Ger toshav

Ger toshav (Hebrew: גר תושב‎, ger: "foreigner" or "alien" + toshav: "resident", lit. "resident alien")[1][2][3] is an halakhic term used in Judaism to designate the legal status of a Gentile (non-Jew) living in the Land of Israel who doesn't want to convert to Judaism but agrees to observe the Seven Laws of Noah,[1][2][3] a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of universal moral laws for the "sons of Noah" – that is, all of humanity.[4][5][6][7] A ger toshav is therefore commonly deemed a "Righteous Gentile" (Hebrew: חסיד אומות העולם‎, Chassid Umot ha-Olam: "Pious People of the World"),[5][7][8][9][10] and is assured of a place in the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba).[5][7][9][10]


A ger toshav ("resident alien") is a Gentile (non-Jew) living in the Land of Israel who accepts to follow the Seven Laws of Noah.[1][2][3][5][8][11][12] The seven commandments of the Noahic Covenant to which the ger toshav agrees to be bound are enumerated in the Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 8:4, Sanhedrin 56a-b):[4][5][6][7][11][12]

  1. Do not worship idols.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  2. Do not curse God.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  3. Do not murder.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  4. Do not commit adultery, bestiality, or sexual immorality.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  5. Do not steal.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  6. Do not eat flesh torn from a living animal.[4][5][6][7][11][12]
  7. Establish courts of justice.[4][5][6][7][11][12][13]

The Encyclopedia Talmudit, edited by rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, states that after the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people were no longer included in the category of the sons of Noah; however, Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) indicates that the seven commandments are also part of the Torah, and the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a, see also Tosafot ad. loc.) states that Jews are obligated in all things that Gentiles are obligated in, albeit with some differences in the details.[6] According to the Encyclopedia Talmudit, most medieval Jewish authorities considered that all the seven commandments were given to Adam, although Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) considered the dietary law to have been given to Noah.[6]

The term ger toshav may be used in a formal or informal sense. In the formal sense, a ger toshav is a Gentile who officially accepts the seven Noahide laws as binding upon himself in the presence of three haberim (men of authority),[3] or, according to the rabbinic tradition, before a beth din (Jewish rabbinical court).[8] In the Talmud there are two other, differing opinions (Avodah Zarah, 64b) as to what the ger toshav accepts upon himself:[11][12][8]

  1. To abstain from idolatrous practices of any kind (detailed in Exodus 20:2–4 and Deuteronomy 5:6–8).[3]
  2. To uphold all the 613 commandments in rabbinical enumeration,[3] except for the prohibition against eating kosher animals that died by means other than ritual slaughter, or possibly[8] (Meiri) any prohibition not involving kareth.

The accepted opinion is that the ger toshav must accept the seven Noahide laws before a rabbinical court of three.[3][8] He will receive certain legal protection and privileges from the community, the rules regarding Jewish-Gentile relations are modified, and there is an obligation to render him aid when in need. The restrictions on having a Gentile do work for a Jew on the Shabbat are also greater when the Gentile is a ger toshav.[8]

In the informal sense, a ger toshav is a Gentile who accepts to follow the seven Noahide laws on his own,[5] or alternatively, simply rejects idolatry[3][8] (the latter issue is in particular brought up regarding Muslims).[8] According to the rabbinic tradition, a Gentile who accepts to follow the seven Noahide laws, although not before a beth din, is still regarded as Chassid Umot ha-Olam ("Pious People of the World"),[5][7][8][9][10] and the observance of the Seven Laws of Noah grants him to be assured of a place in the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba).[5][7][9][10] There is a debate among the halakhic authorities as to whether the rules regarding a ger toshav would apply to the informal case.[3][8]

The procedure to officially recognize the legal status of ger toshav has been discontinued since the cessation of the year of Jubilee with the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem;[2] hence, there are no formal gerim toshvim (plural) extant today.[2] However, it can be argued that a great deal are "informal" ones,[8] especially since it is possible to be a Chassid Umot ha-Olam even when the Jubilee year is not observed.

