Jewish vs. The Noahide Obligation to Make Blessings
4. Types of Brachos, Blessings
5. What does it mean to Bless God?
6. Texts of the Blessings
7. The Blessings After Meals
          a. A Noahide Grace After Meals

Noahide Siddur

20. Noahide Prayer - Blessings II

Lesson Video I

Lesson Video II

Outline of This Lesson:
1. Introduction
2. Blessings on Benefit
          a. Blessings Over Food & Drink
          b. Before-Blessings

1. Bread
2. Grain Foods
3. Wine
4. Fruits
5. Veggies
6. All Other Foods
          ii. Guiding Principles

          b. The Blessing After Eating
7. The Blessing Taught by Abraham

          c. Blessings on Aromas

8. Spices
9. Fragrant Trees & Their Flowers
10. Fragrant Grasses, Herbs, and Flowers
11. Fragrant Fruits

3. Blessings of Praise & Gratitude

12. Lightening
13. Thunder
14. Rainbows
15. Oceans
16. Things Beautiful
17. Things Grotesque or Exotic
18. Fruit Trees in Bloom
19. Outstanding Torah Scholar
20. Outstanding Secular Scholar
21. Gentile King
22. Seeing One Who Has Recovered From Mortal Sickness
23. Good News
24. Bad News
25. Miracles

20.1. Noahide Prayer - Blessings II - Supplement

21. Torah Study I

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Non-Jewish Torah Study: Praiseworthy or Prohibited?
          a. Sanhedrin 59a – Full Text
          b. Analysis
          c. Conclusion
3. Liable to Death
a. Rambam
4. Types of Torah & Types of Torah
          a. Meiri
5. Delving Vs. Learning
          a. Machaneh Chaim
6. What May Be Studies
          a. Written Torah
          b. Oral Torah & Works on Law
7. Do Noahides Make a Blessing on Torah Study?

22. Torah Study II

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Chagigah 13b: Teaching Torah to Non-Jew
3. Bava Kamma 38a: A Contradiction
4. A Curious Omission
5. What May and May Not Be Taught
6. Teaching Noahides

22.1. Torah Study II - Teaching Torah to Non Jews

22.2. Torah Study II - Teaching Torah to Non Jews II

22.3. Torah Study II - Teaching Torah to Non Jews III

22.4. Torah Study II - Teaching Torah to Non Jews IV

23. Selecting a Rabbi

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Classic Semikhah
3. Modern Semikhah
4. Problems With Modern Semikhah
5. Choosing a Rabbi
6. Kabbalah – Specialized Licenses
7. Honor Due to Torah Scholars
8. Honor Due to Torah Books

24. Shabbat I

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Sanhedrin 58b – The Prohibition
2. Sanhedrin 58b – Commentary
3. Yevamos 48b – Shabbat & the Ger Toshav
4. Talmud Krisus 9a – A Similar Conversation & Conclusion
5. The Midrash Rabbah Explains…

24.1. Shabbat 1 - The Sabbath Observing Gentile

24.2. Shabbat 1 - The Sabbath Observing Gentile II

24.3. Shabbat 1 - Shabbat 1 - The Sabbath Observing Gentile III

24.4. Shabbat 1 - The Sabbath Observing Gentile IV

24.5. Shabbat 1 - The Sabbath Observing Gentile V

25. Shabbat II: The Patriarchs & Shabbat

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Talmud Yoma 28b
3. The Labor of Noahides
4. The Definition of a Day
5. The Circumstances of Pre-Sinaitic Noahides
6. The Patriarchs & Monotheism
          a. In Summary
          b. Yoma 28a
          c. The Binyan Tzion Remains

26. Shabbat III: Practical Conclusions

Lesson Video Link

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction & Review
2. Maimonides Hilkhos Melakhim 10:9
3. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, ztz”l
4. In Conclusion
5. Letter of the Law vs. Spirit of the Law
6. Observance vs. Acknowledgement
7. Shabbat Suggestions

27. Festivals I: Introduction & Rosh HaShanah

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction: Torah Time
2. The Starting Point: Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:2
3. Connecting to the Festivals
4. One Day vs. Two Days
5. Rosh HaShanah: Introduction
6. The New Year?
7. Rosh HaShanah – A Day of Many Meanings
8. Elul – The Month of Preparation

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahide can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

28. Festivals II: Selichos

Lesson Video for Festival I and Festivals II

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. When To Start Saying Selichos
3. The Custom Noahides Should Follow
4. In Practice
5. Action Point
6. Structure of Selichos
7. Suggested Selichos Service

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahide can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

29. Festivals III: Rosh HaShanah

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Judgment & Celebration
3. Mitzvos vs. Minhagim
4. Eve of Rosh HaShanah
5. Suggested Evening Prayers
6. Rosh HaShanah Night Meal

All Rosh HaShanah Prayers and Blessings for Noahide can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

30. Festivals IV: Sukkot

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Yom Kippur & History
3. The Offerings of Sukkot
4. Sources of Judgment
5. Nisukh HaMayim – The Water Libation
6. Summary So Far
7. Sukkot & Yom Kippur
8. Tying it All Together

Prayers - All Noahide Prayers & Blessings for are available in The Order: A Communal and Individual Noahide Siddur

31. Festivals V: Sukkot II

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Observance of Sukkot
3. The Sukkot of Future Times
4. Sukkot Today
5. Prayers So Far…
6. Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah

Prayers - All Noahide Prayers & Blessings for Sukkot & Simchas Torah are available in The Order: A Communal and Individual Noahide Siddur

32. Festivals VI: Cheshvan & Kislev

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Cheshvan / MarCheshvan
3. Kislev
4. The Timeline of the Flood
5. Curious Things…
6. The Meaning of a Rainbow
7. The Noahide Covenant vs. The Noahide Laws
8. The First of Kislev

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahides can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

33. Festivals VII: Tu B’Shvat

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Tu B’Shvat: The New Year For Trees
3. Tu B’Shvat, Terumos & Maasros
4. Tu B’Shvat, Orlah, Neta Reavi
5. Are Terumos & Maasros Relevant to Noahides?
6. Maimonides
7. An Ongoing Dispute?
8. Jewish Commemoration of Tu B’Shvat
9. The Evolution of a Custom

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahides can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

34. Festivals VIII - Adar & Nissan

Outline for Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. 7th of Adar
3. Month of Nissan
4. Nissan as the Rosh HaShanah for Kings and Festivals
5. New Year for Kings
6. Judgment for Grain
7. Birkas HaIlanos – Blessing on the Trees
8. Birkas HaChama – The Blessing on the Cycle of the Sun

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahides can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

35. Festivals IX - Sivan & Av

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Noahide Covenant & Man
3. Judgment on the Fruit of the Trees
4. Observances for Shavuos
5. Tisha B’Av – the 8th of Av
6. Jewish Observances of Tisha B’Av
7. Tisha B’Av & Noahides – Mourning the Temples

All Prayers and Blessings for Noahides can be found in The Order: A Communal & Individual Noahide Siddur

36. Introduction to Ever Min HaChai

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. When Was the Mitzvah Given?
3. Tzaar Baalei Chaim – Animal Cruelty
4. The Commandment to Noah
5. Ever Min HaChai vs. the Verses
6. To Which Animals Does it Apply?
7. What is Called Basar – Flesh?

