the limited scope of this paper we could not conduct a detailed analysis of all
the halachic concepts contained in Jewish literature regarding the different
issues raised here. Nevertheless, we have tried to select and present to the
reader a more or less complete set of authoritative views (in their original
textual form) on each specific issue. It is important to stress that the views
in question were culled from key written works by leading Jewish lawgivers or
from major (collective) Jewish religious sources, above all the Talmud. In some
instances we also cite particularly relevant views expressed by contemporary
authorities. We have summed up these pronouncements and formulated our summary
in a simple yet compelling fashion. To be sure, this summary does not reflect
every nuance of the complex issues dealt with in the original sources; it does,
however, give an unambiguous outline of the existing range of views and
practical imperatives created by classical Orthodox Judaism.
this context, we are obliged to touch, at least in passing, upon the crucial
issue of terminology. Halachic literature uses a wide assortment of different
terms to denote "gentiles." To an extent, this variety has a historical character,
owing to the fact that Jewish religious literature was created over a lengthy
period of time. However, the main reason for this terminological diversity was
the natural semantic tendency to classify gentiles (based on one principle or
another) in the context of issues and concepts relevant at the time. For
example, the word (goy) is usually translated as "gentile"; (ben Noach) as a descendant of Noah, i.e.
a member of mankind; (kna'ani) as Canaanite, i.e. a member of
one of the nations which inhabited Canaan prior to the arrival of the
Israelites; (kuti) usually as one belonging to the
heretical Samaritan minority, or simply a "heretic"; (oved avodah zarah) or (akum, an acronym of oved kochavim
umazalot, i.e. "one who worships stars and constellations") as "idolater"; (nochri) as "stranger," "alien"; (ger toshav) as "a stranger who
permanently resides among Jews." Some of these terms are random and
interchangeable; on the whole, however, they retain their distinct halachic
meaning and are used accordingly in various contexts.
problem of terminology is complicated even more by the censorship (either
external, gentile, or internal, Jewish) that was often applied to Jewish texts,
replacing the original terms with others considered less offensive in a given
period or location. In most cases, the original term can be clearly inferred
from the context. Frequently, however, it is impossible to determine with
sufficient certainty whether the term before us is the original or one which
has been replaced due to censorship. As a result, we cannot be sure which
category of gentiles is covered by the law in question: the one specified by
the censored text or a different (usually wider) group defined by some other
term which had been in the original text. Therefore researchers of Jewish religious
law are constrained to search out the original, uncensored sources for this
purpose. Fortunately, it is relatively easy today: most classical Jewish works
have been reconstructed and published in their original version, based on
ancient manuscripts and early printed editions.
of the texts used in our research were taken from the Bar-Ilan Responsa CD
version 9 and DBS CD version 9. However, we discovered (somewhat to our
surprise) that the use of these versions did not solve the problem entirely:
the CD texts of the Mishnah, Talmud, Maimonides' Mishneh-Torah, the Tur, and
the Shulchan Aruch contained numerous traces of censored passages. As a result,
we had to meticulously compare these texts with the existing uncensored
versions, and to correct them whenever necessary. Our corrections were based on
the following editions (unless explicitly noted otherwise in the quoted
Babylonian Talmud (inc. the Rashi and Tosafot commentaries) --
mostly based on the Steinzaltz edition; treatises which are not included in the
Steinzaltz edition are based on the original printed version of the Talmud
we revised the available standard text by removing the censored corrections,
the following signs were used: the original uncensored text was placed in
square brackets ([original text]), while the text following censoring
(to be omitted) was enclosed in carats (<censored
finding the correct (original) term is the first and easiest part in the task
of interpreting the text. The real difficulty lays in determining the exact
meaning of a given term in each book, each specific case, each new context. The
problem is that identical terms are used in different texts (or even in
different opinions brought in the same text). The most common instance is the
word goy, which refers in some cases to all gentiles and only to
idolatrous gentiles in others.
some instances, the differences in meaning are more subtle. Even when the basic
meaning of a term is fairly clear, there may be uncertainty as to what
precisely makes a gentile fall into a particular category. For example, a ger
toshav (the closest a gentile can come to the status of a Jew without
actual conversion) is a gentile who fulfills the seven Noachide commandments.
However, there are endless discussions in Jewish literature as to the precise
meaning of this definition. There are divergent opinions regarding the
following questions: when a gentile wishes to become a ger toshav, must
he make a formal court declaration of his intention to fulfill the Noachide
commandments, or is it enough to observe them in practice? Does he have to
observe these commandments out of his belief in Judaism, or is it sufficient
that he practices them as ethical standards?
sources exhibit a wide divergence of opinions concerning these issues. On the one
hand, some authorities believe that today no gentile can become a ger toshav
even in theory, since this status is applicable only when the laws and
commandments related to the notion of yovel ("the fiftieth year," when, for
example, land sold by Jews reverts to its former owners) are in force.
