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Conditions of the Noahide declaration

Q: What are the minimum requirements of the declaration that a Noachide must make? Can a non-Jew accept the declaration or only a Jew?

Q: Rabbi Ouri Sherki, “The Universal Message of Judaism” (lecture, Noachieten Nederland, Capelle aan den IJssel, The Netherlands, 10 January 2010):

“Baba Kama 38a says that in the beginning of history the Seven Laws were given, but when G-d saw that the nations did not want to fulfill them, they were abolished. And the Talmud asks: But is a prize given to the sinner? And the Talmud answers that it is not really that they were abolished but they are no longer considered as a mitzva, so the reward is not the same. 

“This is the origin of the distinction established by the poskim that to come back to the dimension of the Seven Laws, they must be accepted. It is necessary to get out of the actual condition of the nations that fulfill the Seven Laws but do not consider them as the will of G-d.”

Reference material:

http://wikinoah.org/index.php/The_Noahide_Pledge (http://thesanhedrin.org/en/index.php/Psak_5767_Tevet_6e)
http://wikinoah.org/index.php/How_to_become_a_Noahide
http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/noach2.html#prelim

My questions:

1. What is the source of the decision of the poskim (rabbis) you mentioned? Were there any poskim who ruled differently?

2. “Greater is the reward of those who having been commanded do good deeds than of those who not having been commanded [but merely out of free will] do good deeds” (Baba Kama 38a). Is it also true that greater is the punishment of those who having been commanded transgress than those who having not been commanded perform the same (evil) deeds? If so, how can a non-Jew to make a sound risk analysis before making a declaration? In other words: could there be any benefit in not making such a declaration?

3. What has to be declared at a minimum for the declaration to be valid?

4. What are the requirements for the judges or witnesses? Can they be non-Jews?

5. The declarations I found contain lines like: “I recognize and submit to the authority of this court”, or: “I pledge my allegiance to […] this rabbinical court. I hereby pledge to uphold the Seven Laws […] under the guidance of this rabbinical court.” If a Noahide chooses to not subject himself to the authority of one specific Jewish court, can the declaration still be valid?

(The last two questions are asked with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in mind. I wouldn’t want the Noahide declaration to be a confirmation of the fantasies portrayed in that book, namely Jewish world domination. I think that Noahides are under the authority of the truth – which is given to the Jews at Sinai – but not under the authority of the Jews.)

A: 1. The main source is the Talmud Avoda Zara 64b. The poskim are mainly Maimonides (Rambam) in Melakhim 8, 10. But he didn’t mention this condition in the other places of his book in which he spoke of the status of ger toshav (a righteous resident). This fact leads some rabbis to the conclusion that this condition is a good thing but not an absolute requirement. (For example a contemporary author Rav Elisha Alterman in Gevul yisrael, chap. I).
2. Absolutely.

3.The minimum must be to accept the obligation to observe the seven Noachide laws, to recognize their divine origin, (and their interpretation according to the Talmudic traditions). 

4. The term in Rambam for the judges is “haverim,” which usually means a Jew learned in Torah. But if we accept Rav Kook’s opinion (not universally accepted) that if a whole nation is known to accept the Noachide laws it is not necessary to make a declaration, then the “court” is required only to get the information that such a non-Jew is a ger toshav. So it may be that a valid affirmation may be made in front of three virtuous Benei Noach. Others consider that this declaration is a kind of official conversion and not merely testimony, and if this is true then Jewish judges are required.

It is also probable that Rambam differentiates between a ger toshav, who needs a court, and a Ben Noach, who accepts the Noachide law by himself.

5. I don’t think that it must be linked to a specific court. Maybe in the future a standard declaration will be accepted by central rabbinical authorities.

I agree with your interpretation. But I think that it should be clear that the solidarity with the Jewish people and the state is morally obvious.

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About Rabbi Oury Cherki

Rabbi Oury Cherki
Rav Oury Cherki was born in Algeria in 1959 and grew up in France, and he made Aliyah in 1972. He studied at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, which was founded by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook. He performed his military service in the artillery branch of the IDF. He studied with Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rav Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi (Manitou), Rav Shlomo Binyamin and Achlag. Rav Cherki heads the Israeli department of Machon Meir, and he is the Director of Brit Olam - the Noahide World Center.He teaches in many places throughout Israel. Rav Cherki is the spiritual leader of the "Beth Yehuda" community in Kiryat Moshe (Jerusalem). He has written many books on Jewish thought and philosophy.

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