Throughout Jewish history, a number of halachik[1] terms have existed to describe the non-Jewish population with which the Jewish community interacted; these terms, in turn, helped define the nature of the relationship between the two populations.  Being a member of the “Seven Indigenous Nations of the Land of Canaan (ז’ עמים),” for example, would propel the relationship in a negative direction.  In contrast, being considered “A Righteous Amongst the Nations ((מחסידי אומות העולם would insure a more favorable treatment.  Amongst other positive options – and one that is receiving new attention given its apparent connection to and relevancy for the modern state of Israel – is the “Resident Alien” or Ger Toshav (גר תושב).   While many definitions exist for this term, this paper will primarily focus on the Rambam’s understanding of the concept.  More specifically, our exploration will concentrate not only on the question of who is included in this category, but also – more importantly – the question of when it should be applied. It is with this latter question, after all, that a glaring contradiction exists within the writings of the Rambam himself.  Resolving this contradiction, I believe, will reveal a great deal not only about the term Ger Toshav but also about the Rambam as well.

              Towards that end, let us begin with the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, the Laws of Forbidden Relations (איסורי ביאה).  In Chapter 14, Halacha 7, followed by the first line of Halacha 8, he writes:

7) What is meant by a Ger Toshav?  A gentile who makes a commitment not to worship false deities and to observe the other six universal laws commanded to Noah’s descendants. He does not circumcise himself or immerse (in the mikveh).  We accept him and he is amongst the righteous people of the world.  Why is he called a Toshav – resident?  Because we are permitted to allow him to dwell among us in Israel, as explained in The Laws of Idol Worship.[2]

8) We accept a Ger Toshav only during the era when the Jubilee Year is observed.[3]

As noted previously, our interest in the Rambam’s perspective is not limited to how he defines a Ger Toshav.  When he considers it an applicable concept is also important.  And in this regard, there can be no question about the Rambam’s position.  As he declares above, as well as in his treatment of the subject in the Laws of Idol Worship (and elsewhere), Ger Toshav is only a relevant option when the laws of the Jubilee Year are applicable, a period of time in the Jewish people’s distant Biblical past and hoped for messianic-like future.  Therefore, while we may note that many commentators disagree with the Rambam’s position – such as the Raavad and the Kesef Mishnah – and might thus utilize the Ger Toshav concept in their practical halachik discussions for today, it is abundantly clear that the Rambam himself would not, nor would he recognize the existence of an actual Ger Toshav in person.

Or maybe he would.  Consider the Mishneh Torah’s treatment of a convert who regrets his conversion and wishes to return to his previous state.  In the Laws of Kings, Chapter 10, Halacha 3, the Rambam writes:

A gentile who converted, was circumcised and immersed, and afterwards, decided to forsake God and revert to his previous status as a Ger Toshav, is not granted permission to do so.  Rather, he must remain as an Israelite in all matters …  If he was a minor and immersed by the court, he may repudiate his conversion when he attains majority and assume the status of a Ger Toshav alone.  However, if he does not object immediately, he is no longer given the opportunity to object and his status is that of a righteous convert.

As with our first text, this halacha introduces the reader to the possibility of becoming a Ger Toshav.  In fact, it highlights two paths to achieve this status.  In the first case, a full convert has his desire to revert to his previous status – a status the Rambam tells us was Ger Toshav – rejected.  The relevant comment here is not that his request is not approved, but rather that he possessed the Ger Toshav status prior to becoming a convert in the first place.  In the second case,[4] the child converted at birth – and thus without fully consenting to the conversion – is afforded the opportunity to protest his conversion.  The resulting status he achieves is Ger Toshav

Unlike the previous text, though, here there is no time limitation stated with regards to the applicability of this law.  The simple reading then – and what modern Rambam scholar Rabbi Dr. Nahum Rabinovich[5] argues is the correct reading – is that this halacha was and is always applicable, relevant in the Rambam’s day just as much as today.  More to the point, there is no need to wait for the implementation of the Jubilee Year laws. 

And thus we have arrived at the apparent contradiction promised in the introduction of this paper.  In one instance, we have the Rambam arguing that a Ger Toshav is only applicable in the time of the Jubilee, while in another instance he introduces us to two justifiable Gerim Toshvim who existed well before the advent of the Jubilee.  How are we to explain this contradiction?


              What follows are three possible explanations to the above question.  The first two we will encounter in a relatively superficial manner, while the third – which relies heavily on insights gained from class[6] – will be explored in greater depth.

