Torah Knowledge For Non-Jews Vol. 2

Site: Academy of Shem
Course: Academy of Shem
Book: Torah Knowledge For Non-Jews Vol. 2
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Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2024, 12:43 PM



Noahide Nations has an extraordinarily high level of confidence in the content of the Torah teachings provided by our Rabbis and Instructors.  However, any views and opinions expressed in these teachings do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Noahide Nations, the Academy of Shem or the International Torah Fellowship.

1. Noahide Idenity in the Modern Era I

by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel
Dayan & Moreh HoRaah


[ Sephardic Hebrew dah-yahn; Ashkenazic Hebrew dah-yawn ]

noun, plural da·ya·nim [Sephardic Hebrew dah-yah-neem; Ashkenazic Hebrew dah-yaw-nim] .

  • a judge in a Jewish religious court.
  • a person knowledgeable in Talmudic law whose advice on religious questions is often sought by rabbis.

Moreh HoRaah

Teaches Talmudic Scholars to become Dayanim and Poskim.

The following is a draft of a larger work-in-progress. It is being provided to you for review purposes only. It is not part of the Noahide Nations Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Program, but represents my, the author’s, own personal notes and research.

All material remains the copyright of the author.

1.1. Defining Ger Toshav I

In the Noahide world today, much confusion exists as to whether or not the identity of the modern Noahide overlaps with, or is entirely independent of, the ancient designation of ger toshav.1 Although he may be unaware of it, the lack of clarity on this specific issue is the cause of much of the mixed messages, heartache, and frustration experienced by the contemporary Noahide. For uncertain reasons, evaluation of this vital question from a practical, halakhic (religious law) standpoint was not undertaken at the beginning of rabbinic involvement in the modern, resurgent Noahide movement. In the past several decades, though, a number of eminent scholars and authorities have contributed to a greater understanding of the issue.

We will now embark upon a large survey of the Torah literature pertaining to this topic. Note, however, that this exploration requires the full understanding of a number of topics in Torah law. These topics are interrelated, forming the background and context for our question. Without an understanding of these fundamental subjects, it will not possible to arrive at a clear picture of Noahide identity. In this first section, we will cover the  following:

A)  The Torah prohibition of non-Jewish residence in Israel,

B)  The residence of non-idolatrous gentiles in Israel,

C)  The rights of a ger toshav,

D)  How to become a ger toshav,

E)  If ger toshav status applies today,

F)  The modern status of non-Jewish residence in Israel, and

G)  Maimonides’s rulings regarding the reward of one who accepts the Noahide laws and the ambiguities contained therein.

A)  The Torah Prohibits Idolaters from Living in Israel

In Deuteronomy 7:1-2, God commands to the Jewish people:

When HaShem your God shall bring you into the land when you go to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before you – the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than you – and when HaShem your God shall deliver them up before you, you shall smite them. You shall completely destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show them favor.

From this last verse, …nor show them favor, the Talmud Avodah Zarah 20a derives a number of prohibitions, one of which is the prohibition of settling idolaters in the land of Israel. Maimonides2 proposes Exodus 23:33 as the reason for these injunctions:

They [idolaters] shall not dwell within your land lest they cause you to sin against Me and worship their gods.

Maimonides summarizes the halakha, practice, derived by the Talmud from these verses:3

It is forbidden to sell them homes and fields in Israel. In Syria, one may sell them homes, but not fields.

One may rent them homes in Israel, provided that a neighborhood [of idolaters] is not established. Fewer than three [homes] does not constitute a neighborhood. It is, however, forbidden to rent them fields. In Syria, one may rent them fields…

…It is permitted to sell them houses and fields in the Diaspora, because it is not our land.

Even when it is permitted to rent [houses to idolaters], it is not permitted to rent to them for use as a dwelling, because they will bring idols into them, as [the Torah in Deuteronomy 7:26] states: "Do not bring an abomination into your home." It is, however, permitted to rent them homes to use as storehouses.

It is forbidden to sell them fruit, grain, or other produce while it is attached to the earth. One may sell [them] after they have been harvested or on the condition that they will be harvested, and then he must harvest them.

Why is it forbidden to sell them land or anything attached to the land? Because [the Torah in Deuteronomy 7:2] states: "Do show them favor." [Which the Talmud points out may also be read as:] "Do not give them a resting place in the land." As long as they do not have a resting place in the land, their stay will be a temporary one…

It is also forbidden to give them a present.

The Shulchan Aruch and all other codifiers rule in agreement with Maimonides that it is prohibited for idolaters to settle permanently in Israel.4 This rule however, only applies when Israel has sovereignty and authority over the non-Jews in its land.5

B)  Are Non-Idolatrous Gentiles Permitted to Reside in Israel?

Maimonides’s last statement, regarding gifts, is curious on account of the following verse:

You shall eat not eat improperly slaughtered meat – you shall give it to the ger within your gates so that he may eat it… (Deuteronomy 14:21)

This verse instructs the Jew to gift improperly slaughtered meat to a ger. Now, we might assume that this “ger within your gates” is a convert to Judaism. However, this cannot be because a convert is like a born Jew in his obligation to observe the dietary laws. If, however, this verse speaks of a non-Jew, then it must refer to a non-Jew who is not an idolater. Otherwise, how is a Jew allowed to gift the meat to the non-Jew? As we just learned, a Jew may not favor an idolater with gifts! From this verse, we see that the Torah anticipates the presence of non-idolatrous gentiles in Israel.

We have learned above that a number of prohibitions apply to an idolater’s presence in Israel. What, however, is the Torah’s rule for a non-idolatrous gentile who wishes to live in Israel?

The Talmud discusses such an individual in numerous places, calling him a ger toshav – a resident alien.

C)  The Rights and Benefits of a Ger Toshav

A survey of the Midrashic, Mishnaic, Talmudic, and halakhic literature reveals that the  ger toshav, though not Jewish, enjoys many of the benefits reserved for Jews who live in Israel. However, the ger toshav is also bound by  many  of  the  same  restrictions  that  apply to idolaters.

Let’s first examine the residency of a ger toshav. Unlike an idolater, a ger toshav is allowed to settle, even permanently, in Israel. However, his dwelling there is subject to a number of conditions:


1 A “resident alien” status that granted certain benefits to non-Jews who wished to reside in Israel. As we will see below, it has not been possible to grant ger toshav status in over 2600 years.

2 Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:6.

3 Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:3-4.

4 Yoreh Deah 151:8. While all agree that this is true for selling property to non-Jews in Israel, there is much disagreement about renting property to non-Jews even outside Israel. The custom appears to be to rely upon the lenient authorities who permit rentals to non-Jews.

5 Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:6.

1.2. Defining Ger Toshav II

Let’s first examine the residency of a ger toshav. Unlike an idolater, a ger toshav is allowed to settle, even permanently, in Israel. However, his dwelling there is subject to a number of conditions:

  • The ger toshav must be settled in a place where he can make a living or practice his trade.6
  • A ger toshav was not permitted to live near the borders of Israel, but only well into the interior.7
  • A Jew may sell land in Israel to a ger toshav.8
  • Once settled, the Jews may not force a ger toshav to move from one place to another.9 It is, however, permitted to relocate him if the move is of substantial benefit to him.10
  • A ger toshav may not reside in Jerusalem.11

The Jewish community is commanded with a general obligation (derived from Leviticus 25:35) to sustain a ger toshav. Such is not the case with idolaters. The Jewish community is prohibited from providing medical treatment or even saving the life of an idolater.12

“Sustaining” a ger toshav includes the following:

The Jews are commanded to sustain the ger toshav and to ensure his welfare in the same way they would for a fellow Jew.13 For example: if he is in danger we must do whatever possible to save him.14 So too, he must be supported with charity, if needed.15

  • Since Jews are commanded to ensure his welfare, they may even provide the ger toshav with free medical care if necessary.16
  • A Jew may, even on Shabbos, assist a ger toshav in giving birth.17
  • Jews may give gifts to a ger toshav.18
  • Jews may go beyond the minimal social graces required for peace when interacting with a ger toshav. This is not the case with idolaters, for whom we may only show the minimal degree of courtesy needed to maintain peace and civility. A ger toshav, though, may be treated with the same etiquette, kindness, and grace afforded to other Jews.19

The Torah also commands the Jews in a number of mitzvos that ensure the ger toshav a degree of equanimity in civil and monetary law.20 These mitzvos also guarantee specific protections for the earned wages of a ger toshav.21 There is also an obligation for the Jews to establish courts to adjudicate disputes between ger toshav according to their Noahide laws.22

From the Jewish perspective, the ger toshav, since he does not worship idols, is not subject to laws based upon concerns for idolatry. For example, we do not accept an oath from a regular non-Jew because he will likely swear in the name of his false deity. However, we may accept an oath from a ger toshav.23 The wine of idolaters, because it is of religious significance to them, is prohibited for both benefit and consumption. However the wine of  a ger toshav is only prohibited for consumption.24 It should be noted that there are a few other instances in Torah law, unrelated to idolatry, in which a ger toshav is regarded differently than an idolater.25

In every other respect, though, a ger toshav is treated like an idolater.26 In a number of instances in which we might have thought otherwise, the sources make certain to reinforce this point:

  • A Jew may lend to a ger toshav on interest.27
  • A Jew who must sell himself into servitude may only sell himself to another Jew or to a convert. He may not serve a ger toshav.28
  • The shemitta year29 does not cancel the debts30 of a ger toshav.31
  • If a Jew sells his indentured servant to a ger toshav, the Jew is forced to buy him back, even if at an exorbitant price, and to grant him his freedom.32

Biblically, a ger toshav is like a non-Jew with regard to the laws of tzaraas he does not become impure.33 However, there are a number of rabbinic decrees creating exceptions for a ger toshav.34

  • A ger toshav may not partake of the Passover sacrifice.35
  • Jews many not accept funds from a ger toshav for the rebuilding or upkeep of the Temple complex.36
  • Jews have no commandment to correct or rebuke a ger toshav.37

D)  How Does a Non-Jew Become a Ger Toshav?

The Talmud in Avodah Zarah 64b records a three-way dispute as to how a gentile becomes a ger toshav:

  • Rabbi Meir – A ger toshav is a non-Jew who has, before three Torah Scholars, accepted upon himself to not worship idols.
  • Chachomim (the majority of sages) – a ger toshav is a non-Jew who, before three Torah Scholars, accepts upon himself to observe the seven Noahide laws.
  • Acherim (the others) – A ger toshav is a non-Jew who has accepted all of the commandments of the Torah save one: the prohibition of eating neveilos, meat that has not been properly slaughtered according to Torah law.

Multiple opinions may be acceptable in matters of history or homiletics,38 yet we can only accept a single idea as binding in matters of practice.39 One of the many rules for deciding halakhah, practice, is that the opinion of the majority is decisive.40 The chachomim, being the majority, are therefore the halakhah, practice.41


6 Sifrei to Deuteronomy 23:17. See also Maseches Geirim 3:4, by way of implication.

7 Sifrei to Deuteronomy 23:17; Maseches Geirim 3:4.

8 Sefer HaChinuch 94.

9 Sifrei ibid.

10 Malbim to Deuteronomy 23:17; Sifrei ibid.

11 Tosefta Negaim 6; Maimonides, Hilkhos Beis HaBechira 7:14. However, Sifrei to Deuteronomy 23:17 and Hagahos Raavad to Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:8 hold that a ger toshav may not live within the boundaries of any established city. Maimonides and Tosefta, though, only prohibit the dwelling of a ger toshav within Jerusalem, making no mention of any restriction upon living anywhere else. If Maimonides agreed with the Raavad, then why would Maimonides need to single out a prohibition against living in Jerusalem? It appears, therefore, that Maimonides does not acknowledge a general prohibition against residing in cities. See Maggid Mishneh to Maimonides, Issurei Biah 14:8. See also Zayis Raanan and Zera Avraham ibid.

12 Maimonides, Hilkhos Avodas Kochavim 10:1-2. Maimonides qualifies this ruling, writing that Jews may offer an idolater medical treatment if denial of it would disrupt the peace. However, a Jew may only do so for fee and not for free.

13 Pesachim 21b; Avodah Zara 65a; Maimonides, Hilkhos Zekhiyah UMatana 3:11 and Hilkhos Melakhim 10:12.

14 Ramban in his gloss to the Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitvah Aseh 16.

15 Maimonides, Hilkhos Matnas Aniyim 7:1.

16 Maimonides, Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:2.

17 Maimonides, Hilkhos Shabbos 2:12. However, we may not violate the Shabbos to do so.

18 Pesachim 21b; Avodah Zara 65a; Maimonides, Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:4; Tur, Choshen Mishpat 249.

19 Gittin 62a.

20 Maseches Gerim 3:2; Yerushalmi Yevamos 8:1; Sifrei Deuteronomy 23:17.

21 Sifrei Deuteronomy 24:14; Maseches Geirim 3:3; Yerushalmi Yevamos 8:1; Bava Metzia 111b; Maimonides,

Hilkhos S’khirus 11:1.

22 See Maimonides, Hilkhos Melakhim 10:11. The Radbaz ad loc. notes that the Jewish obligation is only when the ger toshav have not established their own courts.

23 Exodus 23:13; Tosafos Kesubos 94a.

24 This prohibition of consumption is part of many dietary restrictions aimed at limiting social interaction between Jews and non-Jews. Maimonides, Hilkhos Maachalos Asuros 11:7; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 124:2.

25 See, for example Maimonides, Hilkhos Rotzeach 5:3-4 on the exile of a ger toshav who unintentionally kills another ger toshav or an indentured servant.

26 Avodah Zarah 64b.

27 Mishnah, Bava Metzia 70b and Talmud, Bava Metzia 71a; Maimonides, Hilkhos Melaveh Ve-Loveh 5:1.

28 Maimonides, Hilkhos Avadim 1:3.

29 The seventh, sabbatical year of the seven-year agricultural and tithing cycle. See Exodus 23:10-11.

30 Cancellation of debts is an effect of the shemitta year. See Deuteronomy 15:1 – 3.

31 Sifrei Deuteronomy 15:3.

32 Gittin 44a; Maimonides, Hilkhos Avadim 8:5; Shulchan Aruch YD 267:80.

33 Mishnah, Negaim 3:1; Maimonides, Hilkhos Tumas Tzaraas 9:1.

34 For example, they are decreed rabbinically impure for the tzaraas of houses and garments. See the Rash to Negaim 3:1; Rosh, Raav, to Gittin ibid.; Tos. Yom Tov Gittin 3:1 and 11:1; Mishnah LeMelech Tumas Tzaraas 14:11. A ger toshav is also equal to a non-Jew with regard to the ziva impurity. See Tosefta Zavim 2.

35 Mechilta, Exodus 12:45; Maimonides, Hilkhos Korban Pesach 9:7 (see Raavad and Kesef Mishnah as well); Sefer HaChinuch 14; Minchas Chinuch 13:2; Sefer Mitzvos HaGadol, Lav 354.

36 Maimonides, Hilkhos Shekalim 4:8 from Ezra 4:3 and Nechemiah 2:20.

37 Rashi to Sanhedrin 75a. This is difficult considering that Maimonides holds of an obligation to compel observance of the Noahide laws (Hilkhos Melakhim 8:10-11). It may be that this obligation is only in force  until the non-Jew has accepted the seven laws. After that point, he is liable for his own observance of them.

38 See Maimonides’s Perush HaMishnayos to Sotah 3:5, Sanhedrin 10:3, and Shevuos 1:4. See also Tosafos to

Yoma 5b, Chagigah 6b, and Sanhedrin 15b. See also Maharitz Chayes to Yevamos 86b.

39 See Avodah Zara 7a; Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 4:2; Sofrim 16:5; Rif, Sanhedrin 12b; Rosh, Sanhedrin 4:6; Mevo HaTalmud. See also Tur, Choshen Mishpat 25; Shach, Choshen Mishpat 25:9; Teshuvos Rashba 1230.

40 See Chullin 11a.

41 See Shmuel HaNagid Mevo HaTalmud.

1.3. Defining Ger Toshav III

As expected, all later scholars42 decide the halakhah, practice, in accordance with the chachomim: a ger toshav is a non-Jew who has accepted, before three scholars, the observance of the seven Noahide laws. One scholar, however, Rashi, is inconsistent in his definition of a ger toshav. In a number of places43 Rashi appears to define ger toshav using Rabbi Meir’s criteria.44 Strangely, though, Rashi rules like the chachomim in Avodah Zarah 24b. What then does Rashi actually hold? Scholars have taken the position that Rashi must hold like the chachomim. After all, the idea that Rashi would deviate from the basic tenets  of Talmudic interpretation is unthinkable. The difficulty lies in explaining the occasions in which Rashi appears to follow Rabbi Meir.

Many great scholars have tried to unravel this problem, yet no single approach has succeeded.45 The most famous explanation of Rashi is that of the Beer Sheva.46 He explains that Avodah Zarah 64b (the aforementioned source of the three opinions as to the criteria for a ger toshav) is part of a larger Talmudic conversation about when Jews are obligated to support a non-Jew who lives among them within Israel.47

According to the Beer Sheva, Rashi agrees with the chachomim only with regard to providing support to a ger toshav. However, the Beer Sheva explains that Rashi follows Rabbi Meir’s opinion for all other matters affecting the ger toshav.

The Beer Sheva’s explanation works well for many instances where Rashi appears to espouse Rabbi Meir. However, it is contradicted by Rashi’s comments to Arakhin 29a. There, Rashi seems to apply Rabbi Meir’s criteria even for the sake of defining a ger toshav for communal support.48

Maimonides,49 the Arbah Turim,50 and the Shulchan Aruch51 all record the position of the chachomim as conclusive: to become a ger toshav a non-Jew must accept the seven Noahide laws upon himself before a beis din, a tribunal of three qualified scholars.

E) When Does the Ger Toshav Status Apply?

The Talmud52 notes a similarity of language between the verses describing an indentured servant and a Ger Toshav:

  • Indentured Servant: Deuteronomy 15:16 – In the event that he says to you: “I will not leave you,” because he loves your household and because it is a benefit to him53
  • Ger toshav: Deuteronomy 23:17 – He shall dwell with you in your midst, in whichever place he will choose from your cities because it is a benefit to him

This similarity of language, called a gezeira shava54 in the system of Talmudic interpretation, indicates that the two concepts share similarities. In this case, the law of the ger toshav is similar to the law of freeing an indentured servant: it only applies when the Jubilee cycle55 is in full observance. Maimonides codifies this qualification as law56 and it is accepted as such by all later authorities. Since full observance of the Jubilee year ceased around 600 BCE,57 no ger toshav have been accepted by Israel since that time. Of course, this means that acceptance of ger toshav is not possible in our times, as Maimonides writes:

Even if a non-Jew comes and accepts upon himself the entire Torah with the exception of but a minor detail, we still do not accept him [as a ger toshav],58


A ger toshav may only be accepted in a time when the Jubilee year is in full observance. When the Jubilee year is not in full observance, we can only accept full converts.59

F) A 20th Century Problem: Non-Jewish Residence in Israel

What is meant by “we do not accept them?” This is an extremely important question, and one that has immediate relevance. As we saw above, idolaters are prohibited from residing in Israel. However, this prohibition only applies when the Jews have rulership over Israel and the non-Jews therein. It appears that this criterion is based on political sovereignty, and not on any redemptive qualifications such as the end of the exile or rebuilding of the temple. Given the establishment of the state of Israel, the prohibition of non-Jewish residency must again be in force.

However, we have no Jubilee observance and, therefore, cannot grant ger toshav status. If this is the case, then how can any non-Jews reside in Israel? Must not they be forcibly removed?

To answer this question, we must take a very close look at the identity of a ger toshav. Becoming a ger toshav has three broad effects on a non-Jew:60

1)  He is granted permission to reside in Israel,

2)  He becomes entitled to support from the Jewish community, and

3)  He is treated differently from an idolater with regards to many laws.61

A basic reading of Maimonides’s statement of the laws pertaining to a ger toshav implies that acceptance of the seven Noahide laws before a beis din is needed to convey all three effects. However, according to Maimonides’s chief disputant, the Raavad,62 things are not  so simple:

This [the Maimonides’s] interpretation is closed and sealed, failing to explain what is meant by “we do not accept ger toshav unless the Jubilee year is observed, ” nor what is to be done with the mitzvos of a ger toshav… Rather, these are the mitzvos that are not in affect when the Jubilee is not observed (some of them create leniency for him [the non-Jew], and some create stringency): When the Jubilee is not observed, he [the non-Jew] may even reside within cities [in Israel]… this is the leniency. We have no obligation to support him – this is the stringency.

According to the Raavad, the inability of the courts to accept a ger toshav in our times is only for the purpose of obligating the Jewish community to sustain the ger toshav.63 It appears that, even without acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din, a gentile may nevertheless live in Israel provided that he keeps the Noahide laws. This is also the understanding of Tosafos64, the Rashba,65 and the Kesef Mishnah.66 The Kesef Mishnah explains, however, that a careful reading of Maimonides reveals that Maimonides would even agree with the Raavad: that acceptance before a beis din is only needed for the sake of entitling the non-Jews to support. It is not needed to allow a non-Jew to live in Israel.67

Therefore, when the authorities conclude that we do not accept ger toshav in our times, it means that a ger toshav cannot today bind the Jewish community to support and protect him in Israel.

Yet, if acceptance before a beis din is only needed to qualify one for communal support,  then why does a ger toshav receive the other two benefits – of residency and as a non- idolater?

The answer is that these two factors (which are actually one-in-the-same) are automatic consequences of the non-Jew’s rejection of idolatry. They are not a result of his acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din. Recall that the purpose of prohibiting non-Jewish residency in Israel was:

They [idolaters] shall not dwell within your land lest they cause you to sin against Me and worship their gods.68

If a non-idolatrous gentile wishes to live in Israel, there is no danger of him corrupting the faith of the Jewish populace. Therefore, the prohibition against his residency should not apply.

Put succinctly: every ger toshav may be a non-idolatrous resident, but every non-idolatrous resident is not necessarily a ger toshav.

The majority of authorities69 who have tackled the question of non-Jewish residency in the modern state of Israel have relied upon this interpretation of ger toshav (that a non-Jew only need to not worship idols)70 to permit the residency of non-Jews in Israel.71

We must keep in mind that the necessity for deciding, in practice, the exact definition of ger toshav has only become pertinent since the establishment of the state of Israel. Prior to this time, Torah scholars offered many possible understandings of the ger toshav (as we shall soon see).


42 See notes below.

43 I.e. Avodah Zarah 64b, Sanhedrin 96b, Yevamos 48b.

44 It should be pointed out that Rabbeinu Gershom to Kerisus 9b appears to define a ger toshav similarly to Rashi and Rabbi Meir. Nevertheless, his opinion, like Rashi’s, is not accepted as halakhah.

45 See VeShav HaKohen 37. In a well-known responsum, the Veshav HaKohen cites these many attempts in an admirable effort to find consistency in Rashi. He is unable to do so, however, and concludes that Rashi requires further study.

46 Beer Sheva to Sanhedrin 96b. Beer Sheva is a commentary on the Talmud in the style of Tosafos. Authored by Rabbi Yissaschar Ber Eulenberg (1550-1623), chief justice of the rabbinic court of Gorizia, Italy.

47 Avodah Zarah 64b – 65a. Although this passage quotes Rabbi Meir’s opinion, the view of Rav Yehudah brought therein is nevertheless pertinent.

48 For other attempts at resolving Rashi’s understanding of the criteria for a ger toshav, see the responsa VeShav HaKohen 37 and Margolios HaYam ad. loc. See also Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky’s BeInyan Ger Toshav in Sefer haZikaron LeZekher Moreinu veRabbeinu ha-Gaon R. Rafael Borukh Sorotzkin, pp. 198-200. See also Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch in Edut, No. 6 (Adat II 5749), p. 30.

49  Hilkhos Melachim 8:10-11, Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:6,  Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:8,  and Hilkhos Shabbos 20:14.

50 Yoreh Deah 124 – see Bais Yosef ad loc.

51 Yoreh Deah 124:2.

52 Arakhin 29a.

53 In the Jubilee year all indentures servants were freed. This verse speaks of a servant who rejects freedom, whishing instead to remain with his master. See note 55, below.

54 Gezeira shava, an “equivalent decree” is one of the methods of scriptural exegesis revealed along with the Torah at Sinai.

55 The Jubilee cycle is the 50 year agricultural and legal cycle observed during ancient times. It is no longer observed in our times (see note 53). In the 50th year, the Jubilee year, all indentured servants were freed. See Leviticus 25:39 – 40.

56 Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:8.

57 See Maimonides, Hilkhos Shemitta 10:8. The Jubilee year is only observed when the tribes are dwelling in their territories. With the exile of Gad and half of Manasseh in about 600 BCE, observance of the cycle ceased.

58 Hilkhos Issurei Biah ibid.

59 Hilkhos Avodas Kochavim 10:6.

60 It may be argued that there are more effects than these three. Listing them all, however, is more an exercise in taxonomy than one relevant to this discussion. For the sake of brevity, I have chosen to represent the identity of the ger toshav using these three broad effects. The point is that the identity of a ger toshav includes many facets which are, to a degree, independent of each other.

61 As we shall see, it is possible that 3 and 1 are really one in the same.

62 Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:8.

63 This is similar to the Beer Sheva’s attempt to explain Rashi’s inconsistencies in defining a ger toshav.

64 To Avoda Zarah 65a.

65 Responsa I:182.

66 Hilkhos Avodas Kochavim 10:6.

67 See Tzafnas Paneach to Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14; See also Rashba’s Toras HaBayis; Bais Yosef to YD 124.

68 Exodus 23:33. See Hilkhos Avodas Kochavim ibid.

69 Sheelas Shlomo II:433 who cites this as the opinion of Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook as well; Mishpat Kohen 61; Mishnas  HaMedinah  p.  65;  Siach  Nachum  93.  This  opinion  is  relied  upon  by  most  authorities  who have weighed the issue. A number of other permissive factors have been offered as well. For example, Rav A. I. Kook in Iggros Ra’ayah 89 (as well as Mishpat Kohen 58) and Rav I. Herzog in Shut Heichal Yitzchak EH 1:12 (and in Techumim II, p. 172) cite the Meiri (to Bava Kama 113a and Yoma 84b) that the prohibition against non-Jewish residence does not apply to civilized people; indeed they have an automatic, collective status of ger toshav. This opinion is problematic for at least four reasons. First, is that the halakhah prohibiting non- Jewish residency is intended to protect the integrity of Jewish faith and practice (as per Exodus 23:33 – see Maimonides, Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 10:6). If so, then why should we be concerned as to whether or not the non-Jew is uncivilized? The second issue is that the Meiri’s views on the halakhic status of non-Jews are unique and controversial. They have very little precedent or acceptance in Torah literature. The third problem is with the general use of the Meiri as a halakhic source. Shortly after the completion of his commentary in the late 13th century, almost all of his manuscripts were lost.  They remained undiscovered  the 1920’s. Having been outside the stream of halakhic debate and development for so long, never having been seen by the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Shakh, Taz, etc., the acceptability of his opinions as halakhically dispositive is difficult. Fourth, the Meiri’s position is in the severe minority and is contradicted by both earlier and later authorities. See HaPardes 26, pp. 7-13. Rabbi Menachem Kasher, HaTekufah HaGedolah ch. 13, proposes an alternative reason to permit non-Jewish settlement in Israel: that the prohibition of non-Jewish residency does not apply today because Jewish rulership of the land is not complete. According to R. Kasher,  it seems that non-Jewish residency is only a problem once the messianic redemption has occurred.  However, R. Kasher alone espouses this view and it is not quoted or entertained by later scholars.

