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Question 12.19:
What does Judaism say about non-Jews and their role? What does G-d demands of gentiles to get to Olam Ha'aba ["The World-to-come"]? What are the Noachide laws?


Traditionally, the Noachide Laws (see below) have defined righteousness for non-Jews.

Background Information

The Rabbis in Tractate Sanhedrin [57a] [derive from the Torah] the six broad categories of laws that G-d forbids all of humanity:

  1. Killing
  2. Stealing
  3. Committing Sexual Immorality
  4. Eating the flesh of a living animal
  5. Serving idols
  6. Blaspheming against G-d

They also derived one positive category of laws:

  1. Establishing a system of legal justice

This gives rise to the common expression of "seven" laws. According to the standard computation, these break down into 66 laws that non-Jews are obligated to observe. According to the Rambam, in order to merit the World to Come, non-Jews must observe these obligations specifically because they were commanded by G-d through the Torah (see Genesis 9). [References: R' Shlomo Riskin, R' Nathan Cardozo Torah, Masorah, and Man, and Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 8:11]

Must one comply with these laws? In Judaism, there is the notion of someone who is ketinok shenishba — like a child who was taken captive and raised by highway robbers. Such a child couldn't be held accountable for growing up to be a criminal. As a general principle, a child raised in a home where some sin was considered normal and accepted behavior isn't held accountable by G-d, the One Who put him in that home for following along. Basically, G-d judges people by taking into account what He gave that person to work with. If it was harder for that person to realize that some behavior is wrong, then G-d will take that into account and judge accordingly.

There is a relatively well-known story about R' Zushya, an early Chassidic master. He was on his deathbed, and a number of students were there to share with R' Zushye his final moments. R' Zushya let them know that he was scared, afraid of G-d's final justice. "I am not afraid that G-d will ask me, 'Zushya, why weren't you like Abraham?' 'Zushya, why weren't you a Moses?' I can answer Him, 'But you didn't make me with the abilities of an Abraham or Moses.' But what if G-d asks, 'Zushya, why weren't you a Zushya?' What can I answer?"

However, there are movements that encourage the following of the Noachide Laws. A common question on s.c.j is "What are these laws?". The following is a condensed version of a summary of the laws and categories put together by Shlomoh Sherman and posted by Moshe Shulman:

The Seven Noachide Categories

  1. Murder is forbidden: The life of a human being, formed in G-d's image, is sacred.

  2. Theft is forbidden. The world is not ours to do with as we please.

  3. Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden. Human beings are not sexual objects, nor is pleasure the ultimate goal of life.

  4. Eating the flesh of a living animal is forbidden. This teaches us to be sensitive to cruelty to animals. (This was commanded to Noah for the first time along with the permission of eating meat. The negative laws were enforced at the Garden of Eden.)

  5. Idolatry is forbidden: Man is commanded to believe in the One G-d alone and worship only G-d.

  6. Cursing the name of G-d is forbidden. Besides honoring and respecting G-d, we learn from this precept that our speech must be sanctified, as that is the distinctive sign that separated man from the animals.

  7. Mankind is commanded to establish courts of justice and a just social order. This is in order to enforce the first six laws and enact any other useful laws or customs.

Specific References

These categories are felt to be implicit in G-d's commandment to Adam and Eve in Genesis (Bereshis) 2:16-17:

  1. The following verse is a reference to the prohibition against murder. G-d explicitly commands Noah (Genesis 9:6), "If one sheds the blood of the man (HaAdam), by man shall his own blood be shed."

  2. The following is an implicit reference to the prohibition against theft. It shows that permission is needed to take something that is not explicitly yours. "You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another" (Leviticus 19:11).

  3. The below verse refers to sexual misconduct or adultery, as the prophet Jeremiah (3:1) says, "Saying (laymor), if a man divorces his wife..."

  4. The following verse implies that there are things which may not be eaten (the limbs of a live animal): "You must not, however, eat flesh with its life- blood in it." (Genesis 9:4)

  5. The following verse is a reference to the prohibition against idolatry; for it says in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods before me."

  6. The following verse implies the prohibition against blasphemy. As it says in Leviticus 24:16, "He who blasphemes the name of the Lord (Hashem) shall die."