A) One possible justification is semantic.  Across the halachik literature – not to mention a geographic landscape ranging from Spain to Babylon, as well as the temporal distance of two millenia – the term Ger Toshav has been defined in many different ways.  The Talmud[7] alone offers three different definitions of a Ger Toshav – the majority opinion in which a non-Jew officially accepts the seven Noahide laws as binding in the presence of a beit din, as well as two minority opinions ranging from a minimum requirement of abstaining from idolatrous practices to a maximum of upholding all 613 commandments except for the prohibition against eating kosher animals that died by means other than ritual slaughter.  Moreover, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin[8] wrote in Encyclopedia Talmudit that in addition to the Talmud’s formal definitions – and all the subsequent interpretations commenting on those definitions – the term Ger Toshav also entered the Jewish vernacular in an informal sense.[9]  And thus, Zevin writes, many medieval commentators referred to Muslims – who rejected idolatry – as Gerim Toshvim despite the obvious fact that no beit din formally accepted their membership (nor were they asking for permission to live in Israel).  In light of this reality, it is possible to suggest that the Rambam was referring to the formal definition – and formal acceptance procedure in front of a beit din – in our first Jubilee-related text, while he relaxed to the informal definition for the second text.[10] 

Another possible semantic explanation is offered by the previously mentioned Rabbi Rabinovich.  Regarding the conversion case, he notes that the Rambam was presented with a problem.  In that instance, the individual did not fully convert and then decide to regret his action, but rather he had begun the conversion process but failed to complete it at the final step.  In his understanding, the individual was accepted by the beit din as a candidate for conversion, and this acceptance itself required a forswearing of idolatry.  The individual then progressed through the learning process and adopted much of the Jewish lifestyle.  At the very end, though, he decided he could not fully and irrevocably convert.  In this case, the beit din – and the Rambam – struggled with what to do next.  On one hand, they could not forcibly convert the individual, but on the other hand, they certainly did not want to return him to his initial status as an idol worshipper.  They therefore settled on an intermediate stage – an individual who had formally renounced idol worship (as part of his being accepted as a conversion candidate), but had not formally converted to Judaism.  In the Rambam’s eye, this intermediate stage is most akin to the Ger Toshav concept, and thus he ascribed this individual with this title.  Here, too, then is a solution to our problem.  Because of their similarities, two different people –- the semi-convert who presented himself to the beit din as someone who rejects idol worship (Laws of Kings) and the non-Jew who presents himself to a beit din in the time of the Jubilee as a follower of the Noahide laws (Laws of Forbidden Relations) – are described with the same concept.  But they are not actually the same cases.

              B) Rabbi Rabinovich offers an additional path which might prove helpful to explain the apparent contradiction in the Rambam.  Writing about the covenant signed between Joshua and the Givonim, Rabbi Rabinovich notes that the latter were allowed to remain in the land despite only their representatives presenting themselves in front of Joshua.  Why is this significant?  Because the halacha should have been that if the entire Givonim population wished to remain in Israel, each and everyone of them would have had to be accepted as Gerim Toshvim by a beit din.  But here only a few representatives came before Joshua, so even if we postulate that they – the leaders – presented themselves in front of a beit din, it clearly is not logical to also say each and every Givon did so as well.  And yet they were all allowed to remain.  Why?  Apparently, writes Rabbi Rabinovich, there is a different standard for someone already living in Israel to remain in the land compared with someone who is requesting to enter the land from the outside.  For this latter individual, he argues, formal acceptance by a beit din as a Ger Toshav would be required.  For the former individual, his previous presence in the land already assures him – given a basic rejection of idolatry – the right to remain and achieve status as Ger Toshav

              Once we make a distinction between accepting new residents into Israel as opposed to merely approving rights of existing residents we can begin to construct an explanation regarding the Rambam’s insistence of the Jubilee for one type of Ger Toshav and not for the other.  Consider the obligation – found in Deuteronomy 23:16 — of not returning to his master a fugitive slave entering Israel from a foreign land.  The Siphrei there adds this obligation relates to any non-Jew interested in immigrating to Israel and becoming a Ger Toshav.  The Siphrei also notes that Deuteronomy 23:17 mandates we not only accept the fugitive slave / Ger Toshav but also do ‘good by him’ – meaning provide for his needs, support him and grant him a series of economic and social benefits.  Given such a wide-spread obligation, it is not too difficult to understand why the Rambam might be hesitant to require the granting of this status before the Jubilee Year is re-activated.  After all, prior to that time – prior to the time when all Jews are present in the land – the political and economic state of the State most likely will be lacking.   Mandating the acceptance and support of any and all refugee would be quite an onerous undertaking.  For that reason, making a distinction, as Rabbi Rabinovich does, between non-Jews present in the land and those requesting to immigrate into it makes perfect sense.  So too we may argue to make a distinction between our two cases of Ger Toshav.  Granting the status to someone already in the system – like a potential or child convert – makes sense.  Offering it as an option to the entire world prior to Israel’s elevation to the highest level of stability – as indicated by the arrival of the Jubilee – does not.