According to this opinion, even a gentile who observes the seven Noachide
commandments out of his belief in Judaism is not eligible for the status of ger
toshav today. On the opposite extreme, there is the view that any gentile
who professes a monotheistic religion, including Christianity, can be
considered as ger toshav even today.
be sure, there is no shortage of intermediate views. For example, a number of
authorities believe that the prestigious status of ger toshav may be
conferred only on genuine monotheists like the Moslems, but certainly not on
Christians. However, there is more. Some of those who hold the latter view
assert that the Moslems at least, being genuine monotheists, are entitled to
the full status of ger toshav, with all the rights and privileges
implied therein; others claim that a Moslem is only partially entitled to the
status of ger toshav, applicable only in the context of certain halachic
rules but not in general.
short, the issues we have raised are highly complex, and there is no way to
discuss them in every detail within the framework of this paper.
1.1) In principle, every person
practicing idolatry (whether a gentile or a Jew) should be put to death by a
court of law. Idolatry is attributing
divinity to any object (physical or spiritual) other than the one and only
G-d, whether this is done through ritual (such as prayer, offerings of
incense, or the like) or by a mere statement of faith.
contemporary religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, are
undoubtedly considered idolatry. As for Christianity, there is a dispute among
Halachic authorities, but the vast majority consider it idolatry as well.
Islam, on the other hand, is not considered idolatry.
situation (such as we have now) where there is no Jewish court of law
which can sentence people to death, to corporal punishment, or even
to the fines prescribed by the Torah, and which therefore can not
judge a man for the sin of idolatry:
permissible (and even commanded) for anyone to
kill idolatrous Jews (and those Jews, including atheists and agnostics, who
publicly reject the divine authority of Halacha) anywhere and anytime it
is possible. However, contemporary Halachic authorities have ruled that
this law doesn't apply nowadays.
a gentile (even an idolater, without a court hearing) in peaceful times is
forbidden. (According to most opinions, during a war any person from the
gentile enemy nations may be killed.) However, a Jew who murders a gentile
(even in peaceful times and even intentionally) is not punishable by death in
the human courts (under normal circumstances). According to some opinions he is
not punishable at all (under normal circumstances) by the human courts. But a
gentile who kills a Jew, even purely by accident and unintentionally, must be
put to death. This applies to a
ger toshav as well. There is a single opinion according to which a ger toshav who killed a Jew by accident is not put to death, but only goes into exile (like a Jew who killed by accident).
1.3) It is forbidden to save a gentile who is in mortal danger or cure him from a fatal
condition, even for payment, unless there is a danger that a failure to do so
will cause animosity towards Jews. According to one opinion it is permissible
to save a gentile in mortal danger, but one doesn't have an obligation to do
so. This law doesn't apply to a ger toshav, whom Jews have an obligation to
1.4) A Jew is forbidden to assist a
gentile woman in labor. If a Jewish woman works as a midwife, she is obliged to
assist in the childbirth to avoid antagonizing the gentiles, but only on a
weekday and only for a fee. A Jewish woman is forbidden to breastfeed a gentile
baby (except when this is vital to her own health). It is permitted to assist a
ger toshav woman in labor (on a weekday) and to breastfeed a ger toshav baby.
is forbidden to desecrate the Shabbat to save the life of a gentile, unless
there is a danger that a failure to do so will cause animosity. There are
different opinions whether this law applies to a ger toshav.
1.6) A gentile woman in labor must
not be given assistance on Shabbat, even if no Shabbat violation is involved.
One is allowed to assist a ger toshav woman in labor on Shabbat, but only if no
severe Shabbat violation is involved.
practical rulings regarding the previous items
Today a few Rabbinical
authorities claim that the danger of provoking gentile animosity by not saving
a gentile's life is so great that this consideration applies automatically in
any case where there are witnesses (and according to some opinions even where
there are no witnesses), and even on Shabbat.
Therefore a Jew who
encounters a gentile in danger in a place where there are witnesses (and
according to some opinions even where there are no witnesses), and no other
person has yet assisted the gentile, must save him, even when it involves
violating the Shabbat.
However, a Jewish doctor must try to avoid a
situation in which he will have to violate the Sabbath by treating gentiles.
Therefore a Jewish doctor is forbidden to work in a hospital that serves only
gentiles if he must work on Shabbat. Similarly, a Jewish doctor should use any
legal means at his disposal to avoid working on Shabbat in a hospital with a
mixed, mostly gentile, patient base; in a hospital with mostly Jewish patients
he is not obligated to avoid working on Shabbat, but in any case, it is
recommended that this sort of hospital employ gentile doctors to treat gentile
patients on Shabbat.
1.8) If a Jew is chasing a gentile in
order to murder him, it is forbidden to kill the Jew in order to save the
gentile, even if there is no other way to save the gentile's life. A person who
kills the Jewish pursuer in order to save the gentile's life must be put to
death. But if a gentile (or a Jew) is chasing a Jew in order to murder him, one
must kill the pursuer in order to save the pursued person (if there is no other
way to save his life). This law applies to a ger toshav as well.
