Torah Knowledge For Non-Jews Vol. 1
1. Introduction to the Noahide Laws
1.8. Establish Courts of Justice
Society only functions because of the rule of law. There are two types of law, that created by man and that created by God. Law created by human beings can be good and just and relevant-it can also be fickle. The importance of law is such that it reflects the righteousness or wickedness of a society. Sodom and Gomorrah used law as a means to express their wickedness and a way to oppress its citizens and those who visited their cities. Torah observant Israel is marked out as being a wise people by the nations because of their laws. The Noachide Laws in their most basic form are meant to keep the world from becoming decadent.
Halachah and the Jewish People
The Jewish people have a responsibility to teach, explain, and help spread knowledge of the Halachah for B’nei Noah (children of Noah). They were set as a “kingdom of priests,” they are the priesthood of the entire world and as such they have a responsibility to minister to the entire world.
Courts of Justice by the Noachides
Noachides have an obligation to establish courts of Justice. They also have an obligation to implement the Halachah that is determined by the Sanhedrin of the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin has the responsibility of establishing Halachah for the entire world. What does it mean for Noachides to have courts of justice if the Sanhedrin establishes halachah? It means that just like the Jewish people have lower courts so too are the Noachide courts a lower court. Matters of Halachah are taken to the Sanhedrin when it is too hard for us to decide. The Sanhedrin is the Supreme Court of the world. Noachide courts can function independently of each other; but when a difficult issue arises it must be taken to the Sanhedrin and their ruling becomes law.
Noachide court systems imply Noachide judges. Such judges must be masters of Noachide Halachah. They must be able to understand, interpret and define Noachide halachah. Only when an issue is too great for them will they take it to the “Supreme Court” of Noachide halachah-the Sanhedrin.
A Noachide Judge must share the same qualities as Jewish Judges. Noachide Judges must be fair neither leaning toward the rich or the poor; they must themselves be upright individuals who live by the Noachide laws, rich in Torah learning, most especially, they must have the fear of heaven upon them.
A Noachide Court only requires one judge to pass judgement. Even in the case of a capital offense. A Noachide Court can be made up of Noachides, Jews1 or both. However, a woman cannot serve as a judge as is the case of Jewish Judges.2 Noachides are obligated to set up courts within every major town.3 The purpose of these courts is to enforce the other six Noachide Laws.
A Noachide may be found guilty (and if a capital case) be executed on the basis of a single eye witness.4 A Noachide does not have to be warned before hand as is the case with Jews. A Noachide can be convicted based on the testimony of a relative, although not on the testimony of a woman.5
1. Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot
2. Such Jews are appointed by the Sanhedrin because Noachides have not fulfilled their obligation to establish courts of justice. This seems particular to the Land of Israel with Garim Toshavim (resident aliens) see Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 10:11.
3. Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 9:14
4. Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 9:14. A major city is one that contains 120 men in it.