              C) We now turn to the final possible explanation justifying the Rambam’s different approach to the Ger Toshav as found in the Mishneh Torah. 

              Before addressing the topic directly, I would like to digress for a moment and explore an additional conflict within the Rambam’s writings.  Afterwards, I will attempt to explain this conflict by using some of the tools provided in class.  Following that analysis, my hope is to offer this solution as a model to also answer our initial question of why the Rambam asserted different standards for when the Ger Toshav concept should be applied.

              To appreciate this additional conflict, let us look at the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, Laws of Chametz and Matzah.  In Chapter 7, Halacha 1, the Rambam informs us that it is a positive commandment to tell the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, with particular attention paid to – and praising – the miracles God wrought for the Jewish people on the first night of Passover (the 15th of Nisan).  In Halacha 4 he explains just how this commandment is to be fulfilled, noting:

One must begin the narrative by describing our ancestors’ disgraced roots (גנות) and conclude with their praise (שבח). What does this imply? One begins relating how originally, in the age of Terach, our ancestors denied God’s existence and strayed after vanity, pursuing idol worship. One concludes with the (praise of) true faith: how the Omnipresent has drawn us close to Him, separated us from the gentiles, and drawn us near to His Oneness.

Similarly, one begins (with the disgraced roots) by stating that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and describing all the evil done to us, and concludes (the praise) with the miracles and wonders that were wrought upon us, and our freedom.

              For those familiar with the text of the traditional Hagadah, this formulation might appear a little surprising.  After all, in the Hagadah with which we are familiar, the order of how to tell the story is reversed.  True, as with the Rambam, the disgraced history of our ancestors precedes our praise of them; what is different, though, is the nature of those particular categories are the opposite.  Rather than begin with the story of our ancestors’ idol worshipping ways – as the Rambam suggests – our Hagadah first recalls the fact the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt; and then only after that story is completed does the Hagadah turn to the Jewish people’s history as idol worshippers. 

              The Rambam’s ‘surprising’ reversal, however, is not without justification.  Consider, after all, the Mishnah in Pesachim[11] where the command is highlighted to tell the story by first emphasizing the disgrace and then concluding with the praise.  The Gemara there asks “What is the disgrace being referenced?”  To which the answer is: “Rav says: We begin by mentioning our ancestors were idol worshippers.  And Shmuel said: [No, we begin with] ‘we were slaves.’”[12]  As a result of this disagreement, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, Rabbi of Alon Shvut South, Director of the Halacha Education Center and prolific author of Halachik works, argues that in the time of the Gemara there were actually two versions of the Hagadah.  One, primarily used in the Land of Israel, followed the opinion of Rav and exclusively focused on the disgrace of idol worship.  The other, originating in Babylonia, utilized both opinions and included the story of slavery followed by the story of idol worship.[13]  In this regard, argues Rabbi Rimon (quoting the Ritva), the Babylonia Hagadah, which appears to be the precursor of the Hagadah in use today, simultaneously respects both opinions but ultimately gives preference to Shmuel’s position by placing it first.  In light of the above, the Rambam’s formulation in the Mishneh Torah is quite understandable.  In short, he is following the model of the Babylonian Hagadah – of including both positions – but rather than favoring Shmuel’s emphasis on slavery he prioritizes Rav’s concern with idol worship.  For the Rambam, then, the primary ‘freedom’ one ought to concern himself with is spiritual in nature – freedom from the negative influences of idol worship.  Physical freedom – the kind articulated by the Egyptian slavery narrative – is of course important, but ultimately it is only secondary in significance.

              So yes, the Rambam has justification – both textual as well as philosophical – for his decision to order his Mishneh Torah as he did.  But a major problem remains nevertheless.  And that is because at the conclusion of the Mishneh Torah’s treatment of the Laws of Chametz and Matzah the Rambam offers an addendum of the text of the Passover Hagadah he actually used in his own personal practice.  And there, for all to see, is the ordering of the Hagadah in the exact opposite way we would expect.  As with all other Hagadot at the time – and subsequent – the disgrace of physical slavery is mentioned first while the disgrace of idol worship, of spiritual slavery, is mentioned second.   This is not how the Rambam legislated just a few pages earlier in the text of the Mishneh Torah itself.  In so doing, the Rambam has ruled against the Rambam!  How can we explain this contradiction?