1.9) In a case where someone orders a
Jew to kill some innocent person or else he will himself be killed: If the
person he is ordered to kill is a Jew then he must not kill him,even if it will
result in his own death. If the person he is ordered to kill is a gentile, then
it is permissible to kill him to save the life of the Jew (in this situation).It appears that this law applies even if the person
whom the Jew is ordered to kill is a ger toshav.
1.10) If an animal
owned by a Jew kills a Jew then the animal is killed and its owner is required
to pay compensations to the family of the victim. But if an animal owned by a
Jew kills a gentile, killing the animal is not required and its owner is not
required to pay any indemnity. It appears this law applies even when the victim
is a ger toshav. It is not
clear what is to be done in a case where an animal owned by a gentile kills a
2.1) According to some
halachic sources, robbing and stealing from a gentile is permissible in
principle, and forbidden only because (and when) there is a danger that it will
cause the profaning of God's name or that it may cause harm to Jews. Other
sources disagree and claim that robbing and stealing from a gentile is
forbidden in any situation. It appears that robbing and stealing from a ger toshav
is forbidden by the Torah, according to all opinions.
2.2) In a commercial
transaction, if a Jew charges an exorbitant price or conceals the low quality
of the goods from a gentile customer he does not owe the gentile any
compensation (as he would owe a Jewish customer). According to some opinions,
it appears that this law is not applied to a ger toshav; it is forbidden to
cheat him and therefore he must be compensated if he is cheated. In any case,
it is clear that if a gentile charges an exorbitant price or conceals the low quality
of the goods from a Jewish customer, he owes the Jew compensation.
2.3) When a Jew owes
money to a gentile who has passed away, the Jew is not obliged to repay the
debt to the heirs, provided the latter do not know about the debt. If the heirs
ask the Jew whether he owed money to the deceased, it is even permissible to
lie to them and deny the debt (provided the Jew knows for sure that they do not
know about the debt, so that the name of G-d will not be profaned by his lie).
2.4) In a commercial
transaction, if a gentile makes a mistake in a Jew's favor (for example, if he
gives back extra change), the money does not have to be returned to him, though
it would to a Jew who made a similar mistake. Some commentators even say that a
gentile may be actively and intentionally misled and deceived during a
commercial transaction, provided he does not notice (and therefore God's name
is not profaned). Others disagree and say that a Jew may only passively benefit
from a gentile's mistake, but may not actively and intentionally mislead him.
2.5) According to most
opinions if a gentile loses something, it is forbidden to return it to him.
Considerations such as compassion or sympathy for his loss do not make the
return permissible. But if a Jew who found the lost item presumes that its
return will glorify the name of G-d (for as a result the gentiles will glorify
the Jewish people and their religion) it is permissible and even a commandment
to return it to a gentile. Furthermore, if there is a danger that not returning it
will cause the profanation of G-d's name or may cause harm to Jews, then it
must be returned to the gentile.
3.1) It is forbidden for a Jew to consume some food products made by a gentile (even where there are no equivalent products made by Jews): wine, most milk products, and most kinds of food cooked or roasted by a gentile. This law applies to a ger toshav as well.
3.2) According to some opinions,
it is forbidden to buy bread from a gentile baker even where there is no Jewish
baker. Others permit buying bread from a gentile baker, but only where there is
no Jewish baker. And some permit buying bread from a gentile baker even where
there is a Jewish baker.
3.3) In all business transactions -- purchase
and sale, hiring, lending money etc. -- a Jew must be given precedence over a
gentile, even when this causes minor financial losses.
3.4) According to one opinion,
it's a special Torah commandment to take high interest on loans to a gentile.
Also according to this same opinion, one mustn't forgive the debt of a gentile
or postpone its payment date. Others also prohibit lending money without
interest to a gentile but do not see this prohibition as a special commandment
[whereas it is forbidden to lend money with interest to (or borrow from) a
Jew]. According to some opinions, in some
conditions where lending money to a gentile may cause affinity
between him and the Jew and cause the Jew to be influenced by the ways
of the gentiles, it is forbidden to lend money to a gentile altogether. With
regard to a ger toshav: according to all opinions it is permitted to lend him
money at interest.
3.5) According to some opinions it is
permissible to delay the wages of a gentile. According to other opinions it may
not be permissible. It is forbidden to delay the payment of the wages of a ger
toshav, but the prohibition is less severe than that of delaying a Jew's wages.
3.6) A gentile doesn't inherit from his Jewish father (for
example, when the father converted after the son was born or the son is the
child of a Jew from a gentile woman).
4.1) A gentile (and even a convert to
Judaism) cannot be appointed to the throne or to any other executive
governmental position over Jews. A gentile cannot be a judge in a Jewish court
of law. Even a convert to Judaism cannot serve as a judge in cases that may
result in capital punishment, and according to most opinions a convert cannot
judge Jews from birth, even in cases regarding financial matters. (He may,
according to all opinions, judge other converts on financial matters.)