70 Of course, this position requires an examination of the monotheistic statuses of both Christianity and Islam. Islam is relatively easy to deal with. However, defining Christianity’s monotheistic status is no easy task. It appears that the burden of this determination is what drove some of the minority of the halakhic opinions on non-Jewish residency to rely upon the Meiri. By doing so, one avoids the question of Christianity’s status altogether. For the purposes of residency, however, most of the authorities mentioned in note 69 find enough doubt as to the overall communal status of Christianity to allow Christians to reside as non-idolaters.

71 However, what about the restrictions that dictate where a ger toshav may reside? Since the residence of a non-Jew is dependent on his rejection of idolatry, then all of those restrictions should apply equally to contemporary non-idolatrous gentiles. The current circumstances of Israel, though, are not comparable to those of ancient times. For example, the holiness of the cities and of Jerusalem is not as it once was.  Therefore, non-Jewish residence in these places may be allowed. For further elaboration, see again the sources in note 69.

2. Noahide Idenity in the Modern Era II

by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel
Dayan & Moreh HoRaah


[ Sephardic Hebrew dah-yahn; Ashkenazic Hebrew dah-yawn ]

noun, plural da·ya·nim [Sephardic Hebrew dah-yah-neem; Ashkenazic Hebrew dah-yaw-nim].

  • a judge in a Jewish religious court.
  • a person knowledgeable in Talmudic law whose advice on religious questions is often sought by rabbis.

Moreh HoRaah

Teaches Talmudic Scholars to become Dayanim and Poskim.

This is a draft of a larger work-in-progress. It is being provided to you for review purposes only. It is not part of the Noahide Nations Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Program, but represents my, the author’s, own personal notes and research.

All material remains the copyright of the author.

2.1. Defining Noahide Identity I

Until this point, we have only discussed ger toshav as a possible gentile identity. The term ben noach (Noahide), or bnei noach (the plural of Noahide) occurs in about fifty places in the Talmud and Rashi. However, it is used primarily in its simple meaning, “a child of Noah,” as a generic term for all non-Jews. Is it possible that the term ben noach, Noahide, implies more? Is there an actual, positive identity called “Noahide?”

Our examination of this question is covered in the following sections:

A)    Two Very Difficult Paragraphs

B)    Identifying the Problems

C)     Making Sense of Maimonides’s §10 and §11

D)    How Does a Non-Jew Accept the Sinaitic Aspect of the Noahide Laws?

A)    Two Very Difficult Paragraphs

The answer to this question depends upon two frightfully difficult paragraphs in Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah,1 his code of Torah law. Here are the two paragraphs in full:

[Note: The bracketed letters have been inserted for ease of reference]

§10. [A]Moses our Teacher gave over the Torah and Mitzvos only to the Jewish people, as it is written: “It is an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob” (Deut. 33:4). And all who wish to convert from among the nations, “as you are, so shall the convert be before HaShem” (Num. 15:15). However, for those who do not wish to accept Torah and Mitzvos, we do not force them to do so.

[B] And so too it was commanded to Moses by the Almighty to force the peoples of the world to accept the commandments charged to the children of Noah. [C]All who do not accept them shall be executed. One who accepts them is called a Ger Toshav

§11. [D] All who accept the Seven Mitzvos and are careful to observe them are called MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World) [E] and they have a share in the World to Come. [F] This is provided that one accepts and observes them because they were commanded to him by the Holy One, in his Torah, and [G] reaffirmed by Moses. [H] However, one who observes them based on intellectual reason alone is neither called a Ger Toshav nor MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World). He is, rather, “of the wise ones” of the gentiles.2

B)    Identifying the Problems

Using the reference letters I have inserted into the text, let us go through the difficulties point-by-point.

[A]  Moses our Teacher gave over the Torah and Mitzvos only to the Jewish people, as it is written: “It is an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob” (Deut. 33:4). And all who wish to convert from among the nations, “as you are, so shall the convert be before HaShem” (Num. 15:15). However, for those who do not wish to accept Torah and Mitzvos, we do not force them to do so.

This section is fairly innocuous, stating simply that the Torah is the unique possession of the Jews, yet all who want to convert and become Jewish may voluntarily do so. Additionally, no gentile may be coerced into converting.

[B]  And so too it was commanded to Moses by the Almighty to force the peoples of the world to accept the commandments charged to the children of Noah.

Our paragraphs are capstones to a chapter dealing with the conquest of the land of Israel. For example, §1 of this chapter opens:

When the army's troops enter the territory of gentiles, conquering them and taking them captive…

§9, immediately preceding our selection, reads:

Similarly, a treaty cannot be made with a city which desires to accept a peaceful  settlement  until  they  deny  idol  worship,  destroy  their  places  of worship, and accept the seven universal laws commanded Noah's descendants. Any gentile who does not accept these commandments must be executed if he is under our authority.

§10 and §11, therefore, are clarifying the requirement of these conquered peoples to accept the Noahide laws. Yet, if we are speaking about the conquest of Israel, then why does Maimonides use the phrase … to force the peoples of the world…? Maimonides is not speaking only about the gentile inhabitants of Israel, but about the gentiles of the world!

[C]  All who do not accept them shall be executed. One who accepts them is called a Ger Toshav.

This requirement for execution is difficult to understand. The most obvious problem is it has no apparent source. Furthermore, if we understand [B] as requiring forced acceptance of the Noahide laws upon all the peoples of the world, then [C] would require the execution of anyone who refuses. [C] Would even mandate  the execution of those who fulfill the Noahide laws, yet who never accepted them formally before a beis din. This yields a startling conclusion. See [H]:

                          [H] However, one who observes them based on intellectual reason alone is neither called a Ger Toshav nor MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World). He is rather “of the wise ones” of the gentiles.

We see that a person who observes the Noahide laws based on reason alone is not someone who has accepted these laws before a beis din. Therefore, according to [B] and [C] such a “wise one of the gentiles” would also be executed for failing to accept the Noahide laws.

The net result of this simple reading of Maimonides is to erase the identity of the  ben noach, the Noahide, entirely. According to such a reading, the only available options to a gentile are conversion to Judaism, becoming a ger toshav, or being executed!

§11 only creates more problems for us:

[D]  All that accept the Seven Mitzvos and are careful to observe them are called MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World)

The classification of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam, of the Pious Peoples of the World, has no clear Talmudic precedent.3 This is only true, however, of our modern editions of the Talmud. Sanhedrin 110b discusses the reward earned by “the children of the wicked of the idolaters.” Rashi, commenting on this passage, similarly refers to the merit of the children “of the righteous of the idolaters.” In both instances, the Mesoras HaShas4 indicates that earlier versions of the texts, both the Talmud and Rashi, read “the children of the nations of the world,” and “the pious peoples of the world,” respectively. It is likely that our modern text is the product of an offended church censor.

What is odd, though, is the tying of this status of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam, of the Pious Peoples of the World, to the acceptance of the Noahide laws.

[E]  and they have a share in the World to Come.

This passage presents little that is surprising. The Talmud has already demonstrated that gentiles receive reward for fulfilling their mitzvos.5 However, we again have the question: why is the receiving of the eternal reward of the world to come dependent on the status of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam, of the Pious Peoples of the World, and becoming a ger toshav?

 [F]  & [G] This is provided that one accepts and observes them because they were commanded to him by the Holy One, in his Torah, and reaffirmed by Moses.

Maimonides requires acceptance of the Noahide laws based upon Sinaitic revelation, rejecting the validity of acceptance based upon the original Noahic6 covenant. Without acceptance based on Sinaitic revelation, a gentile does not receive reward in the World to Come for fulfilling his Noahide obligations.

[H] However, one who observes them based on intellectual reason alone is neither called a Ger Toshav nor MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World). He is, rather, “of the wise ones” of the gentiles.7

Maimonides informs us that not only is acceptance based upon the Noahic covenant insufficient, but even fulfillment of the Noahide laws based upon reason or logic is unacceptable. One who observes the Noahide laws based upon reason8 does not merit being called pious, but only wise.9 Furthermore, one who observes his laws based upon reason appears precluded from receiving any reward – Maimonides only grants reward to one who accepts the laws based on belief in Sinaitic revelation (see [D] and [E] above).



1 Hilchos Melakhim 8:10-11.

2 The text of this last phrase differs in the editio princeps (Rome, 1480) and almost all subsequent printed editions.  These versions read : … one who observes them based on intellectual reason alone is neither called a Ger Toshav nor MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World), and is not “of the wise ones” of the gentiles. This is almost certainly the error of a careless copyist (the mistake being in the transcription of a single letter). Many of the earliest manuscript versions read … He is, rather, “of the wise ones” of the gentiles. Later scholars also cite this version of the text as correct. See Teshuvos Maharam Alashkar 117, Rav Yosef ben Shem Tov’s Kevod Elokim 29a, and, more recently, Iggros Reiyah I:89. Recent critical editions of Maimonides have corrected this text to read … He is rather “of the wise ones” of the gentiles. See Rabbi Shabtai Fraenkel’s edition of the Mishneh Torah. See also the editions prepared by Rabbi Yosef Qafih and Yeshivat Or Vishua.

3 In Chullin 92a, Rav Yehuda uses the term tzadikei umos ha-olam, the righteous of the gentile nations, in his interpretation of Zecharia 11:13. Rav Yochanan in the name of Rav Shimon Ben Yehotzadak, however, says that it refers to the righteous of Israel. See Maharsha and Rashi with the Hagahos HaBach.

4 Marginal gloss authored by Rabbi Yehoshua Boaz (d. Italy 1557). It provides cross references and critical notes to the Talmudic text.

5 Bava Kama 38a; Sanhedrin 105a.

6 Maimonides and Tosafos disagree as to whether or not all seven Noahide laws were given to Adam (the view of Tosafos Sanhedrin 56b, d.h Achol Tochal, and possibly Rashi to Sanhedrin 57a, d.h. l'Mishri Basar), or if only the first six were given to Adam and only the seventh given to Noah (the view of Maimonides, Hilkhos Melakhim 9:1). My favoring of the term “Noahic” rather than “Adamic” for the original covenant is not meant to imply one view over another. I use “Noahic” for its consonance with the term “Noahide,” which is the common descriptor for these laws.

7 See note 2, above, on the text of this final phrase.

8 Apparently, meaning as a concept of natural law or social necessity.

9  The term MiChachmei Umos HaOlam, of the wise of the nations, has Talmudic precedent. It appears in

Pesachim 94b and Rosh HaShanah 12a in a discussion of the secular wisdom of the gentiles.


2.2. Defining Noahide Identity II

C)    Making Sense of Maimonides’s §10 and §11

The issues in §10, of forcing acceptance and executions, we will deal with later. The immediate issue, the question of Noahide identity, requires an unraveling of §11:

                  11. [D] All who accept the Seven Mitzvos and are careful to observe them are called MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World) [E] and they have a share in the World to Come. [F] This is provided that one accepts and observes them because they were commanded to him by the Holy One, in his Torah, and [G] reaffirmed by Moses. [H] However, one who observes them based on intellectual reason alone is neither called a Ger Toshav nor MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World). [I] He is, rather, “of the wise ones” of the gentiles.

Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, notes that there is no apparent textual source for this paragraph, writing: “it appears to me that our master made this statement as a result of his own deduction…10  ” Despite this lack, Rabbi Karo agrees with Maimonides’s conclusions.11

Without a textual source,12 scholars have been left to speculate as to Maimonides’s reasoning.13   However, the Sefer Toldos Adam14  records a curious story about Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Volozhin (brother of the famed Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin). A visiting Sephardic Rabbi asked Rabbi Zalman to explain several difficult sections from Maimonides’s writings. When asked about the source of our §11, the author tells us that Rabbi Zalman offered up the following Midrash:

Rabbi Chisda Said: I have heard that the pious of the nations of the world have a share in the world to come. However, we have not been taught so with regard to the wise men of the nations of the world. Who is a pious man from among the nations of the world? He who accepts the seven commandments because they are written in the Torah. A wise man from among the nations of the world, however, is one who observes them based upon his own reason.

Sefer Toldos Adam, however, does not identify this midrash. In fact, since his quotation of it, no one has ever succeeded again in locating it.

In the 20th century, however, the manuscript of a lost midrash, the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer, was discovered and published.15 The Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer16 includes the following  passage:

The Chasidei Umos HaOlam [the Pious of the gentile nations] are only called pious when they when they fulfill the seven mitzvos commanded unto the children of Noah in all of their details. This is provided that they do so saying “we fulfill them because our father Noah commanded us by the mouth of the Mighty One.” If they do so, then they merit the World to Come just as does a Jew. This is so even though they do no keep the Shabbos and Festivals for, after all, they were not commanded in them. But, if they observe them [the seven mitzvos] saying “we heard them from so-and-so” or if they observe them in accordance with their own reason… then they receive their reward only in this world. [Emphasis added.]

This text is the closest parallel in any ancient rabbinic text to our Maimonidean §10. Viewed against the midrash quoted in Sefer Toldos Adam, it appears that the Sefer Toldos Adam’s midrash is either a corrupted or poorly recalled version of this Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer.

Is the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer Maimonides’s source for his §10? It is certainly possible. After all we know that Maimonides was familiar with it.17 However, there are two obvious differences between the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer and that of Maimonides’s §10. The first is that the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer requires acceptance of the Noahide laws because of Noahic revelation, not Sinaitic. The second is that the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer mentions reward in this world for those who keep the Noahide laws according to their own reason.  Maimonides makes no such statement.

Whether or not the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer was relied upon by Maimonides, it nevertheless attests to a tradition validating Maimonides’s concepts.

However, it is also possible that Maimonides’s reasoning is entirely based upon a famous Talmudic passage in Bava Kamma 38a.

According to the Talmud, God altered the reward that Noahides may earn for their mitzvos. Quoting Habakkuk 3:6, Talmud Bava Kama 38a offers the following interpretation:

“He [G-d] arose and judged the land; He saw and released the nations.”18  

[Talmud:] He [G-d] saw the seven commandments that the descendants of Noah had accepted upon themselves. Since they did not observe them, he released them.

According to Rav Yosef this passage teaches that G-d released the non-Jews from the obligation of the Noahide laws. However, the other sages reject this interpretation because it is illogical. The gentiles should be punished for neglecting their laws, not rewarded by being released from them!

Mar, Son of Ravina, proposes another possibility: that even if the gentiles fulfill all their commandments they will never receive reward for doing so. The implication, of course, is that they will still suffer punishment for not keeping their mitzvos. The Talmud also rejects this interpretation, citing Leviticus 18:5 as proof that non-Jews do receive reward for keeping their commandments:

 “That man shall perform and gain life…”

[Talmud:] The verse does not state Kohen, Levi, or Israel, but “Man,” meaning Jews as well as gentiles.

A third interpretation settles the question. In tractate Kiddushin19 the Talmud explains that the reward of a person who fulfills an obligatory mitzvah is greater than the reward of one who fulfills a voluntary mitzvah.20 The Talmud here, in Bava Kamma 38a, concludes that God altered the nature of the reward that gentiles would receive for keeping their commandments. Although gentiles are still obligated to observe the Noahide laws, the Talmud is telling us that the reward they receive is only the lesser reward of one who fulfills a commandment voluntarily.

It appears from the Talmud that gentiles can only receive the lesser reward (of one who fulfills a voluntary commandment), and have no way to merit the greater reward of one fulfills an obligatory commandment. However, the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer tells us that this is not so. If we compare the Talmud’s conclusions to the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer, we see that the latter grants the Talmud’s lesser reward to those who keep the Noahide laws based upon their own reason. It grants the greater reward to those who keep the Noahide  laws because of Noahic revelation. The Mishnas Rabbi Eliezer also tells us that the Talmud’s lesser reward is the temporary reward of this world and the greater reward is the eternal reward of the world to come.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of authorities on Maimonides – Rabbis Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik,21 Meir Simcha HaKohen,22 and Malkiel Tannenbaum23 – independently advanced virtually identical interpretations of §11 that relate it directly back to Bava Kamma 38a.24 Their understanding not only illuminates Maimonides, but also clarifies our understanding of the Talmud.

They explain that the gentile nations were originally bound in their observance of the Noahide laws by force of a Noahic covenant.25 Iteration of the Noahide laws at Sinai, however, nullified this original Noahic covenant, replacing it with a new Sinaitic obligation to observe the Noahide laws. Therefore, when the Talmud states that God “released” the gentiles, it means that He released them from the binding force of this original covenant. In order to become obligated in this new Sinaitic covenant, a gentile must accept this new covenant. After all, the Jews had to accept their Sinaitic covenant.  Once a gentile does so,  he becomes obligated in the Noahide laws and receives his reward as one who is obligated.

Until a gentile accepts this new, Sinaitic affirmation, are we to say that he has no obligation at all to keep the Noahide laws? The Talmud tells us that this is not so. Though the authority of the Noahic covenant was nullified, gentiles are still punished for transgressing the Noahide laws. Were this not the case, gentiles would be profiting from having long neglected the Noahide laws.

The punishment meted for not observing the laws is, therefore, a legal technicality so that the non-Jews should not profit by their transgression. The force of the original covenant, however, is no longer binding. Therefore, there is no covenantal imperative for any gentile to observe the Noahide laws until he accepts the Sinaitic reaffirmation of these laws. Until a gentile makes such an acceptance, any observance of the Noahide laws is voluntary, and his reward (the temporary reward of this world) is commensurate with this fact. Once  a gentile accepts the Noahide laws as per the Sinaitic reaffirmation, he becomes bound by them and receives the higher reward of one who fulfills obligatory commandments.

This interpretation outlines for us a timeline of Noahide obligation:

      1. Sixth day of creation – The original Adamic/Noahic covenant. God gives the seven laws to Adam (according to Tosafos). According to Maimonides, the original Adamic/Noahic covenant consisted of six commandments only.

      2. Cessation of the great flood – The Adamic/Noahic covenant is transmitted via Noah to the new world (according to Tosafos). According to Maimonides, the seventh commandment (prohibiting flesh torn from a living animal) is given at this time.

      3. The Torah is given at Sinai – The Noahic covenant, largely ignored by man, was nullified by the new Sinaitic covenant. Since the original, obligatory force of the Noahic covenant no longer applied, any who observed the Noahide laws were essentially doing so voluntarily. Nevertheless, non-Jews were still held liable for transgressions of the Noahide laws. This is so that they should not be rewarded for having neglected the original covenant. It was also, apparently, to give incentive to accept the new covenant.

     4. Whenever a gentile accepts the Sinaitic covenant – at this point he becomes fully obligated in the new Sinaitic covenant of the Noahide laws. Therefore, he receives the reward of one who is obligated in his commandments.

Maimonides could have derived §11 from this understanding of the Talmud Bava Kamma 38a. All that remains then is to explain the equating of the Talmud’s greater reward with that of the World to Come. The Mishnas Rabbi Eliezer may serve as a source for just that.

But what about Maimonides’s requirement that gentiles accept their laws based on Sinaitic reaffirmation rather than Noahic covenant? Maimonides’s disagreement with the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer on this point is not surprising. The Talmud and its commentaries discuss the nullification of the original Noahic covenant and reaffirmation of the Noahide laws in Sanhedrin 59a. This is necessary to explain the repetition of the Noahide laws at Sinai. Maimonides states his view clearly in his Commentary on the Mishnah:26

All that we do or do not do is solely because of the command of the Holy One, blessed is He, through our teacher Moses, may peace be upon him, and not because the Hole One, blessed is He, stated it to any prophet who came before him. For example, we do not eat limbs torn from living animals because God forbade it to Noah, but rather because Moses forbade it to us at Sinai by affirming that [it] remains in effect. Similarly, we do not circumcise because our forefather Abraham, may peace be upon him, circumcised himself and his household, but rather because the Holy One, blessed is He, commanded us through Moses, may peace be upon him. So too with the sciatic nerve; we do not obey this prohibition because of our forefather Jacob, but because of the command of our teacher Moses, may he rest in peace.

We see here that Maimonides acknowledges that the Noahide laws were binding before Sinai. However, Maimonides is telling us that their covenantal status changed from Noahic to Sinaitic at the giving of the Torah. While this paragraph speaks of the Jewish obligation to keep the original Noahide laws based on Sinaitic revelation, §11 clarifies that this is also true of the Noahide obligation.

On this interpretation of Maimonides’s, and the requirement that Noahides accept their obligations based upon the Sinaitic reaffirmation, there is very little disagreement among later authorities.27

Lastly, how do we explain Maimonides’s omission of reward for one who observes these commandments based on reason? The sources we have cited thus far agree that the “wise people of the nations” receive reward for their observance of the Noahide laws (it is, though, only the lesser temporary reward of this world). They explain that Maimonides’s omission does not imply his rejection of the concept. It is likely, given that §11 is  discussing an obligation upon the gentiles to accept the Noahide laws based on Sinaitic revelation, that it was not the place to discuss any reward for non-acceptance of these laws.

Additionally, since the Talmud has already drawn clear conclusions regarding the lower reward, Maimonides is coming only to explain the mechanism by which non-Jews may merit the eternal reward of the World to Come.


10 Kesef Mishnah ad loc.

11 The inability to locate sources for Maimonides’s rulings does not automatically disqualify them. See the responsa of the Rivash, Maharalbach, and Rosh who discuss many examples.

12 Maimonides, in his Teshuvos HaRambam I:148 (ed. Blau 1957) references our §10 and §11, alluding to a Braisa shel Rebbi Eliezer ben Yaakov as his source. However, Maimonides seems to tie this source only to the idea of forcing acceptance of the Noahide laws (§10). Additionally, no one has every located this Braisa shel Rebbi Eliezer ben Yaakov. See note 16, below.

13 See, for example, the letter from Rabbi Yaakov Emden in Moses Mendelssohn’s Gesammelte Schriften, No. 16 (Berlin, 1929). Rabbi Emden exchanged correspondence on the interpretation of §10 with Moses Mendelssohn, the intellectual father of Reform Judaism. Mendelssohn was deeply unsettled by this paragraph and wrote to Emden seeking assistance. Rabbi Emden proposed three possible derivations; however, these are difficult to understand and poorly supported.

14 By Rabbi Yechezkel Feivel. VI 35a. The Sefer Toldos Adam is a biography of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Volozhin.

15 Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer oh Midrash Sheloshim VeShtayim Middos. Ed. H. G. Enelow. Bloch Publishing New  York, 1933. As mentioned in note 12, Maimonides mentions a Braisa shel Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov in connection with §10. However, this Braisa shel Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov cannot be the same text as the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer. For one, the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer contains no material similar to that of §10. Additionally, the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer is attributed to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yosi HaGlili, not ben Yaakov. Furthermore, Maimonides was aware of the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer as a text independent of the Braisa shel Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov. We know this because Maimonides quotes it explicitly as the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer ben Yosi HaGlili in his Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvos Aseh 5. There is an extant manuscript of a Braisa shel Rebbi Eliezer (MS Vatican). However, this text appears to be part of the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer (of ben Yosi HaGlili) and not the Braisa shel Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov. Michael Higger, writing in The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jul., 1936), pp. 63-67, identifies the rediscovered Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer as a comingling of two earlier texts: the Midrash Agur and this Braisa Shel Rabbi Eliezer. Admittedly, there is some confusion as to the title of the Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer, it being referred to by a number of names in the literature. See, Encyclopedia Talmudit, VI, 290, 11 on the identification of the Braisa shel Rebbi Eliezer, Mishnas Rebbi Eliezer, and other texts.

16 Enelow, p. 121.

17 Maimonides quotes from it in his Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvos Aseh 5.

18 The Talmud understands the word va-yatir, “tremble,” also meaning “he released.”

19 31a.

20 The rationale is that someone who voluntarily performs a mitzvah receives less reward because he did not satisfy any specific will of God. However, one who performs an obligatory commandment has satisfied God’s specific will and is rewarded commensurately (see Tosafos HaRosh and Chiddushei HaRitva to Kiddushin 31a; see also Tosafos Tokh). Another explanation is that the yetzer hora – the evil inclination – opposes the performance of an obligatory commandment more than it opposes a non-obligatory commandment. Accordingly, one must pay more attention and expend more effort in the proper fulfillment of an obligatory mitzvah (see Tosafos to Avodah Zarah 3a, d.h. gadol and Tosafos HaRosh to Kiddushin 31a).

21 Chiddushei Riz HaLevi, Mikhtavim, last letter.

22 Chiddushei Ohr Somayach to Hilkhos Issuei Biah 14:7.

23 Published posthumously in Torah SheBaal Peh XV (1973). Rabbi Tannenbaum (1847 – 1910) was the Rabbi of Lomze, Poland, and a famed posek, decisor of Torah law.

24 A near identical understanding of Bava Kama 38a, predating these scholars by about 600 years, is also proposed by Rabbi Yom Tov Asevilli in his Chiddushei HaRitva to Makkos 9a.

25 See note 6 above.

26 To Chullin 7:6.

27 See Chazon Ish Sheviis 24:2 and to Hilkhos Avodas Kokhavim 65:2. Ritva and Ramban to Makkos 9b;  Teshuvos HaRashbash 543; Zvi Hirsch Chajes in Toras HaNeviim 11; Zekhusa D’Avraham 21; VeShav HaKohen 38.

2.3. Defining Noahide Identity III

D)    How Does a Non-Jew Accept the Sinaitic Aspect of the Noahide Laws?

There is one further question that, for our purposes, is very important: is §11 a continuation of §10, or is §11 independent of §10?

§10 states:

And so too it was commanded to Moses by the Almighty to force the peoples of the world to accept the commandments charged to the children of Noah. All who do not accept them shall be executed. One who accepts them is called a Ger Toshav.

Immediately thereafter §11 opens with:

All who accept the Seven Mitzvos and are careful to observe them are called MiChasidei Umos HaOlam (of the Pious Peoples of the World) and they have a share in the World to Come.

If we assume that §11 is a continuation of §10, then it would mean that a gentile must accept the Noahide laws before a beis din and become a ger toshav in order to be MiChasidei Umos HaOlam. If this is the case, then no gentile today can become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam because we do not currently accept ger toshav.

Yet, if §11 is independent of §10, then a gentile can become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam even by private acceptance of the Noahide laws (provided that this acceptance is based on Sinaitic revelation). In such a case, acceptance of the Noahide laws is independent of the laws of a ger toshav. This reading would therefore allow for a Noahide  identity independent of ger toshav.

For modern Noahides, resolution of this question is vitally important. There are a number of approaches:

  • Rabbis Betzalel Zolti28 and Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman29 – Their view is the most  radical and is based upon a super-literal reading of §10 and §11. The crux of their approach is that ger toshav is a religious status somewhere between that of Jew and non-Jew. Accordingly, they interpret acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din as a conversion to a new religion: ger toshav. This new religious identity  includes the right to live in Israel, to be supported by the Jewish community, and to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam. According to this view, the various parts of the ger toshav identity do not exist independent of each other nor do they exist absent this “conversion.” This approach sees §11 as a continuation of §10. 

    However, they admit that their opinion is only theoretical because we cannot accept ger toshav in our times. Modern Noahides are then left with only one option: to be in the lesser category of  one who fulfills a commandment voluntarily: of the “wise”     of the nations.

    We must reject this interpretation for two reasons: 1) the majority of scholars interpret ger toshav as a legal construct, not as a religious identity,30 and 2) this approach is contrary to the practical halakhic reliance upon the Raavad and Kesef Mishna’s understanding of Maimonides discussed in Section I, above. 

  • Rabbis Yitzchok Zeev Soloveitchik31, the Brisker Rav, and Raphael HaCohen Susskind32 – They adopt a very literal reading of Maimonides. Yet, unlike Rabbis Zolti and Kahaneman, they treat ger toshav as a purely legal status and not as a conversion. This legal status, however, is one indivisible whole: acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din is needed for residency, support, and every other facet of ger toshav. Therefore, Rabbis Soloveitchik and Susskind also view §11 as a continuance of §10. They also require acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din in order to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam. However, Rabbis Soloveitchik and Susskind agree that this is not possible in our times because we do not today accept ger toshav

    As with the opinion of Rabbis Zolti and Kahaneman, we must also reject that of Rabbis Soloveitchik and Susskind. Their literalist reading of Maimonides also precludes relying upon the opinions of the Raavad and Kesef Mishnah to explain the residency of non-Jews in modern day Israel.