37. Ever Min HaChai II

Outline for This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Amount for Liability
3. The Life of the Animal
4. Strict Liability
5. Removing the Prohibition
6. Kosher vs. Non-Kosher Slaughter
7. Possible Leniencies
8. Practical Advice
9. Eating Out
10. Eggs and Milk

38. Kashrus III

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Two Reasons
3. Modern Applications
4. Stam Yayin - Wine
5. Chalav Akum & Gevinas Akum – Milk & Cheese
6. Pas Akum – Baked Goods
7. Bishul Akum – Non-Jewish Cooking
8. Sheichar Akum – Social Drinking
9. Transporting Kosher Foods

39. Lifecycle I: Male & Female

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Sexual Morality & Derivations of the Laws
3. Example: The Canaanites
4. Categories of Prohibited Relations
5. Source of the Basic Subdivisions
6. Prohibited by Early Decree
7. Permitted, yet not Practiced
8. Male & Female Liability
9. Precautionary Laws

39.1. Lifecycle I: Homosexuality and Judaism

39.2. Lifecycle I: Homosexuality and Judaism II

40. Lifecycle II: Marriage & Pre Marriage

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Source for Marriage
3. Implications of the Marital Concept
4. The Obligation of Yishuv HaAretz
5. Marriage
6. Beyond the Minimum
7. Sources & Suggested Elements for a Marriage Service
8. Common Law Marriage

41. Lifecycle III: Conception & Contraception

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Reproduction & Yishuv HaAretz
3. Conception & Contraception
4. Coitus Interruptus
5. The Marital Bond & Sexual Intimacy
6. Condoms
7. Surgical Sterilization
8. Pharmaceutical Contraceptives

42. Lifecycle IV: Abortion

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
3. Abortion in the Noahide Laws
4. At What Point is Abortion Prohibited
5. When the Mother is Endangered
6. Die or Transgress
7. Rodef: The Pursuer

42.1. Lifecycle IV: Fetal Rights and Maternal Obligation

43. Lifecycle V: Circumcision

Outline of This Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Talmud Yoma 28b
3. Sanhedrin 59b
4. The Descendants of Keturah/Hagar
5. Voluntary Circumcision
6. Possibly Prohibited
7. Conclusions

44. Lifecycle VI: Age of Oligation

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Possibilities
3. Definitions
4. Possible Torah Hints
          a. Adam
          b. Shechem
          c. Shimon & Levi
5. The Rishonim
a. Rashi
b. The Rosh
6. The Acharonim
          a. Chasam Sofer
          b. The Gaon of Rogatchov
7. Maimonides?
8. Age of Obligation for Women
9. Conversion of a Minor
10. Bar Chiyuv

45. Life Cycle VII: Honoring Parents

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Are Noahides Obligated in Honoring Parents?
3. Obligated From Another Source?
4. Mitzvos Muskalos – Logically Compelled Mitzvos
5. Mitzvos Muskalos – Obligation or Liability?
6. Honoring Parents as a Logical Mitzvah
7. The Commandment is Only to Honor One’s Parents
8. Anthology of the Laws of Honoring Parents

45.1. Life Cycle VII - Honoring Our Parents

45.2. The Challenge of Honoring Parents

45.3. The Challenge of Honoring Parents II

45.4. Lifecycle VII: Honoring Abusive Parents

45.5. Lifecycle VII: Honoring Abusive Parents III

45.6. Lifecycle VII: Honoring Abusive Parents II

46. Lifecycle VIII: Sickness

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Spiritual vs. Physical Illness
          a. Sickness as an Impetus to Repentance & Self Betterment.
          b. Sickness is not only a message for the sick.
3. Visiting the Sick
4. Nature of the Mitzvah: Rabbinic or Biblical?
          a. Rabbinic?
b. Biblical?
5. Spiritual Purpose of the Mitzvah
          a. Spiritual Purposes
          b. For the Patient
          c. For the Visitor
6. Practical Reasons for the Mitzvah
          a. Physical Needs
          b. Emotional Needs
7. Who is Called Sick?
8. Guidelines for Visiting the Sick

47. Lifecycle IX : Life Threatening Illness & End of Life

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. When This a Chance of Recovery
          a. Praying for the Very Ill
          b. Changing the Name
3. When the Doctors Have Given Up Hope: The Inevitable End
          a. Praying for the Terminally Ill
          b. Praying for the Death of One Who is Suffering
          c. Euthanasia
4. Near Death
a. Respirator
5. Organ Donation


47.1. Prayer and the Terminally ILL Patient

47.2. Prayer and the Terminally ILL Patient II

47.3. Prayer and the Terminally ILL Patient III

47.4. Halacha and Hospice

47.5. Truth Telling to Terminal Patients

47.6. Truth Telling to Terminal Patients II

47.7. Truth Telling to Terminal Patients III

47.8. The Cronic Vegetative Patient

47.9. The Cronic Vegetative Patient II

47.10. Physician - Assisted Dying I

47.11. Physician - Assisted Dying II

47.12. Physician - Assisted Dying III

48. Lifecycle X: Death, Burial & Other Issues

Outline of Lesson:

2.Body & Soul
4.Delaying Burial
6.Cremation vs. Burial
7.Funeral Service

49. Lifecycle XI : Inheritance

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Avraham & Eliezer
3. Talmud, Kiddushin 17b to 18a
4. Who Inherits?
5. Sons or Daughters
6. Equal Inheritances?
7. Basic Summary So Far
8. Havaras Nachala
9. Mitigating Factors
10. Practical Examples of Partial Inheritance

50. Animal Issues I: Tzaar Baalei Chaim-Cruelty to Animals

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Sources
          a. Halacha LeMoshe MiSinai
          b. Deut. 25:4
          c. Exodus 23:5
          d. Ever Min HaChai
          e. Balaam, Adam & Noah
3. Elucidating the Sefer Chassidim
4. Are Noahides Obligated?
5. In Practice

50.1. Animal Issues I: Animal Experimentation

50.2. Animal Issues I: Animal Experimentation II

50.3. Animal Issues I: Judaism and Animal Experimentation

50.4. Animal Issues I: Judaism and Animal Experimentation II

50.5. Judaism and Animal Experimentation III

50.6. Judaism and Animal Experimentation IV

50.7. Judaism and Animal Experimentation V

51. Animal Issues: II - Cross Breeding Animals & Grafting Trees

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Braisa, Sanhedrin 56b
3. Sanhedrin 60a Elucidated
4. Where were Noahides Originally Commanded in These Mitzvos?
5. Maimonides
6. Explaining Maimonides
7. Summary of Laws
          a. Determining Different Species
          b. The Prohibition Against Cross-Breeding Animals
                    i. To What Does it Apply?
                    ii. How Does One Transgress?
                    iii. Artificial Insemination & Genetic Engineering
                    iv. Status of Hybrid Offspring
          c. The Prohibition Against Grafting Different Species
                    i. What is Called “Tree,” “Vine,” and “Fruit”
                    ii. To Which Combinations Does this Prohibition Apply?
                    iii. Discovering Grafted Trees or Vines on One’s Property
                    iv. The Fruit & Branches of a Hybrid Tree

