There are seven commandments that the rabbinical tradition considers as the minimum moral obligation of all men. Jews must observe all of the 613 commandments of the Torah, but those Gentiles who accept these seven obligations, are considered “Children of the Covenant” that God made with Noah, and therefore are assured a place in “The World to Come” (Olam Habá). These rules, known as the “Laws of Noah,” extend the divine mandate to the non-Jewish domain.
These seven commandments are based on several verses from the Torah, such as Genesis 2: 16,17, where God prohibits man eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 9: 4, 6, which say: (4):” But meat with his life, which is his blood, you shall not eat. ”, (6): “ He who sheds man’s blood, by man his blood will be shed. ”, and Leviticus 24:15 that says:“ Whoever blasphemes against his God will bear his guilt.”
The oral tradition collected in the Talmud tells us how our sages interpreted and explained these Torah verses in various treatises, like Breishit Rabbah 34:8 which says: “R. Aivu said: Noah’s sons were commanded seven things: [No..] idolatry, incest, murder, curse of the Divine Name [blasphemy], civil law and a limb plucked from a living animal. Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel says: also, on the blood of a living animal. Rabbi Eleazar says: also, against the mixture of species. Rabbi Shime’on ben Yochai says: also, against witchcraft. Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka says: also, against emasculation. Rabbi Assi said: Noah’s sons were commanded with respect to everything that is said in the prayer: ‘No one will be found among you who passes his son or daughter through the fire.” (Deuteronomy 18:10)
The seven laws of Noah accepted by the majority of our sages are:
– Do not engage in idolatry.
– Do not use the name of God in vain. Do not blaspheme.
– Do not kill. Do not spill blood.
– Avoid forbidden sexual relations.
– Do not steal or rob.
– Do not eat meat from a live animal.
– Establish courts of law, that is, a legal system.
Maimonides regarded the righteous of nations, as those who will have a part in the world to come, even if they are not Jewish, on the condition that they keep these laws. He said that they are entitled to all the moral and material support of the Jewish community and to receive the highest honors. Modern thinkers like Moses Mendelssohn and Hermann Cohen underlined how Noah’s Laws marked a common ground between Gentile and Jewish thought.
By: Marcos Gojman.
Bibliography: Rabbi Yaakov Menken “The everything Torah Book”, Jeffrey Spitzer “The Noahide Laws” and other sources.