Modern times and viewsEdit

Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, encouraged his his followers on many occasions to preach the Seven Laws of Noah,[9] devoting some of his addresses to the subtleties of this code.[14] Since the 1990s,[9][15] Orthodox Jewish rabbis from Israel, most notably those affiliated to Chabad-Lubavitch and religious Zionist organizations,[9][15][16] including The Temple Institute,[9][15][16] have set up a modern Noahide movement.[9][15][16] These Noahide organizations, led by religious Zionist and Orthodox rabbis, are aimed at non-Jews in order to proselytize among them and commit them to follow the Noahide laws.[9][15][16] However, these religious Zionist and Orthodox rabbis that guide the modern Noahide movement, who are often affiliated with the Third Temple movement,[9][15][16] expound a racist and supremacist ideology which consists in the belief that the Jewish people are God's chosen nation and racially superior to non-Jews,[9][15][16] and mentor Noahides because they believe that the Messianic era will begin with the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to re-institute the Jewish priesthood along with the practice of ritual sacrifices, and the establishment of a Jewish theocracy in Israel, supported by communities of Noahides.[9][15][16] David Novak, professor of Jewish theology and ethics at the University of Toronto, has denounced the modern Noahide movement by stating that "If Jews are telling Gentiles what to do, it’s a form of imperialism".[17]

According to the Jewish philosopher and professor Menachem Kellner's study on Maimonidean texts (1991), a ger toshav could be a transitional stage on the way to becoming a "righteous alien" (Hebrew: גר צדק‎, ger tzedek), i.e. a full convert to Judaism.[18] He conjectures that, according to Maimonides, only a full ger tzedek would be found during the Messianic era.[18] Furthermore, Kellner criticizes the assumption within Orthodox Judaism that there is an "ontological divide between Jews and Gentiles",[19] which he believes is contrary to what Maimonides thought and the Torah teaches,[19] stating that "Gentiles as well as Jews are fully created in the image of God".[19] According to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the status of ger toshav will continue to exist, even in the Messianic era. This is based on the statement in Hilkhot M'lakhim 12:5 that lit. “all the world (kol ha'olam) will be nothing but to know G‑d." In its plain meaning, he asserts, kol ha'olam also includes Gentiles. As proof, he cites 11:4, which deals with the Messianic era, and the similar term ha'olam kulo, "the world in its entirety", refers to Gentiles. Continuing the text in Hilkhot M'lakhim 12:5, Maimonides explicitly changes the topic to Jews by using the term Yisra'el, explaining that "Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential", indicating that Jews and Gentiles will co-exist in the time of the Messiah.[20]