51.1. Animal Issues II - Interface of Halacha and Genetic Engineering

51.2. Animal Issues II - Judaism and the Enviornment

51.3. Animal Issues II - Judaism and the Enviornment II

52. Idolatry I: Introduction

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Origin of Idolatry
3. Maimonides, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 1:1-2
4. What is Idolatry?
5. Maimonides
6. Modes of Idolatrous Worship
7. Belief Alone: Permitted or Prohibited?
8. Shituf
9. Shituf, Christianity, & Other Religions
10. Creating New Religions

53. Idolatry II : Fundamentals

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Injunction Against Noahide Idolatry
3. Noahide vs. Jewish Prohibitions of Idolatry
          a. Capital Idolatry
          b. Lesser Forms of Idolatry
4. Idolatry in Thought or Intellect: The Prohibition of “Turning to Idolatry”
          a. Thoughts and Theologies
          b. Books of Idolatry
          c. Learning From Deviant Believers
          d. Deniers of the Torah & Scorners
          e. Debating Idolaters & Atheists
5. Verbal Idolatry
          a. Oaths
          b. Referring to Idols
          c. When it is Permitted

54. Idolatry III: Idolatry in Deed

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Idolatry for Jews & Non-Jews
3. The Elements of Idolatry
4. Prohibitions of Benefit
5. Objects of Idolatry
a. Representational Idols
b. Natural Idols
c. Decorative Figures
d. Appurtenances to Idolatry
6. Modes of Worship
a. Idol Specific
b. Methods Reserved for HaShem
c. Placing Items Before an Idol
7. Secondary Services & Practices
8. Nullification

54.1. Idolatry III: Idolatry in Deed - Art or Idolatry

54.2. Idolatry III: Idolatry in Deed - Art or Idolatry II

54.3. Idolatry III: Idolatry in Deed - Art or Idolatry III

55. Idolatry IV : Idolaters

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Man as God
3. A Man With an Idol or Image Upon Him
4. In Business
          a. As a Seller
          b. As a Buyer
          c. An Accidental Purchase
          d. Idolatrous Festivals
5. Inheriting Idolatry
6. Attending Idolatrous Festivals
7. Entering Places of Idolatry

56. Monetary Law I: Introduction & Concepts

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Monetary Mitzvos for Jews vs. For Noahides
3. Maimonides & Others
4. The Minimum Amount Considered Theft
5. Restitution?
          a. Eruvin 62a
          b. Rashi
          c. Other Rishonim

57. Monetary Law II: Overview of the Laws of Theft

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Prohibition Against Theft
3. Robbery vs. Theft
4. Transactional Law
          a. Overcharging, Undercharging & Price Gouging
          b. Formulating Covetous Thoughts & Schemes
          c. Against False Weights & Measures
          d. Against Owning False Weights & Measures
          e. Requirement to Maintain Honest Weights & Measures
5. Debts
          a. Against Withholding Payment When One Has Means to Pay
          b. Falsely Denying a Debt

58. Monetary Law III: Laws of Theft Continued

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Workplace Theft
3. Summary of Laws of Workplace Theft
          a. Hourly Wage Employees
          b. Hourly Employees & Side Businesses
          c. Office Supplies & Resources
          d. Leftover Material
          e. Partaking of Produce
          f. Partaking of Office Property?
4. Land
5. Kidnapping
6. Making Restitution

58.1. Appendix: Maimonides, Hilchos Sechirus 12

Derivations from Deuteronomy 23:25-26
Translation Reprinted From

§1 When workers are performing activities with produce that grows from the earth,' but the work required for it has not been completed, and their actions bring the work to its completion, the employer is commanded to allow them to eat from the produce with which they are working. This applies whether they are working with produce that has been harvested or produce that is still attached to the ground.  This is derived from Deuteronomy 23:25, which states: "When you enter the vineyard of your colleague, you may eat grapes as you desire," and ibid: 26, which states: "When you enter the standing grain belonging to your colleague, you may break off stalks by hand." According to the Oral Tradition, we learned that these verses are speaking solely about a paid worker. For if the owner of the produce did not hire him, what right does the person have to enter his colleague's vineyard or standing grain without his permission? Instead, the interpretation of the verse is that when you enter the domain of your employer for work, you may eat.

§2 What are the differences in the application of this mitzvah between a person who performs work with produce that has been reaped and one who works with produce that is still attached to the ground? A person who performs work with produce that has been reaped may partake of the produce as long as the work necessary for it has not been completed. Once the work necessary for it has been completed, he may not eat. By contrast, a person who performs work with produce that is still attached to the ground - e.g., a harvester of grapes or a reaper of grain - may not partake of the produce until he has completed his work.

For example, a person harvests grapes and puts them into a large basket. When the basket is filled, it is taken away and emptied in another place. According to Scriptural Law, the worker may eat only when the basket has been filled. Nevertheless, in order to prevent the owner from suffering a loss, the Sages ruled that the workers may eat while they are walking from one row to another and while they are returning from the vat, so that they will not neglect their work to sit down and eat. Instead, they were granted permission to eat while they are performing their work, so that they will not neglect it.

§3 When a person neglects his work and eats or eats when he has not completed his work, he transgresses a negative commandment, as Deuteronomy 23:26 states:

"You shall not lift a sickle against your colleague's standing grain."

According to the Oral Tradition, it is explained that as long as the worker is involved in reaping, he should not lift a sickle in order to partake of the produce himself. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Similarly, a worker who carries home produce with which he had worked or who takes more than he can eat himself and gives to others transgresses a negative commandment, as ibid.:28 states:"You may not place in your containers."
The violation of these two prohibitions is not punishable by lashes, because a person who ate when one should not have or took produce home is liable to make financial restitution.

§4 A person who milks an animal, one who makes butter, and one who makes cheese may not partake of that food, for it is not a product of the earth.

When a person hoes around onion heads and garlic heads, even though he removes small ones from the larger ones, or the like, he may not partake of them, because this activity does not constitute the completion of the task.

Needless to say, watchmen over gardens, orchards and fields where any crops are grown - e.g., cucumber gardens and gourd gardens - may not partake of the produce growing there at all.

§5 A person who separates dates and figs that have already been harvested and are stuck together] may not partake of them, for the work that obligates the performance of the mitzvah of tithing has been completed.

A person who works with wheat and the like after they have been tithed - e.g., a person was hired to remove pebbles from grain, to sift the kernels or to grind them - may partake of them, for the work that obligates the performance of the mitzvah of challah has not been completed. When, however, a person kneads dough, bastes loaves or bakes, he may not partake of the food, because the work that obligates the performance of the mitzvah of challah has become completed. And a worker may not partake of produce except when the work that obligates the performance of the mitzvah of tithing or challah has not been completed.