4.2) A gentile is not considered a valid
witness in a Jewish court of law. This applies to a ger toshav as well.
4.3) Even a
convert to Judaism is not allowed to bear witness concerning anything that
happened prior to his conversion.
4.4) A gentile, as opposed to a Jew, can be
easily sentenced to death in a court of law. This can be done by a single
judge, based on the testimony of a single witness or on the defendant's own
admission, with no prior warning, even if the witness is a relative [of either
the judge or the victim]. This applies to a ger toshav as well. According to
one opinion, if a Jew sees a gentile transgressing any of the Noachide commandments
he can kill the gentile on the spot without bringing him to court, but most
opinions disagree and say that even a gentile can be sentenced to death only in
a court of law.
4.5) In a lawsuit between a Jew and a
gentile, the legal process is as follows: If non-Jewish laws benefit the Jewish
party, the ruling is based on them, and the gentiles are told "Such are your
own laws!" However, when the Jewish party benefits more from Jewish laws, the
ruling is made accordingly, and the gentiles are told "Such are our laws." It
seems that this law does not apply to a ger toshav, who is always judged
according to the non-Jewish laws -- even if they benefit him.
4.6) If an animal owned by a Jew damages
a gentile's property, the Jew is not required to pay any indemnity. But when an
animal owned by a gentile damages a Jew's property, the gentile is obliged to
pay full compensation. According to some opinions this law applies to a ger
toshav as well; according to other opinions it doesn't apply to a ger toshav.
4.7) A gentile
(including a ger toshav) who robs or steals from a Jew (or anyone else) must be
sentenced to death, whereas a Jew who robs or steals from a gentile (or a Jew)
is never sentenced to death.
A Jew who steals from a gentile (including a ger toshav) must pay back
only the sum that he stole, whereas a Jew who steals from a Jew must pay back
at least twice the sum he stole.
4.8) The death penalty may be imposed on
one (Jew or gentile) who abducts a Jew, but not on a Jew who abducts a gentile.
5.1) The gentiles
mustn't found a new religion and invent their own commandments. The only
religious options they have are
to obey the Noachide commands or
convert to Judaism.
5.2) A gentile must not observe the Shabbat, and he also must not establish for himself a religious festival or a religious day of rest. If he does he is to be beaten in punishment (and according to one opinion he is to be executed in punishment). According to one opinion he must not even establish for himself a secular day of rest or intentionally rest for a whole day. According to most opinions this applies to a ger toshav as well.
5.3) A gentile must not study the Torah.
If he does he is to be beaten in punishment. This applies to a ger toshav as
6.1) A Jew passing gentile graves or
seeing a multitude of gentiles must declare: "Your mother shall be sore
confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the
nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert" (Jeremiah 50:12). A
Jew passing a church (and according to one opinion any gentile residence) must
say: "The Lord will destroy the house of the proud" (Proverbs 15:25).
injunction against harboring hatred in one's heart applies solely to Jews.
6.3) A Jew is not required to mourn
(e.g. sit shiva) for his gentile brother, sister (that is, the offspring of his
father from a gentile woman), son, or daughter (that is, his offspring from a
gentile woman). A proselyte doesn't have to mourn over his gentile mother and
6.4) In respect to a gentile, the law
permits revenge and rancor. Similarly, the commandment "Love thy fellow as
thyself" does not apply to gentiles.
6.5) The injunction against slander
applies only in respect to slandering a Jew.
6.6) It is forbidden to give a gift to a gentile
unless one is familiar with him and can therefore expect to get favors in
return. This law does not apply to gifts given to an unfamiliar ger toshav -- it
is permissible to give him a gift unconditionally.
6.7) It is forbidden to praise or bless
6.8) It is forbidden to sell real estate to
a gentile in the Land of Israel. Some kinds of real estate are not even to be
rented to a gentile in the Land of Israel. This law does not preclude
transactions between a Jew and a ger toshav. According to a certain opinion,
when the political situation allows it the Jews mustn't even let a gentile pass
through our land on his way elsewhere unless he is a ger toshav.
6.9) A Jew must not take charity from a
gentile in public, for this would be considered an embarrassment and would
cause the profanation of G-d's name. A Jew may take charity from a gentile in
public only if he cannot get any charity either from a Jew (in public or in
private) or from a gentile in private.
6.10) A Jew must pray every day "Blessed be the
Lord for not making me a gentile."
6.11) A Jew and a gentile mustn't be buried side by
side, even if the gentile is a ger toshav. If a Jew was buried next to a
gentile it is permissible to take the Jew's body out of his grave and reinter
it, even if the new grave is by the side of a secular Jew.
to some sources, cruelty and vengefulness exist only amongst the gentiles.