  7. What follows is a reference to laws of justice for it says in Genesis 18:19, "For I have known him so he will command (Yitzaveh) his children after him to keep the way of the Lord and righteousness and justice."

Seven Turns Into Sixty-Six

From this are derived the following 67 laws:

  1. MURDER: (1) against anyone murdering anyone.

  2. THEFT: (1) against stealing; (2) against committing robbery (3) against shifting a landmark; (4) against cheating; (5) against repudiating a claim of money owed; (6) against overcharging; (7) against coveting; (8) against desiring; (9) a laborer shall be allowed to eat of the fruits among which he works (under certain conditions); (10) against a laborer eating of such fruit (when certain conditions are not met); (11) against a laborer taking of such fruit home; (12) against kidnapping; (13) against the use of false weights and measures; (14) against the possession of false weights and measures; (15) that one shall be exact in the use of weights and measures; and (16) that the robber shall return (or pay for) the stolen object.

  3. ILLICIT INTERCOURSE: (1) against (a man) having union with his mother; (2) against (a man) having union with his sister; (3) against (a man) having union with the wife of his father; (4) against (a man) having union with another man's wife; (5) against (a man) copulating with a beast; (6) against a woman copulating with a beast; (7) against (a man) lying carnally with a male; (8) against (a man) lying carnally with his father; (9) against (a man) lying carnally with his father's brother; and (10) against engaging in erotic conduct that may lead to a prohibited union.

    [Note: There is some dispute as to what the correct wording it for (8) and (9), as it seems to be covered by (7). If the text is based on Lev. 18:8, the standard prohibition derived therefrom is covered in (3). Note that this is in the context of noachide prohibitions.]

  4. LIMB OF A LIVING CREATURE: (1) against eating a limb severed from a living animal, beast, or fowl; and (2) against eating the flesh of any animal which was torn by a wild beast ... which, in part, prohibits the eating of such flesh as was torn off an animal while it was still alive.

  5. IDOLATRY: (1) against entertaining the thought that there exists a deity except the Lord; (2) against making any graven image (and against having anyone else make one for us); (3) against making idols for use by others; (4) against making any forbidden statues (even when they are for ornamental purposes); (5) against bowing to any idol (and not to sacrifice nor to pour libation nor to burn incense before any idol, even where it is not the customary manner of worship to the particular idol); (6) against worshipping idols in any of their customary manners of worship; (7) against causing our children to pass (through the fire) in the worship of Molech [Molech was the fire god of the Ammonites and Phoenicians to whom parents sacrificed their children]; (8) against practicing Ov; (9) against the practice of Yiddoni [Sorceror, Soothsayer, Magician]; and (10) against turning to idolatry (in word, in thought, in deed, or by any observance that may draw us to its worship).

    [Editors Note: We need a translation/meaning for Ov.]

  6. BLASPHEMY: (1) to acknowledge the presence of G-d; (2) to fear G-d; (3) to pray to G-d; (4) to sanctify G-d's name (in face of death, where appropriate); (5) against desecrating G-d's name (even in face of death, when appropriate); (6) to study the Torah; (7) to honor the scholars, and to revere one's teacher; and (8) against blaspheming.

  7. JUSTICE: (1) to appoint judges and officers in each and every community; (2) to treat the litigants equally before the law; (3) to inquire diligently into the testimony of a witness; (4) against the wanton miscarriage of justice by the court; (5) against the judge accepting a bribe or gift from a litigant; (6) against the judge showing marks of honor to but one litigant; (7) against the judge acting in fear of a litigant's threats; (8) against the judge, out of compassion, favoring a poor litigant; (9) against the judge discriminating against the litigant because he is a sinner; (10) against the judge, out of softness, putting aside the penalty of a mauler or killer; (11) against the judge discriminating against a stranger or an orphan; (12) against the judge hearing one litigant in the absence of the other; (13) against appointing a judge who lacks knowledge of the Law; (14) against the court killing an innocent man; (15) against incrimination by circumstantial evidence; (16) against punishing for a crime committed under duress; (17) that the court is to administer the death penalty by the sword; (18) against anyone taking the law into his own hands to kill the perpetrator of a capital crime (this point is disagreed upon by different writers: "The Noahites are not restricted in this way but may judge singly and at once."); (19) to testify in court; and (20) against testifying falsely.