  •  Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk33– Rabbi Meir Simcha agrees with Rabbi Soloveitchik that ger toshav is not a conversion to a new religious identity, but a purely legal construct. Like the Raavad and Kesef Mishnah, the Rabbi Meir Simcha maintains that the various facets of ger toshav may exist independent of each other. However, Rabbi Meir Simcha does not address our specific question: is acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din needed to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam? His view allows for two possibilities: 1) That a Noahide may accept the commandments on his own and become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam, or 2) that even though acceptance before a beis din for support is not possible today, it is nevertheless required, even today, to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam.

    This second possibility is intriguing. Even though ger toshav is a purely legal construct, the fact that the various aspects of it exist independently allow for even the identity of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam to exist independently. Yet, the identity of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam is fundamentally different than the other elements of ger toshav. It is inherently a matter of religious identity. Perhaps then, accepting the Noahide laws to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam is a type of religious conversion independent of the other aspects of ger toshav. This certainly makes sense considering that acceptance of the Noahide laws is essentially the acceptance of a new, Sinaitic covenant.

    When a gentile wishes to convert to Judaism, the most important requirement is his acceptance before a beis din of the Sinaitic covenant of the 613 commandments.  May we may then infer that acceptance of the Sinaitic aspect of the Noahide Laws by gentiles should also require acceptance before a beis din?

    Personally, I find the logic behind this possibility intensely appealing. It does not, though, hold up to scrutiny. A non-Jew’s acceptance of the seven mitzvos is fundamentally different from conversion to Judaism. Conversion to  Judaism requires the acceptance of new commandments to which the prospective convert has no obligation. However, acceptance of the Noahide laws involves the acceptance of laws which were the material of a prior covenant. In fact, non-Jews receive reward (the lesser type of this world) for fulfillment of the Noahide laws even without having accepted them as per the Sinaitic reaffirmation. Therefore, if a Noahide wishes to accept the Sinaitic Noahide covenant, he is not accepting a completely new body of law, only modifying his covenantal obligation. Also, a non- Jew who accepts the Noahide laws due to the Sinaitic covenant remains a non-Jew. The only practical change is in the nature of his reward. When a non-Jew becomes a Jew, however, the conversion confers an entirely new legal, metaphysical, and spiritual identity. Lastly, the requirement of a beis din for the sake of Jewish conversion is derived from Numbers 15:16: One mishpat [judgement] shall be for you and the convert. The word misphat indicates a comparison between conversion and legal proceedings: just as mishpat, judgment, requires a beis din then so too does conversion to Judaism. This derivation is only made with regard to full conversion and nothing else.

    Rabbi Malkiel Tannenbaum34 – Rabbi Tannenbaum is one of the scholars who contributed the above-discussed interpretation of Maimonides’s §11 and Bava Kamma 38a. His statement is one of the most eloquent and prompts an interesting question. Why would acceptance of the Sinaitic reaffirmation of the Noahide laws be predicated on becoming a ger toshav? If Noahides must accept this Sinaitic reaffirmation, then tying acceptance to ger toshav makes it impossible for them to accept it unless we may accept ger toshav. There is no apparent reason for the two to be related. It must be, therefore, that §11 discusses Noahides in general, independent of ger toshav. Since Noahide identity is independent of ger toshav,  there is no reason to assume that one must accept the Noahide laws before a beis din.

  • Rabbi Moshe Weiner in the Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem - Rabbi Weiner, after surveying the various readings of Maimonides, concludes that personal acceptance of the Noahide laws is sufficient to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam. In his conclusion, he offers a proof from Maimonides, Hilchos Melakhim:35
  • If a ben noach who was converted, circumcised, and immersed in a mikveh desires to revert back to his previous status as a ger toshav, we do not listen to him. He remains a Jew in every way or must be executed.

    And if he was a minor [under the age of 12 or 13] and immersed by the beis din [for the sake of conversion], he may renounce his conversion when he attains majority [the age of 12 or 13] and assumes the status of a ger toshav.

    The law is that a minor may not convert to Judaism on his own because, as a minor, he cannot make such a commitment. Rather, the beis din oversees his conversion as a minor, but allows him to choose his identity upon adulthood. If he chooses to renounce Judaism at this time, he may do so. Rabbi Weiner draws our attention to the fact that the child automatically …assumes the status of a ger toshav, upon renouncing his conversion. Rabbi Weiner notes that this does not make sense for we do not currently accept ger toshav! Obviously, the answer is that Maimonides is only speaking of a time when we accept ger toshav. However, writes Rabbi Weiner this cannot be so. In every other instance in which Maimonides invokes ger toshav, he is careful to note that it does not apply in our times. Maimonides, though, makes no such qualification here. Therefore, Maimonides must hold that the ger toshav status of a minor who rejects his conversion does in fact exist in our times. However, the child attains this status without having to accept the seven laws anew before a beis din. Rabbi Weiner concludes that one who accepts the Noahide laws without acceptance before a beis din attains some partial identity as a ger toshav, even in our times, and is thus MiChasidei Umos HaOlam.36

To the above, I will add Maimonides’s own words37 penned in response to a question as to the merit non-Jews receive:

As for your question about the gentile nations, you should know that God desires the heart and that matters follow the heart’s intentions. Therefore, our Rabbis, Sages of truth, peace be upon them, have said “the pious of the gentile nations have a share in the World to Come.” This is if they have achieved that which is proper to achieve of knowledge of the Creator… then without a doubt, anyone who has improved his soul with correct virtues, wisdom, and faith in the Creator, blessed is He, is certainly among those destined for the world to come…

Nowhere here does Maimonides require acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din in order to merit eternal reward. In fact, Maimonides mentions no such requirement in any of his writings. To the contrary, Maimonides states explicitly in this letter that the merit of the World to Come, the identity of MiChasidei Umos HaOlam, is dependent on the heart – upon personal acceptance of the Noahide laws as per the Sinaitic reaffirmation.

There is not a single source, anywhere, in all of Torah Literature, which mandates acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din in order to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam in our days. This idea is a possibility merely implied by how one reads the juxtaposition of Maimonides’s two paragraphs.

The halakhic, practical, conclusion is that acceptance of the Noahide laws before a beis din is not required for one to become MiChasidei Umos HaOlam. If a Noahide insists upon accepting his obligations before a beis din, it is certainly not prohibited for him to do so. This acceptance, however, conveys no status of ger toshav because this status cannot be conferred in our times.


28 Mishnas Yaavetz 3. Rabbi Zolti (1920 – 1982) was elected as chief Rabbi of Jerusalem in 1977 and was a highly regarded authority on Torah law.

29 Kuntres Divrei Torah. Cited in Minchas Asher I:7.

30 See Chiddushei Ri”z Soloveitchik, Mikhtavim, final letter; Ohr Somayach to Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:7; Chazon Ish ad loc. Rabbi Asher Weiss in his Minchas Asher I:7 cites the proofs of Rabbi’s Kahaneman and Zolti, yet demonstrates convincingly that they are not conclusive.

31 Chiddushei Ri”z Soloveitchik, Mikhtavim.

32 VeShav HaKohen 38.

33 Ohr Somayach to Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:7.

34 See note 23, above.

35 10:3.

36 With great respect for Rabbi Weiner’s tremendous scholarship, I must humbly admit that this proof is far from convincing for two reasons. For one, there are other places where Maimonides discusses ger toshav in a context that clearly does not apply today (See, for example, Hilchos Rotzeach ve-Shemiras HaNefesh 5:3-4; Hilkhos Issurei Biah 14:5; Hilkhos Shekalim 4:8). In these instances, Maimonides makes no explicit qualification as to whether or not he is speaking about a time when ger toshav are accepted. Instead, we may determine this fact simply from context. In our passage above, we can tell from the references to execution that this law does not apply to our times. Second, Maimonides iterates numerous time for us that ger toshav only applies when the Jubilee year is observed. Maimonides may very well intend this rule as intrinsic to the definition of ger toshav, and, therefore, did not always feel the need to reiterate this qualification.

37 Teshuvos HaRambam VeIgrosav (Leipzig, 1859) II 23b.

3. Acting in the Image of God

I often see a reference to people being “created in the image of God.” I think this is a beautiful way to treat others, but I don't always see people acting this way. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The verse in Genesis 1:27 primarily teaches that the human being – like God – has a degree of free will and independence.

But you are correct that the idea of “image of God” should spill over into our interpersonal relationships as well. We should treat others with kindness and respect because every human is created in the image of God. Irrespective of race, level of intelligence, or degree of physical fitness. In identifying the Godliness within each person, we not only honor the individual, but bring more of God's presence into the world as well.

Consider the following story, which occurred about 100 years ago in Europe:

One day, a man reported that a great rabbi was walking down the road, heading into town for an unexpected visit. This was truly a special occasion! Word spread quickly, and all the townspeople hurried to dress in their finest Shabbos clothes, in order to great the rabbi with great honor and respect.

Soon after, however, it was discovered that the original report was mistaken, and the man thought to be a great rabbi was in fact just an ordinary traveler. So all the townspeople went back to their activities, leaving the traveler to fend for himself. Except for one person. He went out to greet the stranger grandly, and invited him to be the guest of honor at a lavish meal.

The other townspeople saw this and inquired: "Why are you bothering – he's no great rabbi!" To which the man replied, "A human being is a human being. And we must honor him just the same."

This question was posted and answered at

4. Choosing a Rabbi

As the founder of Noahide Nations and a Noahide for 15 + years I have found that one of the most often asked questions seem to be how do I pick a rabbi to study Noahide Torah under? How do we know if a rabbi is qualified to teach the Noahide Laws or not? Should I learn from one or more rabbis?

These are all great questions and there are answers to them. We must first realize that just because someone has the title of Rabbi it does not mean they know everything there is to know about the Noahide Laws. In fact in many cases it is the exact opposite.

The article below is actually taken from one of the Lesson Texts from the Noahide Laws & Life Cycle Course being taught by the Talmudic University of Florida in the Noahide Nations Academy of Shem. Rabbi Bloomenstiel is the Director of the program offered and at the present time the instructor for the course. He is a poskim and is an expert in the area of Torah Laws both Jewish and Noahide.

This article was written by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel who is a posek (Judge) and therefore an expert in Torah Halacha (Law).

Rabbinic Ordination: Classical Semikhah

And Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: 'Let the Lord, the God of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.' And the Lord said unto Moses: 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay your hand upon him; and set him before Eleazer the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And you shall put of your honor upon him that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hear. And he shall stand before Eleazer the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord; at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.' And Moses did as the Lord commanded him; and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazer the priest, and before the entire congregation. And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord spoke by the hand of Moses.1

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.2

And the God said to Moses: 'Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. And I will come down and speak with you there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon you, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you should not have to bear it alone.3

The “laying on of hands” and “placing the spirit” described in the above verses are the first examples of Rabbinic ordination and the beginning of classical Semikhah (Semikhah is Hebrew for ordination). Joshua went on to ordain others, who in- turn taught and ordained their students down through the generations. This ordination was not a license to teach Torah or to lead a congregation – it was the transferring of divinely sanctioned authority from one scholar to another. This ordination imbued the holder with a spirit of wisdom, imparting holiness to his words and thoughts. Semikhah was required for certain roles; it was especially needed in order to serve in the Sanhedrin and other institutions of Torah law. Upon entry of the Jewish people into Israel, certain rules took effect governing how this ordination was given4:

•    Semikhah could only be conveyed by a quorum of three judges, one of whom must himself have Semikhah.5 Semikhah could be conferred verbally or in writing. The “laying on of hands” was only practiced in the earlier generations. It was not practiced beyond the generation of Moses and Joshua.

•    Both the grantor and recipient must be in Israel at the time Semikhah is given.

•    In order to receive Semikhah, one must be an expert in all areas of Torah law. He must also be of proper character and zealously observant of the mitzvos and words of the sages.

An important detail of rabbinic ordination is that it was tiered: ordination was given in specific areas of Torah knowledge. To receive any one of these ordinations, however, a scholar must be capable and fluent in all areas of Torah knowledge.  The ordinations were, in ascending degrees:6

•    Yoreh Yoreh (He shall instruct, he shall instruct) – This ordination was for matters of religious and ritual law.

•    Yadin Yadin (He shall judge, he shall judge) – This ordination qualified the scholar to matters of civil, criminal, and monetary law.

•    Yatir Yatir or Yatir Bechoros Yatir (He shall permit, he shall permit) – This ordination qualified its holder to rule on matters of animal sacrifices and ritual purity.

This chain of ordination passed unbroken for centuries until shortly after the Bar Kokhba rebellion (132 – 135 CE). In the wake of Bar Kokhba’s failed attempt to re-establish Jewish autonomy, the Romans viewed Semikhah as a dangerous expression of the Jewish desire for self-rule. They also realized that, by ending Semikhah, they would destroy the Sanhedrin.  What ensued was a brutal  program of persecution and suppression. By imperial decree, giving Semikhah was made a capital offense with terrible consequences. Not only were the parties to the Semikhah executed, but absolute destruction was decreed for the city in which Semikhah was granted. To emphasize his point, the emperor also ordered the complete destruction of all villages and settlements located within 2000 Amos of that city’s boundaries.7

By the fourth and fifth centuries the Romans had driven most of the rabbinic community across the border into what is now Iraq. With few sages remaining in Israel, the chain of Semikhah eventually broke.8 For the next several centuries, the title “rabbi” would not be used.9 Instead, a scholar would either be referred to as “khokham” (wise one) or, if he held a position of authority, as a Gaon (eminence).

Rabbinic Ordination: Modern Semikhah
In modern times, Semikhah refers to a degree or diploma certifying one as having completed a course of study in halakhah, Jewish law. The impetus for this new Semikhah was the rise of the medieval university, which began to issue diplomas and degrees. Jewish communities, in constant flux, saw the value of credentialing its religious scholars. They called this academic degree Semikhah in commemoration of the classical Semikhah. While this Semikhah caught on in the European Jewish world, Sephardic communities did not adopt it until very late.

Today, Semikhah is given at three levels:

•    Rav U-Manhig – The equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree, this Semikhah originated in the 20th  century at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, MD. It certifies the holder as a teacher and as knowing the basic laws of the synagogue ritual service and observance of the holidays. Not all yeshivas issue this Semikhah or accept it as valid. Where accepted, the holder may use the title Rabbi.

•    Yoreh Yoreh – Equivalent of a Master’s degree. Based on the classical Yoreh Yoreh, this is usually awarded following a course of study in  kashrus (dietary laws), Shabbat, Niddah (laws pertaining to married women), and Aveilus (mourning). Traditionally, the final exam is given in Issur ve-heter (a very detailed sub-section of the dietary laws). This is the most common Semikhah today. A Rabbi with this Semikhah, who holds a position of communal authority, may be called Rav.

•    Yadin Yadin – Also based on the classical Semikhah, this ordination is the equivalent of a Ph.D. It requires extensive study of the laws of monetary and civil damages, as well as the laws of marriage and divorce. One who holds this ordination may be called Dayan. In the US, however, they are usually called Rabbi or Rav.

There is a fourth level that is very uncommon in our times called heter horaah (although this term is confusingly applied to other ordinations as well) or Semikhahs Moreh Horaah. This is an all-encompassing Semikhah awarded to rare scholars who have mastered the entire body of Torah literature. Very few people receive this today.

The Problems with Modern Semikhah
Students of Judaism and Noahism should be aware that there are many details (and problems) with modern semikhah:

•    Semikhah is first and foremost a certification in Torah Law. Biblical interpretation, philosophy, and theology, are rarely, if ever, part of the curriculum. semikhah is only relevant to the study of Torah law – it is not awarded for knowledge of other areas.

•    Semikhah is an academic degree attained after a course of study and examination. It is not awarded based on righteousness or character. There are people with semikhah who are not particularly pleasant.

•    One who has semikhah at one level may not teach or answer questions about law from a higher level. Someone with Yoreh Yoreh should not answer questions about Yadin Yadin material.

•    In the past 15 or 20 years, many yeshivas have begun awarding semikhahs in very specific areas of study. For example, someone may take a course in the laws of Shabbos and receive semikhah in Shabbos (this may even be done online). However, he may not know any other area of Torah law. Such a person must be very cautious about holding himself out as a  Rabbi because he is not qualified to discuss anything other than the laws of Shabbat. There are many “area specific” Rabbis in the world today. Unfortunately, many hold themselves out as “Torah authorities” when, in actuality, they are woefully unqualified outside their narrow area of study. Of Rabbis who teach or rule on matters in which they are not thoroughly versed, Maimonides describes them as “evil, arrogant people.”10

•    Because it is possible to get semikhah in only one narrow area, it means that one does have to be a Torah scholar anymore to be a Rabbi.   Likewise, one doesn’t need to be a rabbi to be a Torah scholar.

•    One does not have to study at a yeshiva to attain semikhah. Either a person can study at a yeshiva and receive semikhah from the Yeshiva, or one can study privately and be examined by a renowned Torah scholar.

Ultimately, the world of Torah scholarship is a meritocracy – the greater scholars receive the greatest recognition and are accorded authority on the merits of their achievements. For this reason, many of the greatest Torah scholars and authorities of the past 150 years never bothered with semikhah. 

Choosing a Rabbi
The only qualified Rabbis are those who are observant and received their training from orthodox institutions. If someone was ordained as a reform Rabbi, and subsequently became orthodox, their ordination remains invalid.

Know from where a Rabbi received semikhah. Did he get it online, from a recognized Torah scholar, or from a Yeshiva? All three could be valid, depending on the source.

Also, what did the Rabbi have to study to receive his semikhah? Was it one area (i.e. Issur v’Heter) or did he have to complete a long course of study?  Most importantly is the rabbi affiliated with a particular institution, or is he a “lone wolf?”

Rabbis who “do their own thing” should generally be avoided because they have no accountability to anyone other than themselves.

You must endeavor to find a Rabbi in whose scholarship you have confidence and who you believe will take your interests seriously. If you always agree with everything your Rabbi tells you, then your relationship with the rabbi  is not healthy for you. You want to find a Rabbi who challenges you. Most important of all, you must find a Rabbi who is consistent in his teachings. A rabbi who changes his opinions to suit the audience at hand, or when he is challenged, should be avoided.

Kabbalah – License
Besides ordination, there is another rabbinic credentialing called kabbalah – although this is similar to the Hebrew word for mysticism, it has an entirely different meaning here. A kabblah is a license to practice as a mohel (perform circumcision), sofer (scribe) or shochet (kosher slaughterer).

•    Mohel – An unlicensed mohel should not be used. Additionally, unlicensed mohalim are exposed to tremendous liability. Besides the religious requirement for licensure, many countries have laws that enforce certification.

•    Sofer – There is a tremendous number of unlicensed soferim (scribes) today. Many of these are producing non-kosher mezuzos and tefillin. Without licensure, their work would still remain unacceptable because the work of an unlicensed sofer (scribe) considered non-kosher even if the unlicensed Sofer is a Torah scholar and if their work is executed properly. Purchase of safrus from an unlicensed person is likewise prohibited.

•    Shochet (a ritual slaughterer of animals) – The requirement of licensure for shochtim is very stringent. The meat of an unlicensed shochet is treated as non-kosher even if he slaughtered the animal correctly. As a result the meat is either discarded or sold to non-Kosher meat companies.

Honor Due to Torah Scholars
Rise before an elderly person and stand before a wise man.11

This teaches that we are obligated to show honor to a Torah scholar by  standing in his presence. We must stand when a scholar enters or leaves a room if he is within six feet of us. For an exceptional scholar, we stand when he enters  the room even from more than 6 feet away.

For a more in-depth study of this topic and the Torah of Noahism go HERE.

1 Numbers 27:15-23.
2 Deuteronomy 34:9.
3 Numbers 11:16-17.
4 Most of this material is taken from Maimonides, Hil. Sanhedrin 4.

5 Sanhedrin 13b-14a. Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:5.
6 Sanhedrin 5a.
7 Sanhedrin 14a.
8 There are some Gaonic traditions indicating that ordination may have continued beyond the fourth century. See the Kovetz Shaarei Tzedek, p. 29-30 and Sefer HaShtarot, p. 132. However, even these concur that there is no modern semikhah.
9 The term “Rabbi” is not all that common in the Talmud either. There are many honorifics used in the Talmud for Torah scholars. However, most of them are referred to simply by their names or sobriquets.
10  Hilchos Talmud Torah 5:30
11 Leviticus 19:32.



5. A Motherand Stepmother's Peace

In order to bring about Tikun Olam (repairing the world) we must change the way we think first. Here is a glowing example of changing the way we think. Take a look for yourself and remember that change is not always an easy accomplishment.

A woman named Candice wrote a letter to her ex-husband’s new wife Ashley, and what is expressed in this letter truly epitomizes the meaning of “repairing the world” and is worthy of being in our Tikun Olam Section. Let us know if you agree.

This letter was posted in the "Women of Worth" blog.

To My Daughter’s Stepmom,

I never wanted you here. You simply were never part of the plan. Growing up and dreaming of my family I never included you. I didn’t want help from another woman to raise my child. The plan was for my family to include me, daddy and our children, not you. I doubt you ever wanted me in your life. I doubt you planned to mother a child that you didn’t give birth to. I can bet that your plan for your family included you, daddy and your children together, not me or my daughter. I can almost bet that when you dreamed of becoming a mother it would be the day you gave birth and not the day you married your husband. I’m pretty sure you never planned on me being here.

But God has plans that far exceed our own and when my little family dissolved to form two families I knew you would be coming.

In my mind you would be a terrible beast and my daughter would not want you to mother her at all, ever! I was hoping that you would be semi unattractive and prayed my daughter wouldn’t look up to you. Her daddy would know that he was settling for second best. Evil swirled in me because I never wanted to face the fact that another woman would mother my child in my absence.

Then you arrived.

When I first met you I’ll admit you weren’t what I had in mind and a twinge of jealousy shot through my body. You were supposed to be hideous, remember? But you weren’t, you were stunningly beautiful. You were supposed to be a mean old hag, remember? But you weren’t, you were a young, sweet woman.

My plans were foiled.

I realized by the look on your face that meeting me was just as hard as it was for me to meet you. My heart immediately softened. Dang your kind smile! I was planning on really hating you. Why are your ruining my plan?!

I wanted to resent you but you made it impossible and I quickly grew thankful for you.

You’ve accepted our daughter from the very start and have unconditionally loved both her and her daddy, that’s a true gift to all of us. You’ve included our daughter in everything you do and make her feel loved and accepted. You put her relationship with her daddy above yours and only a brave and courageous woman knows how to do that with such grace.

I knew when her daddy and I decided to divorce and live in separate homes there would be times when she would need me, her mommy, and I wouldn’t be there. I’m so thankful that you are there in my absence. I’m grateful that you have mercy on her teen years and never reject her. She needs a mommy at your house and you’ve done an amazing job being that for her.

You’ve respected my position as mom from the very start. I appreciate that you always check with me when you question if you are making the right decision with her. I know our situation is rare. It’s not often that a mom and stepmom text each other to remind each other that they love and respect each other. You are a gift.

Because of you and your courage to mother our daughter the way that you do, she will be a better woman. She will grow up with more love than I could have ever imagined. It wasn’t her choice to have divorced parents and even though I wouldn’t wish that on any child I am so thankful that she now has 4 parents who love and respect her and each other. She’s compassionate because of it and understands that a failure in one area can turn into a blessing in another.

I don’t see you as a “fill in” for when I’m not there. You are her mother when she’s with you and when she’s with me. She’s excited to call you and tell you her stories when she’s at my house and that makes my heart want to jump from my chest with joy. I fill with pride when you wrap your arms around me and squeeze for a genuine and loving hug each time we see each other.

I am extremely aware of what it looks like when a mother cannot emotionally accept her child’s stepmother in their life. Gratefulness pours heavily from me that we are able to rise above anything like that and do what is truly right for our daughter. Thank you for being mature enough and respectful enough to co-parent with me.

I promise to always respect your input for our daughter. I promise to never lessen the position you hold in her life or make you feel like you are not her mother. I promise to raise her to be grateful to have two strong and brave women in her life that have the courage to mother her together. Even though our situation is peaceful I pray that she is never in it, but if she ever finds herself here I promise to set an example for her of what co-parenting should look like.

Precious woman, you are a rare and beautiful gem.

God bless you and I love you.


Millions of people read the letter, and then the stepmom replied:

“Candice, I don’t know what to say.  I am not good with words like you are and the way you express yourself. All I can say is I am crying like at the end of The Notebook … you make me feel so special … Thank you for this letter. It made my day and I will keep it close to my heart always. Love you.”


6. Admitting You are Wrong

by Avraham ben Yaacov

Only one with a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the drama of Joseph's reconciliation with his brothers and his reunion with his father after having been given up for dead for 22 years.

Our present portion brings us to the very climax of the story, which takes up all of the last four out of the twelve portions of the book of Genesis, i.e. one third of the whole book. As discussed in the commentary on Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) , conflict between brothers is also a recurrent theme throughout the earlier portions of Genesis (as in the case of Cain & Abel, the sons of Noah, Abraham & Lot, Isaac & Ishmael and Jacob & Esau). It is the fact that the conflict between Joseph and his brothers was eventually resolved peaceably that makes the lessons of this story so important for all humanity in our time, since the central issue we face is how we can all co-exist peacefully on this ever more crowded earth.

It is enough to take a glance at the news media to see how humanity is wracked with conflicts between opposing beliefs, cultures, blocs and nations as well as between different factions within countries, communities, work places and in people's very homes. Everyone believes that right and justice are on their side while their opponents are in the wrong. Few have the magnanimity to recognize that their enemies might also have a case, and people remain locked in self-protective and aggressive postures causing the cycle of conflict to continue.

It is not always true that both sides in a dispute must have a just case and that the dispute can be settled with a 50-50 compromise (cf. I Kings 3:16-28). God has made people with many different traits and temperaments; some have a tendency to greater placidity; others are more assertive. It is not uncommon for people to commit acts that encroach upon the lives of others, drawing them into conflict mode.

Joseph was not to blame for being Jacob's youngest son and the object of his favoritism, which made his brothers resentful. Undoubtedly Joseph's possibly well-intentioned reports to Jacob on their behavior only stoked the flames, as did his innocent telling of his dreams. His brothers became convinced that he was a terrible demon for whose extermination justice itself cried out. They all but killed him, selling him into the pain and degradation of slavery (Genesis ch. 37, see Rashi on v. 17).

Thus we have in this story one victim and a gang of aggressors with murderous intentions. Yet in the end, after all the pain and anguish, the aggressors relent and the victim forgives.

It was Joseph who suffered the most (except for his father Jacob), yet Joseph's very suffering and subsequent ascent to his destined greatness taught him that "God kills and gives life, lowers people down to hell and brings them up" (I Samuel 2:6). For "happy is the man that God chastises but thereby You teach him from Your Torah" (Psalms 94:12). Joseph knew that even though his brothers had indeed sold him into slavery in Egypt, they were but agents of God, Who sent him ahead of them in order to provide for them and sustain them in their destined sojourn in that country.

It was Joseph's complete faith in God that enabled him to forgive his brothers for their crime against him and to display the noble magnanimity exemplified in his behavior throughout the story. As the forgiving victim, Joseph shows that he was firm in two of the fundamental pillars of faith:

1. God controls everything: Everything in the entire universe is under God's control. This includes everything that happens to you personally, both spiritually and materially, including what you yourself do, whether deliberately or unwittingly, willfully or under compulsion: everything is from God. Even when appearances suggest otherwise, the believer pays attention not to the external appearance of this world but to the underlying truth.