7.2) Early Halachic
sources say that gentiles are suspected of a predeliction to murder, and
therefore one must take certain precautions when associating with them. For
example, it is forbidden to stay alone with a gentile, it is forbidden to get a
haircut from a gentile barber except under certain conditions, etc. Later
Halachic sources claim that this suspicion doesn't apply in general these days.
Halachic sources before the era of the Shulchan Aruch say that gentiles are
suspected of having sexual intercourse with animals, and therefore a Jew must
not leave his livestock in their care. Later Halachic sources claim that this
suspicion doesn't apply today, since today gentile societies also consider
bestiality an abomination.
8.1) A Jewish slave owner was allowed
to compel his Hebrew slave (if the slave was sold by a court of law on account
of his being a thief and if the slave already had a wife and children) to have
intercourse with the owner's gentile female slave in order to increase the
number of his gentile slaves.
8.2) According to certain sources, a Jew is
permitted to convert a found gentile boy
into a gentile slave.
8.3) It is forbidden to free a gentile slave, unless this is neccesary to enable the fulfilment of a mitzva (such as completing a minyan) or if the slave was injured in an irreversible manner in one of certain important organs.
8.4) According to one opinion, a gentile
woman who had a sexual relations with a Jewish man is sentenced to death, as is
the case when a Jew has sexual relations with an animal (the animal is killed
because it enabled a Jew to sin, even though it is not a sin for the animal
itself). Other commentators reject this comparison and
therefore the woman is not sentenced to death. In any case, the Jewish man who
had sexual relations with a gentile woman is not sentenced to death in court,
but if he committed the act in public, he may be killed during its commission.
(Similarly, a gentile man who had sexual relations with an unmarried Jewish
woman is not sentenced to death.)
8.5) According to most opinions, during
a war against gentiles a Jewish man was allowed to have sexual intercourse with
a gentile captive woman (though only once), even if she was married and even
against her will. According to some opinions it seems that he was not allowed
to have sexual intercourse with a captive gentile woman at all before he
married her. In either case he could marry her only if she converted to
Judaism. If she didn't want to convert she had to sit in his house for a period
of time ranging from a month to a year, during which time she had to shave her
hair and mourn. During this time it was possible to try to convince her to
convert. If at the end of this period she still didn't want to convert, then
according to some opinions it was possible to convert her against her will, and
according to some opinions even to marry her against her will. According to
other opinions it wasn't possible to convert her or marry her against her will,
but she had at least to accept the 7 Noachide commandments and then she had to
be set free. If she refused to abandon idolatry then she was sentenced to death
(as are all idolaters).
8.6) The injunction against the
desecration of the body of a Jew is more severe than the injunction against the
desecration of the body of a gentile. In fact, according to some opinions it is
possible that there is no injunction against desecration of the body of a
gentile. For this reason, according to some opinions it is permitted to operate
on dead gentiles in order to study medicine, but it is forbidden to do the same
on dead Jews (and this seems to be the dominant practice today). However,
according to some opinions it is forbidden to operate on dead gentiles as well,
and, on the other hand, according to other opinions it is also permissible to
operate on dead Jews in order to study medicine.
8.7) A gentile woman can breastfeed a
Jewish baby, but according to some opinions this is permitted only when there
is no other way to feed him. According to all opinions, if there is another way
to feed him it is recommended not to feed him from a gentile woman since it can
have a bad influence on his soul (even if the gentile woman eats only kosher
8.8) A Jew mustn't eat an animal that was
slaughtered by a gentile, even if it was done according to all other rules
established by Jewish law. This applies even if the gentile is a ger toshav.
8.9) According to most opinions a
gentile cannot circumcise a Jew, even in the presence of other Jews. According
to some opinions, if a Jew was circumcised by a gentile the Jew has to undergo
a second ritual of "symbolic circumcision."
8.10) Tzitzit, a
Torah scroll, tefillin, and a mezuza that were made by a gentile
to certain sources there are physiological differences between Jews and
gentiles, and therefore medical statements that were proved correct for
gentiles are not considered automatically correct for Jews. According to some
of these sources the gentile physiology is innately different ("their flesh is
as the flesh of asses"), and according to other sources the differences come
from the fact that the gentiles eat non-kosher food.
9.1) Jews are complete human beings.
Gentiles, on the other hand, are human beings, but not complete human beings.
The difference between the Jewish nation and other nations is analogous to the
difference between soul and matter, or between Man and other animals.
9.2) The difference between a Jewish
soul and a gentile one is larger and deeper than the difference between the
anima of an animal and that of a human, since the latter is only quantitative
whereas the former is qualitative.
9.3) Jews possess two souls: the earthly
soul combines both good and bad, while the other one is part of the Almighty.
Gentiles have only one soul, and it comes from a sphere that is all bad. The
earthly soul of Jews comes from the same sphere as the anima of clean animals.
The earthly soul of gentiles comes from the same sphere as the anima of unclean
9.4) According to some opinions only
Jews are made in G-d's image. According to other opinions gentiles are also
made in G-d's image.