§6 If the cakes of figs belonging to a person become broken up, his barrels of wine become open, or his gourds become cut, and he hires workers to tend to the produce, they may not partake of it, for the work necessary for them has been completed and they have become obligated to be tithed. Indeed, they are Tevel.

If, however, the owner did not notify the workers, he must tithe the produce and allow them to partake of it.

Workers may not partake of the crops in a field that was consecrated to the Temple treasury. This is derived from Deuteronomy 23:25, which speaks of "your colleague's vineyard."

§7 When a person hires workers to work with produce that is Neta Reva'i, they may not partake of it. If he did not inform them that it was Neta Reva'i, he must redeem it, and allow them to partake of it.

§8 Workers who reap, thresh, winnow, separate unwanted matter from food, harvest olives or grapes, tread grapes, or perform any other tasks of this nature are granted the right to partake of the produce with which they working by Scriptural Law.

§9 Watchmen for vats, grain heaps and any produce that has been separated from the ground, for which the work that obligates tithing has not been completed may partake of the produce because of local convention. They are not granted this privilege according to Scriptural Law, because a watchman is not considered to be one who performs an action.

If, however, a person works with his limbs whether with his hands, his feet or even with his shoulders, he is entitled to partake of produce according to the Torah.

§10 A worker who is working with figs may not partake of grapes. One who is working with grapes may not partake of figs. These laws are derived from Deuteronomy 23:25, which states:

"When you enter the vineyard of your colleague, you may eat grapes."

When a person is working with one vine, he may not eat from another vine. Nor may he partake of grapes together with other food; he should not partake of them together with bread or salt. If, however, the worker set a limit concerning the quantity that he may eat, he may eat the produce with salt, with bread or with any other food that he desires.

It is forbidden for a worker to suck the juice from grapes, for the verse states: "And you shall eat grapes." Neither the worker's sons nor his wife may roast the kernels of grain in a fire for him. This is implied by the above verse, which states: "You may eat grapes as you desire." The implication is that you must desire the grapes as they are. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

§11 It is forbidden for a worker to eat an inordinate amount of the produce with which he is working. This is implied by the above verse, which states: "You may eat... as you desire, to your satisfaction." It is permitted, however, for him to delay eating until he reaches the place of higher quality grapes and eat there.

A worker may eat even a dinar's worth of cucumbers or dates even though he was hired to work only for a silver me'ah. Nevertheless, we teach a person not to be a glutton, so that he will not close the doors in his own face. If a person is guarding four or five grain heaps, he should not eat his fill from only one of them. Instead, he should eat an equal amount from each one.

§12 Workers who have not walked both lengthwise and laterally in a vat may eat grapes but may not drink wine, for at that time they are still working solely with grapes. When they have treaded in the vat and walked both lengthwise and laterally, they may eat grapes and drink the grape juice, for they are working with both the grapes and the wine.

§13 When a worker says: "Give my wife and my children what I would eat," or "I will give a small amount of what I have taken to eat to my wife and my children," he is not given this prerogative. For the Torah has granted this right only to a worker himself. Even when a Nazarite who is working with grapes says, "Give some to my wife and children," his words are of no consequence.

§14 When a worker - and his wife, his children and his slaves - were all employed to work with produce, and the worker stipulated that they - neither he nor the members of his household - should not partake of the produce, they may not partake of it.

When does the above apply? When they are past majority, because they are intellectually mature, responsible for their decisions, and willingly gave up the right the Torah granted them. If, however, the children are minors, their father cannot pledge that they will not eat, for they are not eating from his property or from what the employer grants them, but rather from what they were granted by God.

58.2. Advertising & Promotional Activities

58.3. Advertising & Promotional Activities II

58.4. Advertising & Promotional Activities III

58.5. Price Controls and Consumer Advocacy

58.6. Price Controls and Consumer Advocacy II

59. Dinim I: Introduction

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. The Basics of Dinim
          a. Maimonides, Melachim 9:14
3. Sanhedrin 56b: R’ Yochanan & R’ Yitzchok
4. Katzenellenbogen & Bragadini v. Guistiniani, Venice 1550
          a. Rav Moshe Isserles, Shu”t HaRama, No. 10
5. Reception of the Rama’s Ruling
          a. Aruch LaNer
          b. Asmachta vs. Horaah
          c. The Netziv
          d. The Talmud itself…
          e. Pre-Sinai vs. Post-Sinai
          f. Precedents

60. Dinim II: Civil Law

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Shechem
          a. Maimonides
          b. Nachmanides
3. “Comparable?”
4. Conclusions
5. The Rema Revisited

60.1. Halachic Perspectives on Civilian Casualties I

[From the Kol Torah Journal, Vol. 17, No. 17, Jan. 5, 2008]

by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Perhaps the most critical Halachic/ethical issue facing the Jewish State and indeed the entire civilized world is the question of avoiding civilian casualties when battling terrorists. Groups such as Al Qaeda and Hezbollah take advantage of Western sensibilities by deliberately embedding themselves within civilian populations and cynically using them as human shields. The civilized world struggles to strike a balance between combating such evil groups on one hand and trying to limit civilian casualties on the other.

Israel in particular must confront this terrible challenge. In recent years, Israel has risked and lost many of its precious soldiers in order to reduce Arab civilian casualties. For example, after a series of horrific terrorist attacks in the first half of 2002 (including the bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya in which 29 people partaking in a Pesach Seder were murdered by a homicide bomber), the Israeli army launched an operation with the goal of severely weakening terrorist groups. A hotbed of terrorists had been the Jenin refugee camp in the Northern Shomron. The Israeli army could have bombed this refugee camp, but instead it chose to send foot soldiers house to house to eliminate the terrorists located in the camp, by which it hoped to reduce civilian casualties. Such casualties certainly were kept to a minimum in this effort. However, 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in the Jenin operation who would have been spared had Israel attacked only from the air.

Similarly, in the summer of 2006 Hezbollah mercilessly pounded Northern Israel with hundreds of rockets. Israel could have responded by "carpet bombing" Southern Lebanon but instead it chose to attack Southern Lebanon with a combination of air attacks and ground forces hoping to reduce civilian losses. While Israel certainly reduced non-combatant deaths, more than one hundred Israeli soldiers were killed, and the stated goal of eliminating Hezbollah's presence in Southern Lebanon was not achieved. We must ask whether the Israeli government made an appropriate moral decision in both Jenin and Lebanon. In other words, does Halacha permit and/or require the sacrifice of our soldiers in order to reduce enemy civilian losses?

Rav Yuval Sherlow, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva of Petach Tikvah and an advisor to the Israeli army on ethical matters, visited the Torah Academy of Bergen County in March 2007 and told the students of a specific issue in this regard that he was asked to resolve. The Israeli Air Force had located a very dangerous terrorist leader and had the opportunity to eliminate him. The terrorist noticed the plane and slipped into a taxi cab that had a passenger. The question was whether to bomb the cab despite the presence of non-combatants in the car.