2. Reverses: When things appear to turn out badly for us, we have to accept that this is God's will and that whatever happens is for the best. Even when things go wrong because of something we ourselves may have thought, said or done, we must accept that this too is from God. Other people are also free agents, yet everything they do is ultimately controlled by God. If someone insults you or in some way harms you, know that this has been sent by God as a way to cleanse your soul. If things go against you, be patient. When you accept everything as God's will, this causes the veil of concealment to be removed, thus manifesting God's control over all creation (from "Seven Pillars of Faith" by Rabbi Yitzchak Breiter ).

Although aggrieved, Joseph forgave his brothers completely and showed them the utmost love. He wanted them to repent for their own good. When they came under his power, he did not reprove them – for this is embarrassing to the wrongdoer. Instead, with consummate skill he manipulated them into a situation where they would see for themselves that they had committed a great wrong. Thus last week's portion ( Mikeitz , Genesis 41:1-44:17) told how when Joseph first imprisoned his ten older brothers and kept one of them hostage to ensure that the others would bring Benjamin too down to Egypt, the brothers – who had also undoubtedly been reared on the above principles of faith – immediately realized that if they suffered such a reverse, it must be the hand of God.

"And each one said to his brothers, But it is we who are to blame because of our brother, the pain of whose soul we saw when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us" (Genesis 42:21).

The ensuing story traces the successive stages of Joseph's brothers' remorse, contrition and repentance, until in the end they admitted to him how terribly they had wronged him and literally begged him to forgive them and not to take revenge, as described in the concluding verses of the book of Genesis at the end of next week's portion (Genesis, 50:15-22). Penitent wrongdoers also display greatness – when they have the courage to admit their guilt and change their ways. This is an important lesson for all of us, because very few can honestly say that they are innocent of all wrong in their behavior towards others.

It is also an important lesson for leaders – for the qualities of true leadership are a central theme in the story of Joseph and his brothers. We live in an age where many of those charged with the leadership of countries and world blocs display a marked inability to admit their human fallibility or take responsibility for the huge errors and mistaken assumptions that have led us to the brink of world war, economic ruin and ecological disaster. Not only under dictatorial regimes but even in the supposedly "free" world, the mainstream media, which are largely controlled by the same interests that buttress the leadership, likewise cosmetically paper over their follies with "spin".

But the true leader is the first to admit his own wrong and sin before God, as in the immortal words of King David, exemplar of the Messianic King:

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your mercy; according to the multitude of Your compassions, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me…. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts; make me, therefore, to know wisdom in my inmost heart… Create me a pure heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me…. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways; and sinners shall return to You… O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise" (Psalms vv 3-17).

7. Letter to All Noahides

Introduction to the Letter:

Within the Torah, there is a universal path for all humanity.

This path contains seven basic categories of mitzvos – Divine mandates (Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 416).  These seven categories of mitzvos provide an ethical and moral foundation for human society. In addition, there are sources within our tradition which state that all human beings should fulfill those mitzvos of the Torah which are suggested by “human reason and the understanding of the heart” (Introduction to the Talmud by Rabbi Nissim Gaon). 

There are a growing number of non-Jews who are striving to fulfill the precepts of this life-giving path. They are often referred to as Bnei Noach – the Children of Noah, for the basic precepts of this path were reaffirmed in the generation of Noah, after the great flood. Maimonides states that this universal path was later reaffirmed when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai (The Law of Kings 8:11). The Bnei Noach realize that the Torah and its interpretations were given to our people at Mount Sinai; thus, they seek to study with rabbis who can guide them on their path.  At this stage, the majority are former Christians who have chosen to accept Torah teachings regarding the Oneness of God, the Messiah, the purpose of the human being in this world, and other related issues. They are true friends of our people, as they love and respect both our people and our Judaism; thus, unlike many Christians who seek to “convert” us, they seek to support us on our spiritual path. As friends of our people, they take a strong stand against all forms of anti-Jewish hatred, and they are strong allies of the State of Israel. In appreciation of their friendship and spiritual accomplishments, I have written the following letter to members of the Bnei Noach movement: 

Dear Friends,

As members of the growing Bnei Noach movement, you acknowledge the oneness and unity of Hashem, the Compassionate One. I therefore think of you in my daily prayers, especially when I proclaim in the morning and evening, “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). According to the classical biblical commentator, Rashi, when we proclaim “Hashem is One,” we are proclaiming that in the future all the peoples of the earth will recognize the unity and oneness of Hashem, as it is written: 

“For then I will change the peoples to speak a pure language, so that they will all proclaim the Name of Hashem, to serve Him with a united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

As Rashi reminds us, it is also written, “On that day Hashem will be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9). May that day soon arrive. In the meanwhile, you should realize that you are spiritual pioneers who are preparing for that great day by joining with the People of Israel in proclaiming, “Hashem is One!”

When we proclaim that Hashem is One, we are also proclaiming that we are to only serve the One and Unifying Creator of the Universe. In this spirit, the Divine voice proclaimed at Mount Sinai, “You shall not have other gods before My Presence” (Exodus 20:3). And it is also written, “Know it today and take it to heart repeatedly that Hashem alone is God; in heaven above and on earth below – there is none other” (Deuteronomy 4:39).  It is therefore forbidden for us to deify any object, force, or being, including a human being. In fact, the Torah tells us that “God is not a man” (Numbers 23:19). 

Many of you live among Christians who deify a Jewish man who lived over 2,000 years ago; moreover, they proclaim that the only way to reach God is through this man. You have rejected this Christian belief, and you have chosen to follow the original teaching of Abraham and Sarah, who taught human beings to pray directly to the Compassionate One. In fact, all the great biblical figures including Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Deborah, David, Isaiah, and Jeremiah prayed directly to the Compassionate One. This is how the Torah taught us to pray, and anyone who reads the Book of Psalms can discover the Torah approach to prayer. 

There is a Christian folk song which contains the words, “Give me that old-time religion.” The song mentions that if the “old-time religion” was good enough for Abraham, Moses, and a host of biblical figures, “it is good enough for me.” From the perspective of the Torah, however, those who pray directly to Hashem are the ones who are truly in the spirit of that “old-time religion,” for they are emulating Abraham, Sarah, and all the great biblical figures.

We therefore need to remember that “Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon him sincerely” (Psalm 145:18). A classical biblical commentator, Radak, explains that this verse is revealing that the Compassionate One is close to “all” who call upon Him, “regardless of nationality.” In other words, you don't have to be Jewish in order to experience the loving closeness of the Compassionate One!

Many of you are former Christians, and there are some Christian preachers who told you that your soul is eternally damned and that you cannot go to Heaven, since you no longer accept their “Lord and Savior.” You are in good company, for in the view of these preachers, we, the People of Israel, are also not going to Heaven, since we do not pray to or through the man they view as their Lord and Savior, for we remember the following Divine proclamation:

“I, only I, am Hashem, and there is no Savior aside from Me.” (Isaiah 43:11).

When the State of Israel captured Eichman, a leading Nazi murderer, the Israeli government assigned the Reverend William Hall, a Canadian missionary living in Jerusalem, to serve as his chaplain. Hall later told the press that had this murderer of Jewish men, women, and children accepted his “Savior” before he was executed, he would have immediately entered the gates of paradise. Hall was then asked, “And what of the souls of his six million Jewish victims?” Hall replied that they would certainly not have entered paradise, for they had not accepted the Church’s “salvation.” (Cited in the ArtScroll book, “Once Upon a Shtetl,” by Chaim Shapiro) 

We, the people who received the Torah, have a different view regarding entry into the heavenly paradise: The heaven of our God has lots of room, and any human being who is a “chassid” – a person who is lovingly devoted to serving the Creator – can enter the gates of paradise. As our sages state: 

“The chassidim among the nations have a share in the World to Come.” (Tosefta –Sanhedrin 13:1)

You share our basic beliefs, and you also recognize that the Messiah has not yet arrived, for you realize that if someone is to be officially recognized as the Messiah, he must fulfill the prophecies that are outlined in chapter 11 of the Book of Isaiah and many other places within our Sacred Scriptures. According to these prophecies, the Messiah will gather in all the exiles of Israel, and he will inspire all human beings to return to the Compassionate One. His arrival will inaugurate an era of universal peace and spiritual enlightenment, “for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed” (Isaiah 11:9). In addition, the Temple will be rebuilt, and it will be known as, “a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled; thus, you join our people in awaiting the true Messiah who will redeem Israel and all humankind. 

Your love and respect for the Jewish people and Judaism is in the spirit of the prophecy which describes how the peoples of the earth will eventually become our spiritual allies, and they will say to us, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23). In this age, there will no longer be missionaries who call upon us to follow their path; instead, all will be inspired by the universal precepts within the path of our people.

As a Torah educator, I have much respect and appreciation for your willingness to be our spiritual allies, especially since we are now living in a period when anti-Jewish hatred is spreading, and enemies that are dedicated to our destruction are gaining strength and support. According to our prophets and sages, this danger is part of the birth pangs that will lead to the birth of the messianic age, when all hatred and violence will be eliminated from the world. The birth of this age has not yet taken place; nevertheless, you have the courage to publicly support our spiritual mission during this difficult and dangerous period. You will therefore share in our joy when the “birth” will take place, and the following prophecy will be fulfilled:

“It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2: 2,3)

May the Compassionate One guide, bless, and protect you, and may we meet at the great ingathering in Jerusalem.


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

8. Age of the Universe - Part 1

One of the most obvious perceived contradictions between Torah and science is the age of the universe. Is it billions of years old, like scientific data, or is it thousands of years, like Biblical data? When we add up the generations of the Bible and then add the secular rulers that followed, we come to fewer than 6000 years. Whereas, data from the Hubbell telescope or from the land based telescopes in Hawaii, indicate the number at approximately 14 billion years. In trying to resolve this apparent conflict, I use only ancient biblical commentary because modern commentary already knows modern science, and so it is influenced by what science always.

That commentary includes the text of the Bible itself (3300 years ago), the translation of the Torah into Aramaic by Onkelos (100 CE), the Talmud (redacted about the year 400 CE), and the three major Torah commentators. There are many, many commentators, but at the top of the mountain there are three, accepted by all: Rashi (11th century France), who brings the straight understanding of the text, Maimonides (12th century Egypt), who handles the philosophical concepts, and then Nahmanides (13th century Spain), the most important of the Kabbalists.

These ancient commentaries were finalized hundreds or thousands of years ago, long before Hubbell was a gleam in his great-grandparent’s eye. So there’s no possibility of Hubbell or any other scientific data influencing these concepts. That’s a key component in keeping the following discussion objective.

A Universe with a Beginning

In 1959, a survey was taken of leading American scientists. Among the many questions asked was, “What is your estimate of the age of the universe?” Now, in 1959, astronomy was popular, but cosmology – the deep physics of understanding the universe – was just developing. The response to that survey was recently republished in Scientific American – the most widely read science journal in the world. Two-thirds of the scientists gave the same answer. The answer that two-thirds – an overwhelming majority – of the scientists gave was, “Beginning? There was no beginning. Aristotle and Plato taught us 2400 years ago that the universe is eternal. Oh, we know the Bible says ‘In the beginning.’ That’s a nice story; it helps kids go to bed at night. But we sophisticates know better. There was no beginning.”

That was 1959. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the echo of the Big Bang in the black of the sky at night, and the world paradigm changed from a universe that was eternal to a universe that had a beginning. Science had made an enormous paradigm change in its understanding of the world. Understand the impact. Science said that our universe had a beginning. I can’t overestimate the import of that scientific “discovery.” Evolution, cave men, these are all trivial problems compared to the fact that we now understand that we had a beginning. Exactly as the Bible had claimed for three millennia.

Of course, the fact that there was a beginning does not prove that there was a beginner. Whether the second half of Genesis 1:1 is correct, we don’t know from a secular point of view. The first half is “In the beginning;” the second half is “God created the Heavens and the Earth.” Physics allows for a beginning without a beginner. I’m not going to get into the physics of that here. “The Science of God,” my second book, examines this in great detail.

It All Starts From Rosh Hashana

The question we’re left with is, how long ago did the “beginning” occur? Was it, as the Bible might imply, fewer than 6,000 years, or was it the 14 billions of years that are accepted by the scientific community? The first thing we have to understand is the origin of the Biblical calendar.

The Jewish year is calculated by adding up the generations since Adam. Additionally, there are six days from the creation of the universe to the creation of the first human, that is the first being with the soul of a human (not the first hominid, a being with human shape and intelligence, but lacking the soul of humanity, the neshama). We have a 6000 year clock that begins with Adam. The six days are separate from this clock. The Bible has two clocks. This is no modern rationalization. The Talmud already discussed this 1600 years ago.

The reason the six pre-Adam days were taken out of the calendar is because time is described differently in those Six Days of Genesis. “There was evening and morning” with no relationship to human time. Once we come to the progeny of Adam, the flow of time is totally in human terms. Adam and Eve live 130 years before having Seth. Seth lives 105 years before having Enosh, etc. (Genesis chapter 5). From Adam forward, the flow of time is totally human in concept. But prior to that time, it’s an abstract concept: “Evening and morning.” It’s as if you’re looking down on events from a viewpoint that is not intimately related to them, a cosmic view of time.

Looking Deeper into the Text

In trying to understand the flow of time here, you have to remember that the entire Six Days is described in 31 sentences. The Six Days of Genesis, which have given people so many headaches are confined to 31 sentences! At MIT, in the Hayden library, we had about 50,000 books that deal with the development of the universe: cosmology, chemistry, thermodynamics, paleontology, archaeology, the high-energy physics of creation. Up the river at Harvard, at the Weidner library, they probably have 200,000 books on these same topics. The Bible gives us 31 sentences. Don’t expect that by a simple reading of those sentences, you’ll know every detail that is held within the text. It’s obvious that we have to dig deeper to get the information out.

What Is a “Day?”

The usual answer to that question is let the word ‘day’ in Genesis chapter one be any long period of time. Bend the Bible to match the science. Fortunately, the Talmud in Hagigah (12A), Rashi there and Nahmanides (Gen. 1:3) all tell us that the word day means 24 hours, not sunrise and sun set. The sun is not mentioned till day four and these commentaries all relate to all six days, right from day one. But the commentary continues in Exodus and Leviticus, that the days are 24 hours each (again, not relating to sunrise and sunset, merely sets of 24 hours). There are six of them, and the duration is not longer than the six days of a work week, BUT they contain all the ages of the world. How can six 24 hour days contain all the ages of the world?

The Flexible Flow of Time and the Stretching of Space

Einstein taught the world that time is relative. That in regions of high velocity or high gravity time actually passes more slowly relative to regions of lower gravity or lower velocity. (One system relative to another, hence the name, the laws of relativity.) This is now proven fact. Time actually stretches out. Were ever you are time is normal for you because your biology is part of that local system.

That is Einstein and gravity and velocity. But there is a third aspect of the universe that changes the perception of time, Not gravity and not velocity. That is the stretching of space. The universe started as a minuscule speck, perhaps not larger that a grain of mustard and stretched out from there. Space actually stretches. The effect of the stretching of space produces the effect that when observing an event that took place far from our galaxy, as the light from that event travels through space and the sequence of events travels through space, the information is actually stretched out. (In my book The Science of God, I give the logic in detail in simple easy to understand terms.)

The Creation of Time

Each day of creation is numbered. Yet Nahmanides points out that there is discontinuity in the way the days are numbered. The verse says: “There is evening and morning, Day One.” But the second day doesn’t say “evening and morning, Day Two.” Rather, it says “evening and morning, a second day.” And the Torah continues with this pattern: “Evening and morning, a third day… a fourth day… a fifth day… the sixth day.” Only on the first day does the text use a different form: not “first day,” but “Day One” (“Yom Echad”). Many English translations that make the mistake of writing “a first day.” That’s because editors want things to be nice and consistent. But they throw out the cosmic message in the text! That message, as Nahmanides points out, is that there is a qualitative difference between “one” and “first.” One is absolute; first is comparative. The Torah could not write “a first day” on the first day because there had not yet been a second day relative to it. Had the perspective of the Bible for the first six days been from Sinai looking back, the Torah would have written a first day. By the time the Torah was given on Sinai there had been hundreds of thousands of “second days.” The perspective of the Bible for the six days of Genesis is from the only time in the history of time when there had not been a second day. And that is the first day. From the creation of the universe to the creation of the soul of Adam, the Torah views time from near the beginning looking forward. At the creation of Adam and Eve, the soul of humanity, the Bible perspective switches to earth based time. And therefore the biblical description of time changed.

How We Perceive Time

We look at the universe, and say, “How old is the universe? Looking back in time, the universe is approximately 14 billion years old.” That’s our view of time. But what is the Bible’s view of time looking from the beginning? How does it see time?

Nahmanides taught that although the days are 24 hours each, they contain “kol yemot ha-olam” – all the ages and all the secrets of the world. Nahmanides says that before the universe, there was nothing… but then suddenly the entire creation appeared as a minuscule speck. He gives a description for the speck: something very tiny, smaller than a grain of mustard. And he says that is the only physical creation. There was no other physical creation; all other creations were spiritual. The Nefesh (the soul of animal life, Genesis 1:21) and the Neshama (the soul of human life, Genesis 1:27) are spiritual creations.

There’s only one physical creation, and that creation was a tiny speck. In that speck was all the raw material that would be used for making everything else. Nahmanides describes the substance as “dak me’od, ein bo mamash” – very thin, no substance to it. And as this speck expanded out, this substance, so thin that it has no material substance, turned into matter as we know it.

Nahmanides further writes: “Misheyesh, yitfos bo zman” – from the moment that matter formed from this substance-less substance, time grabs hold. Time is created at the beginning. But time “grabs hold” when matter condenses from the substance-less substance of the big bang creation. When matter condenses, congeals, coalesces, out of this substance so thin it has no material substance, that’s when the biblical clock starts.

Science has shown that there’s only one “substanceless substance” that can change into matter. And that’s energy. Einstein’s famous equation, E=MC2, tells us that energy can change form and take on the form of matter. And once it changes into matter, time grabs hold. Nahmanides has made a phenomenal statement. I don’t know if he knew the Laws of Relativity. But we know them now. We know that energy – light beams, radio waves, gamma rays, x-rays – all travel at the speed of light, 300 million meters per second. At the speed of light, time does not pass. The universe was aging, time was passing, but time only grabs hold when matter is present. This moment of time before the clock of the Bible begins lasted less than 1/100,000 of a second. A miniscule time. But in that time, the universe expanded from a tiny speck, to about the size of the Solar System. From that moment on we have matter, and biblical time flows forward. The Biblical clock begins here.

Reprinted with permission of Dr. Gerald Schroeder from

9. Age of the Universe Part 2

Day One and Not a First Day: Seeing time from the beginning

Now the fact that the Bible tells us there is “evening and morning Day One”, comes to teach us time from a Biblical perspective, from near the beginning looking forward.

If the Torah were seeing time from the days of Moses on Mount Sinai – 2448 years after Adam – the text would not have written Day One. Because by Sinai, hundreds of thousands of days already passed. It would have said “a first day.” By the second day of Genesis, the Bible says “a second day,” because there was already the first day with which to compare it.

We look back in time, and say the universe is 14 billion years old. But as every scientist knows, when we say the universe is 14 billion years old, there’s another half of the sentence that we rarely bother to say. The other half of the sentence is: The universe is 14 billion years old as seen from the time-space coordinates of the earth.

The key is that the Torah looks forward in time, from very different time-space coordinates, when the universe was small. Since then, the universe has expanded out. Space stretches, and that stretching of space totally changes the perception of time. Imagine in your mind going back billions of years to the beginning of time. Now pretend way back at the beginning of time, when time grabs hold, there’s an intelligent community. (It’s totally fictitious.) Imagine that the intelligent community has a laser, and it’s going to shoot out a blast of light every second. Every second — pulse. Pulse. Pulse. And on each pulse of light the following formation is printed (printing information on light, electro-magnetic radiation, is common practice): “I’m sending you a pulse every second.” Billions of years later, way far down the time line, we here on Earth have a big satellite dish antenna and we receive that pulse of light. And on that pulse of light we read “I’m sending you a pulse every second.”

Light travels 300 million meters per second. So at the beginning, the two light pulses are separated by a second of travel or 300 million meters. Now they travel through space for billions of years until they reach the Earth. But wait a minute. Is the universe static? No. The universe is expanding. The universe expands by space stretching. So as these pulses travel through space for billions of years, space is stretching. What’s happening to these pulses? The space between them is also stretching. So the pulses get further and further apart. Billions of years later, when the first pulse arrives, we read on it “I’m sending you a pulse every second.” A message from outer space. You call all your friends, and you wait for the next pulse to arrive. Does it arrive second later? No! A year later? Maybe not. Maybe billions of years later. Because the amount of time this pulse of light has traveled through space will determine the amount of space stretching that has occurred, and so how much space and therefore how much time there will be between the arrival of the pulses. That’s standard cosmology.

14 Billion Years or Six Days?

Today, we look back in time and we see approximately 14 billion years of history. Looking forward from when the universe is very small – billions of times smaller – the Torah says six days. In truth, they both may be correct. What’s exciting about the last few years in cosmology is we now have quantified the data to know the relationship of the “view of time” from the beginning of stable matter, the threshold energy of protons and neutrons (their nucleosynthesis), relative to the “view of time” today. It’s not science fiction any longer. A dozen physics textbooks all bring the same number. The general relationship between nucleosynthesis, that time near the beginning at the threshold energy of protons and neutrons when matter formed, and time today is a million million. That’s a 1 with 12 zeros after it. So when a view from the beginning looking forward says “I’m sending you a pulse every second,” would we see a pulse every second? No. We’d see it every million million seconds. Because that’s the stretching effect of the expansion of the universe.

The Talmud tells us that the soul of Adam was created at five and a half days after the beginning of the six days. That is a half day before the termination of the sixth day. At that moment the cosmic calendar ceases and an earth based calendar starts. The logic for the Talmud choosing the 5 and a half days (and not the total six days) is that the creation of the Adam, Genesis 1:27, is half way through the number of verses in the sixth day of Genesis. How would we see those days stretched by a million million? Five and a half days times a million million, gives us five and a half million million days. Dividing that by 365 days in a year, that comes out to be 15 billion years. NASA gives a value of 13.7 billion years. Considering the many approximations, and that the Bible works with only six periods of time, the agreement to within a few percent is extraordinary. The universe is billions of years old from one perspective and a mere six days old from another. And both are correct!

The amount of the 14 billion years compressed within each of the five and a half days of Genesis is not of equal duration. Each time the universe doubles in size, the perception of time halves as we project that time back toward the beginning of the universe. The rate of doubling, that is the fractional rate of change, is very rapid at the beginning and decreases with time simply because as the universe gets larger and larger, even though the actual expansion rate is approximately constant, it takes longer and longer for the overall size to double. Because of this, the earliest of the six days have most of the15 billion years sequestered with them. For the duration of each day and the details of how that matches with the measured history of the universe and the earth, see my book The Science of God.


Following a talk I gave at AZUSA Pacific University, February 2011, a participant noted that when calculating the expansion ratio of space [that is, by what fraction space had stretched] from the era of nucleosynthesis to our current time, I had neglected to correct for the effect that the increase in the rate of universal expansion has on the current cosmic microwave radiation background. This increase introduces a non-linear effect. [That is, the rate of expansion is not constant, rather the rate is increasing.] The correction is in the order of 10%. Had the expansion been linear [and not super-linear resulting from the increased rate], the CMRB would be, not the currently observed 2.76 K, but 3.03 K. Introducing this correction into the exponential equation that details the duration of the 5 and a half 24 hour days of Genesis Chapter One results in an age of the universe from our perspective of 14 billion years [14, 000,000,000 years]. From the Bible’s perspective of time for those six evocative days of Genesis, the number of our years held compressed within each of those six 24 hour days of Genesis, starting with Day One, would be, in billions of years, respectively, 7.1; 3.6; 1.8; 0.89; 0.45; 0.23.


Reprinted with permission of Dr. Gerald Schroeder from



10. And He Called

by Hillel (Adam) Penrod

It was G-d’s will that he apportion one family among all the families of the earth to Himself.

G-d designedly searched out the families of the earth for this people of purpose. The thread of G-d’s plan was traced out to Abraham. Abraham’s distinction was that he would, “command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD.”[1] Isaac was named Abraham‘s heir rather than Ishmael; on account of G-d’s will.[2] Jacob’s superior moral quality over the wicked Esau qualified his inheritance of the promise. The promise was established with Jacob and his sons. Jacob‘s death marked the end of the divine promise passing from individual to individual. Now, G-d’s promises and blessings became the shared possession of a nation.

            The redemption from Egypt was the most anticipated promise yet to be fulfilled.[3] The national relationship with the tribes was an unparalleled event in history. Moses, Hashem’s emissary, was equally unparalleled.

            With the selection of G-d’s messiah for his people selected and prepared G-d makes himself known. G-d discloses to Moses that Israel has not known Him as Adonai. Commentators and Critics of the Torah have engaged themselves in mortal combat concerning this verse. Hertz[4] elucidates the true meaning of this verse. The name Adonai was not something new. Moses’ mother’s name Jochaved, which “…means Adonai is my glory,” predates this revelation.[5] According to Hertz, the name signifies G-d’s attribute[6] of Faithfulness. The promises of G-d were professed true by the patriarchs through faith.[7] Only immediate promises such as those of protection were confirmed by experience. Not until the death of the patriarchs did Israel become a mighty nation. The new knowledge that Israel possessed concerning HASHEM was that his promises were in fact reliable. This knowledge corresponds to the meaning of Adonai. The nature of G-d, as faithful, is a comfort in times of trouble; especially now that it was not just a matter of belief but a matter of fact. Other promises made by G-d although not yet fulfilled, with certainty will be. Hertz believed that this commonsense interpretation preserved the oneness of the Torah and protected it from those in the Higher Criticism camps.

The wheel of time had finally turned to the day of fulfillment. The prophetic naming of Leah’s first three children foresaw it. The Torah proceeds to list the heads of each of the tribes of Israel but only lists the first three sons of Leah.[8] The strangeness of this compels us to investigate. Leah was the least favored between the two wives of Jacob. G-d opened Leah‘s womb in virtue of her righteousness and plight. Leah‘s first three sons are named according to her hope that her husband would now love her.[9]The first born, Reuben, is named because “…the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”[10] Simeon is named because Leah says, “…The LORD hath heard that I am hated…”[11] and Levi, “…Now this time will my husband be joined unto me…”[12] Keeping these interpretations in mind we can begin to decipher the mysterious list in Exodus. We are blind sided by the answer to our riddle. The names signify Israel at the time of the Exodus! G-d tells Moses that, “…I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt.”[13] The Egyptians hate of the Hebrews is established when all the male children are ordered killed[14] and the Hebrews are put to hard bondage.[15] Levi’s name foretells the coming events of the Sinai experience when, “…I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God…”[16] The nation is afflicted, hated, and now finally joined to G-d.