9.5) Gentiles are creatures occupying a
very base level. They would not exist were it not for Adam's sin in the Garden
9.6) In the case of Jews, the Lord regards a good thought as a deed but doesn't regard a bad thought as a
deed. In the case of gentiles the opposite is true: the Lord doesn't regard a
good thought as a deed but does regard a bad thought as a deed.
concept of ger toshav (hereinafter GT) is of paramount importance to the
ethic theory of contemporary Orthodox Judaism. It is by means of this concept
that Jewish theologians endeavor to resolve the moral question pertaining to
the problematic attitude on the part of Judaism toward those of other faiths.
order to analyze the problem of Judaism's attitude to GT it is essential to
clarify the theoretical and historical meanings of this concept and to
determine its present field of reference. We should keep in mind that the
Hebrew term ger toshav is translated as a resident dweller. This
concept has a dual meaning: on the one hand it implies an alien who comes from
the outside to the Jewish world and hence a dweller (as opposed to
host); on the other hand the word resident alludes to the fact that he
is more than a guest, but rather someone who has decided to settle in the
Jewish world and to accept its laws.
the term GT designates a loyal alien residing lawfully in an area under Jewish
jurisdiction. During the era of the Kings this term had a purely legal rather
than religious connotation, defining the status of a legalized alien. The
concept of GT acquired a religious meaning only during those times when Jews
resided in cosmopolitan empires -- and that meaning existed simultaneously in
first version was the product of the political evolution of post-Babylonian
Judea. As we know, the Persian and Hellenistic monarchs conceded religious and
hierocratic rather than political self-rule to Judea -- the same, in fact, as to
all the other conquered provinces. Within this framework, the Jews had a
certain leeway in imposing their religious views on those of their neighbors
who adhered to other faiths. This does not mean that they were entitled to
convert gentiles to Judaism by force; however, the cultural predominance of
Judaism, the Jerusalem Temple, and the Jewish priesthood became a political
reality in Judea. The local gentiles had to define their stance toward the
dominant religious cult instituted by imperial law. The majority that defied
this cult found itself in natural opposition to the Jerusalem authorities. A
certain minority affixed itself to the state religion and adopted Judaism. A
considerable number of gentiles chose a third option, that of GT, by refusing
to openly profess any other faith without adopting Judaism. This compromise
solution enabled those gentiles who were unwilling to sever all ties with their
own tradition to live in the Jewish society without being rejected by it. This
produced a social stratum of partially Judaized gentiles -- in other
words, GT, i.e. gentiles who refused to openly identify with other established
religious cults and accepted Judaism as the ruling territorial religion -- short
of adopting its rituals.
other facet of the concept of GT was a natural offshoot of the second form of Jewish
existence -- the Jewish Hellenistic Diaspora. During the last two centuries BCE
the Hellenistic world was simultaneously experiencing an intellectual upsurge
and a religious crisis, the latter caused by the degeneration of the old pagan
cults, so that the Jewish religious experience was of considerable interest to
that world. It is a known fact that "Judaization" was a fashionable trend
throughout the Mediterranean. A large number of gentiles in the region
stretching from Gibraltar to the Tigris converted to Judaism at the time. An
even larger portion of non-Jews found themselves, in one way or another, under
the Jewish religious influence. Thus the Diaspora Jews lived side by side with
gentiles who had voluntarily adopted some of the religious tenets of Judaism --
above all the refusal to worship visible deities and the idea of Sabbath rest --
yet had not converted to Judaism. It was these gentiles who became the second
type of GT.
is crucial to make a distinction between GT in Judea and those in the Diaspora.
While the former identified with Judaism primarily out of pragmatic
considerations, the Diaspora GT were motivated mainly by the spiritual quest of
the Hellenistic world. While in Judea the GT consisted largely of commoners in
search of a comfortable life, in the Diaspora the ranks of GT were joined by
scions of distinguished families as well. The Talmudic legends about prominent
converts to Judaism were not baseless fiction -- and not a product of the
way or another, the GT during the Second Temple period were "Judaized" gentiles
who had not embraced Judaism for one reason or another. It is unlikely that
this "title" was awarded in some sort of formal procedure or followed any clear
criteria. In certain cases, the status of GT could have probably been conferred
on an incorrigible pagan for invaluable services rendered to the Jewish
community (as done today in the case of the "righteous gentiles" -- individuals
of every faith who helped the Jews during WWII). As a rule, however, GT were
required to make a religious declaration, which more often than not consisted
of recognizing the Jewish God as superior to the deities worshipped by other
people. Such a GT was allowed access to Jewish society -- not as an equal, but
still as someone preferred over other gentile mortals. This probably accounts
for the "gentle" definition of GT preserved in the Talmud: "A GT is any gentile
who repudiates idolatry."