In any case, even when there is a Jewish king and a Sanhedrin, and all the twelve tribes live in the Land of Israel, Jewish law does not permit forcing someone to convert and become a ger tzedek against his will.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1986). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 3 (Fully Revised ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. p. 1010. ISBN 0-8028-3783-2. In rabbinic literature the ger toshab was a Gentile who observed the Noachian commandments but was not considered a convert to Judaism because he did not agree to circumcision. [...] some scholars have made the mistake of calling the ger toshab a "proselyte" or "semiproselyte." But the ger toshab was really a resident alien in Israel. Some scholars have claimed that the term "those who fear God" (yir᾿ei Elohim/Shamayim) was used in rabbinic literature to denote Gentiles who were on the fringe of the synagogue. They were not converts to Judaism, although they were attracted to the Jewish religion and observed part of the law.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bleich, J. David (1995). Contemporary Halakhic Problems. 4. New York: KTAV Publishing House (Yeshiva University Press). p. 161. ISBN 0-88125-474-6. Rashi, Yevamot 48b, maintains that a resident alien (ger toshav) is obliged to observe Shabbat. The ger toshav, in accepting the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah, has renounced idolatry and [...] thereby acquires a status similar to that of Abraham. [...] Indeed, Rabbenu Nissim, Avodah Zarah 67b, declares that the status on an unimmersed convert is inferior to that of a ger toshav because the former's acceptance of the "yoke of the commandments" is intended to be binding only upon subsequent immersion. Moreover, the institution of ger toshav as a formal halakhic construct has lapsed with the destruction of the Temple.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jacobs, Joseph; Hirsch, Emil G. (1906). "Proselyte: Semi-Converts". Jewish Encyclopedia. Kopelman Foundation. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2020. In order to find a precedent the rabbis went so far as to assume that proselytes of this order were recognized in Biblical law, applying to them the term "toshab" ("sojourner," "aborigine," referring to the Canaanites; see Maimonides' explanation in "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7; see Grätz, l.c. p. 15), in connection with "ger" (see Ex. xxv. 47, where the better reading would be "we-toshab"). Another name for one of this class was "proselyte of the gate" ("ger ha-sha'ar," that is, one under Jewish civil jurisdiction; comp. Deut. v. 14, xiv. 21, referring to the stranger who had legal claims upon the generosity and protection of his Jewish neighbors). In order to be recognized as one of these the neophyte had publicly to assume, before three "ḥaberim," or men of authority, the solemn obligation not to worship idols, an obligation which involved the recognition of the seven Noachian injunctions as binding ('Ab. Zarah 64b; "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7). [...] The more rigorous seem to have been inclined to insist upon such converts observing the entire Law, with the exception of the reservations and modifications explicitly made in their behalf. The more lenient were ready to accord them full equality with Jews as soon as they had solemnly forsworn idolatry. The "via media" was taken by those that regarded public adherence to the seven Noachian precepts as the indispensable prerequisite (Gerim iii.; 'Ab. Zarah 64b; Yer. Yeb. 8d; Grätz, l.c. pp. 19–20). The outward sign of this adherence to Judaism was the observance of the Sabbath (Grätz, l.c. pp. 20 et seq.; but comp. Ker. 8b).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Editors (14 January 2008). "Noahide Laws". Encyclopædia Britannica. Edinburgh: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2020. Noahide Laws, also called Noachian Laws, a Jewish Talmudic designation for seven biblical laws given to Adam and to Noah before the revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai and consequently binding on all mankind. Beginning with Genesis 2:16, the Babylonian Talmud listed the first six commandments as prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and robbery and the positive command to establish courts of justice (with all that this implies). After the Flood a seventh commandment, given to Noah, forbade the eating of flesh cut from a living animal (Genesis 9:4). Though the number of laws was later increased to 30 with the addition of prohibitions against castration, sorcery, and other practices, the “seven laws,” with minor variations, retained their original status as authoritative commandments and as the source of other laws. As basic statutes safeguarding monotheism and guaranteeing proper ethical conduct in society, these laws provided a legal framework for alien residents in Jewish territory. Maimonides thus regarded anyone who observed these laws as one “assured of a portion in the world to come.”CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Singer, Isidore; Greenstone, Julius H. (1906). "Noachian Laws". Jewish Encyclopedia. Kopelman Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2020. The Seven Laws. Laws which were supposed by the Rabbis to have been binding upon mankind at large even before the revelation at Sinai, and which are still binding upon non-Jews. The term Noachian indicates the universality of these ordinances, since the whole human race was supposed to be descended from the three sons of Noah, who alone survived the Flood. [...] Basing their views on the passage in Genesis 2:16, they declared that the following six commandments were enjoined upon Adam: (1) not to worship idols; (2) not to blaspheme the name of God; (3) to establish courts of justice; (4) not to kill; (5) not to commit adultery; and (6) not to rob (Gen. R. xvi. 9, xxiv. 5; Cant. R. i. 16; comp. Seder 'Olam Rabbah, ed. Ratner, ch. v. and notes, Wilna, 1897; Maimonides, "Yad," Melakim, ix. 1). A seventh commandment was added after the Flood—not to eat flesh that had been cut from a living animal (Genesis 9:4). [...] Thus, the Talmud frequently speaks of "the seven laws of the sons of Noah," which were regarded as obligatory upon all mankind, in contradistinction to those that were binding upon Israelites only (Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, ix. 4; Sanh. 56a et seq.). [...] He who observed the seven Noachian laws was regarded as a domiciled alien, as one of the pious of the Gentiles, and was assured of a portion in the world to come (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 1; Sanh. 105a; comp. ib. 91b; "Yad," l.c. viii. 11).