            Many are inspired that the faith of the Hebrews lasted through four hundred years of harsh bondage. It is a mistake to suppose that the Children of Israel were in captivity for four hundred[17] much less four hundred and thirty years,[18] Between the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus it becomes difficult to keep up with an exact chronology based solely on the text. What we do know from Scripture makes it impossible that the Children of Israel were in Egypt for four hundred years. A simple mathematical examination of the text reveals this fact. According to Genesis 46:11 Kohath was one of those seventy souls that accompanied Jacob into Israel. We know that he was born and entered the landof Egypt at the very beginning of the Exile. We also know from Exodus 6:16-27 that Kohath lived to be one hundred and thirty-three years old. Kohath’s son, Amram, lived to be one hundred and thirty-seven years old. Moses, the son of Amram, was eighty at the time of the Exodus.[19] Assuming that Kohath was one when Jacob entered Egypt and that he did not have Amram until the last year of his life, at 133, and that Amram in turn did not have Moses until he was 137 we only have 270 add to this Moses’ age at the Exodus, 80, and we can reach no higher than 350. This by no means presents a challenge to the authenticity of the Torah. It merely presents a problem to those that misunderstand the Torah and reject Jewish oral tradition. Understanding what the Torah really means in light of Israel’s tradition forces us to reexamine our previously conceived notions of the Exodus account.[20]

            The Torah announces that G-d has set Moses, “…in God’s stead to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet…” This verse is very troublesome. Does the Torah mean that Moses is a god to Pharaoh? Understanding the nature of prophecy clarifies the meaning of this verse. Moses is being likened to a messenger or angel that appears to a prophet and commands him what to say. In the Hebrew Scriptures we know that Elohim is used to refer to Angels.[21]  This verse expounds both Moses’ uniqueness as a prophet and Aaron’s role in the Exodus story (a role usually overlooked). Aaron is Moses’ spokesman to both Pharaoh and all of Israel.[22] If Aaron is acting as Moses’ prophet then we must assume that Moses is fulfilling the role of angel for G-d to Aaron. This would prevent us from concluding that Moses was literally “…in [G-d‘s] stead.”

            According to the Rambam there are three qualifications that one must possess to be a prophet of G-d.[23] A prophet must be a scholar[24], have a perfected moral character, and finally, their imaginative faculty must be of the highest state of perfection possible.[25] These qualities must be possessed by any would be prophet. However, without the divine will that a prophet receive prophecy the prophet will never be a prophet in reality only potentially.

            All of the prophets before and after Moses communicated through an angel and not directly with HASHEM.  Moses was the only exception. G-d specifically tells us that He speaks with all prophets in either a vision or a dream.[26] But with Moses he speaks “mouth to mouth.” That is why the Rambam says that Moses is a prophet only homonymous with other men.[27] Anytime a prophet says that he sees G-d or is speaking with G-d we conclude that it is through an angel in a dream or vision.[28]

            Moses differs from the prophets in several ways. Moses is superior to all prophets before and after him.[29] G-d spoke with Moses face to face not through an angel in visions and dreams.[30] Moses performed miracles before the entire nation of Israel,[31] as well as the enemies of Israel--Pharaoh and the Egyptians.[32]

            It was through a unique experience, the miracles of the Exodus, that a unique people, Israel, was lead by a unique leader, Moses, to receive a unique law, Torah, from a unique G-d, HASHEM. This unique quality of the Exodus experience removes it from all comparison and attack. No other revelation between G-d and a people match the Exodus. The truth of the Exodus is so clear from the evidence of its uniqueness that no critic can successfully overcome it. “For what great nation is there, that hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is whensoever we call upon Him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law…” (Deut. 4:7-8)?

            Understanding Moses increases the awe of the entire Sinai experience. The giving of the Torah, the secret treasure of G-d, could not have occurred under any other circumstance. The holiness of the Torah demanded that the entire world look on  gasping with anticipation as the wonders of HASHEM unfolded.

            G-d commands Moses to display his wonders before pharaoh; however, these wonders will have little affect on him since G-d says he will harden his heart.[33] This verse is one of the most challenging verses in the Torah. It is here where Jews and Christians alike are forced to ask: “Do we or do we not have freewill?”  The response from the Jewish people is that we do have free will—we must. The Ramchal[34] explains that freewill is necessary to fulfill the divine purpose of creation--G-d’s fellowship.[35] Ramchal points out that not all of man’s deeds are a result of his freewill. Some of these deeds are determined by heaven. G-d can and will influence man if His servants are justly deserving it,[36] or to deal with those that are so evil that they have lost their freewill.[37] To some the idea that man possesses in any degree such a thing as freewill directly challenges G-d’s sovereignty. This is a false concern. It is from G-d that we receive whatever sovereignty that we possesses as human beings. It is like a king imbuing a governor the power to rule his province. No one would believe that this freedom challenges the king’s sovereignty. The king‘s sovereignty is only threatened when the governor becomes the King‘s equal. However, since it is clear that humans are not the equal of G-d, not even approaching the perfection of angels, there is no threat. 

            G-d gives Moses three signs to prove to Israel that G-d has sent him. He turns his rod into a snake, turns his hand from normal to leprous to normal, and takes water from the river (Nile) and turns it to blood as he pours it onto the ground. Oddly, Moses performs two of these feats for pharaoh, turning his rod into a serpent and turning the water of Egypt into blood. We do not see him performing the sign of leprosy.[38] The first and third signs are done for pharaoh because these are the signs of Egyptian power. The Nile was the life of Egypt. It was from the Nile that the Egyptian mythos was inspired.  The incidence of the leprosy was probably not shown to Pharaoh because its impact was not as significant as the first and third sign. The second sign,[39] if only shown to Israel, may have represented to them the fulfillment of G-d’s promise. Israel went into Egypt a small but healthy tribe, suffered affliction and became a curse amongst the Egyptians through their suffering, and now Israel will leave a mighty nation.

            It is through the plagues that Egyptian power will be destroyed and the unity and limitless power of HASHEM proclaimed. These wonders are G-d’s means to bring Israel out of Egypt to establish them as a holy nation. A nation whose purpose was destined by the divine will from the very beginning.

[1] Genesis 18:19 Hertz, J.H., ed. The Pentateuch and Haftorahs. Soncino Press, London,. 1992.  This translation will be used for all quotes from the Torah unless specified.

[2] Genesis 17:19

[3] Genesis 15:16

[4] Hertz, Exodus. 6:3, p. 232

[5] Hertz, Exodus. 6:20, p. 234

[6]  See the Rambam’s (Moses Maimonides) explanation in The Guide for the Perplexed chap. LI-LX p. 68-87 on the danger of ascribing attributes to G-d.

[7]  See Genesis 15:6 where G-d promises Abraham that his descendents will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. This promise is not fulfilled until long after the lifetime of Abraham.

[8] Exodus 6:14-27

[9] Genesis 29:32-35

[10]  Genesis 29:32

[11]  ibid. v. 33

[12]  ibid. v. 34

[13]  Exodus 3:7

[14]  Exodus 1:15-22

[15]  ibid. v. 9-14

[16]  ibid. 6:7

[17]  Genesis 15:13

[18]  Exodus 12:40

[19]  Exodus 7:7

[20]  Jim Long in his book The Riddle of the Exodus gives a fuller account of this controversy touching on the traditional number of 210 years as the time Israel was in Egypt. Long, for example, dealing with the difference between four hundred and four hundred and thirty years says, “There is no discrepancy according to Seder HaOlam. It reveals that the added thirty years is reckoned by counting from the time that the promise was given to Abraham…a promise made thirty years before the birth of Isaac.” Long, James D. The Riddle of the Exodus. Lightcatcher Books.  Springdale, Arkansas. chap. 14,. p. 141

[21]  The Rambam notices that Onkelos “…understood Elohim in the above passage to signify “angel,” and that for this reason he did not hesitate to translate literally, “I will go down with thee to Egypt.” Do not think it strange that Onkelos should have believed the Elohim, who said to Jacob, “I am God, the God of thy father” (ib. 3), to be an angel, for this sentence can, in the same form, also have been spoken by an angel. Thus Jacob says, “And the angel of G-d spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob. And I said, Here am I,” etc. (Genesis 31:11); and concludes the report of the angel’s words to him in the following way, “I am the God of Bethel, where though anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me” (ib. 13), although there is no doubt that Jacob vowed to God, not to the angel. It is the usual practice of prophets to relate words addressed to them by an angel in the name of God, as though God Himself had spoken to them. Such passages are all to be explained by supplying the nomen regens , and by considering them as identical with “I am the messenger of the God of thy father,” “I am the messenger of God who appeared to thee in Bethel,” and the like. Friedlander, M. trans. Moses Maimonides,The Guide for the Perplexed. This translation will be used throughout unless specified. chap. XXVII,. p. 36. See also Exodus 4:15 where Aaron is called Moses’ ‘mouth.’

[22] Exodus 4:16

[23] For more information see “On Prophecy”—coming soon

[24]  As for the principle which I laid down, that preparation and perfection of moral and rational faculties are the sine qua non, our Sages say exactly the same: “The spirit of prophecy only rests on persons who are wise, strong, and rich.” We have explained these words in our Commentary on the Mishnah, and in our large work. The Guide for the Perplexed.  chap. XXXII,. p. 220

[25]  According the Rambam, “We have thus described three kinds of perfection: mental perfection acquired by training, perfection of the natural constitution of the imaginative faculty, and moral perfection produced by the suppression of every thought of bodily pleasures, and of every kind of foolish or evil ambition. These qualities are, as is well known, possessed by the wise men in different degrees, and the degrees of prophetic faculty vary in accordance with this difference.”  The Guide for the Perplexed.

[26] Num.12:6-8

[27]  The Guide for the Perplexed. chap. XXXV,.  p. 224.

[28]  The Rambam takes Exodus 23:20 and Deut. 18:18 and compares their statement to show that there is a connection between the two to draw out a principle that G-d speaks to prophets through an angel--not directly. Exodus 23 is a command that the Children of Israel obey the angel that G-d will send to them. Deuteronomy 18:18 commands Israel to obey the prophet that G-d sends to them is identical to the phrase in Exodus. This leads the Rambam to conclude that Exodus is referring to a prophet also. The angel that G-d sends to Israel communicates through the prophet. Israel is exhorted to obey the words of the prophet who is relaying the words of the angel of G-d. “For there is no doubt that the commandment is given to the ordinary people, to whom angels do not appear with commandments and exhortations, and it is therefore unnecessary to tell them not to disobey him…Here a principle is laid down which I have constantly expounded, viz., that all prophets except Moses receive the prophecy through an angel. Note it.” Rambam, chap. XXXIV,. p. 223

[29]  The Rambam provides proof for the difference between Moses and those before and after him. ‘That his prophecy was distinguished from that of all his predecessors is proved by the passage, “And I appeared to Abraham, etc., but by my name, the Lord, I was not known unto them” (Exodus 6:3). We thus learn that his prophetic perception was different from that of the Patriarchs, and excelled it; a fortiori ( even more) it must have excelled that of other prophets before Moses. As to the distinction of Moses’ prophecy from that of succeeding prophets, it is stated as a fact, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). It is thus clear that his prophetic perception was above that of later prophets inIsrael, who are “ a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” and “in whose midst is the Lord”; much more is it above that of prophets among other nations. ‘ The Guide for the Perplexed. chap. XXXV,. p. 224

[30]  Numbers 12:6-8

[31]  “…in the sight of all Israel.” (Deut. 34:12)

[32]  “in all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him (Moses) to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land…” and “…in the sight of the nations…” (Lev. 26:45)

[33]  Exodus 7:3, For more information see “Free Will and the Sovereignty of God”—coming soon

[34]  Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto

[35]  Ramchal states, “God’s purpose in creation was to bestow of His good to another…Since God desired to bestow good, a partial good would not be sufficient. The good that He bestows would have to be the ultimate good that His handiwork could accept. God alone, however, is the only true good, and therefore His beneficent desire would not be satisfied unless it could bestow that very good, namely the true perfect good that exists in His intrinsic essence.” Kaplan, Aryeh. Trans. The Way of God. Feldheim publishers, Jerusalem. 1988. I.2.1. This translation will be used throughout.

[36]  I Sam. 2:9

[37]  Exodus 7:3, Deut. 2:30, and Josh. 11:20 is the Tanach’s catch phrase that indicates such a wicked individual.

[38]  These signs to Israel are found in Exodus 4:2-9. The performance of two of these signs before Pharaoh takes place in Exodus 7:8-22

[39]  The Sforno in his commentary on Exodus 4:2 draws sees that the sign of the serpent and of the leprous hand are related. As the Sforno says, “What is this in your hand? A rod is inanimate whereas a hand is alive, but I (God) Who can destroy and bring to life, will cause the (living) hand to be as dead through leprosy, and grant life to the inanimate rod.” Pelcovitz, Rabbi Raphael. trans. Sforno: Commentary on the Torah. p. 264.

11. Emotion vs. Intellect

by Jack Saunders - OBM

From the very beginning man has been locked in a struggle. He has either been ruled by his passions or his intellect. It began with Adam as he was placed in the terrestrial Paradise "to work it and to guard it," and not to satisfy his physical appetites with the delights which could be attained there. Adam was placed in the Garden by God in order for him to serve Him and His world. Because of Adam's service he is allowed by God to partake of the fruits of the Paradise in which he lives. Hence Adam, mankind, exists for God and His world and must gladly sacrifice his own individuality for the sake of his higher calling, i.e., serving God and His world. But, because man not only bears within him the quality of godliness but also the urges of his physical appetites, the struggle begins.

God in His wisdom has ordained that which is good and right should often come into conflict and even seem distasteful to man's physical senses, while on the other hand evil would often appear attractive to him. This was all done in order for man to achieve the lofty Divine calling, to be able to use his God given free will to choose good and to refuse evil. His choosing of the good is all done not because of the urging of his appetites, but in spite of them.

It is because of this constant struggle from within man the voice of God does not speak from within man but from outside himself (The conscience of man only serves as our sense of shame. It serves in a general way to warn man to do good and shun evil, but it cannot define precisely the acts which are determined to be good or evil. This determination can only be learned from the mouth of God speaking to man from the outside). The Word of God informs man of what is good and evil, "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil," (Deuteronomy 30:15).

God informs Adam he may eat of every tree in the Garden with the exception of one, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree was apparently decorated with all kinds of physical enticements. These physical enticements must have called out to everything in the personal nature of Adam and told him, "This is good." But the Word of God which was addressed to him had forbidden him to partake of the fruits of this tree. God had informed him, to partake of this tree would be "evil." Thus, the Word of God was to be the rule by which man could determine what is good or evil. Therefore, the doing of good will always be in conflict with man's physical appetites. It is when men allow their appetites to be unguided by the godly quality inherent in man that he eventually does evil.

This same scenario can be seen in the lives of two of Adam's sons, Cain and Seth. Cain, even though as are all human beings, i.e., "being made in the image and likeness of God," being ruled by his appetites, passions, or emotions eventually leads to the destruction of life and continues to lead men to this very day. The third son of Adam also, "being made in the image and likeness of Adam who was made in the image and likeness of God," Seth, being governed by his intellect which leads him in his quest for God and also transforms his life into it's highest form, a respecter of life and not a destroyer.

Sethites and Cainites

From these two men's lives, Cain and Seth, we see the two types of men which would continue throughout the ages. The Cainite type which aspires to build their existence on earth on the basis of industry and invention but does not like to take into account the fact of God, "Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. And changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like corruptible man," (Romans 1:21-23). Man ultimately achieves the status of and replaces the One True God under the Cainite system. Man is then able to decide for himself what is good or evil. His appetites and passions become his rule for good. "If it feels good do it," becomes the acceptable standard. The Sethite line, which stands in stark contrast to the Cainite line, whose genealogy opens with repeated allusions to the Divine imprint, i.e., the power and the benediction of the pure calling God had originally intended and conferred upon man.

Adam being made in "the likeness of God,” "the Divine blessing of God,” and "the image of God" (Genesis 5:1-3). We should also note that the genealogy of the Sethite line is introduced by a reference of the equality and the significance of the female sex in relation to the male, "Male and female did he create them". While on the other hand this significance is completely lost in the Cainite line. They are now simply referred to as, "the daughters of men," which would seem to indicate that all godliness had been wiped out. While the Sethites are those who have inherited the Divine stamp are the "sons of the godly line." These two types of men are classified either as the Daughters of Men or the Sons of God (Genesis 6:1-2). In the Qumran material, The Dead Sea Scrolls, these two groups are referred to as the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. These are depicted as being locked in battle until finally the Sons of Light triumph. This same scenario is also depicted in the writings of Saul of Tarsus. In his letter to the Ephesians he expounds the same philosophy. (See Ephesians 4:17-19, the Sons of Man which are governed by their passions. See Ephesians 4:24-32; 5:1-6; 5:7-14; 5:15-20, these sections are in relation to those who are no longer governed by their passions but by their intellect and are referred to as The New Man, Imitators of God and Sons of God, Sons of Light, and Wise.)

Sons of God

Israel is addressed in the book of Exodus as the First Born Son of God (Exodus 4:22-23). The Sons of Israel become the Sons of God and as such are told not to allow their passions to govern their lives. God informs them in Deuteronomy 4:10-20, of the reason they were given and taught the statutes and judgments (verses 14-19). They were to govern the passions of man and to guard them from falling back into idolatry. They were also commanded not to allow their children to intermarry with the other nations, since it would eventually lead them back into idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). As the Sons of God they were to govern their lives by the laws of God through their intellect and not their passions, and by doing so they would be a witness to the rest of humanity of the greatness a people may attain to when the intellect rules instead of the emotions; the rest of humanity being governed by their passions at this time.

Most of the practices of idolatry always in some way involved the passions or emotions. An example of this is the worship of Peor, where those who worshiped whipped themselves into such a frenzy they lost control of their bodily functions. Another example is the worship of Diana. Diana is depicted by the image of a woman covered with rows of breasts, since she is depicted as the mother of all living. Her temple priests were nothing more or less than prostitutes. The worship of Diana involved all sort of illicit sexual acts—once again men being governed by their passions rather than their intellect.

The Sons of Israel as the Sons of God are warned about intermarrying with such people for they would ultimately be their downfall. It continues to this very day to be a thorn in the side of Israel. It was the downfall of those called The Sons of God in Genesis 6, when they intermarried with those referred to as The Daughters of Men. However, we must also point out those referred to as the Sons of Man could join the congregation of Israel through the Brit Milah, take upon themselves the yoke (yoke in the sense of giving direction, or bringing under control) of the commandments, which controlled the animal passions, and then marry with those who are the Sons of God. It was only when one became a part of and made their destiny with Israel that intermarriage was allowed.

Assimilation continues to be the most deadly enemy of Israel until this very day. Although there is no ruling, as far as I have been able to determine, which prevents the B'nai Noah from marrying a Jew or Jewess; there is such a ruling for the Jew and Jewess. As observant B'nai Noah, who professes to love God, Torah, and Israel, we should accept this ruling upon ourselves in order to aid the people of Israel to comply with their Torah and halachah. This is just my opinion and does not reflect the position of B'nai Noah in general. Forgive me for digression from the subject at hand, but I felt something should be said about this subject also.

The Buckle of the Bible Belt

This struggle of the intellect and the passions or emotions continues today. Since I live in the area many refer to as, The Buckle of the Bible Belt, I continue to see those, in many forms of Christianity, relying on their emotions being governed by their passions until today. When someone in this area invites someone to their church it is usually not to hear but to feel. Most boast of their services not because of what was said but what they felt. They tell of people being slain in the spirit, of people shouting and jumping around, of people weeping, and of people speaking in some type of ecstatic utterance. The preachers the people are for the most part the ones which either tells good stories which play upon people's emotions, or those who expel so much energy it becomes contagious. The doctrines they adhere to are not supported by the intellect but by the emotions. When confronted with the facts concerning the Virgin Birth and Deity of Jesus, cardinal doctrines of Christianity, they continue to believe rather than accept the facts.

On the other hand, those of us who have accepted the facts are told we are too intellectual. We have in some way gone over the deep end in our studies. I often refer to it as the, "much study has made you mad syndrome." We should just return to the simple gospel and leave all this other stuff alone, after all it just confuses the people. We are told we have been deceived by the devil and are probably demon possessed ourselves. People are warned not to talk to us for if they do they will believe the way we do. We somehow are able to cast some mysterious spell and alter the way people believe. I realize we live in the twentieth century, but from some of the things people have been reported to have said I think we have slipped back into the dark ages. Or at least to the times of the Salem Witch hunts in which numerous innocent people were tortured and killed.

What I have come to realize over the past several years is, basically people continue to fall into these two categories, The Sons of Men, who are governed by their passion or emotions and The Sons of God, who are struggling to govern their passions through their intellect. The Sons of God are people who believe because of the facts, not fiction, when they are presented. While The Sons of Men continue to accept the appeal to the passions and emotions.

Remember SAD STORIES ALWAYS MAKE US CRY and one of the saddest stories anyone can hear is of someone being punished when he is innocent by wicked people. It incites within most of us the deepest of emotions. The sad story is people are sitting in churches today being deceived by their emotions. If they would study their Bible they would see the fallacy of their actions, but alas they continue on unhindered in their quest to feel good rather than doing good. If only they would turn to the Torah and allow it to restore their soul (Psalms 19:7).

Concluding Thoughts

As we come to the end of our article, we would like to say the passions or emotions of men when directed toward the worship of the One True God can be quite exhilarating. I have wept openly and unashamed at times in my study of God's Word. There, for those who have been around me over the years, have been times when I have shouted and rejoiced because of the truths God has allowed me to understand. One of those being, "Then he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).

God allowed me, many years ago, to understand that Abraham just believed in God's Word. He trusted the Word, the Promise of God, not his emotions. Not how he felt, but what he heard. Yes, I am a dichotomy. I am an emotional being as well as an intellectual being. But what I have discovered in my search and quest for God is when both of those parts of which you are made up of turns toward God to worship Him, it can be quite an experience. Someone once said, "we must worship God in spirit and in truth", and that, "we (Jews) know what we worship." Thus, alluding to the fact of the rest of the world being steeped in idolatry, which was fueled by their passions and or emotions.

It takes the combination of both intellect and emotion to achieve the highest form of worship. It takes form, i.e., the commandments of God, and the intellectual and emotional embracing of those before we achieve true worship of HaShem. I have seen where love, emotion, is taught without form, it can only produce emotionalism. I have also seen where form was taught without love, emotion, it can only produce legalism. May we together in the coming days, months, and years discover the secret of combining our passions, i.e., our emotions and intellect together in order to not only embrace the commandments of God, but have a sense of enjoyment because we have done so. In the Shema, Israel is instructed to, of course, remember there is but one HaShem, love God with all their heart (intellect), with all their soul (emotion), and with all their might (wealth). This is the complete embracing of God. Embracing HaShem with all we are and all we have.

Remember, it is our task given to us by God to control or redirect our passion by adherence to His Law through our intellect. May HaShem, blessed be His name, grant us through His providence, the strength to accomplish the task He has set before each of us. We must ask ourselves which of these two categories of men do each of us happen to fall in, The Sons of Men or The Sons of God? Keep in mind if we happen to fall in the first category mentioned we can alter our destiny. Do not allow your life to be governed by emotions or passions. Redirect those passions, those emotions to the adherence of God's Holy Law, the Torah.

This article represents reflections of mine and mine alone. They have come about from my studies and observations over the years. Therefore, I will either accept the accolades or the criticisms from the above observations.

12. Evolution Bible Style

by Dr. Gerald Schroeder

What about dinosaurs? Why doesn’t the Bible mention dinosaurs? It’s a question posed by believers and skeptics alike. The former in an attempt to better understand the God’s role in the world; The latter to challenge the Bible’s authority. It is also the opening question I raise in The Science Of God. Extensive beds of fossils record the rise and demise of these amazing animals. There were swimming dinosaurs, running dinosaurs, even a form of flying dinosaur. According to scientific data, they first appeared some 250 million years ago. About the same time, mammals make their first appearance in the fossil record. And then till 65 million years ago, dinosaurs and mammals co-existed, but on anything other than equal footing.

Dinosaurs ruled the roost, getting bigger and tougher, reaching sizes that rival today’s great blue whale. All the time mammals occupied much more modest ecological niches, never getting larger than a few kilograms. Then 65 million years ago, the rules of the game changed. What appears to have been a meteor some ten kilometers in diameter punched through our atmosphere, slamming into the earth’s surface at 30 kilometers a second. The resulting massive explosion appears to have formed a crater 150 kilometers in diameter off of southern Central America. Dust and debris thrown into the atmosphere shrouded the earth in a cloud that blocked incoming sunlight for half a year. Temperatures plummeted; photosynthesis all but stopped and all animals larger than about five kilograms disappeared from the fossil record. Mammals survived the ecological disaster. The large dinosaurs did not.

From a secular view – what luck for us; not so lucky for the dinos. From a theological view, God has stepped into re-direct the development of animal life. Dinosaurs were getting bigger, but they were not getting smarter. A vessel was needed that could eventually embrace the neshama – the soul of humanity – and dinosaurs were not heading in that direction. Perhaps mammals would.

Dinosaurs raise two basic theological questions.

First, 250 million years?? 65 million years?? I thought the Biblical calendar reaches to less than 6000 years. So from whence arise the millions of years? In my book, The Science Of God, I discuss in detail the age of the universe and the universal perception of time adopted by Genesis for the first six days, a view that sees the flow of events from the beginning, looking forward from a time when the universe (and in parallel time) was highly compressed. In essence, the 15 billion years of cosmic history compress into six 24 hour days, even as the hours remain 24 hours as we know them and the billions of years remain years. I bring the scientifically accepted concepts for this transformation of time in The Science of God.

The second question about dinosaurs relates to their rise and fall. This quandary is far more significant than mere arguments over the ages of rocks. It deals fundamentally with our perception of the Rock Of Ages. If God is omnipotent, able to create heaven and earth, surely God could have devised a world without the need to destroy part of that creation, in this case the dinosaurs, to keep it on line with some divine plan. Simply stated, does God control nature?

The answer to this question lies in the Biblical concept of evolution, or better stated, the Biblical concept of the development of life. For simplicity, I’ll focus on animal life but first let’s look at the Bible’s description of the inception of the first forms of life on earth. It holds a few surprises. Life appears first on day three ((Genesis 1:11), immediately after liquid water formed on earth (Gen. 1:10). This immediate conjunction of water and life had, for decades, evolutionary biologists rolling in the aisles with laughter. All life on earth is water based. No water, no life. Conventional wisdom was that billions of years passed in which random reactions changed rocks and water in living organisms. The laughter was swallowed when in the 1970′s Prof. E. Barghoorn and Stanley Tyler discovered micro-fossils of bacteria and algae in chert rocks (a form of silicon dioxide once considered an unlikely source of fossils) 3.6 billion years old, just after the time when oceans and dry land formed on earth. Genesis was correct all along. Life appeared very rapidly, not after billions of years.

But note that on day three, the word “creation” does not appear. The first life was not specially created. The universe was equipped for life from its inception. It was organization that was needed, organization that could produce the phenomenally intricate functioning of life’s genetic map: DNA, RNA, amino acids, the bio-chemical sources of energy ATP. How that organization occurred in a geological blink of an eye remains an enigma to the scientific community.

Day four passes (Gen. 1:14 – 19) with no further mention of life’s flow. The fossil record mirrors this hiatus. Life remains microscopic for three billion years, and then in a burst of animal forms, known as the Cambrian explosion, every basic animal body plan (the 34 animal phyla) extant today appeared in the fossil record. Animals with jointed bodies, limbs, eyes (with lenses), swarmed in the seas. There was not a hint of this impending proliferation in the underlying fossils. See day five (Gen. 1:20) for a similar description, and please refer to The Science Of God for a Biblical match in the timing of this event as well.

Torah devotes a mere seven sentences to the evolution of animal life (Gen. 1:20 – 26) and one of those sentences only states there was evening and there was morning day five. So we have six bits of information describing the entire flow of animal life starting with aquatic creatures and culminating in the symphony of life we call humanity. Somewhere within that chain of events the dinosaurs rise and fall.

Order Out of Chaos

Order out of chaos is a sequence rarely if ever achieved by random reactions, and stable order is never achieved unless that order is locked into place by the system itself. The six sentences reveal little of how this flow occurred. But the episodes following the six days provide insight into God’s method of earthly management.