              To answer this question, let us now turn to the insights discussed in class and offered through the assigned readings of this course, in particular the articles The Second Canonization of the Talmud and Maimonides on Equity: Reconsidering the Guide for the Perplexed III:34, both by Professor Hanina Ben-Menahem.[14]  One of the themes emphasized in both the class and readings was the importance of a series of distinctions that exist in the study of law in general and the Rambam’s work in particular.  Of specific interest for our purposes in this paper are the following two distinctions: Law versus Law-to-be-applied (הלכה והלכה למעשה) and the Laws in Accordance with His (God’s) First Intention versus Laws in Accordance with God’s Second Intention (כוונה ראשונה וכוונה שנייה או מחשבה ראשונה ומחשבה שנייה).

              Regarding the former distinction, the Talmud Baba Batra 130B highlights its existence most clearly: “R. Asi said to R. Yochanan: When our master has said to us, ‘The law is thus-and-so, may we hand down rulings accordingly in actual cases?’ He (R. Yochanan) said: ‘Do not hand down rulings accordingly unless I declare it to be law-as-applied (הלכה למעשה).”[15]  The impact of this distinction can be found within the writings of the Rambam in a number of instances where the law codified in the Mishneh Torah seems to differ than a practical decision offered in one of his 450 plus responsa and/or letters.  Often, when such discrepancies are uncovered, a student of the Rambam will ascribe them to a change in mind of the Rambam – from an earlier work to a later one – or to the possibility that one of the documents is not authentic.  One advantage of the “Law versus Law-to-be-applied” distinction is that it does not require us to resort to these improbabilities, offering us a “more plausible” explanation than simply the discrepancies being “the outcome of historical contingencies such as how often a document was copied.”  And that more plausible explanation?  One that “arises out of a fundamental difference in orientation between the responsa and the Mishneh Torah.”  Put differently, the Mishneh Torah – as Law – is concerned with the ideal unadulterated law “without regard to societal costs of its implementation.”  In contrast, responsa – addressing the needs of (and differences between) actual people, concerned with matters of equity, and influenced by outside values – very much take into account how something is to be implemented.

              A helpful example of this distinction – and how the Rambam understood it – is found in the discrepancy between the Commentary on the Mishnah and the Mishneh Torah on the question of whether or not the laws of tithes apply to the produce of land owned by a gentile.[16] The actual details of the discrepancy is less important than how the Rambam himself explains the different results of each work.  In the Commentary on the Mishnah he explains he was “presenting the law-to-be applied” – which to him made perfect sense given the Temple was not in existence and therefore the idealized implementation of the law impossible; this conclusion, in turn, allowed for a greater flexibility in describing the halacha.  In contrast, the Mishneh Torah was concerned with the Law – in a time of the Temple’s existence, and thus in its idealized form – and he therefore felt an obligation to be more precise with the description found therein.

              I describe this above example as helpful for two reasons.  First, of course, as it highlights the halachik difference that might exist in a world centered around or bereft of the Temple, it foreshadows how this distinction might apply to our case of two different Hagadot.  More on that in a moment

Second, the example’s awareness of the impact of history in general provides a useful transition to introduce the second distinction mentioned earlier – namely, the difference between the first intention and the second intention.  As the Guide for the Perplexed teaches us,[17] the “main difference between the two sets of laws is that [second intention laws] were enjoined only as a result of historical contingencies: had history unfolded otherwise than it did, either they would not have been enjoined, or other secondary laws would have enjoined in their stead.  Laws that are in accordance with his first intention, on the other hand are, in a sense, context-free, their sole concern being human nature in the abstract.”[18] 

              The vast majority of the Rambam’s usage of this distinction relates to idol worship, in particular the practice of the Sabeans, whose religion the Rambam argues Abraham was brought up in and thus a prime target for being influenced by.[19]  If the impact of idol worshipping cultures was negligible and not a threat to negatively derail Jewish monotheistic practice, then, the Rambam would argue, many of the commandments in the Torah might be different.  After all, they would be ‘in accordance with God’s first intention’ alone.  But as that was not the case, and the potential negative influence of neighboring cultures was great, commandments ‘in accordance with God’s second intention’ were necessary to be promulgated.  These commandments, argues the Rambam, were introduced specifically to counter the Sabean influence.[20]