In this series, we shall outline the Halachic and Hashkafic issues involved in resolving such critical issues. We will not address the political and military questions involved in making these decisions, leaving such considerations for experts in these areas. There has been extensive Halachic discussion of this issue, including a Teshuvah written by Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Teshuvot Amud HaYemini number 16 and BeTzomet HaTorah VeHaMedinah 3:253-289) and a lengthy essay written by Rav Dr. Neriah Gutel (Techumin 23:18-42). We will seek to discover a consensus approach that has emerged from the prominent Rabbanim who have addressed this issue, who include Rav Yisraeli, Rav Yaakov Ariel, Rav J. David Bleich, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Rav Hershel Schachter, and Rav Mordechai Willig.

Shimon and Levi at Shechem

The point of departure for this discussion is the evaluation of Shimon and Levi's actions at Shechem (Bereishit 34). Subsequent to the kidnapping and rape of Dinah, Shimon and Levi attacked Shechem, killing not only the rapist Shechem and the town leader Chamor, but also all of the males of Shechem who had a Brit Milah. (For a discussion of whether they killed every male in the city, including those without a Brit Milah, see Megadim 23:14). We shall survey the three primary views: the respective approaches of the Rambam, the Ramban, and the Maharal. For a full analysis of this event, see Binyamin Mallek's essay that appears in Megadim (23:9-30).

The Rambam (Hilchot Melachim 9:14) believes that Shimon and Levi acted appropriately at Shechem. He notes that Halacha demands of all of humanity to eliminate evil from its midst. This is the obligation of Dinim, one of the seven Noahide laws. The failure of the males in Shechem to protest and prevent the rape and continued abduction of Dinah was a violation of the Noahide Code punishable by death (see Sanhedrin 57a).

The Ramban (commentary to Bereishit 34:13 and 49:5-6) strongly disagrees with the Rambam's opinion. He believes that Shimon and Levi were justified in killing Shechem and Chamor. However, he argues that the killing of the males of Shechem was entirely unjustified. His basic argument is that it was wrong for Shimon and Levi to kill the males of Shechem, since they did nothing wrong to Yaakov's family. The Ramban asserts that the residents of an area do not deserve death for failure to control the evil actions of their leader. He adds that even if they deserved to die due to other violations of the Noahide Code, Shimon and Levi were not authorized to execute such punishment.

Proofs to the Rambam and the Ramban

The Ramban supports his opinion from the fact that Yaakov Avinu strongly criticized Shimon and Levi's actions (Bereishit 34:30). The Rambam could answer that the Torah (ibid. verse 31) records Shimon and Levi's justification of their actions. Moreover, Yaakov Avinu does not respond to this justification, and the Torah gives the last word to Shimon and Levi. On the other hand, the Ramban could argue that Yaakov criticizes Shimon and Levi on his deathbed (Bereishit 49:5-7). Thus, the Torah in fact gives the last word to Yaakov Avinu. The Rambam might reject this proof by noting that Yaakov on his deathbed criticized Shimon and Levi for their leading roles in the sale of Yosef, not for killing the inhabitants of Shechem. (The Ramban would disagree, since he believes that Yaakov never discovered that it was the brothers who sold Yosef; see his comments to Bereishit 45:27.) Indeed the words "Ish" and "Shor" used in Bereishit 49:7 fit Yosef, as he is referred to as a Shor in Moshe Rabbeinu's final blessing (Devarim 34:17) and as an Ish no less than fourteen times in Sefer Bereishit (as noted in Megadim ibid. 25-26).

I would suggest that the Rambam interprets Peshuto Shel Mikra as implicitly sanctioning the actions of Shimon and Levi at Shechem. In Devarim chapter 27, Moshe Rabbeinu describes the future placement of the Shevatim on Har Gerizim and Har Eival (located in Shechem) during the ceremony announcing the various Berachot and Kelalot that will come upon those who do/do not keep the Torah. The Berachah is given on Har Gerzim and the curse on Har Eival. It is interesting to note that of the three sons whom Yaakov criticized on his deathbed, Reuven alone was placed on Har Eival, while Shimon and Levi were placed on Har Gerizim. It is hardly surprising that Reuven was positioned on Har Eival for this ceremony, which included, "Cursed is the man who sleeps with his father's wife" (Devarim 27:20), a sin to which Reuven had connection (see Bereishit 35:22). However, it is quite noteworthy that Shimon and Levi were placed on Har Grizim despite the fact that the ceremony would occur in an area where their ancestors sinned (according to the Ramban). The positioning of Shimon and Levi on Har Gerizim might be interpreted as Hashem sanctioning the actions of Shimon and Levi at Shechem more than two hundred years earlier.

The Maharal and Twentieth-Century Applications

The Maharal (Gur Aryeh to Bereishit 34:13) adopts a compromise of sorts between the Rambam and the Ramban. On one hand, he agrees with the Ramban that the people of Shechem cannot be held accountable for the actions of their leaders, for the leaders exercised a form of coercion. On the other hand, the Maharal justifies the actions of Shimon and Levi.

He argues that the Torah sanctions waging war when a nation has attacked us. In such circumstances, we are permitted and perhaps obligated to respond to the other nation's provocation. In responding, we attack the other nation and do not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent members of that nation. Shimon and Levi appropriately responded to Shechem's aggression. Once they responded, they were permitted to attack the entire nation, because this is the manner in which war is waged.

It would appear obvious that the Maharal does not sanction frivolous attacks on civilian members of an enemy nation. When the proper execution of battle plans necessitates killing non-combatants, though, he would permit doing so. For example, it appears that the Maharal would sanction the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 despite the Japanese babies who were killed in this attack. He also would sanction the unrelenting Allied bombing of Germany towards the end of World War Two despite the killing of German babies in towns such as Dresden.

I should stress that many people probably would not be alive today had it not been for these attacks. My father, for example, served as a combat soldier in the Pacific during World War Two and might not have survived an American invasion of Japan. Many Holocaust survivors owe their survival to the relentless Allied bombing of Germany, which brought that evil nation to its knees. The Maharal believes that my father's blood was "redder" (see Pesachim 25b) than the blood of the Japanese babies who perished in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This is the price of being a member of an aggressor nation.

Next, we shall discuss how contemporary Poskim apply the dispute between the Rambam, the Ramban, and the Maharal to the awful challenges faced by Israel today.

60.2. Halachic Perspectives on Civilian Casualties II

[From the Kol Torah Journal, Vol. 17, No. 17, Jan. 5, 2008]

by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Last time, we began a discussion of what might be the most important Halachic/ethical issue facing Medinat Yisrael and the civilized world: the question of harming civilians while attacking enemy forces. The survival of Medinat Yisrael and the entire civilized world might depend on this issue, as contemporary radical Islamic terrorists' modus operandi is to shelter themselves among civilians. In this way, they seek to take advantage of western sensibilities that are offended by harming civilians in battle. Our point of departure to resolving this quandary was the dispute between the Rambam, the Ramban, and the Maharal as to how to evaluate Shimon and Levi's killing the adult male population of Shechem in the wake of the capture and rape of Dinah (Bereishit chapter 34). The Rambam supports their action, arguing that the people of Shechem deserved to be punished due to their failure to punish their leaders for abducting and raping Dinah. The Ramban, on the other hand, maintains that Shimon and Levi were not justified, as the males of Shechem did not deserve capital punishment for this failure. The Maharal claims that although the males of Shechem were innocent, Shimon and Levi were justified in killing them, because in a war between nations, one does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.

