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Noachide Laws

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From the Encyclopaedia Judaica 12:1187

The seven Laws considered by rabbinic tradition as the minimal moral duties by the Bible on all men (Sanh. 50-60; Yad, Melakhim, 8:10, 10:12).
Jews are obligated to observe the whole Torah, while every non-Jew is “
a son of the covenant of Noah” and he accepts it’s obligations is a ger toshav Lit. ” proselyte settler” i.e., a Gentile who renounces idolatry to become a settler in Palestine. (“resident – stranger” or even “semi- convert”; see Av. Zar 64b Maim. Yad, Melakhim 8:10) Maimonides equates the “righteous man (Hasid) of the (gentile) nations” who has a share in the world to come even without becoming a Jew with the gentile who keeps these laws. Such a man is entitled to full material support from the Jewish community (see ET, 6 (1957), Col 289 s.v. ger toshav Lit. ” proselyte settler” i.e., a Gentile who renounces idolatry to become a settler in Palestine. and the highest earthly honors (Sefer Hasidim (1957), 338).
The Seven Noachide laws as traditionally enumerated are:

  • the prohibitions of idolatry

  • blasphemy

  • bloodshed

  • sexual sins

  • thief

  • eating from a living animal

as well as the injunction to establish a legal system (Tosef., Av. Zar. 8:4 Sanh. 56a).
Except for the last, all are negative, and the last itself is usually interpreted as commanding the enforcement of the others (Maim. Yad, Melakhim, 9:1)
They are Derived exegetically from divine demands addressed to Adam
(Gen. 2:16) and Noah (see Gen. R. 34; Sanh. 59b) i.e. the progenitors of all mankind, and are thus regarded as universal.
The Prohibition of idolatry provides that to ensure social stability and personal salvation, the non- Jews do not have to “know God” but must abjure false gods. (Meg. 13a, Kid. 40a; Maim. Yad, Melakhim 10:2ff).
This law refers only to actual idolatrous acts, and not to theoretical principles and and unlike Jews, Nochides are not required to suffer martyrdom rather than break this law (Sanh. 74a; TTJ, Shev. 4:2) They are however, required to choose martyrdom rather than shed human blood (Per.25b and Rash.).
In view of strict monotheism of Islam, Muslims were considered as Noachides (cf. ET, loc. cit., col 291, n.17), whereas the status of Christians was a matter of debate. Since the late Middle Ages, however, Christianity too has come to be regarded as Noachide, however, Christianity to has come to be regarded as Noachide, on the grounds that shittuf (“associationism” – this was the Jewish interoperation of Trinitarianism is not forbidden to non-Jews (see YD 151).
Under the prohibition of blasphemy, murder, and thief Noachide are subject to greater legal restrictions than Jews because non-Jewish society is held to be more prone to these sins (Rashi to Sanh. 57a). The prohibition of thief covers many types of acts.g. military conquest (ibid., 59a) and dishonesty in economic life (ibid., 57a; Yad, Melakhim, 9:9).

From the Encyclopaedia Judaica 12:1189

A number of other Noachide prestcriptions are listed in the sources ( see Sanh. 57b; Mid. PS 21; Yad Melakhim, 10:6) eg prohibition of sorcery, castration, mixed seeds, blemished scacrfices, injuctions to practice charity, procreate, and to honor the Torah (Hul. 92a). These are best understood as the subheadingds of “the seven laws”. Noachides may also freely choose to practice certain other Jewish commandments (Yad, Melakhim, 10:9-10). Jews are obligated to try to establish the Noachide code wherever they can (ibid., 8:10). Maimonides held that Noachides must not only accept “the seven laws” on their own merit, but they mustaccept them as divinely revealed. This followsfrom the thesis that all ethics are not ultimately “natural”, but require a theological framework (see Schwarzschild, in JQR, 52 (1962), 302; Fauer, in: Tarbiz 38 (1968), 43-53). The Noachide covenment plays an important part in both jewish history and Historiography.

From the Encyclopaedia Judaica 12:1190

Modern Jewish thinkers like Moses Mendelssohn and Hermawn Cohen emphasized the Noachide Conception as the common rational, ethical ground of Isreal and mankind (see H. Cohen, Religion der Vernunft (1929) 135-48, 381-8), and see Noahas the symbol of the unity and perpetuity of mankind (ibid.,293).

Views differ as to whether the ultimate stage of humanity will comprise both of Judaism and Noachidism, or whether Noachidism is only the level before the universalization of all the Torah (see TJ, Ar. Zar. 2:1). Aime Palliere, at the suggestion of his teacher Rabbi E. Benamozegh, adopted the Noachide Laws and never formally converted to Judaism.


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