The term "Noachide" describes groups, generally founded by rabbis, for the purpose of making non-Jews aware of their obligations according to Torah. These groups observe the commandments in the seven categories, and do not follow the tenets of non-Jewish religions.

The following locations include B'nai Noach Groups or Organizations (United States):

There is also a noachide site at You can also contact the United Noahide Academies project at or by mail to

The following is a list of books pertaining specifically to B'nai Noach. Unless otherwise indicated, books should be available through major online retailers.:

  1. Benamozegh, Elijah; Luria, Maxwell (Translator). Israel and Humanity (Classics of Western Spirituality). Paulist Press; 1995. Paperback ISBN 0-809135-41-8.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  2. Bindman, Yirmeyahu. (The) Seven Colors of the Rainbow: Torah Ethics for Non-Jews. Resource Publications; 1995. Paperback. ISBN 0-893903-32-9.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  3. Clorfene, Chaim and Yaakov Rogalsky. The Path of the Righteous Gentile. Smithfield, MI: Targum Press, 1987
    [Buy at Amazon:] (Special Order)

  4. Davis, J. David. Finding the God of Noah: The Spiritual Journey of a Baptist Minister from Christianity to the Laws of Noah. Ktav Publishing House; 1996. Hardcover ISBN 0-881255-35-1.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  5. Friedman, Manis. Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore? Bais Chana Press. Paperback ISBN 1-578870-00-3.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  6. Gallin, Aryeh. The Root and Branch Noachide Guide. Root and Branch Association, Ltd. 504 Grand Street, #E51, New York, NY 10002-4101.

  7. Hanke, Kimberly E. Turning to Torah: The Emerging Noachide Movement Jason Aronson Publishing House (230 Livingston Street, Northvale, New Jersey 07647) and Number Seven Spectrum House (32-34 Gordon House Road London, NW5 1LP England). 1995. 250 pp. ISBN: 1-568215-00-2. [One woman's path from Christianity to "Messianic" Christianity, and finally to Torah since 1988. At one point, she considers conversion to Judaism, and then learns of the Noachide Covenant, through several Jewish individuals. She then was enlightened into the writings of J. David Davis.]
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  8. Kaplan, Jeffrey. Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah. Syracuse Univ Pr (Trade); 1997. Paperback ISBN 0-815603-96-7.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  9. Lichtenstein, Aaron. The Seven Laws of Noah. The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, New York. 1981. Website: [The most technical book on Noahism. It is probably not intended to be an introduction to the Noahide system, but rather a detailed scholarly analysis for those who have been Noahides for a long time or for Jewish scholars of Noahism.]

  10. Madden, Ralph. Israel: The Abiding Kingdom. Available at

  11. Novak, David. (The) Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism: A Constructive Study of the Noahide Laws. Edwin Mellen Press; 1983. Hardcover ISBN 0-889467-59-5.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  12. Pallière, Aimé. The Unknown Sanctuary: A Pilgrimage from Rome to Israel. Bloch Pub Co; 1986. Paperback ISBN 0-819704-98-9.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

  13. Schonfeld, S. Universal Bible To All Nations: Torat B'nai Noach (Teachings for Sons of Noah) Website:

  14. Sears, David. Compassion For Humanity In the Jewish Tradition. Jason Aronson; 1998. Hardcover. ISBN 0-765799-87-1.
    [Buy at Amazon:]

Discussion Lists

  1. Yahoo Groups: Noachide. This is a forum where B'nai Noach and Jews can discuss topics specifically pertaining to issues. Noahides are gentiles (non-Jews) who seek to engage the entire world in observance of the sheva mitzvot (Seven Laws of Noah). This set of laws was officially recognized in legislation by the Congress and the President of the United States (then, George H.B. Bush). Moreover, they are discussed in Genesis 9 of the Bible. Visit for more information.
  2. Yahoo Groups: B'nai Noach. The B'nai Noach List is sponsered by the web site. This list has been in operation for over 3 years as of Sept. 98. This list is a General discussion list for B'nai Noach the Children of Noah, Those Non Jews who have left their native religion and now follow only the G-d of the Jews, Israel and Torah. True B'nai Noach have no other gods and support Judaism, Israel, and Torah. They reconigze the validity of Torah, and the Oral Law. For more information, visit

  3. B'nai Noach Discussion Forum:

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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