God places Adam and Eve in Eden. They fail their test and are expelled. God could have stopped them from eating the forbidden fruit but chose not to. First Cain and then Abel brought offerings to God. God accepted Abel’s and rejected Cain’s and then tells Cain to control his emotions (Gen. 4:6). Immediately (the very next sentence) Cain murders Abel. God allowed Cain to murder Abel, and then exiles Cain as punishment. God could have stopped the murder but chose not to. Just ten generations after Adam, the world had become so degenerate and corrupt that the Bible tells us that God regretted having made mankind ( Gen. 6:7). In Biblical language, God has regrets! God could have re-directed the course of humanity much earlier but chose not to, allowing the situation to worsen till all hope was lost.

Following the flood, longevity gradually decreases from its pre-flood value of 900 years to the 90 or so years we know today. Clearly the 900 year life span for humans was a failed experiment. Ninety years seems to be working a bit better. Wasn’t it clear to God from the start that 900 years would not be an effective life span?

In the Book of Exodus, God is encouraging the Israelites in their planned conquest of Canaan. “And I will send the hornet before you to drive out [the enemy]. I will not drive them out in one year lest the land be desolate and the beasts of the field multiply against you” (Ex. 23:28, 29). What?? God can control the hornets but the beasts are a bit too strong for God to control? Of course not. God controls and releases control at will, according to divine plan, not necessarily according to our limited logic.

God creates and then develops the world over six days. Put yourself in the mindset, not of today, but of 3,000 years ago, in the era of the giving of the Torah on Sinai. At that ancient time, six days was not seen as too short a period for this Genesis, it was too long! Why should an infinite God require six days. Why not an instantaneous, ready-made universe? The message is that God works through nature and nature takes time. In the entire account of Genesis chapter one, the creation chapter, the only name of God used is Elokim. Elokim is the biblical name for God as made manifest in nature. Working through nature allows the world to appear natural, thus allowing human free will to follow or not to follow the Torah.

Isaiah describes what the act of creation is from a Godly view point: “I am the Eternal, there is nothing else. I form light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil …” (Isaiah 45:6.7). The source of all light creates darkness. How? By withdrawing some of the light. Similarly, the source of peace, harmony, creates evil by withdrawing some of the peace. The Biblical word, creation, implies a partial withdrawal of God’s overt infinite control. In Hebrew the concept is tsimtsum.

The creation described in Genesis 1:1 implies that God withdrew part of God’s undifferentiated unity and allowed physical complexity to appear: time, space, matter, the laws of nature. The creation of animals (Gen. 1:21) relates to the creation of the soul of animals, the nefesh in Hebrew, and gives animals the ability to choose, to learn how to manipulate a maze. The creation of Adam (Gen. 1:27) grants a further divine pull back, allowing us free will, the soul of humanity, the neshama in Hebrew.

God chose to give a leeway to the system. In this light the rise and fall of the dinosaurs becomes understandable in the divine scheme for life. Life, designed by Divine input, produced an array of animals, included therein were the dinosaurs. But their dominance was off the Divine course. In a manner reminiscent of the flood destroying the 900 year longevity gene pool and replacing it with 90 year life spans, the destruction of the dinosaurs opened space for mammals, and eventually humans, to thrive. All of these examples are of micro (not macro-) evolution, small changes in existing body plans.

Was God bound to allow dinosaurs to appear? Certainly not, but God chose to limit overt control to key junctures. Similarly God could control the beasts just as God controlled the hornets but chose not to. The divinely created laws of nature are adequate to set the path. Even when the path is being directed, usually the insertion of direct control is in a way that can be interpreted as natural. The option for free will is maintained.

Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory calls out for randomness to set the course of life’s development. Evolution, Bible style, also sees life develop from the simple (day three and day five) to the highly complex (humanity on day six), but realizes that in this world, random reactions are simply not up to accomplishing that task. Random reactions alone simply do not and can not produce stable order. That is the lesson of the laws of thermodynamics.

Reprinted with permission of Dr. Gerald Schroeder from

13. Faith and Trust

by Avraham ben Yaacov

The three main narratives in our portion – about the crossing of the Red Sea, the Manna that sustained Israel in the wilderness and the war of Amalek – come to teach fundamental lessons about Faith and Trust that relate to all people.

The Splitting of the Sea

The simultaneous redemption of Israel and destruction of their Egyptian oppressors through the splitting of the Red Sea was a miracle that sent reverberations through the entire world: "The peoples heard, they tremble; pangs have taken hold of the inhabitants of Philistia" (Exodus 15:14).

For people today who have been schooled in the scientific study of the laws of nature, the destructive Tsunamis of recent years have made it easier to accept that a freak event like the splitting of the Red Sea is far from being impossible. The real miracle was not so much that the waters parted, but that they did so precisely when the people of Israel were in direst need as they stood trapped between the pursuing Egyptians and the deep blue sea. At that moment Israel saw clearly that He who created the laws of nature has the power to bend them at will.

"And Israel saw the great might which God used against the Egyptians, and the people feared God; and they believed in God and in His servant Moses" (ibid. 14:31).

The miracle came to inculcate the newly-freed nation with faith in God and in His omnipotent power. It showed that nature is not blind and indifferent to humans and their struggles; rather it is a veil through which God exercises His supreme power – often in very inscrutable ways – for the benefit of His creations, in order to bring them under the wing of His higher law, the Torah.

The splitting of the Red Sea was an outstanding one-time miracle that came to demonstrate for all the generations that God has absolute omnipotence. It was necessary to show that God is in complete control of everything, including the seemingly implacable laws of nature, in order to open people's eyes to the fact that even when things go "normally", God's miracles and His benevolent providence are present at all times.

Having a general belief in God's existence is the foundation of a life of faith in harmony with His law, but it is only the beginning. After coming to believe in God in a general way, it is necessary to learn that God is not merely a great power somewhere out there in heaven, but that He is in complete control of every single detail of creation down here on earth at all times.

When we understand this we know that we are not alone and abandoned, but that our Father in Heaven is involved with us and cares about us at every step in our lives. This should encourage us to follow God's laws as they apply in all the different junctures of our lives, thereby drawing His blessing into all that we do. General faith thus turns into trust in God in all the specifics of our lives. The more we do what we do under the guidance of His laws and teachings, the more we become connected to Him through the very details of this world, and our knowledge of Him becomes ever deepened.

The Manna

Thus the great lesson of faith in God taught through the splitting of the Red Sea was followed by a long, protracted lesson in trusting Him day after day for one's very livelihood as the Children of Israel now began to journey deeper into the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

Within three days in the arid wilderness they were faced with their first test when they had no water with which to quench their thirst. They now had to learn that He who split the waters of the Red Sea also has the power to provide water in the desert and even to turn bitter waters into sweet, as he did at Marah:

"There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He tested them; and He said: If you will diligently hearken to the voice of HaShem your God and will do what is right in His eyes, and attend to His commandments, and observe all His statutes, I will not put upon you all the diseases which I have put upon the Egyptians; for I am HaShem that heals you " (ibid. 15:25-6).

According to received Torah tradition, the "statute" and the "ordinance" that God laid down for Israel at Marah included Dinim – the basic laws governing people's relations with each other, such as the prohibition of theft and robbery, compensation for damages etc., which are subsumed under the general Noahide law prohibiting stealing.

Immediately after the people received these first laws, they were faced with their next great test – having nothing to eat in the wilderness. The miraculous way in which God fed Israel with the mysterious Manna that condensed on the ground around the camp every morning came to teach that even in the most desperate conditions, God still has the power to sustain us. There is therefore no need to take what we require by force – through theft and robbery – because God can provide us with everything we really need benignly and easily. For God provides for all his creatures "from the horns of the wild ox to the eggs of lice".

One who steals demonstrates a lack of belief in God's omnipotence and His ability to provide us with what we need through legitimate means. For this reason the Torah sages taught that a trader who short-sells the public through the use of deceptive weights and measures is in denial of the Exodus from Egypt (Maimonides, Laws of Theft 7:12) – because he does not believe that God's omnipotent power includes the ability to give him profit without forcing the issue through deception. The trader thinks that the public will not notice – but God sees.

The war of Amalek

If God were visible to us at all times there would be no merit in having faith and trust in Him. The manifest salvation of the splitting of the Red Sea could not be repeated every day. Indeed God often hides Himself in order to increase our merit in having to believe in Him even when we do not see Him. Thus Israel reached the point where they came to doubt whether God was with them or not (Exodus 17:7). This was what led to the attack by Amalek, the archetype of denial and atheism.

"And it was when Moses raised his hand that Israel prevailed, but when he relaxed his hand Amalek prevailed.

"How could it be that Moses hands won the war or lost the war? Rather, this comes to tell you that as long as Israel directed their eyes above and submitted their hearts to their Father in Heaven they prevailed, but if not, they fell" (Rosh Hashanah 3:8).

The struggle against the atheist and denier that resides in our hearts continues every day. We win the battle when we raise our inner eye of faith to God at every juncture and fortify ourselves in the knowledge that God is with us at all times.

14. Father of the Noahide's

Gen. 6:5 And G-D saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually.

6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These [are] the generations of Noah: Noah was a just [tzaddik] man [and] perfect in his generations, [and] Noah walked with G-d.

The word "just" is "tzaddik" which means "righteous". Noah is referred to three times as "righteous" in the Hebrew Bible. Twice in Gen 6:5 and in Gen. 7:1. and once in Ezekiel 14:14. "...then even if these three men would be in its midst - Noah, Daniel and Job* - they, by their righteousness, would save [only] their own souls - the word of the Lord HaShem/ELOHIM. The following verses reiterate that these three men would be unable to save their sons or daughters, that they alone would be saved.Commentary from Stone Edition TaNaCh 14:14.

These three men had survived in the face of general collapse: Noah of the whole world, Daniel of his country, and Job of his family (Arbanel). Ezekiel warns the nation not to rely on the merits of the few righteous people living in Jerusalem to save the populace at large. He is also called 'perfect' in his generations. Tamiym = Perfect, which means, whole, without blemish, truth. In a time when all the rest of the world had corrupted its way, only Noah was able to remain untainted by those around him.  10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem,Ham, and Japheth. 11 The earth also was corrupt before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And G-d looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. 13 And G-d said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.Of all the people on the earth the only person who was considered just and perfect in his generations was Noah, he is reported to have walked with G-d just as Enoch had done before him.

There had been ten generations from Adam to Noah and mankind had been on a downward spiral until G-d resolved to wipe out all the inhabitants of the earth, with the exception of Noah and his family, and enough animals to replenish the earth after the destruction. Noah thus became the father of mankind after the Flood. Ibn Ezra and B'chor Shor render (Toldot} as history, so that the primary subject of the chapter is not his family, but his life story as it relates to the flood and its aftermath. The Three sons of Noah are not named in the order of their birth.

Japheth was the eldest, but Shem is mentioned first because Scripture enumerates them according to wisdom, not age Sanhedrin 69b. The behaviour of people had deteriorated. At first they were called corrupt - being guilty of immorality and idolatry - and they sinned covertly, before G-d. Later, the earth had become filled with robbery - which was obvious to all. Then the entire earth was corrupted, because man is the essence of the world, and his corruption infects all of Creation Zohar. Such is the progression of sin. It begins in private, when people still have a sense of right and wrong. But once people develop the habit of sinning, they gradually lose their sense of shame, and immoral behaviour becomes the accepted and ultimately even the required norm. In Noah's time, the immoral sexual conduct of the people extended to the animal world also, until they too cohabited with other species. (See Parashas Noach - Stones Chumash.)  Here we see that principle of the prohibition against sexual immorality which is one of the Noachide laws.  This becomes obvious with pets, if the owner of a pet is aggressive very often the pet follows the lead of the owner and becomes agressive also. So we can affect our animals by our behaviour.  Gen. 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. 15 And this [is the fashion] which thou shalt make it [of]: The length of the ark [shall be] three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. 16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; [with] lower, second, and third [stories] shalt thou make it. 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein [is] the breath of life, from under heaven; [and] every thing that [is] in the earth shall die.

According to the smallest estimate of 18 inches per cubit, the Ark's dimensions were 450 x 75 x 45 feet = 1,518,750 cubic feet. (300 x 50 x 30 cubits} The ark had three stories and each had 33,750 sq. feet of floor space for a total of 101,250 square feet.  The 'window' is said by some to have been a skylight, which Noah opened after the Flood (8:6) - and some say it was a precious stone [that refracted the outside light to illuminate the interior] (Chizkuni) (Rashi). The roof of the ark sloped upward to a cubit, so that the rain would run off.  18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every [sort] shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep [them] alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every [sort] shall come unto thee, to keep [them] alive. 21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather [it] to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. 22 Thus did Noah; according to all that G-d commanded him, so did he. In verse 18 it refers to 'My Covenant' Rashi said that this was a promise that the year's supply of food in the Ark would not spoil; or it refers to the covenant after the Flood (9:8-17), in which G-d pledged not to destroy the world again through a flood (Sforno).

The animals were taken into the ark in pairs a male and female of each of the species, except for the clean animals which were to be offered in sacrifice and for meat. These animals were taken in seven pairs. The animals came to the ark of their own accord. Only those animals which had not been involved in sexual perversion were admitted into the ark. Noah also took seeds and other food into the ark for himself and his family as well as for the animals in the ark. It is interesting when we examine this that we see the principle of 'kindness' to animals which is one of the Noachide laws. 

The Flood came on the world in the six hundredth year of Noah's life - the year 1656 from Creation.  Gen 7:17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. 18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that [were] under the whole heaven, were covered. The waters of the flood uprooted trees and swept away buildings (Ramban).

Gen. 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 All in whose nostrils [was] the breath of life, of all that [was] in the dry [land], died. 23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained [alive], and they that [were] with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.Verse 21 mentions only land creatures, which implies that G-d spared the fish, because they did not participate in Man's sins. (Maharsha citing Zevachin 113b). 

Finally the rain stopped and G-d remembered Noah and the others in the ark, a spirit Ramban and others render wind. This spirit or wind caused the waters to stop their seething, boiling fury, and the sources of the water were sealed so that the Flood began to recede.  Gen 8:1 And G-d remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that [was] with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; 2 The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; 3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.It was not until the tenth month from the beginning of the rain that the mountaintops became visible again. Forty days after the Ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, Noah opened the skylight to see when it would be possible to leave the Ark and re-establish normal life on earth again. Gen. 8:7 tells us that first Noah sent out a raven to test whether it was still too wet. But the raven kept on going and returning with nothing in its mouth.  Ravens feed on carrion of man and beast, so clearly the waters had not receded far enough for it to find food. Seven days after sending out the raven Noah sent out a dove; if it found a resting place it would not return to him. (Rashi) As long as there were no trees the dove could not build a nest (Ramban), or because the land was still saturated from the long Flood (Sforno). Gen. 8:9 But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters [were] on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. Noah's compassion on the dove teaches us that we should treat an unsuccessful messenger as well as a successful one, if the failure was not his fault (Haamek Davar). We also learn from this example by Noah that we should show kindness to animals. Gen. 8:10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth [was] an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more. We see also the principle of the seven day week was known to Noah, implying that the dove returned to the Ark on the Sabbath day.

Thus while Noahides are not permitted to keep the Sabbath in the manner of the Jews, (the prohibition of doing work associated with the building of the Tabernacle) nevertheless we may rest and study Torah on that day.  Ex. 20:10 But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy G-d: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates:Success at last, the waters had finally abated sufficiently for trees to become apparent. G-d finally had mercy upon Noah and thus upon mankind.  Psalm 52:8 But I [am] like a green olive tree in the house of G-d: I trust in the mercy of G-d for ever and ever. In the Noahic tradition the olive and the dove have been venerated as symbols of friendship and peace.

It is interesting that it is the oil of the olive tree which was burned in the Temple Menorah. The Temple in Jerusalem is called a "House of prayer for all nations." Isaiah 6:7.  Exodus 27:20 And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. Noah's gratitude - an offering and a promise from HaShem that never again would He smite the earth with a flood to destroy it, the seasons would remain intact as long as the earth remains.  Gen. 8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the HaShem; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the HaShem smelled a sweet savour; and the HaShem said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.Psalm 128:1 A Song of degrees. Blessed [is] every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. 2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy [shalt] thou [be], and [it shall be] well with thee. 3 Thy wife [shall be] as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. 4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD. 5 The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6 Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, [and] peace upon Israel. The Noachide Covenant! Genesis 9:8 And G-d spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that [is] with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

The Sign of the Rainbow "In Parsha, [Noach] G-d destroyed His world because it had become perverted. The natural boundaries separating one species from the next had become obscured. Cross breeding was rampant, incest and adultery were accepted as alternative life choices, and personal properties and rights were  defenseless before a philosophical onslaught of "might makes right". Murder and thievery were commonplace and were the determining factor in the balance of personal wealth and power. In a world devoid of respect for individual differences and rights there can be no G-d. Just as belief in G-d demands that we study, accept, and respect G-d's established demarcations in order to understand His intended purposes, so too, the erasing of those differences denies G-d's place within the universe. Therefore, in the pre-Mabul (diluvian) era, idol worship was rampant as everyone and anyone claimed divine rights and prerogative.

A few years ago, my Father Shlit'a shared with me a beautiful insight into the story of Noach and the building of the Tayvah - Ark. In 6:16, G-d instructed Noach to put a "Tzoar" in the roof of the Tayvah. Rashi references the Medresh that translates Tzoar as either a window or a large precious gem. The construction of a window to provide air and light makes sense. The notion of framing a large gem in the roof of the Tayvah does not make much practical sense. For what possible reason would G-d have wanted a gem embedded in the roof of the Tayvah? I always thought that it was meant to function as a skylight to refract and magnify the light coming into the Tayvah; however, even that explanation lacks practical plausibility.  My Father Shlit'a suggested the following explanation. The Talmud is not suggesting that it was an either or situation, either a window or a gem. In truth, both opinions assume that there was a window. However, the source that translates Tzoar as a gem assumes that there was also a window. The question is, why did G-d insist on placing a gem in addition to a window?  My Father pointed out that a gem would act like a prism for whatever light passed through its crystals or facets. As such, the gem would break down the white light into the 7 colors of the prism casting a rainbow of colors into the Tayvah - Ark.

G-d's intention was for the survivors of the Mabul and the progenitors of the new world to have a constant reminder of the uniqueness and complexity of that which otherwise appears simple and commonplace. It was essential for Noach and his sons to recognize and respect the inherent differences, both subtle and obvious, that G-d had established in creation. The colors of the prism cast on the floor and walls of the Tayvah were a constant reminder that the obvious and the common often mask the unique and the individual. The downfall of pre-diluvian humanity was their disregard for differences and the obscuring of G-d's intent and purpose. The hope for future humanity was their recognition and acceptance of those divine demarcations and the revealing of G-d's intent.  It now makes sense why G-d chose the rainbow as His reminder to humanity of the Mabul - Great Flood.

In the aftermath of a rain, the colors of the rainbow stretched across the blue expanse of the sky reminds humanity that it is our obligation to seek out, cherish, and respect the differences inherent in nature. It reminds us that it is within those differences that G-d is to be found." Author Rabbi A. Tendler. Genesis 9:11 And I will establish My Covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And G-d said, This [is] the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that [is] with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember My Covenant, which [is] between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that [is] upon the earth. 17 And G-d said unto Noah, This [is] the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that [is] upon the earth.Noah's character was such that he kept the Seven Laws which now bear his name, even though they were originally kept by Adam and by Enoch. These laws were originally given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The question might well be asked if Noah was such a righteous man why did he get drunk? It would seem that even righteous men can and do have failings. The Scriptures give us a warts and all description of the faithful. But we can learn another lesson which is applicable to the Noachide Laws from that episode. When Noah's son Ham told his two brothers about Noah's naked condition, the other two brothers demonstrated that they honoured their father and they took a garment and covered his nakedness. According to the commentary in the Stones Chumash Ham enjoyed the sight of his father's dishevelment and drunkenness. Shem however took a garment and with Japheth covered their father's nakedness, thus bringing a blessing to themselves, while Ham and Canaan were cursed. According to this commentary because Shem covered his father's nakedness the Jews who are the descendants of Shem were rewarded with the mitzvah of fringed garments [tzitzits]; those of Japheth with burial in Eretz Yisrael [Ezekiel 39:11]; those of Ham were eventually led away by the king of Assyria....naked and barefoot [Isaiah 20:4] {Midrash; Rashi).

Shem and Japheth draped the garment over their shoulders and walked in backwards, averting their gaze; even when they had to turn around to cover Noah, they looked away (Rashi).  Noah foretold the destiny of his sons. Gen 9:25-27 R'Hirsch calls these verses the most far-reaching prophecy ever uttered, for in it Noah encapsulated the entire course of human history.  Noah was born in the year 1056 from Creation, the Flood occurred in 1656, and he died in 2006, ten years after the Dispersion (chapter 11). Abraham was born in 1948; thus he knew Noah and was 58 years old when Noah died. It is fascinating that from Adam to Abraham, there was a word of mouth tradition spanning only four people: Adam, Lemech, Noah and Abraham. (Stones Chumash) Similarly, Moses, through whom the Torah was given, saw Kehath who saw Jacob, who saw Abraham. Accordingly, there were not more than seven people who carried the tradition firsthand from Adam to the generation that received the Torah (Arbanel).  "History ~~ Mount of Olives - Historical and Spiritual"

The midrash teaches us that the branch carried back to Noah's Ark after the flood by the second dove, marking the "renewal of life" and the return of humanity to the surface of the earth, was plucked from the slopes of the Mt. of Olives." "HALE-BOPP - LAST SEEN BY NOAH?"A comet discovered in July 1995 has now become bright enough to be easily seen with the naked eye, even from urban sites, and will remain easily visible to northern-hemisphere observers through April 1997. The Hale-Bopp Comet orbits and is still approaching, the sun, with its closest approach (perihelion) occurring tomorrow night, April 1, 1997. Daniel W. E. Green of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics stated that the latest orbital calculations indicate that the Hale-Bopp comet last passed through the inner solar system about 4210 years ago.

An Arutz-7 correspondent noted that according to the ancient Jewish text Seder Olam Rabah, the comet's previous appearance was approximately the same year that Noah began building the ark. {ARUTZ 7 3/31 C}  The Seven Noachide Laws are actually not just seven laws, but seven categories of laws. Mankind was presented with moral obligations from the moment of its Creation. Man was bidden by G-d to keep seven Laws which form the basis for a well functioning society. These Seven Laws were given to Noah, as the progenitor of all mankind, this being their permanent share of the truth, containing both spiritual and material benefits appropriate to them." (A Light to the Nations - Rabbi Yoel Schwartz).

Prohibition of idol-worship
Prohibition of blasphemy
Prohibition of theft
Prohibition of murder
Prohibition of sexual misconduct
Prohibition of eating meat cut from a living animal
Prohibition of failing to set up law courts. (ibid). 

These Seven Laws are the minimum which are obligatory upon all of humanity. "Belief in the Creator involves acknowledging that He alone created and formed everything, made, makes and will continue to make everything; One must believe that G-d is One and alone, with a Oneness that is like none other that was, is, or will be.  He is also incorporeal, having no bodily attributes or comparison with anything. Once this concept is fully understood it becomes apparent why the prohibtion of idolatry forbids envisaging G-d, or believing that He has any form whatever, including the human. He existed before creation and will continue to exist after it ceases to be, and He underwent no change by virtue of having made the creation; this last is the paradox of simultaneous existence and non-existence, which gives rise to many existential dilemmas concerning the relationship between being and nothingness, because it is not properly understood as a paradox deriving from this Divine attribute.    It is proper to pray to Him, and to Him alone, and one may not turn to Him through an intermediary. This interposition of intermediaries is the factor that most present-day non-Jewish religions have in common, save that of Islam, and true belief for the non-Jew involves a firm rejection of these ideas." ibid.

"Belief in the World to Come, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the coming of the Messiah, is also proper for non-Jews, and they may study Scripture as a source of the promises, guarantees and assurances that were given to the Jews." ibid.

An excellent book for the student who wishes to understand the chronology of the Bible is "The Sequence of Events in the Old Testament" by Eliezer Shulman - Published by the Ministry of Defense - Publishing House - Israel. This is a Jewish book and is available at Jewish bookshops also, despite the title "Old Testament" being used rather than "TeNach", because it is available for Gentile tourists.

15. A Friend in Need

unknown author

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.  His name was Kyle.  It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?  He must really be a nerd."  I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.  As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.  They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt.  His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.  He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.  My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.   As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks.  They really should get lives. " He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face.  It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.  I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.

As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.  I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.  We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.  He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.  I asked him if he wanted to play a little football with my friends.  He said yes.  We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.  

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.  I stopped him and said, "Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!  He just laughed and handed me half the books.  Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.

When we were seniors, we began to think about college.  Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem.  He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.  Kyle was valedictorian of our class.  I teased him all the time about being a nerd.  He had to prepare a speech for graduation.  I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle.  He looked great.  He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.  He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.  He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.  Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.  I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!"  He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.  "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years.  Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your friends...  I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.  I am going to tell you a story."  I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met.  He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.  He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.  "Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable."  I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.  Not until that moment did I realize it's depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions.  With one small gesture you can change a person's life.  For better or for worse.   God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way.  Look for God in others.

"Friends are a blessing from HaShem, who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."  “Friends are a blessing to Mankind.”

Always remember, "To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world".

16. If I Were a Rich Man

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Losing a lot of money, just like suddenly making millions, forces you to confront your real priorities in life.

The following excerpt is from Rabbi Blech's book, 'Taking Stock',(available at Amazon in the Book Department) which is the result of his personal odyssey riding the roller  coaster of wealth to the top and then hopelessly and frighteningly careening to the bottom.

You're depressed because you lost a fortune. So what is it that you can't do now that you would have done before?

Losing a lot of money, just like suddenly making millions, forces you to confront your real priorities in life. To help you to understand yourself -- your real needs, desires and values -- truthfully answer this telling question: What do you believe is missing in your life that having a great deal of money would supply?

Listen to this story and see if it relates at all to you.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-finned tuna. The banker complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied: "Only a little while." The banker then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The banker was puzzled and then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, swim a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, Señor."

The banker scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you'll have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middle man, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, Señor, how long will this all take?"

To which the banker replied, "Five to ten years."

"But what then, Señor?"

The banker laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company's stock to the public and become very rich. You would be worth millions!"

"Millions, Señor? Then what?"

The banker said, "Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village, take siesta with your wife, play with your kids, stroll to the village in the evenings where you would sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

How remarkable. The very things that the fisherman could look forward to at the end of a long and arduous process that would require him to put his life on hold are those all-important parts of life he already enjoys in his semi-poverty.

What would having more do for him? Prevent him from presently enjoying family and friends, laughing and living, being independent and free of the worries associated with major financial investments. And of course we all realize that the five to ten years the banker estimated would be all the time needed will stretch out far longer as greed for more as well as unexpected difficulties turn the project into a lifelong journey. How much smarter to remember the advice of the first-century Roman philosopher, Juvenal: "It is sheer madness to live in want in order to be wealthy when you die."

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Regis Philbin took America by storm as he turned the program Who Wants To Be A Millionaire into the most popular show on television. As several critics have pointed out, the producers of the show didn't even put a question mark at the end of the title. After all, what they imply is that it isn't even a question. Everyone wants to get rich.

Well, here's a surprise for you. In an exclusive AARP Modern Maturity survey, "Money and the American family" [Modern Maturity, May, 2001], 27 percent of men and a startling 40 percent of women said "no" when asked if they would like to become wealthy. More than half defined wealthy as acquiring $500,000 or less in total assets. In fact, only eight percent said it would take $1,000,000 to make them feel wealthy.

How can we explain why so many people have an aversion to getting rich? Four out of five of those surveyed said they feared that wealth would turn them into greedy people who consider themselves superior. Three-fourths of the respondents said that wealth promotes insensitivity. Even those who say they would like to be wealthy share that negative view of how the rich behave.

