Righteous Gentiles

Righteous Gentiles

The following is an except from a letter I received from a gentleman in Canada.

“What is a Noachide allowed to study? I have heard about three answers to this question. I have read the greater part of the book ‘The Path of the Righteous Gentile,’ in which the author states that a Noachide is allowed to study all of the Written Torah but only parts of the Oral Torah. Apparently this views states that only those sections that deal directly to the seven Noachide laws are permitted for study. Halachah would then be off limits.

“The second view I have heard is that Noachides are only to study the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Anything after that is given specifically for the Jewish people.

“The third view is that Noachides are allowed to study all materials that are available to Jews. The only difference being that a Noachide may not study anything ‘simply for it’s own sake.’

“If I were allowed to have a preference I would vote for the third view. However, I suspect that view number one is the correct one. I could provide you with links to where I found these various views stated on the Internet.

“I have been in contact with an Orthodox Rabbi who stated that view number one is correct but was unable (though not unwilling) to specify which parts of the Written and Oral Torah were approved for study by a Noachide.

“Another question. In what areas or ways in Conservative Judaism deficient? My understanding is that the Conservative movement sees the Oral Laws as being dynamic and not static. The Conservatives seem to believe that the Oral Law is more of a guideline than a law per se. Is it lawful for a Noachide to attend a service at a Conservative synagogue?

“Anyway, I will stop with these few. In the future I would like to move on a gaining a clearer understanding of a few texts from the Written Torah, especially those that are most relevant to dealing with Xtianity.”

I am presenting this letter for comments from visitors to the blog. I would like opinions, preferably with sources, regarding the limitations that apply here. But more important, I would like to know what our obligation is to people like this. Is a simple answer sufficient or should I reach out to him as I would to a Jewish corespondent? What are, or should be, our attitudes to the gentiles in general and to the Noachides, meaning those that seek to fulfill the Sheva Mitzvos, in particular?

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9 comments to Righteous Gentiles

  • Zev

    There are several Noahide communities in the US. I remember reading in an article (and later confirming) that one of them would bring their sha’alos in hilchos b’nei Noach to R’ Yaakov Weinberg z”l.

  • Gil

    The Maharatz Chajes to Sotah 35b writes that a Jew may teach Tanach to a gentile. The Netziv (Meshiv Davar, Yoreh Deah 77) and R. Yehudah Assad (Yehudah Ya’aleh, Orah Hayim 4) rule similarly. This might have been the Rambam’s intention in Responsa Pe’er Ha-Dor 50. But my impression is that the majority of posekim disagree with this view and I was told not to follow it.

    For a full discussion, see R. Ovadiah Yosef’s Yabia Omer, vol. 2 Yoreh Deah 17 and and his son’s footnotes to Pe’er Ha-Dor.

  • J. L. Joseph

    Rav Yoel Schwartz with Rav Yechiel Sitzman (Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalayim) give advice and opinions concerning the Noachide laws frequently, notably on the Yahaoo group:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NoachideChassid/

    One Chabad site has specific recommendations for b’nai Noach learning:

    http://www.askmoses.com/qa_detail.html?o=409

    When ‘Noahides’ are told to find for themselves a single rabbinic authority and follow his instructions, they are frequently unhappy and avoid doing so.

    As for Jewish obligations, two handy articles on the web by R. Michael J. Broyde are:

    http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html

    http://www.jlaw.com/LawPolicy/MITTLEMA.pdf

  • YU Educated

    The Rav ZT”L originally gave the lecture for the Lonely Man of Faith in a Catholic Seminary in Brighton Mass. As can be seen in the article-the Torah Shebeal Peh is in the footnotes-which obviously were not spoken to the Seminary. Interesting vignette to at least how one Gadol acted.

  • Toby Katz

    AFAIK the halachic questions have to do with how much a Jew is allowed to teach a Noahide, not what a Noahide is allowed to study on his own. I don’t think he is forbidden to read any book that is available in English.

    As for the specific question of his entering a Conservative temple to pray, IMO
    that is not much better than a church because he will be taught a false understanding
    of Torah there, which is worse than if he had not studied Torah at all.

  • othello

    1) I’d think that the appropriate thing to do is to be helpful as possible, given the potential for chilul hashem if one is not.
    2) With no disrespect intended, I think the odds of said gentleman finding his email posted here is relatively high. I’m a little nonplussed at discovering bloggers here posting emails – minus names, true, although last time around the post had other identifiers. This is the web; folks will find what they thought to be a private email on a public site. Unless there was permission to post, it seems unwise to do so.

  • J. L. Joseph

    It should be pointed out the R. J. David Bleich also takes somewhat of an interest in the halachot of teaching Torah to non-Jews, especially via “Contemporary Halakhic Problems”.

  • Yaakov Rosenblatt

    I have recently began teaching a Bnei Noach group in Texas and every one of these issues has come up. Thanks for bringing it up on cross-currents and uncovering resources for us. I recently asked a Rav about tefillos (prayers). He told me that they can use our Tefillos – even saying “Elokei (God of) Avraham Yitzchak V’Yaakov” – but must remove refrences like “elokei avoseinu” (God of our fathers). The former merely identifies God they are praying to as the Unity defined by yiddishkeit.

  • Readers here would do well to realise that when a non-Jew says “study”, the non-Jew means just that — not “learn in ‘havruta” or “be taught by a rav”, as Jews often mean. “Study” usually denotes individual academic enquiry. Hence Toby Katz asks the real question for us in comment #5. But that was not the question asked by the Canadian fellow.

    Before my geirut I was told by a rabbi that I was welcome to attend shiurim, but that I should make sure that whoever was counting guys for minyan did not include me. That was perhaps not the final psak din, but that was my modus operandi until I stepped into the (Orthodox) mikveh seven years later. I was essentially self-taught at that point, and had had quite few restrictions placed upon me. (An example was that I was not allowed to put on tefillin until a few days before the geirut. But then, I had asked permission.) I could walk into my university library at any time and read the Soncino Talmud.

    A similar question arises about a non-Jew being shomer Shabbat. It is common knowledge that a non-Jew “must” me’hallel Shabbat somehow (and there are various shitot that make it easy), and some may even know that a non-Jew who keeps Shabbat 100% is ‘hayav mita. Needless to say that death penalty is not enforced. Likewise here I find it spurious to talk about what a non-Jew is “allowed” or “not allowed” to do.

    (PS to othello: Why do you assume that YY Reinman did not have permission to post the letter? Or is this a general rant?)