rabbinical overturn altered the meaning of the concept of GT in a radical
fashion. It was declared (a) no longer valid (its relevance restricted
solely to those times when the laws of yovel were in force), and (b)
theoretically, according to some views (if the laws of yovel were in
force), applicable to groups of people who never coexisted with Jews. As a
result, the concept of GT was transformed from a real social category into a
tool of theoretical analysis which served Jewish theoreticians for two
the Talmud defined the GT as a gentile who, during the time of yovel,
consistently performs the seven commandments prescribed by God to the sons of
Noah. Moreover, some sages maintained that it is sufficient for a GT to perform
a single commandment -- that of renouncing idol-worship. Others added two more
commandments to the list, while still others believed that all seven must be
observed. The social origins of this concept leave a reminder of themselves in
the discussion of the sages, who demand that the GT pledge his commitment to
observe the commandments in a Jewish court, or else publicly acknowledge that
by renouncing idolatry, he has also accepted the superiority of Judaism to all
other religions (actions that are impossible in those places that have no
Jewish communities and are unfamiliar with the tenets of Judaism, and most
importantly, actions that were never performed by any actual group of Judaized
gentiles). Therefore the following contradiction arose in Talmudic times: while
the sages debated the eligibility of one or another category of gentiles for
the status of GT and the privileges the GT were entitled to as compared to
other gentiles, the very phenomenon of GT became an anachronism -- this status
could not be practically applied to anyone.
situation changed only during what is known as the era of the Rishonim.
It was at that time that the applicability of the concept of GT to entire
peoples and religious groups that were completely indifferent to it was called
into question. Essentially, Jewish thinkers began for the first time to seriously
consider the following questions: (a) what are the categories of gentiles with
which a Jew is allowed to come into voluntary contact? (b) which types of
gentiles are the Jews commanded to harm whenever possible? (c) can [collective]
gentile ethic norms be viewed as changing for the better from the standpoint of
of the Rishonim utilized the Talmudic principles as the basis for
erecting a new theory of GT, one that was adapted to the era of the flowering
of world religions. These relatively liberal theoreticians introduced the
following axioms: (a) from now on, the cornerstone idea would be not the
religious customs of the gentile or even of the group of which he is a member,
but rather the theology of the faith professed by this group; (b) the relations
between the Jews and other peoples are to be directly contingent on the
theology in question. Naturally, the Jewish world was caught up in a heated
debate concerning the essence of Christianity and Islam. The majority of Jewish
sages -- including those who did not accept the new GT theory-- classified Christianity as idolatry while defining
Islam as a legitimate brand of monotheism. A minority exhibited some leniency
toward Christianity, pronouncing it a flawed version of monotheism, which,
though expressly forbidden to a Jew, probably had no lethal effect on the
natural expectation was that the Jewish sages would promulgate friendly
contacts with Moslems, and in part with Christians -- in keeping with the
ancient dictums concerning GT. On the other hand, it would have been reasonable
to brand those peoples who continued to engage in idolatry as enemies, and even
to ostracize them. In fact, quite the opposite took place. The Jewish sages
condemned both the Christians and the Moslems, forbidding all dealings with
them unless absolutely unavoidable; at the same time, they did not even
consider banning contacts (such as business) with blatant idolaters.
the same time, a number of Jewish sages engaged in the development of Jewish
apologetics declared (usually in their apologetic rather than halachic works)
that monotheistic gentiles should not be subjected to all-out property
discrimination, that Jews are permitted to treat and assist them and to engage
in business relations with them -- as if they enjoyed the status of GT.
is crucial to note an important innovation made by 14th century
Jewish theoretician Me'iri who, partly for the purposes of apologetic
discussion, introduced a new theoretical generalization suitable for modern
sociological debates. He decreed that any people adopting a "conventional
religion" which "normalizes the moral aspect of their existence" are eligible,
unlike all other idolaters, to a status that bears a strong resemblance to that
of GT. It is not quite clear whether Me'iri would have been content with a mere
declaration of "moral normalization" or whether this normalization was to be
put into actual effect; nor is it clear what would happen if a people managed
to achieve "moral normalization" while retaining its idolatrous practices.
Still, his theory constituted a groundbreaking innovation : not only were both Christians and Moslems recognized
as fully reputable gentiles regardless of the subtle points of their theology,
Me'iri's definition applied automatically to peoples he had failed to
name who profess a more or less "conventional" religion -- all of them are
in the Middle Ages the concept of GT was reborn in the writings of some Jewish
sages, having outlined additional rights granted by Judaism to monotheists as
compared to idolaters. These Jewish theologians created a new collective status
under which the gentile was immune from persecution and guaranteed tolerable
treatment -- though not full equality. The exact rights to be enjoyed by this
new GT (hereinafter NGT) were never clearly delineated.
question of which gentiles are eligible for the status of NGT, which are
manifestly ineligible, and which are "stuck" in an indefinite intermediate
limbo is more than a theoretical issue -- it is a political one as well. Since
the introduction of the concept of NGT benefits those Jews wishing to have
contacts with certain types of gentiles to a far greater extent than it does
the gentiles themselves, it is applied in a fairly liberal and encompassing
manner -- yet almost invariably without any far-reaching obligations. Thus many
orthodox Jewish communities consider the majority of today's Europeans and
Americans as NGT, while at the same time requiring their members to shun them
and avoid their company. Therefore the granting of the status of NGT is
designed more to enable the Jews to function freely within contemporary society
than to secure real rights for gentiles.