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Berlin, Meyer; Zevin, Shlomo Yosef, eds. (1992) [1969]. "BEN NOAH". Encyclopedia Talmudica: A Digest of Halachic Literature and Jewish Law from the Tannaitic Period to the Present Time, Alphabetically Arranged. IV. Jerusalem: Yad Harav Herzog (Emet). pp. 360–380. ISBN 0873067142.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Spitzer, Jeffrey (2018). "The Noahide Laws". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Zevin, Shlomo Yosef, ed. (1979). ""Ger Toshav", Section 1". Encyclopedia Talmudit (in Hebrew) (4th ed.). Jerusalem: Yad Harav Herzog (Emet).
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Feldman, Rachel Z. (8 October 2017). "The Bnei Noah (Children of Noah)". World Religions and Spirituality Project. Archived from the original on 21 January 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Moses Maimonides (2012). "Hilkhot M'lakhim (Laws of Kings and Wars)". Mishneh Torah. Translated by Brauner, Reuven. Sefaria. p. 8:14. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reiner, Gary (2011) [1997]. "Ha-Me'iri's Theory of Religious Toleration". In Laursen, John Christian; Nederman, Cary J. (eds.). Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration Before the Enlightenment. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 86–87. doi:10.9783/9780812205862.71. ISBN 978-0-8122-0586-2.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Berkowitz, Beth (2017). "Approaches to Foreign Law in Biblical Israel and Classical Judaism through the Medieval Period". In Hayes, Christine (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Judaism and Law. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 147–149. ISBN 978-1-107-03615-4. LCCN 2016028972.
  13. ^ "Sanhedrin 56". Babylonian Talmud. Halakhah.
  14. ^  • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel (1979). Likkutei Sichot [Collected Talks] (in Yiddish). 4. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society. p. 1094. ISBN 978-0-8266-5722-0.
     • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel (1985). Likkutei Sichot [Collected Talks] (in Yiddish). 26. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society. pp. 132–144. ISBN 978-0-8266-5749-7.
     • Schneerson, Menachem Mendel (1987). Likkutei Sichot [Collected Talks] (in Yiddish). 35. Brooklyn: Kehot Publication Society. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8266-5781-7.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Feldman, Rachel Z. (August 2018). "The Children of Noah: Has Messianic Zionism Created a New World Religion?" (PDF). Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Berkeley: University of California Press. 22 (1): 115–128. doi:10.1525/nr.2018.22.1.115. Retrieved 31 May 2020 – via Project MUSE.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Ilany, Ofri (12 September 2018). "The Messianic Zionist Religion Whose Believers Worship Judaism (But Can't Practice It)". Haaretz. Tel Aviv. Archived from the original on 9 February 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  17. ^ Kress, Michael (2018). "The Modern Noahide Movement". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  18. ^ a b Kellner, Menachem (1991). Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish people. SUNY Series in Jewish Philosophy. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-7914-0691-1. against my reading of Maimonides is strengthened by the fact that Maimonides himself says that the ger toshav is accepted only during the time that the Jubilee is practiced. The Jubilee year is no longer practiced in this dispensation [...]. Second, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Maimonides thought that the messianic conversion of the Gentiles would be a process that occurred in stages and that some or all Gentiles would go through the status of ger toshav on their way to the status of full convert, ger tzedek. But this question aside, there are substantial reasons why it is very unlikely that Maimonides foresaw a messianic era in which the Gentiles would become only semi-converts (ger toshav) and not full converts (ger tzedek). Put simply, semi-converts are not separate from the Jews but equal to them; their status is in every way inferior and subordinate to that of the Jews. They are separate and unequal.
  19. ^ a b c Kellner, Menachem (Spring 2016). "Orthodoxy and "The Gentile Problem"". Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Marc D. Angel. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  20. ^ Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. Sha'arei Ge'ulah. pp. 267–8 (translated from Hebrew; emphasis and round brackets, but not the square brackets, in original text): There is a further detail in the wording of the Rambam in the completion and conclusion of his book [Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 12:5]: "And the occupation of the entire world will not be anything other than to know G‑d." Because in its plain meaning, it thereby includes the nations of the world as well (similar to what the Rambam wrote in the previous chapter, that the Messianic king will "improve the world in its entirety to serve G‑d ... I will transform the nations etc."), especially since immediately afterwards the Rambam changes [terminology] and writes "And therefore Israel will be great sages etc."[citation needed]
  21. ^ Moses Maimonides (2012). "Hilkhot M'lakhim (Laws of Kings and Wars)". Mishneh Torah. Translated by Brauner, Reuven. Sefaria. p. 8:10. Retrieved 10 November 2020.