              While concerns over idol worship clearly play the major role in ‘laws according to God’s second intention’ it should also be noted that the Rambam understood other historical realities might engender the creation of such laws as well.  It is in that spirit I would like to suggest an explanation that perhaps might justify the discrepancy between the Rambam’s codification of the Hagadah in the Mishneh Torah and the text of the actual Hagadah he used.  As you will recall, the former placed spiritual freedom as the priority, preferring Rav’s opinion of how to begin the Passover story over Shmuel’s position that we focus on the physical freedom expressed in the exodus story.  The latter, of course, represents the opposite view, highlighting the need for physical freedom first, a prerequisite of sorts, and then only afterwards raising the need for spiritual freedom as well. 

Might we be able to argue that the Rambam understood the Hagadah of his day in a ‘law-to-be-applied’ / ‘law according to God’s second intention’ kind of way?  That Hagadah, after all, was championed in the Diaspora of Babylonia and in many respects reflected the needs of that Diaspora, as well as many subsequent ones.  Especially the Diaspora the Rambam himself had experienced.  Early in his life, of course, he witnessed the extremism of the Almohads destroy the relative religious safety of his birthplace Cordoba.  He escaped to Morocco but suffered religious intolerance there as well.  His letter on Apostacy highlights just how dangerous it was to be a Jew in those days and in those places.  In such a reality, one can argue, advocating for physical freedom – advocating for the bare minimum of Jewish existence – was the most reasonable path to follow.    

In the Mishneh Torah, however, where the Rambam offered his idealized understanding the Law, and no doubt envisioned a different reality where Jews were not only not oppressed and threatened at every turn but also independent and sovereign in their own land, here, the Rambam grasped for more.  Recalling the physical freedom of his ancestors as a salve for his contemporaries own physical maladies was not enough.  Rather, in a rebuilt Israel, safe and secure from one’s enemies, the Rambam could envision what might have been the law ‘in accordance with God’s first intention’ … not the law-to-be-applied, but the Law itself.  And thus the dramatic and more messianic story of Abraham shattering all idols and bringing the knowledge of God to the entire world provided a more poignant model from which to derive inspiration.  Gaining physical freedom is important, yes, but it is only a means to an end.  The end – the ultimate goal of one’s Passover observance – is to utilize that physical freedom to redeem the entire world from its spiritual slavery.  In parallel, the goal for Israel was not just to be a physical haven for one’s enemies, but also a spiritual haven.  It was not to be a minimalist vision but a maximalist one – a place where Jewish thought, practice and impact grew naturally and exponentially to influence the entire world.   

In sum, then, perhaps the Rambam dreamed of a new reality in which the suffering of his people would give way to their success.  That dream was encapsulated in the Mishneh Torah’s ruling about the order of the Hagadah, while the current less than stellar reality was grudgingly accepted in the Hagadah he used until such time the dream would be realized.


              Let us now return to our initial question – namely, why does the Rambam rule that the granting of the Ger Toshav status can only take place when the conditions of the Jubilee year become actualized in one text but elsewhere describes at least two instances where a Ger Toshav might exist prior to that reality?  As with the case of two Hagadot, I would like to suggest that there are two Gerim Toshvim as well.  For the one described in the Laws of Forbidden Relations (and Idol Worship, and elsewhere), I believe the Rambam is writing in the world of Law – pure, unadulterated, first intention Law.  To have a world abandon idol worship, the vast majority of non-Jews following the Noahide laws, and a smaller, but significant number of other non-Jews desiring to throw their lot in with the Jewish people in the form of Ger Toshav status, all this is the idealized vision of the Rambam.  In such a vision, the requirement of the Jubilee Year makes perfect sense.  In fact, for the Rambam, I believe mentioning the reactivation of the Jubilee Year is code.  It symbolizes a messianic-like actualization for the Jewish people.  An end of the exile.  A return to sovereignty.  A path forward to Kingship and the messianic era.  Re-introducing the Ger Toshav concept is part of that vision.

              In the Laws of Kings, the Rambam presents us with a ‘taste’ of that idealized world.  A non-Jew has abandoned idol worship and wishes to draw as close to the Jewish people as possible without actually becoming a Jew.  Unlike the other case, though, this is not theoretical.  This semi-convert is an actual person.  He is knocking on the door.  To employ the pure Law will mean to refuse to answer that knock.  It means abandoning him back to idol worship.  And so the Rambam offers us a practical alternative to the Law – namely, the law-to-be-applied.  In so doing, he offers a מעין עולם הבא  in the form of assigning this one person a term whose idealized form will come to describe myriads of people in the idealized future.