To their credit, most Americans are smart enough to realize that money can't buy such intangibles as self-esteem, family togetherness, happiness or love. Even if they had all the wealth in the world, they realize that what really matters in life isn't based on financial status. In response to the crucial question, "Can money buy peace of mind?" 52 percent of Americans said "no." That means the majority of people realize that having money won't be the answer to all of their problems. In fact, many have come to the opposite conclusion: A sudden fortune can be a curse instead of a blessing.

"Help Me, Doctor, I'm Rich"

Dennis Pearne is a clinical psychologist and a pioneer in the emerging field of wealth counseling. His specialty is treating clients with "Sudden Wealth Syndrome." Those are people who inherited large sums of money, won the lottery, or sold their Internet businesses for billions of dollars.

Now they were faced with the dilemma of "What do I do next?" How many cars can you buy? How many homes can you own? As the Yiddish saying goes, even the wealthiest man can't eat more than one dinner.

Dr. Pearne says, "Sudden wealth creates issues that go way beyond money. The money can cause traumatic responses and lead to shame, anger, confusion, isolation and guilt, among other things. With inherited money, you hear stories of what goes on in families -- the control game, blackmail, gender discrimination, resentment children have at being raised by nannies, and a whole host of psychological issues."

The way Pearne has helped people the most is by working with them on a value-based exploration in order to focus in on proper priorities. Together, the "wealth counselor" and the "sudden wealth victim" explore basic questions of life: What is the relative importance of living a wealthy lifestyle versus accumulating more wealth versus helping friends and family versus philanthropy? What do you do with the money you will never need for yourself? How would you want the world to improve -- and what can you do now personally to turn your ideal into reality?

One of the most striking things Pearne has found is that when his clients seriously reconsider their options in life, they invariably choose to devote themselves to social change.

"Money is a neutral object, a tool that can be used positively or negatively," he said. "The power of receiving a lot of money is so great it can destroy someone's life or empower someone to have a much better life. It all depends on how you deal with it."

What Would You Do?

There's no better way to understand a person, psychologists say, than to see how he spends his money. "Show me your checkbook stubs," said the noted psychologist, Erich Fromm, "and I'll tell you everything about yourself." Self-indulgence or selflessness? Wine, women and song or charitable works? Hedonism or helping others? Forsaking God because you no longer need Him or feeling more spiritually connected out of gratitude for your good fortune?

I know we all claim we would have the right priorities. But what did you do with your money when you had it? Is it possible that it's gone because God wants you to rethink what's really important and how you will handle wealth if God chooses to bless you with it once more? Answer yourself honestly, and you may discover that losing it the first time was a blessing. Getting another chance some day in the future will make you not only rich but also fulfilled and blessed.

"What would you do with it?" is not just a financial question, but a spiritual one as well. Perhaps we need to know the right answers before God will give us the opportunity to carry out our wishes.

Purchase your copy of Rabbi Blech's, Taking Stock, (available at Amazon in the Book Department).


17. Ever Min HaChai and Animal Cruelty

When Was Ever Min HaChai Given

As we should recall from a very early lesson, the Talmud derives all Seven laws from Genesis 2:16:

And the L-rd, God, commanded the man, saying: “Of every tree of the garden you may surely eat.”

Ever Min HaChai, besides being derived from this verse, was also commanded directly to Noah after the flood. There are two opinions as to the reason for this repetition. Both of these interpretations are tied to another Talmudic debate as to whether or not Adam was permitted to eat meat:1

  • Rashi2 & Tosafos3 – Both hold that, as the Talmud states, all seven laws were given to Adam at the time of creation. This would include ever min ha-chai. Of course, ever min ha-chai would only be relevant if Adam was permitted to eat meat at this time. According to Rashi and Tosafos, Adam was permitted to eat meat; however, he was not allowed to kill animals for food. Adam was only allowed to eat animals that had died on their own. It was not until after the flood that Man received permission to kill animals for food.
  • Maimonides4 – Maimonides understands the Talmud’s derivation of the Noahide laws from Genesis an Asmachta, a supporting allusion to the existence of the laws prior to the time of Noah. It is not a hard-and-fast source for their derivation. Based upon a much simpler reading of the Torah text, Maimonides proposes that man was not given permission to eat meat at all until after the flood. Therefore, Adam could not have been commanded regarding ever min ha-chai. It was only after the flood, when man was permitted from eating meat, that God gave the commandment against ever min ha-chai.

Tosafos, Rashi and Maimonides, however, agree to the following points:

  • At creation, Adam was given the right to use animals for any useful tasks as the Torah teaches:5

And God blessed them; and God said unto them: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth.’

  • This permission, however, did not extend to killing animals for food.6

Considering these two points, of the utility of animals for human need vs. the prohibition of killing them for food, the question naturally arises: Was Adam allowed to cause pain or suffering to animals?

Tzaar Baalei Chaim - Animal Cruelty

The prohibition against animal cruelty, tzaar baalei chaim, applies to Noahides.7 The exact details of this prohibition will be examined in greater detail in a future lesson. For the purposes of this lesson, though, we at least need to know that it applies and will be relevant to our study of the laws of ever min ha-chai.

The Commandment to Noah

In the times of Noah, all agree that man was given permission to now to kill animals for the sake of food:

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and every bird of the sky, upon everything that moves on the earth and upon all fish of the sea; into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that has life shall be yours for food; I have given them unto you like the green herbage.

The commandment of ever min ha-chai was either given here for the first time, or reaffirmed in light of this permission to kill animals for food:

But flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.8

The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin 59a explains that this verse is the prohibition of ever min ha-chai.

Ever Min HaChai vs. the Verses

The term ever min ha-chai is a Talmudic paraphrase of the source verse for the prohibition. It is a much more convenient and, indeed, specific way of referring to the law. However, it contains a subtle weakness.

Ever min ha-chai is often translated as “a limb torn from a living animal.” This is a terrible translation! The verse in the Torah states simply:                                  

But Flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.9

The Talmud rephrases this prohibition as ever min ha-chai, which literally means “a limb/part from the living.” Let’s break it down:


      “a limb/part” – The verse states “flesh,” a broad term we will have to winnow down. Although the Hebrew word for “flesh” is sometimes used specifically for “meat,” in this context it means almost any part edible part taken from an animal. The Talmud rephrases it with the term ever to capture the broader meaning of the word for “flesh.” The intent of the prohibition is to prohibit anything separated from an animal while it lives.


       “from” – The verse does not say anything about material being “taken” or “torn” from a living animal. Therefore, the method by which the material is separated from the animal is irrelevant. A limb remains prohibited even if it falls from an animal on its own. We should note that, according to this point and the previous one, even milk and eggs should be prohibited! Don’t draw any conclusions yet, though. We will discuss milk and eggs in the next lesson.


    “the living” – This last term is very broad. In fact, it is too broad, because the actual verse contains a qualification that limits “the living” to which this it applies:

But flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.10

Note that this verse draws a distinction between the flesh and the blood of the animal. This distinction actually has an important place in Torah law.

For example, for Jews consuming horse blood violates an injunction against consuming blood (the punishment for which is Kares, spiritual excision). Eating the meat of a horse, however, is prohibited to Jews for a separate reason: the prohibition against eating the meat of non-kosher species (the punishment for which is lashes).

Our verse states the qualification …flesh with its soul, its blood… to teach us that the prohibition of ever min ha-chai only applies to animals for which the Torah makes legal distinctions between their flesh and their blood.11

There are many animals for which the Torah makes no distinction between their flesh and their blood. For these animals, the entire animal and all of its parts and pieces are included under one prohibition against eating. Since the Torah makes no distinctions for these animals, then ever min ha-chai does not apply to these animals.

To Which Animals Does it Apply?

Ever min ha-chai does not apply to sheratzim, a class of eight animals mentioned by the Torah in Lev. 11:29-30. This is because there is no distinction between their blood and flesh in Torah law. All of the commentaries agree that the common mouse and, most likely, the monitor lizard are among these eight creatures; however, there is disagreement as to the identity of the remaining 6. The following are the sheratzim with the various opinions as to their identity:

Choled – The Talmud describes this as a predatory, burrowing animal that tunnels underneath houses.12

               o Rat – Targum Onkelos, Tosafos Yomtov
               o Field Mouse – Targum Yonasan
Akhbar  – Most agree that this is the common mouse. Some include the rat under this term.

Tzav – The Talmud13 implies that it is similar to a salamander or snake.

               o Toad – This is the opinion of Rashi to Lev. 11:29 and Niddah 56a. The Mishnah,14 and indeed many of the Rishonim, seem to compare it to a frog.
               o Tortise – Meam Loez, Tiferes Israel.15
               o Hedgehog or beaver – Radak.
               o Gecko – Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon
               o Lizard – According to Radak. From the descriptions of the various commentaries, it is most likely the monitor lizard.16
               o Another species of lizard or great gecko.
               o Snail – Rashi.
               o Many other commentaries identify this as a skunk.
               o Mole – Rashi to Chullin 63a.
               o A Burrowing lizard of some sort.

Further exempted from the prohibition of ever min ha-chai are all sea creatures, insects, arachnids, and snakes, frogs, and lizards. It is therefore permitted consume limbs from dolphins, crabs, lobster, etc. before the animal has actually expired. However, it is preferable done in a manner that minimizes the suffering of the animal (because of the prohibition of tzaar baalei chaim – animal cruelty). There are some further important clarifications to make:

  • Rodents – because of the uncertainty in identifying all of the sheratzim, and the doubt is on a biblically prohibited matter, one must treat all rodents as if ever min ha-chai applies to them. The exception, however, is the common mouse. It is certain that the mouse is a sheretz and that ever min ha-chai does not apply to it.
  • Seals, otters, walruses, etc. – these mammals all live in the water as well as on land. Are they to be treated as sea creatures, and exempted from ever min ha-chai, or as land mammals and included in ever min ha-cha.
               o Maimonides17 -- Classifies sea lions as sea creatures, which implies that they are exempted from ever min ha-chai.

                 o Chullin 127a – If a mammal can travel on land of its own power, then it is considered a land animal in halakhah.

                 o Mishnah, Keilim 17:13 – The carcass of a sea lion is subjected to certain types of ritual impurity that do not apply to sea animals. Therefore, the sea lion must be a land animal.

                 o Tzafnas Paneach on Maimonides – Based on many of the cited rebuttals, Tzafnas Paneach rejects Maimonides as the law

                 o In practice, seals, otters, walruses, and similar creatures are considered land animals and subject to ever min ha-chai.

What Is Called Basar Flesh

The source verse prohibits Basar – flesh – from a living animal. This means that one is only liable for punishment for having eaten Basar from a living animal. However, this is a broad term which applies in various ways. Additionally, any prohibition against eating something only applies if that item is considered fit for consumption. The criteria for this determination are complex and require the expertise of a posek.

The following is a basic guide. Again, note that we are dealing with what is called Basar for the sake of liability. Eating anything from a living animal is prohibited even if one does not incur punishment for doing so:

– Because bones are not considered fit for human consumption, they are not called Basar.18  One should not eat them, however.19 However, bone marrow is considered Basar – flesh.20

Tendons & Sinews – Although not considered Basar, their consumption is prohibited. However, one is not liable to punishment for eating them.21

Hooves, horns, feathers – These parts, even their soft inner parts, are not called Basar, and therefore ever min ha-chai does not apply.22 Again, however, they should not be consumed.23        
Flesh of Birds – Although the prohibition applies to birds just as it does to land mammals, one is not liable to punishment for consuming bird flesh.24

Hides & Skins – Hides and skins are sometimes called Basar and sometimes not. Any questions of ever min ha-chai that may arise regarding hides or skins should be presented to a posek who is an expert in the Noahide laws.25
Placenta – A placenta expelled naturally by an animal may be eaten and is not included at all in the prohibition of ever min ha-chai. However, if it is removed from the animal before it gives birth, then it is prohibited as ever min ha-chai.26

Blood – Blood is not included in the prohibition of even min ha-chai. As we mentioned above, the Hebrew word Basar – flesh – is broad and includes almost all parts of the animal, including its blood. However, the source verse makes a distinction between blood and flesh:

But flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.

Maimonides27 and Kesef Mishnah,28 based on Sanhedrin 59a, explain that this prohibits Basar taken from an animal while it is living, but not blood taken from an animal while it is living. Blood may be consumed by Noahides even if it is taken from an animal while it is living.

Summary of the Lesson

1. Ever min ha-chai was either given to Adam or to Noah. This depends on whether or not Adam was permitted to eat meat.

2. Noahides are enjoined against animal cruelty. The details of this will be discussed in a future lesson.

3. The prohibition applies to any Basar – flesh – that came from an animal while it was living. It does not matter how this flesh was removed from the animal.

4. Torah study should be increased on this day.

5. The prohibition applies onto to animals for which the Torah makes a legal distinction between their blood and their flesh. This means that aquatic animals, bugs, and most reptiles and amphibians are not included in this prohibition.

6. Only that which is defined as edible and is called Basar is prohibited as ever min ha-chai. Nevertheless, one should refrain from eating anything separated from a living animal. While this theoretically includes milk and eggs, we will explain their details in a future lesson.


1 See Sanhedrin 57a, 59b.
2 To Sanhedrin 57a.
3 To Sanhedrin 56b.
4 Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 9:1.
5 Gen. 1:28.
6 Sanhedrin 59a.
7 See Sefer Toldos Noach I: 26:11; Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem IV: 1 Haarah 3. See also Sefer Chassidim 666.
8 Gen. 9:4.
9 Gen. 9:4.
10 Gen. 9:4.
11 Sanhedrin 59a – b.
12 See Shabbos 107a.
13 Chullin 127a.
14 Tohoros 5:1. See Mishnah and Rishonim there.
15 To Tohoros ibid.
16 See Rav Saadia Gaon, in particular.
17 Hilchos Maachalos Assuros 2:12.
18 Hilchos Maachalos Assuros 4:18. This is true even if the bones are ground or powdered. Even soft chewable bones are exempted. See Hilchos Avos HaTumah 3 and Hilchos Korban Pesach 10.
19 Rama, YD 62.
20 Tosefta, Pesachim 6:8.
21 See Hilchos Korban Pesach 10:8 and the commentary of the Raavad there.
22 Hilchos Maachalos HaAssuros 4:18 & 9:7. See also Avos HaTumah 1, 3:9.
23 See note 19, above.
24 Hilchos Melachim 9:10 and Kesef Mishnah there.
25 Maimonides, Hilchos Maachalos Assuros 4:18, states that hides and skins are not considered fit for consumption and that ever min ha-chai does not apply to them. This is even in a case when they are fully cooked and made appetizing (see Rashi to Chullin 77b). However, this is only the law for certain hides. “Soft” hides are considered Basar and are subject to ever min ha-chai. See Rashi to Chullin 122a and Maachalos Assuros 4:20-21.
26 This distinction may be derived from Maachalos Assuros 5:13 and the comments of the Raavad there.
27 Maimonides Hilchos Melachim 9:10.
28 Ibid.

17.1. Ever Min HaChai and Animal Cruelty II

Amount to Trigger the Prohibition

There is no minimum amount that a Noahide must consume to incur liability for ever min ha-chai.1 Even the smallest amount of ever min ha-chai is enough to incur punishment. However, swallowing an entire living creature is not prohibited. After all, the prohibition only applies to meat which is “from” a living creature.2

The Life of the Animal

But flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.3

Rashi and Targum Yonasan make an important observation on this verse: that it applies to eating flesh while the animal’s soul is “in/with its blood.” As the sages understand this, the prohibition of ever min ha-chai, to trigger punative liability, only applies while the animal from which the flesh was taken is still living. Once the animal dies, eating the flesh that was taken from it does not incur liability. However, the sages state that meat removed from an animal while it was living remains prohibited for everyone for all time - even after the animal has died:

Flesh that becomes detached from it [while it is dying] is considered like flesh detached from a living creature and is prohibited to a Noahide even after the animal has expired.4

This point is very important and we will revisit it shortly.

Strict Liability

One only incurs strict liability, meaning punishable by death, if one transgresses ever min ha-chai by eating:

  • Meat,
  • From a land mammal,
  • Removed from the animal while it is living,
  • Eaten while the animal is still living, and
  • Eaten in the normal manner.

All other possible “eatings” do not incur the death penalty, but are nonetheless forbidden. Therefore, while one is not punished for eating the flesh taken from a bird while it is still living, it is still forbidden to do so.5

Removing the Prohibition

There is a big difference between Jewish law and Noahide law as to when the prohibition of ever min ha-chai ceases to apply to an animal. For Jews, the process of shechita, ritual Jewish slaughter, removes the prohibition of ever min ha-chai. Once the majority of the trachea and esophagus of an animal has been severed according to Torah law, the prohibition of ever min ha-chai ceases to apply. At that point, a Jew may remove a limb or meat from the animal even if it the animal is still in its death throes. That flesh would then be permitted for a Jew.6 However, for a Noahide, the prohibition of ever min ha-chai does not depart from the animal until its heart has ceased beating.7 This fact creates a contradiction between Jewish and Noahide law:

  • If an animal is slaughtered properly, in accordance with the laws of Jewish ritual slaughter, it is considered “dead” for all intents and purposes even it is still moving about. A Jew may then sever and consume meat from that animal even before its heart and breath have ceased.
  • However, the meat severed from that animal remains forbidden for Noahide consumption as ever min ha-chai. This is because Noahides do not rely upon ritual slaughter to remove the prohibition of ever min ha-chai, rather, they rely upon the death of the animal.

If you have been paying close attention, you will note a subtle problem: this situation appears to contradict our general rule from the Talmud, that Noahide law cannot be more prohibitive in scope that Torah law.

The Talmud8 and many poskim, most notably the Shakh9 explain that when a Jew slaughters meat for Jewish consumption, this slaughter completely removes the prohibition of ever min ha-chai in its totality - even for a non-Jew! This unique rule is subject to the following conditions, though:

  • It must be the slaughter of a kosher species,
  • It must be slaughtered by a qualified shochet (slaughterer) according to all of the details of kosher shechita,
  • It must be slaughtered for Jewish consumption,
  • Once the animal has been slaughtered properly, meat may be removed from it even before it has stopped moving. However, one should wait until the animal has died before actually eating the meat.

Once these conditions are met, the meat of the animal is permitted for all; Jew and Non-Jew alike. Needless to say, kosher slaughter today is carried out according to all of these requirements. Does non-kosher industrial slaughter present any problems for Noahides today?

Kosher vs. Non Kosher Slaughter

The standard procedure in most non-kosher slaughter houses is to stun the animals (usually by electric shock) immediately prior to actually killing them. Even though this stunning may stop the animal’s breath temporarily, it does not render the animal “dead enough” for the purposes of our removing the prohibition of a limb torn from a living animal.10

As for the actual methods of slaughter employed by most slaughterhouses, most of them do not bring about the immediate death of the animal (meaning complete cessation of cardiac and neuromuscular activity). Should the animal be conveyed to processing prior to the cessation of cardiac activity, a problem would arise as to the kashrus of the meat for Noahides.11 This is because the animal would effectively be carved up before it has actually died and the meat rendered ever min ha-chai.

According to Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the world’s leading experts on industrial slaughter, the interval between slaughter and processing is so long that it is rare for an animal’s heart to continue beating until the time of processing. However, this generalization is not true of smaller slaughterhouses and specialty slaughterhouses such as those that produce halal meats. Although the stunning and slaughter of animals is strictly regulated by USDA policy, regulations pertaining to the time between slaughter and processing are uncommon at both state and federal levels and do not apply equally to all sectors of the meat industry.

Though the chances of getting ever min ha-chai at the grocery store are low, the only way to ensure that your average grocery store meat is acceptable for Noahides is to know with certainty how the animal was slaughtered, and the policies of the slaughterhouse as to determining the death of the animal.

Considering that any amount of ever min ha-chai is prohibited for consumption, it is not unreasonable to be wary of commercially produced meat. By eating meat which has been slaughtered according to the laws of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) and relying upon the ruling mentioned above, any suspicion is removed.

Possible Leniencies

However, there are many possible leniencies for Noahides with regard to buying regular, grocery store meat. Unfortunately, these leniencies depend on whether or not certain mechanics of Torah law carry over into Noahide law. For example:

  • Safek – Cases of doubt. The resolution of doubts as to whether or not an item is prohibited is governed strictly by many rules. Although these rules could create leniencies for Noahides with regard to non-Kosher meat, it is uncertain as to whether or not these rules apply to the Noahide legal system.12
  • Rov – Nullification by majority. If a prohibited item is mixed with a majority of permitted items to the point that we cannot distinguish between the two, then the prohibited item is considered “nullified” in the majority. It unclear if this principle applies to Noahide laws.13 If it does, then all mass produced meat may be considered “in a mixture” and, thus, the minority of meat coming from living animals is nullified in the majority of acceptable meat.

Though the application of these leniencies is doubtful, so too is the very presence of ever min ha-chai on the regular, commercial grocery market. Although each factor by itself is not enough to permit the consumption of over-the-counter grocery store meat, taken together, most contemporary authorities agree that they may be relied upon to permit the consumption of regular grocery store meat.

Practical Conclusions

Despite the uncertainties in the aforementioned leniencies, there are strong reasons to permit the Noahide consumption of regular, grocery store meat. As we said, though, there are reasons to dispute on this permissive approach.

Therefore, there is a stringent option for those who wish to adopt it. As we mentioned above, the act of Jewish ritual slaughter removes any doubt of “a limb taken from a living animal.” Although regular non-kosher meat is permitted, should a Noahide wish, he may elect to consume only meat that was slaughtered according to Jewish ritual law. By doing so, all questions of ever min ha-chai, a limb from a living animal, are removed. According to many, this approach is proper and strongly supported by the aforementioned authorities on Torah law. However, one who does not wish to adopt this stringent approach certainly may do so.

[CLARIFICATION FROM RABBI BLOOMENSTIEL: In the live yeshiva class, this section created a lot of confusion. I have inserted the following to clarify any misunderstandings.

There are two approaches to dealing practically with the question of flesh from a living animal:

1) Regular, grocery store meat is 100% acceptable for Noahides. Even though there are uncertainties as to whether or not the concepts of “nullification by majority” and “doubt” apply to Noahides, there are also uncertainties as to whether or not meat from living creatures is even present in the marketplace. Noahides may rely upon these two uncertain factors in combination to permit regular grocery store meat.

2) Because there are some who would question this leniency, a Noahide may voluntarily, and as a stringency only, elect to only eat meat that was slaughtered according to Jewish ritual practice.

This latter approach does not advocate or imply that Noahides are in any way obligated or expected to keep Kosher – the Jewish dietary laws. The only reason for electing to consume such meat is that, by doing so, one can be guarded from any suspicion of ever min ha-chai, flesh taken from a living animal, according to most authorities. Observing this elective stringency does not constitute chiddushei dat, creating a new religion. The reason it is not chiddushei dat is that one observes this stringency only in order to avoid eating ever min ha-chai, flesh from a living animal. One does not observe this stringency to “keep kosher” or in any way imitate Jewish practice; after all, a Noahide has no share or obligation in such laws. Furthermore, the fact that such meat, which is certain not to be ever min ha-chai, happens to have been slaughtered according to Jewish law is arbitrary. After all, one could achieve the same effect by electing to only eat meat that he himself has slaughtered. By doing so, he can ensure that the animal has fully died before it is carved up.

The following section, discussing eating out, is only relevant to those who wish to practice such a stringency. To iterate: while this stringency is strongly supported and proper according to many, it is not necessary and purely voluntary. Practicing it has nothing to do with “keeping kosher” because the only reason for a non-Jew to eat meat slaughtered according to Jewish ritual law is because this is one of many possible ways of avoiding the prohibition of ever min ha-chai.]

Eating Out

If a Noahide is careful [voluntarily strict] to only eat ritually slaughtered meat, he will have a question when it comes to eating out. Non-kosher restaurants will have used their utensils and equipment for regular grocery store meat. Is it permitted for Noahides [who have taken this voluntary stringency upon themselves] to eat in such places? Does a Noahide [who has taken this voluntary stringency upon himself] have to be concerned for the flavor of non-kosher [meaning possibly ever min ha-chai] meat that has been absorbed into the vessels?

The issue of absorptions in utensils is a major part of the Jewish dietary laws. The poskim disagree as to how or if it affects the Noahide laws.

  • Chasam Sofer14 - Pots and utensils that have been certainly used for ever min ha-chai may never be used by non-Jews.15
  • Darchei Teshuvah16 - The Darchei Teshuvah and many other poskim hold that there is no prohibition on Noahides using utensils that were previously and even certainly used with ever min ha-chai.

A Noahide who is careful to eat only meat slaughtered according to Jewish ritual practice meat rely upon the Darchei Teshuvah and other poskim who permit utensils that had been used with ever min ha-chai. This is due to a solid heter (permissive ruling) from the Darchei Teshuvah combined with a number of other potential leniencies.

Of course, this only means that although Noahides [who have accepted such a stringency] may eat out at restaurants that serve regular meat; they may not eat any food containing actual meat at the restaurant. [Again – this is only applicable to those who have elected such a stringency. However, this stringent approach is not all required or expected.]

Eggs & Milk

Technically, eggs and milk should be included in the prohibition of ever min ha-chai.17 After all, they are material separated from the animal while it was living. This possibility does not create a problem for Jews, because the Torah explicitly permitted eggs and milk to them:

  • “…A land flowing with milk and honey…”18 The Talmud says that by praising Israel with milk, this verse is permitting milk, exempting it from the prohibition of ever min ha-chai.19
  • The Torah states: “If you chance upon a birds nest on your way, in a tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother is sitting upon the young, or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young20” This is understood as releasing eggs from the prohibition of ever min ha-chai.21

These verses, however, were only given to Israel – they do nothing for Noahides. Are Noahides are still prohibited from eating eggs and milk?22

Although the Chasam Sofer23 suspects that certain eggs are, in fact, prohibited to Noahides, almost all other poskim disagree. Virtually all poskim permit milk for Noahides.24

Summary of the Lesson

1. Although the requirements to trigger punishment for transgressing ever min ha-chai are very narrow, the scope of the prohibition is very broad.

2. Technically, one is not liable for punishment for ever min ha-chai unless the animal from which the meat is taken is still living at the time the meat is consumed.

3. There a number of potential issues with commercially produced non-Kosher meat. These issues do not exist with meat slaughtered according to Torah law. For many reasons it is advisable, according to many, for Noahides to eat meat that is slaughtered by a Jew according to the laws of Jewish ritual slaughter law. Nevertheless, regular grocery store meat is permitted for Noahide consumption.

4. Noahides who observe the stringency of eating only meat slaughtered according to kosher practice may eat out at any restaurants as long as they do not eat the meat served there.

5. Milk and eggs are permitted for Noahide consumption even though there are theoretical reasons to consider them ever min ha-chai.