Applying the Different Views

The Rambam and the Ramban argue as to whether Halacha considers an entire population responsible for the evil perpetrated by its leaders. As we discussed last week, it is difficult to discern whose opinion is endorsed by the Chumash. Indeed, Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Teshuvot Amud HaYemini 16) concludes his discussion of this debate, "In practice, there is insufficient basis to permit action against an entire community that has failed to execute its duty and remove murderers from its midst so long as it is reasonable to excuse them with the claim of fear, pressure, and the like."

However, prominent Poskim such as Rav Yaakov Ariel (Arachim BeMivchan HaMilchamah p. 83), Rav Dov Lior (Techumin 4:186), Rav Hershel Schachter (BeIkvei HaTzon p. 207) and Rav Asher Weiss (Minchat Asher Devarim 217-222) rely upon the Maharal's interpretation of the Shechem episode to allow harming anyone who belongs to an enemy nation during wartime. Rav Yitzchak Blau (Tradition Winter 2006 p. 11) argues, though, that "Maharal is a decidedly minority viewpoint with regard to that story and thus is a shaky leg upon which to build a far reaching position." Rav Dr. Neriah Gutel (Techumin 23:32) expresses similar reservations about applying the Maharal's principle in practice. We will seek to demonstrate why the Maharal is a most solid source and most definitely does not constitute a "shaky leg" upon which to base a resolution to our question.

Support for the Maharal

The Maharal's approach to the Shechem incident is endorsed by Rav Zalman Sorotzkin (Oznayim LaTorah, Bereishit 34:25), a leading mid-twentieth-century Halachic authority and Torah commentator. Furthermore, Rav Gutel (Techumin 23:34-35) convincingly demonstrates that the Netziv (Bereishit 9:5 and Devarim 20:8) believes that one is not punished for killing non-combatants during the course of battle. Thus, although the Netziv does not seem to subscribe to the Maharal's interpretation of the Shechem episode, he nonetheless agrees with the principle regarding killing civilians during wartime. In addition, Rav Schachter (ad. loc.) argues that the Netziv (commentary to Kiddushin 45a) articulates a principle that accords with the Maharal's approach.

Thus, even if the various commentators do not share the Maharal's defense of Shimon and Levi, they do not necessarily reject the underlying principle. They may believe that killing Shechem and Chamor would have sufficed to rescue Dinah and that waging war against the entire town was therefore uncalled for. In other words, the war against Shechem was unjustified, but in a just war one may attack without distinguishing between the innocent and guilty if it is impossible to wage war effectively in another manner.

Furthermore, Rav Asher Weiss notes that the Radak (Divrei HaYamim 1:22:8) also subscribes to the Maharal's principle. In his explanation of why David was disqualified from building the Beit HaMikdash due to the "blood that he had shed," he writes that David had killed non-combatants in the course of battle. However, he adds that David was not held accountable for their deaths, "since his intention was to eliminate evildoers so that they would not harm our nation." For further explanation of why this nonetheless would disqualify him from building the Mikdash, see Rav Elchanan Samet's Iyunim BeFarshiot HaShavua (1:68-69).

Furthermore, Rav Schachter (ad. loc.) argues that a principle presented by the Minchat Chinuch (425:3) also accords with the Maharal's approach. The Minchat Chinuch asserts that the rules forbidding endangering oneself do not apply in a situation of war. If a war is mandated by the Torah, then by definition, explains the Minchat Chinuch, it demands from soldiers to endanger their lives since, unfortunately, this is the normal course of war. Similarly, argues Rav Schachter, the Torah expects that we endanger the lives of civilians while waging a just war if this is necessary to achieve success. Rav Schachter notes that Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (in his commentary to the Haftarah of Parashat VaYishlach) and Dayan Ehrenberg (Teshuvot Devar Yehoshua 2:48) concur with the assertion of the Minchat Chinuch.

Rav Shaul Yisraeli (ad. loc.) notes that "We do not find the obligation in war to distinguish between blood and blood (combatants and non-combatants). In the course of war, when laying siege to a city and the like, there is no obligation to make such distinctions." Rav J. David Bleich (Contemporary Halakhic Problems 3 p. 277) echoes this observation: "Not only does one search in vain for a ruling prohibiting military activity likely to result in the death of civilians, but to this writer's knowledge, there exists no discussion in classical rabbinic sources that takes cognizance of the likelihood of causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken as posing a halakhic or moral problem." The vast response literature and that an assertion such as this made by Rav Bleich carries great weight.

Accordingly, we see that far from being a "decidedly minority viewpoint," the Maharal constitutes a mainstream and normative concept that is appropriately applied by the aforementioned leading Poskim. This is hardly surprising in light of King Shaul's warning to the Keini to evacuate their homes lest they be harmed in the course of war with Amaleik (Shmuel 1:15:6). We see that Shaul was prepared to endanger civilians in the course of war (and therefore told them to leave), and he was not censured for this by either the Tanach or Chazal. Both Rav Ariel (Techumin 4:190) and Rav Bleich (ad. loc.) cite this as strong support for the principle articulated by the Maharal. Moreover, this precedent extends the principle to harming even another nation living in proximity to the enemy if no viable alternative exists.

The Maharal and Imitating Hashem

We can further support the opinion of the Maharal from the principle of "Acharei Hashem Elokeichem Teileichu" (Devarim 13:5). This principle obligates us to imitate Hashem's actions. Chazal (Sotah 14a) offer such examples as "Just as Hashem visits the sick, we too should visit the sick" and "Just as Hashem buries the dead, we too should bury the dead." Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in particular was fond of presenting further examples, such as "Just as Hashem is creative, we too should be creative" (see Ish HaHalacha pp. 84-85).

I would suggest that the Maharal's principle also constitutes an example of imitating Hashem. The Gemara (Bava Kama 60a) states, "When permission is given to an angel to destroy, it does not distinguish between good people and bad people." Rashi (commenting on Bereishit 6:13 s.v. Keitz Kol Basar) writes that whenever there is immorality, utter destruction comes to the world and kills the good with the bad. Note that had we not distinguished ourselves from the Egyptians (see Rashi to Shemot 12:6 s.v. VeHayah), our firstborns would have suffered the same fates as those of the Egyptians.

It seems obvious that Hashem, Who is good and merciful to all (Tehillim 145:9), would punish the good along with the bad only if no alternative exists. Similarly, when waging a legitimate war against a nation that has perpetrated evil, we may, or perhaps must, punish the innocent along with the guilty if no other viable alternative exists in order to wage a winning campaign.