would like to conclude by noting that even though mainstream Orthodox Judaism
frequently extends the definition of NGT to include the majority of today's
Christians and Moslems, the attempts to "stretch" it over the overwhelming
majority of the Third World population have so far ended in failure.
should keep in mind that according to the overwhelming majority of Jewish
authorities, the genuine status of GT (the one described in the Halacha) is
presently inapplicable to any gentile. It is infinitely higher than any
possible status of today's gentile who has not accepted every dogma of Judaism without exception. In the Halacha the real
status of a gentile is considerably lower than that of GT. Consequently, the
halachic summary we have presented, which illustrates the legal status of GT,
does not fully reflect the discrimination practiced against NGT by contemporary
halachic Judaism, for it describes not so much the actual current attitudes to
monotheistic gentiles as to their ancient social prototype. To put it simply,
today even the most observant gentile is far from the Talmudic ideal of the ger
toshav, whose well-being is to some extent the responsibility of every Jew.This is something that the discerning reader should
keep in mind if he wishes to avoid the otherwise inevitable anachronisms and
far-fetched semantic interpretations.
1) Killing a GT (as
well as any other Gentile, in principle, without a court hearing, at least in
peaceful times) is forbidden. However, a Jew who murders a gentile (even in
peaceful times and even intentionally) is not punishable by death in the human
courts. According to some opinions he is not punishable at all by the human
courts. But a GT who kills a Jew, even (according to most opinions) purely by accident and unintentionally, must
be put to death.
2) According to some
opinions it is forbidden to desecrate the Shabbat to save the life of a GT
unless there is a danger of animosity.
3) In all situations
where one must choose to save either a Jew's or a GT's life or where only one
of these two lives can be saved, the Jewish life must be chosen. It applies
even in a situation where a criminal who is Jewish threatens the GT's life --
even then it is forbidden to kill the Jew in order to save the GT's life.
4) According to some
opinions, if a Jew charges an exorbitant price or conceals the low quality of
goods from a GT customer he does not owe the GT any compensation (as he would
owe a Jewish customer). In any case, it is clear that if a GT charges an
exorbitant price or conceals the low quality of goods from a Jewish customer,
he owes the Jew compensation.
5) According to most
opinions it is forbidden for a Jew to consume some food products made by a GT.
6) According to most
opinions, in business transactions a Jew must be given precedence over a GT,
even when this causes minor financial losses.
7) According to many
opinions it is forbidden to lend money to GT without interest.
8) It is forbidden
to delay the payment of the wages of a GT, but the prohibition is less severe
than that of delaying a Jew's wages.
9) A GT may not be
appointed to any executive governmental position over Jews. For example, he
cannot be a judge in a Jewish court of law.
10 ) A GT is not
considered a valid witness in a Jewish court of law.
11) A GT, as opposed
to a Jew, may be easily sentenced to death in a court of law. This may be done
by a single judge, based on the testimony of a single witness or his own
admission of guilt, with no prior warning, even if the witness is a relative
[of either the judge or the victim].
12) According to some
opinions, if an animal owned by a Jew damages a GT's property the Jew is not
required to pay any indemnity. But when an animal owned by a GT damages a Jew's
property, the GT is obliged to pay full compensation.
13) A GT who robs or
steals from a Jew (or anyone else) must be sentenced to death, whereas no Jew
who robs or steals from anyone is ever sentenced to death. A Jew who steals
from a GT must pay back only the sum that he stole, whereas a Jew who steals
from a Jew must pay back at least twice the sum he stole.
14) The death penalty
may be imposed on a GT who abducts a Jew, but not on a Jew who abducts a GT.
15) A GT must not
observe the Shabbat, and he also must not establish for himself a religious
festival or a religious day of rest. If he does he is to be beaten in
punishment (and according to one opinion he is to be executed in punishment).
According to one opinion he must not even establish for himself a secular day
of rest or intentionally rest for a whole day.
16) A GT must not
study the Torah. If he does he is to be beaten in punishment.
17) A Jew is not
required to mourn (e.g. sit shiva) for his GT brother, sister (that is, the
offspring of his father from a gentile woman), son or daughter (that is, his
offspring from a gentile woman).
18) A Jew and a GT
mustn't be buried side by side.
19) A Jew is not
allowed to eat an animal that was slaughtered by a GT, even if it was done
according to all the other rules of Jewish law.
Mei'ri's works, unappreciated by the Jewish religious world, were virtually
forgotten and ignored for six centuries. It was only in the last century that
these works -- quite understandably -- sparked a renewed interest.
All of the halachic decrees cited below represent a direct revision of the
preceding chapters of this study.