1 Maimonides, Hilchos Melachim 9:10.
2 This issue is debated in Chullin 102b. Tosafos rules like Rabbi Yehudah, that eating an entire living creature is not forbidden. Although Rashi disagrees, Maimonides upholds Tosafos. See Hilchos Maachalos Assuros 4:3.
3 Gen. 9:4.
4 Chullin 121b. Although this is the law, the Talmud’s exact reasoning behind the statement is a little unclear. According to many, it is a Rabbinic decree. Of course, this interpretation raises the debate as to if, how, and to what degree rabbinic decrees apply to Noahides. Others, however, take a much stricter approach. All, however, agree that the meat remain prohibited for all even after the animal has died.
5 See Hilchos Melachim 9:10 with the Kesef HaMishnah.
6 This is only in respect to ever min ha-chai. Practically, the animal remains prohibited for eating until it actually dies. See Yoreh Deah 27.
7 See Shulchan Aruch HaRav OC 329:3. At that point we assume that all motion and breath have stopped. If the animal has ceased moving and breathing, and has bled copiously, then we may assume that the heart has stopped.
8 Chullin 121b.
9 To Yoreh Deah 27.
10 See Chasam Sofer YD 339; Shu”t Igros Moshe YD II:146.
11 These methods do, however, mortally wound the animal. In such cases, the meat is forbidden, yet one does not incur capital liability for having eaten it. See Radvaz to Hilchos Melachim 9:13 and Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem IV:3:2, haarah 71.
12 This question, of safek issur by Noahides, is discussed at great length by the poskim. Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the issue. The problem depends on a number of unresolved questions. First – are Noahides obligated in Rabbinic laws? Second – Is the concept of safek d’oraisa lechumra (“biblical doubts are resolved stringently”) itself sourced in the Torah (like Rasbha, Chiddushim to Kiddushin 73a) or in rabbinic legislation (like Maimonides in Avos HaTumah 9:12). If it is a matter of Torah law, then Noahides must avoid even doubtful transgressions of the Noahide laws. However, if it is rabbinic, then everything depends on whether or not Noahides are bound by rabbinic laws. This is an extremely complicated question. See Toldos Noach I:18:45 for an extensive survey of the literature. Incidentally, it is possible to prove from the mitzvah of dinim (establishing courts) that Noahides are obligated in Rabbinic law. For the purpose of this course, we take the approach that Noahides are only obligated in the Rabbinic laws applying to mitzvos in Jews and Noahides have equal obligation and that have a logical application to both.
13 As with cases of doubt, the rule of majority also depends on how we understand many of the underlying mechanics.
14 Shu”t YD 19, at the very end.
15 According to the Chasam Sofer, the heter of linas laila and taam pagum does not apply to Noahides.
16 62:5.
17 Talmud Bechoros 6b to 7a and Tosafos Chullin 64a, d.h. Sheim rikmah.
18 This phrase appears in many verses in the Torah.
19 See Talmud ibid.; Rosh 1:5.
20 Deut. 22:6.
21 See Bechoros ibid.; Chullin 140a; Tos. Chullin 64a.
22 Practically speaking, nearly all poskim agree that milk and eggs are permitted for Noahide consumption. However, their reasons for permitting them are greatly varied and not at all simple.
23 YD 19.
24 Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in his HaElef Lecha Shlomo YD 322 brings a proof from Avraham, who served dairy to his guests.

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

Animals, be they insects, mammals, birds, or slugs, are man’s constant companions on this planet. They were created before man, yet are clearly subservient to him, as the Torah tells us:

The fear and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, every fowl of the air, and upon all that teems on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all.1

Despite the subservient position of animals, man’s relationship to them is not without boundaries. Man cannot do to them whatever he pleases. In this and the following lesson we will explore the Torah’s expectations for man’s relationship with his fellow creations.

The Source for Tzaar Baalei Chayim -The Prohibition of Causing Pain to Living Things

The Torah prohibits causing the suffering of any living creature without valid necessity (“valid necessity” will be defined later in this lesson). Though the Talmud2 states that this prohibition is biblical, there are varying traditions as to its exact source. For Noahides, making such a determination is important for knowing whether or not the law applies to them.

The Gedolim, great Torah scholars, have proposed a number of possible sources.

Ritva3 & Rabbeinu Peretz4 explains the prohibition as a Halacha le Moshe miSinai, a precept communicated directly by God to Moses without explicit textual source in the Torah.

However, it only tells us that Jews were commanded via Halacha le Moshe miSinai and implies nothing about Noahides.

Shita Mekubetzes & Raavad offer Deuteronomy 25:4 as a source for the prohibition against cruelty to animals:

You shall not muzzle an ox while he is treading out the grain.

Muzzling an ox during threshing, thus preventing it from feeding as necessary is cruel. This verse does not come to teach only this specific prohibition, but a broader prohibition against cruelty to animals.

However, this verse was only communicated to the Jews and not to Noahides.

According to Rashi5 the prohibition is from Exodus 23:5:

If you see your enemy's donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him.

Regardless of one’s relationship to the donkey’s owner, Rashi holds that one must relieve the donkey of its suffering. However, this verse, as Deuteronomy 25:4 above, was never commanded to Noahides. Therefore, it does not tell us anything about Noahide obligations.

Maimonides6 & Nachmanides7 write that an underlying purpose of the prohibition of ever min ha-chai (flesh taken from a living animal) is to prevent causing cruelty to animals. Such an interpretation means that the prohibition of causing suffering to animals is intrinsically part of the Noahide code. Maimonides further cites the incident of Balaam and his donkey as proof of the prohibition’s inclusion in the Noahide laws:

The she-donkey saw the angel of the Lord, and it crouched down under Balaam. Balaam's anger flared, and he beat the she-donkey with a stick. The Lord opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?" Balaam said to the she-donkey, "For you have humiliated me; if I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now." The she-donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your she-donkey on which you have ridden since you first started until now? Have I been accustomed to do this to you?" He said, "No." The Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a sword drawn in his hand. He bowed and prostrated himself on his face. The angel of the Lord said to him, "Why have you beaten your she-donkey these three times?8

The Sefer Chassidim9 also understands the story of Balaam as referring to the prohibition of tzaar baalei chaim. However, the Sefer Chassidim offers a fascinating insight into the mitzvah:

A person is punished for any actions that cause suffering to his fellow. This is even if one causes needless suffering to an animal; for example, if one places upon it a burden so heavy that it [the animal] cannot walk and he then hits it. In the future, such a person will have to give an accounting for this, for causing suffering to animals is a biblical prohibition. As it is written by Balaam: “Why did you strike your donkey?” As punishments often correspond to the crime, because Balaam said “If there was a sword in my hand I would kill you right now!” he was himself killed by the sword [see Joshua 13:22]. The warning is learned from the fact that Noahides were not commanded in “dominion.” Adam, who was not allowed to eat meat, was given dominion over the animals. However, Noah, who was given permission to eat meat, was not given dominion.

Elucidating the Sefer Chassidim

The Sefer Chassidim connects the prohibition against cruelty to animals to the permission given to Noah to eat meat and to the blessings given to Noah and Adam. At first glance, the Sefer Chassidim’s intent is a little unclear. Let us start by comparing the blessings given to Adam and to Noah:

And God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth.10

Compare the language of this blessing very carefully to that of the blessing given to Noah

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all that teems upon the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered.”11

The Midrash12 notes a significant change in language in these two passages:

Fear and dread returned [after the flood], but not dominion.

In the blessing to Adam, God granted man dominion over all other life on earth. God’s blessing to Noah is virtually identical, except that God did not grant Noah dominion. Rather, He only instilled the fear of man upon the other creatures of the world.

In God’s original vision of creation man was given the world for domination as a king rules over his dominion. In this state, Adam’s task was to preserve the order and well-being of the world created for him. His power over the lesser creatures was intrinsic: Adam was given dominion. It appears that as a king Adam was not permitted to eat meat – doing so would be to eat his own subjects!

However, this divine vision was corrupted beyond all measure:

And God saw the earth and, behold, it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.13

Man debased himself and lost his position as a ruler. In the blessing to Noah, we see that man’s inherent “dominion” was replaced with “fear and dread.”

As we see from the above-cited Midrash and its commentaries that before the flood man was feared because of his inherent dominion. After the flood God placed the fear-of-man upon the animals because man lost his dominion.
At this point man was, for lack of a better way of putting it, only “the top of the food chain” and not a ruler. Therefore, man could eat animals. However, unlike a ruler, man was not allowed to do with the animals as he saw fit.
Eating meat and the prohibition of causing suffering are both, therefore, signs of man’s debasement and lowered position following the flood.14

Are Noahides Prohibited from Causing Other Creatures Pain

If the source of tzaar baalei chaim is Halacha le-Moshe mi-Sinai (a command given directly to Moses) or from Deuteronomy 25:4 or Exodus 23:5, then it is clear that the prohibition does not apply to Noahides. This is because the verses cited, as well as halachos leMoshe miSinai, were not commanded to Noahides. The Aishel Avraham (Buczacz)15 and the Pri Megadim16 hold Bnei Noach are not obligated in tza’ar ba’alei chaim based upon these sources.

According to Maimonides and the Sefer Chassidim, however, Noahides are biblically enjoined against causing unnecessary suffering to other living beings.

Upon closer examination it appears these sources are not mutually exclusive. Although the Aishel Avraham and Pri Megadim hold that Noahides are not obligated in tzaar baalei chaim, this appears to only be in regard to the Torah verses related to the commandment; after all, these verses explicitly reference the Jewish Sinaitic obligation.

Nevertheless, the Aishel Avraham and Pri Megadim would certainly agree that, independent of the Torah verses, Noahides have an obligation to not cause harm to other creatures.

Admittedly, there are a number of subtle issues inherent in Maimonides’s and the Sefer Chassidim’s derivations (we will discuss these issues in the live class). Regardless of these issues, there are many other reasons to assume Noahides are prohibited from causing suffering to animals, namely on account of it being of the mitzvos ha-muskalos – the logically compelled mitzvos.17

In Practice

Because the prohibition may be biblical in nature (as opposed to being logically compelled) it is advisable that Noahides practice the obligations according to their full exposition in Torah law. The following is a compilation of the laws of tzaar baalei chaim:

To Which Animals Does it Apply?

1) The prohibition applies to all animals and, apparently, insects as well.18

When Does the Prohibition Not Apply?

2) Causing pain to animals is only restricted to unnecessary pain. Man was given the right to use animals for his needs (food, clothing, etc.)19 Discomfort that is necessary as part of such uses is not prohibited.20
3) The “need” must be genuine and tangible. For example, to force feed an animal so that its meat should look more appealing is not acceptable.21
4) Even when one is permitted to harm an animal for a valid need, he may not cause more suffering than is necessary.22
5) Medical experimentation on animals for the benefit of human health is permitted.23 In such cases, though it is praiseworthy to do so, there may not be any actual requirement to endeavor to lessen the suffering of the animals involved.24
6) Cosmetics testing on animals are permitted according to most poskim. Others have expressed reservations, however. This issue will be discussed more in the live class.
7) Castration or sterilization of an animal for the benefit of its owner is considered a valid need and is permitted.25
8) Similarly, declawing a cat is permitted under certain conditions.26 This will be discussed in the live class.
9) Human financial need is also a valid waiver for the prohibition of tzaar baalei chaim.27

Your Animal vs. That of Another

10) One may feed another animal to his dog or other pet. Since he owns the pet, he is responsible for its welfare. However, one should kill the food animal first as to minimize its suffering.28
11) One may not kill an animal to feed it to another’s dog or an ownerless animal.
12) One has an obligation to feed and care for his own animal. Denying the animal food or care is considered cruel. However, Noahides have no obligation to provide food for other animals. It is certainly praiseworthy to alleviate the hunger of a starving animal, though.

Relieving the Suffering of an Animal and Mercy Killing

13) One is only prohibited from causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. One has no obligation to alleviate an animal’s existing suffering.29
14) Euthanasia of suffering animals is a much discussed topic in Torah literature. It hinges on this question: is the act itself of killing an animal considered tzaar baalei chaim? Some hold that the act of killing is always tzaar balei chaim,30 while others hold that it is not.31 Furthermore, the act of ending the animal’s life must be viewed in terms of benefit-to-the-owner vs. benefit-to-the-animal. This issue must be determined on a case by case basis.

Dangerous Animals & Pests

15) Animals that pester, sting, or annoy humans may be killed even if they will suffer in the process. This includes insects, dangerous dogs,32 or other pests and vermin.
16) Nevertheless, it is better that they be killed in a passive manner (traps, etc.) so that a person does not become accustomed to killing and taking life.33

Labor Animals

17) Labor animals may be struck or prodded as minimally necessary to direct their labor. This is considered necessary for human benefit.


18) Hunting, unless an actual necessity for food or hide is considered a cruel endeavor and should not be done. The only people described as hunters in the Torah are cruel people such as Nimrod and Eisav.34
19) Capturing animals for human benefit is certainly permitted. Zoos, therefore, pose no issue as long as the animals are properly cared for.


1 Genesis 9:2-3.
2 Bava Metzia 32a to 32b.
3 To Bava Metzia ibid. D.H. Teida.
4 Bava Metzia ibid.
5 To Shabbos 128b.
6 Moreh Nevuchim III: 48.
7 To Genesis 1:28.
8 Numbers 22:27 to 32
9 666.
10 Genesis 1:28
11 Genesis 9:2.
12 Bereshis Rabbah 34:12.
13 Genesis 6:12.
14 This understanding of the Sefer Chassidim sits well. However, it is not 100% clear this is the intended understanding of the Sefer Chassidim. There are other possible explanations.
15 Magen Avraham 13 on Orach Chaim 305.
16 Mishbitzos Zahav, Orach Chaim 468:2.
17 For further perspectives see the Sefer Chareidim 14:1; Chiddushei Chasam Sofer to Bava Metzia 32; Matza Chein 54:11 to Toldos Noach 1:26.
18 Igros Moshe Choshen Mishpat II: 47. There is some disagreement in the poskim as to fish; see Siach Yitzchok 387
19 Sanhedrin 59b. See also Taz, Yoreh Deah 117:4.
20 See also Even HaEzer 5:14; Rama, Even HaEzer 5:19; Terumas HaDeshen 105.
21 Igros Moshe Even HaEzer IV: 92.
22 See the sources cited above.
23 Tzitz Eliezer, 14:68; Sridei Eish YD 91.
24 Shevus Yaakov III: 71 holds that because of the importance of medical testing for humans, the need to mitigate pain to the animal is not present.
25 Shabbos 110b.
26 This will be discussed more in the live lesson.
27 Avodah Zarah 13b.
28 Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 1:5 and commentaries there.
29 Although one may claim from Exodus 23:5 that there is such an obligation, this argument has already been rejected by most poskim. See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Ovrei Derakhim 3.
30 Shoel UMashiv Tinyana III: 5.
31 Nodah BiYehudah Tinyana YD 10; Yam Shel Shlomo to Bava Kamma 10:38; Taz, Yoreh Deah 116:6.
32 Taz, Yoreh Deah 116.
33 Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat II: 47.
34 Nodah BiYeshuda ibid.

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

Braisa, Sanhedrin 56b

A braisa in tractate Sanhedrin discusses the source of the Noahide mitzvah to not cross-breed animals or graft different species of trees:

The Rabbis taught in a braisa that seven commandments were given to the children of Noah: justice, not cursing the divine name, not committing idolatry, against acts of sexual immorality, against murder, against theft, and against eating a limb from a living animal.

Rabbi Chananya ben Gamla says: “Also against eating blood [taken from a live animal].1

Rabbi Chidka says: “Also against sterilization.2

Rabbi Shimon says: “Also against sorcery.” Rabbi Yossi says: “A Noahide is also warned against every act stated in the section on sorcery [Deut. 18:12]…”

Rabbi Eliezer says: “Noahides are also warned against Kilayim [prohibited mixtures of species]. Noahides are, however, permitted to wear [clothing made from mixtures of wool and flax]3 and to plant Kilayim [meaning to plant different plant species of vegetation in the same plot]. However, Noahides are prohibited from mating different species of animals and from grafting one species of tree onto another.

Talmud, Sanhedrin 60a

The Talmud then embarks on a lengthy, detailed examination of the Torah sources and allusions to each of the propositions brought in this braisa. On page 60a the Talmud turns its attention to Rabbi Eliezer:

From where is this derived [that Noahides may not cross-breed animals or graft different types of trees]?

Shmuel [offering an explanation of Rabbi Eliezer] says: “Because the verse states:4

My decrees you shall observe[: You shall not mate your animal with another kind; you shall not plant your field with diverse species, and a garment of mixed species shall not come upon you].’
‘You shall not mate your animal with another kind; you shall not plant your field with diverse species…’ Just as “your animal,” prohibits mating, “your field” prohibits grafting trees.

Sanhedrin 60a Elucidated

Let’s take a closer look at Sanhedrin 60a:

From where is this derived [that Noahides may not cross-breed animals or graft different types of trees]?

Shmuel [offering an explanation of Rabbi Eliezer] says: “Because the verse states:

My decrees you shall observe [: You shall not mate your animal with another kind; you shall not plant your field with diverse species, and a garment of mixed species shall not come upon you].’

Rashi explains My decrees you shall observe… is an unusual turn-of-phrase for the Torah. Normally, God issues his decrees without any introduction. So, whenever we see such a preface we must question its purpose. Here, it implies that these statutes were already known to man; God is only adjuring man to preserve them.5 Shmuel explains that these statutes are ancient Noahide prohibitions against cross-breeding species and grafting trees.

‘You shall not mate your animal with another kind; you shall not plant your field with diverse species…’ Just as “your animal,” prohibits mating, “your field” prohibits grafting trees.

Shmuel is telling us that the Hebrew expression You shall not plant your field with diverse species… refers specifically to grafting trees in one’s orchard and not to planting multiple species of plants in a single field. Rashi and Ritva6 explain that just as two animal species may not be joined by mating them, so too, two plant species may not be joined by mating/grafting them together.

What about the last part of the Lev. 19:19 prohibiting wearing “mixtures?” The Yad Ramah explains that the preface My Statutes… only comes to introduce the first two prohibitions (cross breeding animals and cross-grafting trees) and not to the third prohibition of wearing Kilayim (garments made of wool and linen). Therefore, Noahides may wear garments made of wool and linen, but Jews may not.

Where were Noahides Originally Commanded in These Mitzvos?

According to Shmuel’s interpretation of Rabbi Eliezer, the whole world was previously commanded against cross-breeding animals and cross-grafting trees. We know from Lev. 19:19’s preface My decrees you shall observe… that such a prior mitzvah existed. Is any evidence of such a Mitzvah found anywhere else in the Torah?

Yes, it is! See Genesis 1:11 to 12:

And God said, ‘The earth shall sprout forth vegetation, herbage that produces seed; Edible trees that produce fruit of their own species’ … And the earth produced vegetation, herbage that produces seed of its own species and trees that bear seed-bearing fruit of their own species.

We see here that even though all herbage produced “its own species,” only the trees were actually commanded to produce fruit identical to their own species. From here, we have learned that Adam was charged with keeping animal species separate as well. Therefore, the original Noahide laws appear to have included these prohibitions.7


Maimonides in Hilchos Melachim 10:6 include these prohibitions as part of the Noahide Laws:

§6 According to the Oral Tradition [meaning Halacha leMoshe miSinai], Noahides are forbidden to cross-breed animals and graft different species of trees together. However, they are not executed for violating this prohibition.

At first glance, things appear straight-forward. However, Maimonides’s words include a subtle difficulty. He writes According to the Oral Tradition…, not “According to Rabbi Eliezer or Shmuel.” This fact demonstrates that Maimonides does not hold of the Talmudic exposition of this commandment.

Explaining Maimonides

This difficulty is troubling for a number of reasons. Why does Maimonides not hold of Rabbi Eliezer/Shmuel’s explanation of the laws? From where does he know that there is such a Halacha if he does not hold of their derivation?

Many, many pages have been written exploring Maimonides’s learning of these prohibitions. This is a fascinating and advanced topic beyond the scope of this lesson. In short, there are many explanations and reactions to Maimonides. Some have even argued on Maimonides, rejecting entirely the existence of any Noahide prohibitions on cross-breeding plants or animals.8

An important aspect of this difficulty is that Rabbi Eliezer is a lone opinion. If Rabbi Eliezer is learning these prohibitions as direct, biblical prohibitions, then he is de facto arguing for an eighth Noahide law. This position would pit him against the majority of sages who only hold of seven. Therefore, the Halacha cannot be like Rabbi Eliezer/Shmuel.

On the other hand, Rabbi Eliezer’s proposition, unlike many others in the same braisa (i.e. against eating blood and sterilization), is not rejected by the Talmud. It is then possible that Maimonides understands Rabbi Eliezer/Shmuel as offering an asmachta, an allusion to these prohibitions, and not an actual source for these prohibitions. Since they are not explicitly commanded in the Torah, they are not independent Noahide laws, but rather subsumed within one of the larger categories.

The question then becomes: which of the larger categories includes these prohibitions? Rabbi Shmuel bar Chofni Gaon appears to place these prohibitions under the header of ever min ha-chai. However, The Rama MiFanu places them under the injunction against sexual immorality.9

Despite the dissenting arguments, most poskim agree with Maimonides that Noahides may not cross-breed animals or graft trees. However, the uncertainties work to create leniencies in certain situations.10

A Summary of the Laws of Cross Breeding Animals & Grafting Different Species of Trees

Determining Whether Two Species Are the Same or Different

1) Torah law differs from modern science in its methods for classifying and identifying species of plants and animals.

2) For example, many scientific taxonomists consider dogs, coyotes, and wolves to be of the same species. Halacha, however, does not.11 Therefore, one may not breed these animals to each other.

3) A very general rule is that halachic species determination follows the names of the items rather than their biological qualities. For example, even though a dog and a wolf may be biologically similar, one is called a dog and the other a wolf. They are, therefore, considered different species.

4) This rule of following the name is only a general guideline and certainly does not help us for determining leniencies. For example, some citrus fruits, even though they have different names, might be considered one species in Halacha.12

5) Anytime there is a doubt as to whether two animals or plants are considered the same species, a qualified rabbi should be consulted.

To What Does it Apply?

6) Broadly, this prohibition applies to all animals that mate via genital/cloacal coupling.13 This would include all mammals (both land and sea14), reptiles,15 most amphibians, and birds.16

7) This prohibition also applies to mating hybrid species with a pure species. For example: one may not mate a mule with a horse. The reason is that a hybrid species is considered a new species unto itself.

8) One may, however, mate two of the same hybrids provided that their mothers and fathers were, respectively, of the same species. For example: a mule whose mother is a donkey and father is a horse may mate with another mule whose mother is a donkey and father is a horse. However, a mule whose mother is a donkey and father is a horse may not mate with a mule whose mother is a horse and father is a donkey.17

9) It appears that this prohibition applies to mating animals of differing species even when they cannot produce viable offspring.18

10) One may not crossbreed his own animals, those of another, or those that are ownerless.19

How Does One Transgress Cross-Breeding Animals?

11) In order to transgress this mitzvah, one must directly cause the mating to occur by either placing the animals in the mating position or using means that will likely lead to mating.20

12) Merely placing animals in physical proximity, even though they may actually mate with each other, is not considered direct involvement and is permitted.21

13) However, one should avoid placing two animals of different species in physical proximity if it is almost certain that they will try to mate. For example, one should not place a male wolf in a pen with a female dog that is in heat. One should similarly avoid placing a horse in a pen with a mule if it is likely that they will mate.22

Artificial Insemination & Genetic Engineering

14) According to many poskim, artificial insemination of one species with the semen of another transgresses this prohibition.23 An animal produced by such procedures has the status of a new, hybridized species as mentioned above.

15) It is questionable whether genetic engineering involving the manipulation and splicing of genes on a molecular level is included in this prohibition. This is an exceedingly complicated question that continues to evolve alongside the science that drives it.

Hybrid Offspring

16) The hybrid offspring may be kept and maintained by its owner.

17) The animal is permitted or consumption.

18) All the laws of tzaar baalei chaim apply to this animal.

The Prohibition against Grafting Different Species of Trees

What is Called “Tree,” “Vine,” and “Fruit?24

19) Any perennial plant with a trunk (or a structure resembling a trunk) is called a “tree” for the sake of this prohibition. Therefore, Grapes, Peaches, apples, blackberries, bananas, etc. are all called trees.

20) This prohibition also applies to combinations of trees and fruit bearing vines. A “vine” is a plant that produces leaves and fruit yet does not possess a trunk. It doesn’t matter whether or not the vine is perennial. This would include many species we consider vegetables such as tomatoes, gourds, cucumbers, etc.

21) A “fruit” is anything the fruit or vine yields that may be used as sustenance for living creatures. Therefore, a tree or vine producing fruit that only animals eat (i.e. a Bois d’Arc tree) is included in this prohibition. However, trees that produce spices (cinnamon, for example) are not included.

To Which Combinations Does this Prohibition Apply?25

22) The prohibition of grafting different species only applies to the following combinations:

          a. A fruit tree grafted to a different species of fruit tree.

          b. A fruit tree grafted to a species of fruit bearing vine.

          c. A fruit bearing vine grafted to a species of fruit bearing tree.

23) One may graft a fruit-bearing species of tree or vine to a non-fruit-bearing species of tree or vine. One may also graft two different species of fruit-bearing vines to one another.26

24) The prohibition of grafting only applies to the parts of the plants or vines that are above ground. It does not apply to roots.

If One Grafts a Tree or Discovers a Grafted Tree on His Property

25) When one buys property, he should examine the fruit trees and vines therein to ensure that none of them are grafted. Many species of trees are commonly grafted even when still in the nursery. For example, peach trees are almost always grafted onto almond stalks. Nectarines are commonly grafted onto peach or plum stalks. We will talk about the practicalities of this in the live class.

26) If one finds a grafted tree or vine on his property, its law depends on whether or not the graft has yet fused. If the graft has fused, then one may keep the tree. However, the tree should not be watered, pruned, or maintained for its own benefit (we will discuss this more in the live lesson). Doing so is considered as contributing to the grafting process.

27) If the graft has not yet fused, then the graft must be taken apart even if this will cause the death of the plant.27

28) Before the graft has fused it is also prohibited to uproot and replant the tree elsewhere. Once the graft has fused, the tree may be replanted.

The Fruit & Branches of a Hybrid Tree

29) The fruit of a grafted tree or vine/tree combination may be eaten.28

30) The branches of a hybrid tree may be cut and replanted. They are not themselves considered grafted entities. Rather, they are only the hybrid produce of such a graft.

31) A branch from a grafted tree is, like a hybrid animal, considered a new species and may not be grafted to either of its parent species. It may, however, be grafted to another identical hybrid.


1 The Talmud later rejects this proposition.
2 Most later authorities understand the Talmud as rejecting this proposition.
3 Compare to Leviticus 19:19 and Deut. 22:10-11 that record a Jewish prohibition against doing so.
4 Lev. 19:19.
5 The Talmud, Sanhedrin ibid. points out other instances of non-Noahide commandments being prefaced with similar language; see Lev. 18:5, for example. However, these instances do not imply earlier Noahide obligations. These passages use different word order and terminology than the verse at hand.
6 To Kiddushin 39a.
7 Yerushalmi, Kilayim 1:7; See Gra to Yoreh Deah 295:2.
8 Ritva, Kiddushin 39a D.H. Amar Rabbi Yochanan; Shach, Yoreh Deah 297:3.
9 These classifications of the Noahide laws were discussed in an earlier lesson.
10 See Chazon Ish, Kilayim 1:1.
11 See Mishnah, Kilayim 1:6.
12 See Chazon Ish, Kilayim 3:7.
13 In many species of insects and aquatic animals the female will deposit her eggs and the male will fertilize them later. The entire process takes place without any contact between the animals. See Tosafos, Bava Kama 55a discussing fish.
14 Tur 297 with commentary of the Prisha.
15 Chullin 127a.
16 Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 297.
17 Shulchan Aruch, Ibid.
18 Chasam Sofer to Yoreh Deah 297.
Maimonides, Hilchos Kilayim 9:1.
20 Biur HaGra to Yoreh Deah 297.
21 Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah ibid.
22 This is a dispute among the authorities. Although it seems fundamentally permitted too merely place them in the same enclosure, this should be avoided if possible.
23 Minchas Shlomo III: 98. The Ramban to Lev. 19:19 understands that purpose of the mitzvah is to keep the various species distinct.
24 Except where otherwise noted, this section is based on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 202 & 203; Chasam Sofer to Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 287; Talmud Yerushalmi, Kilayim; Maimonides, Hilchos Kilayim 5.
25 Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 295, and commentaries there.
The Prohibition against Grafting Different Species of Trees
26 This is permitted for Noahides, but not for Jews.
27 Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 295. The Sefer Sheva Mitzvos HaShem applies this ruling to Noahides. However, it is possible that Noahides may have leniencies not afforded to Jews in such a situation.
28 Maimonides, Kilayim 1:7 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah ibid