The Maharal and the Geneva Convention

Rav Yisraeli and Rav Gutel note that Halacha seems to require conforming to the Geneva Convention and the norms of civilized countries regarding the ethical manner of waging war. This appears to apply even if the convention contradicts Halacha, just as we were required to honor the treaty we signed with the Givonim (Yehoshua chapter nine) despite the fact that it violated Halacha (see Rambam Hilchot Melachim 6:5).

Rav Yisraeli notes, however, that this applies not to the theory or rhetoric of the Geneva Convention, but rather to the manner in which it is practiced by civilized countries. This is similar to the idea I heard Rav Mordechai Willig cite in the name of Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Moshe Feinstein that the rule of Dina DeMalchuta Dina (the obligation to honor the laws of land in which we reside) applies to the law as it is practiced and not as it is written. For example, Rav Kotler permitted driving sixty two miles-per-hour in a fifty five mile-per-hour zone, since the police did not issue a ticket for traveling at less than sixty three miles-per-hour.

Regarding warfare, liberal Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz writes ("The Case for Israel" p. 167): "Although collective punishment is prohibited by international law, it is widely practiced throughout the world, including the most democratic and liberty-minded countries. Indeed, no system of international deterrence can be effective without some reliance on collective punishment. Every time one nation retaliates against another, it collectively punishes citizens of that country. The American and British bombings of German cities punished the residents of those cities. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed thousands of innocent Japanese for the crimes of their leaders. The bombing of military targets inevitably kills civilians."

We may add the following examples to Professor Dershowitz's list: The Allied blockade of the Central Powers to force them into submission via starvation and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, which prevented Soviet nuclear attack during the Cold War and which was predicated on the threat of collective punishment on a massive scale. I would argue that the practice of Allied forces during World Wars One and Two establishes the norm for how civilized nations should practice the principles articulated in the Geneva Convention when fighting an evil and tenacious enemy that is bent on annihilating its opponents. This standard is very much in harmony with the Maharal's principle of conduct during warfare.


Rav Ariel, Rav Lior, Rav Schachter, and Rav Weiss are without a doubt fully justified in following the principle articulated by the Maharal, which has a rock-solid basis in Tanach, Chazal, Rishonim, Acharonim, and basic Hashkafic principle. Thus, Halacha permits waging war without regard for civilian casualties if the war is justified and no viable alternative exists with which to wage a successful battle. Next week, we shall discuss the application of this principle to the current struggle of Israel and the civilized world against militant Islamic terror. We will focus on the critically important question of whether we should sacrifice "small" numbers of our soldiers in order to avoid large numbers of enemy casualties.

60.3. Halachic Perspectives on Civilian Casualties III

[From the Kol Torah Journal, Vol. 17, No. 17, Jan. 5, 2008]

by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


Today, we shall conclude our discussion of avoiding civilian casualties in the course of war. In the past two weeks, we have presented the opinion of the Maharal that when a nation wages war against another nation, the war is waged without distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants. Of course, this applies only when the war is a legitimate one and only if victory cannot be achieved without risking civilian casualties. We concluded that the Maharal constitutes normative Halacha and fully conforms to Torah Hashkafah and ethics.

This week, we shall discuss the application of the Maharal to Medinat Yisrael's current struggle with Arab terrorism. We shall focus on three critical issues. Firstly, is the current struggle categorized as war? Next, is the struggle against a nation? Finally, must Israel risk the lives of its soldiers in an attempt to reduce civilian casualties?

Is the Current Struggle Defined as War?

It is important to stress that the Torah sanctions the risk of harming civilians only during wartime. Rav Shaul Yisraeli notes (Teshuvot Amud HaYemini number 16) that an individual may not save his life by killing another human being. Thus, it is critical to determine if the current struggle against terrorism is defined as war. The intermittent battles against terrorists are fundamentally dissimilar to a "constant" war that Israel waged during, for example, the Yom Kippur War. Indeed, Rav Yuval Sherlow, in his address to TABC students, noted the shifting paradigms in determining ethical conduct during war. He commented that we cannot frame our policies using the same standards of war that were relevant in prior decades.

Rav Yisraeli (ibid.) and Rav Hershel Schachter (BeIkvei HaTzon number 32) argue that the fight against terrorism is defined as a war. Rav Yisraeli addressed a specific situation in 1953 when the Israel Defense Forces raided an Arab village named Kibiyeh in response to a series of attacks, including Arab terrorists killing a woman and her two small children in Yehud. The IDF killed sixty people, including women and children, in the operation. Rav Yisraeli defends the legitimacy of such action by defining it as an act of war, in which distinction is not drawn between guilty and innocent blood. We again stress that such permission applies only if the war is legitimate and the mission's success hinges upon risking the lives of civilians.

Rav Schachter cites from Rav Yaakov Kaminetzsky, who argues that Israel has been in a constant state of war from a Halachic perspective since the establishment of the state. Rav Yaakov accordingly ruled in 1970 that it was forbidden to ransom the great Rav Yitzchak Hutner, who was being held captive by Arab terrorists who had hijacked the airplane on which he was a passenger. There was a suggestion to offer a huge sum to ransom Rav Hutner, since Tosafot (Gittin 58a s.v. Kol) permit paying an exorbitant sum to save a great Rav. Rav Yaakov ruled that Tosafot's permission applies only during peacetime. Since Israel's ongoing struggle with terrorism constitutes a war, Rav Yaakov felt it was forbidden to ransom even one as great as Rav Hutner.

Indeed, Rav Yuval Sherlow noted that terrorists wage war in a fundamentally different manner than mankind has heretofore experienced. The military response necessarily must also differ, and we cannot gauge the morality of such responses using the paradigms of "conventional wars." The bottom line, however, is that this struggle is defined as war even if it differs from wars waged in prior generations.

Are We Waging War Against a Nation?

The Maharal's principle seems to apply only when waging war against a nation. Is the State of Israel regarded as waging a war against the Palestinian community? Rav Yitzchak Blau (Tradition Winter 2006 p. 17) argues, "Even after recognizing the evil done by terrorists, can it truly be said that modern Israel is in a state of war with the collective body of Palestinians when Israelis frequently hire Palestinian workers?" Nonetheless, Rav Kaminetzsky, Rav Yisraeli, and Rav Schachter answer a resounding "Yes!" to this question.

Rav Blau's question emerges from his inaccurate superimposition of the definition of war from a conventional war onto the war against terrorism. The fact that, for example, Americans did not hire Japanese workers World War Two is entirely irrelevant to the current war on terrorism. Indeed, Israelis' hiring of Arab workers is intended in part to motivate Palestinians to prefer the stability of peace. Moreover, Rav Blau's question seems to have become moot when the Palestinians elected Hamas to run the Palestinian Authority in 2006. How can one reasonably claim the innocence of the Palestinian people when they chose to elect a party that explicitly calls for Israel's destruction? Furthermore, the Gaza Strip that is now governed entirely by Hamas undoubtedly constitutes an enemy nation entirely analogous to the relationship between Japan and the United States during World War Two.