[1] I use here a generalized Hebrew term for law to distinguish it from the subsequent, and specific, use of Law and Law-to-be-applied, concepts to be defined later in this paper.

[2] Laws of Idol Worship, Chapter 10, Halacha 6 reads: “All of the above matters (concessions made to non-Jews for purposes of Darchei Shalom – Ways of Peace) apply only in an era when Israel is in exile among the idolaters or in an era when the idolaters are in power.  When, however, Israel is in power over them, it is forbidden for us to allow an idolater among us.  Even a temporary resident (עראי) or a merchant who travels from place to place should not be allowed to pass through our land until he accepts the seven universal laws commanded to Noah and his descendants … A person who accepts these seven commandments is a Ger Toshav.  A Ger Toshav may be accepted only in the era when the laws of the Jubilee Year are observed.  In an era when the Jubilee Year is not observed, however, we may only accept full converts to Judaism (גר צדק).”

[3] According to Rambam, the Jubilee is only observed when the entire Jewish people are dwelling in the Land of Israel.  That means, “from the time the tribes of Reuven and Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh were exiled, the observance of the Jubilee ceased, as implied by Leviticus 25:10 ‘You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land to all of its inhabitants.’”  Laws of Shmita and Jubilee Year: Chapter 10, Halacha 8.

[4] Rabbi Rabinovich entertains the possibility that this case is in fact the prelude to the first case, and therefore we are not really discussing two instances of Ger Toshav but rather only one.  He ultimately rejects this possibility, though, as the Rambam’s ordering of the two instances clearly argues against it.  If the Rambam had actually placed the second case first, then perhaps one can read them chronologically; the fact that they appear as they do – chronologically out of order – suggests the Rambam purposely intended to distinguish them.  גר תושב בזמן הזה, הרב נחום אליעזר רבינוביץ, שו”ת שיח נחום

[5] Rabbi, former Dean of Jews’ College, and current Rosh HaYeshiva of Birkat Moshe, a Hesder Yeshiva in Maale Adumim.

[6] The Legal Thought of Maimonides, taught by Professor Hanina Ben-Menahem

[7] Babylonian Talmud, Tractates Avodah Zara 64B and Sanhedrin 56A and 56B

[8] Died 1978, the founder and editor until his death of the Encyclopedia Talmudit.

[9] Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, ed. (1979). “Ger Toshav, Section 1”. Encyclopedia Talmudit (in Hebrew) (Fourth Printing ed.). Jerusalem, Israel: Yad Harav Herzog (Emet).

[10] Rabbi Joseph Eliyahu Henkin offers a similar explanation, noting that the term Ger Toshav can be used in a far more expansive way than previously understood.  “Certainly, the people of the world in our time are not idol worshippers, and with the passage of the generations, idolatry has been progressively uprooted from their hearts … and even if there are some who worship idols, in my opinion, the overwhelming majority are in the category of Ger Toshav.  As for the rule in the Talmud that a Ger Toshav must accept the seven commandments before a tribunal of three … this is only with respect to our obligation to provide him with a livelihood and the privilege to reside in the Land of Israel.  But, insofar as being removed from the class of idolaters is concerned, anyone who denies idolatry and acknowledges that the seven commandments are obligatory, is a Ger Toshav.”  Hadarom

[11] Babylonian Talmud Pesachim 116A

[12] Ibid.

[13] Hagada Shel Pesach / Shirat Miriam / Hagada MiMekorah, page 24.

[14] And appearing in Cardozo Law Review Volume 28:1 and Journal of Law and Relgion Volume 17 respectively.

[15] Other Talmudic examples highlighting the existence of both terms abound, such as in the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Ketuboth 56A and the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractates Berachot 2:6, Sanhedrin 4:6, Gittin 5:4 and Gittin 8:2 (all briefly described in Second Canonization at page 40.

[16] This example, and further details, appear in Second Canonization at page 44.

[17] Guide III:29-30

[18] Maimonides on Equity, at page 23

[19] Guide III:29 Paragraph 1.

[20] Guide III:29.  In Paragraph 6, the Rambam writes: “my knowledge of the belief, practice and worship of the Sabeans has given me an insight into many of the divine precepts, and hs led me to know their reasons.”

Leave a Comment