Moreover, perhaps even if one asserts that Israel is engaged in a war against the army or community of terrorists and not the Palestinian people, the Maharal's principle remains relevant. Recall from last week that Shaul warned the Keini people to move away from Amaleik, lest they be killed in the ensuing battle. We see that even though Shaul was waging war against Amaleik, he could risk harming another people living in proximity to the Amaleikim, regardless of whether the Keini were more or less numerous than the Amalekites. Similarly, the Israeli army may risk the lives of Palestinian civilians living near Palestinian terrorists. The same applies to Hezbollah terrorists embedded among the civilian population of Lebanon.

Placing Soldiers at Risk to Reduce Civilian Casualties

The Israeli army clearly is entitled to risk the lives of civilians in its efforts to eradicate terrorists. The crucial question, though, is whether it must risk its soldiers' lives in order to reduce civilian casualties. The question is debated by leading Rabbanim of our generation. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein (Techumin 4:185) believes Israel must "absolutely consider the extent of the justification of killing a large group [of civilians mixed with enemy soldiers] in order to save the life of an individual [Israeli soldier]." He regards the amount of civilian casualties as a factor to consider when conceiving battle plans. Rav Avraham Shapira (Techumin 4:182) and Rav Dov Lior (Techumin 4:186), on the other hand, strongly disagree. Rav Lior writes, "In times of war, there surely exists firm Halachic basis for any action done in order to insure that not even one soldier should be, God forbid, harmed." Rav Schachter told me (in a conversation in June 2007) that he agrees with Rav Shapira and Rav Lior. In fact, he argues that Israel acted immorally when it risked its soldiers in Jenin and Lebanon in order to reduce civilian casualties. Rav Bleich (in a telephone interview conducted in July 2007) also told me that he agrees with Rav Shapira and Rav Lior. He agrees with Rav Schachter that it is forbidden to risk Israeli lives in order to save Arab civilians, as occurred in Jenin and Lebanon. My Talmid Avi Levinson reports that Rav Mordechai Willig told him that he also agrees with the approach of Rav Shapira and Rav Lior.

We should note that neither side in this debate cited an explicit source regarding this matter. Rather, it appears to be a question of Halachic-moral intuitions. We should stress that we cannot say that one side is more stringent or maintains a higher moral standard, since each side believes the opposing position to be morally wrong. I simply would add that just as we cited from Rav Yisraeli and Rav Bleich last week that there is no Halachic source that "takes cognizance of the likelihood of causing civilian casualties in the course of hostilities legitimately undertaken," so too there exists no classic Halachic source requiring or even permitting risking Israeli soldiers to save Arab civilian lives. In the absence of explicit sources in either direction, it is fair to say that the consensus opinion of major rabbinic authorities does not accord with the approach of Rav Lichtenstein on this matter.

Rav Bleich cautions, though, that in certain situations it seems that Israel might be justified in risking Israeli lives in order to spare Arab civilians. One such instance would be if it feels that causing Arab civilian casualties will later endanger Israeli lives as a result of violence caused by Arabs seeking revenge. If Israel fears that Arabs will be incited by civilian casualties and endanger Israeli lives, perhaps risking Israeli soldiers to save Israeli lives is permitted. This would seem to be based on the Gemara (Shavuot 35b) that sanctions a king risking up to one sixth of the population in an attempt to secure his nation during a war. A leader may have the right to risk a small amount of soldiers in the short term in order to prevent much larger casualties in the long term. We stress, though, that in these cases, risking Israeli soldiers might be justified solely due to the consideration that it will save Israeli lives in the long run. The blood of the Israeli soldier is redder than the blood of the Arab whose brethren initiated violence against Israel, just as the blood of the American soldier was redder than the blood of Japanese civilians during World War Two.


The Torah wishes us to have a degree of compassion even for our enemies. For example, the Ramban (positive Miztvot that the Rambam omitted from his list of the 613 Mitzvot #5) cites the Sifri requiring that when besieging an enemy position we not completely encircle them. Rather, we should leave one side open in order to give the enemy a chance to escape. The Ramban explains one reason for this rule is that we should have mercy on the enemy soldiers. He also explains that it is our interest to do so, since it will encourage enemy soldiers to escape and thereby weaken the morale of our opponents. Thus, the obligation to have mercy on enemy soldiers applies only if the action taken does not impinge on waging a successful military campaign. It also would seem that the obligation to leave open a fourth side for escape applies only if it also serves to enhance our military strategy, as described by the Ramban, for why else would the Ramban mention the military benefit of leaving open the fourth side?

Nonetheless, as Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Yuval Sherlow explain, winning a just war constitutes an ethical imperative. The compassion we must have for our enemies cannot impinge upon our ability to win a war. Indeed, Rav Sherlow argues that the first clause of the IDF's code of ethics should state that it is a moral obligation for the Israeli army to win. He believes that the failure to recognize victory as a fundamental moral principle significantly contributed to the lack of success in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. One may add that the Israeli secular Supreme Court's rulings (Public committee against torture vs. State of Israel, High Court of Justice 5100/94) requiring Israel to fight terrorism with one hand tied behind its back are also immoral according to the rabbinic consensus. What the Israeli Supreme Court argues is moral might very well be immoral.

Israel has made extraordinarily generous offers for peace towards its Arab neighbors throughout the past decades. It accepted the Peel Partition Plan of 1937 and the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947, offered to exchange land for peace immediately after the Six Day War in 1967, and offered stunning concessions to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000. Arabs have rejected every one of these concessions and responded with wars intended to destroy the State of Israel and exterminate its citizens. Israel clearly is within its rights to defend itself and enjoys the ethical right, nay, obligation, to wage war successfully. Misplaced compassion for enemy soldiers and civilians cannot hamstring our efforts to effectively wage war. The failures of 2006 clearly demonstrate this point.

Avraham Avinu experienced moral anguish over the enemy soldiers that he killed in the war he successfully waged against the four Mesopotamian kings (see Bereishit Rabbah 44:5 cited by Rashi to Bereishit 15:1). However, this emotion was appropriately expressed - only after the war. Before and during the war, he focused on his moral obligation to wage war vigorously and properly against the Mesopotamian aggressors.

Avraham Avinu teaches timeless lessons about ill-timed compassion towards our enemies. It is improper to experience anguish over enemy loss during a legitimate battle. It would have been patently immoral for American soldiers during World War Two to anguish over the battle they were fighting against the Nazis and Japanese. Similarly, the consensus rabbinic opinion regards the risking of Israeli soldiers and restraint from waging war properly in order to reduce Arab civilian casualties as blatantly immoral.

May Hashem send peace to His nation and the entire world.

61. Dinim III: Practical Summary

Outline of Lesson:

1. Introduction
2. Dinim = Procedural Laws & Substantive Decrees
3. Substantive Decrees
4. The Torah Requirements of Dinim
5. Courts That Only Observe or Enforce Part of the Noahide Code
6. Capital Punishment
7. Modern Courts: Conclusions
8. Modern Courts According to the Rema
9. Can Noahides Elect to Be Judged in Bais Din?

62. The Noahide Laws - Epilogue - Where Do We Go From Here