Chapter Two. Fundamental Principles
And Gоd spoke all these words, saying: (Exodus 20:1)
1. The will of the Creator is revealed to human beings through the conduit of prophecy.15
2. The ultimate prophetic revelation is the giving of the Torah from heaven by Gоd.16
3. Whoever claims to be a prophet, sent by Gоd to instruct humanity, must first be directed towards the sages of Israel in order to determine his authenticity and the degree of obligation to listen to his words.17
4. All mitzvot (divine obligations) that are consistent with ethical norms, common sense, and proper conduct are obligatory for Noahides.18
5. Non-Jews may not institute new mitzvot of a religious character by themselves without the approval of the sages of Israel.19
6. Advancement of civilization – including technological progress, expansion of knowledge, moral elevation, and concern for the health of all creation – is an underlying principle in a world functioning in accordance with Gоd’s will.20
7. Regarding Noahide commandments whose details21 were not explicitly discussed in the Talmud or in Rabbinic literature, certain sages of Israel hold they should be decided according to the stipulations of Jewish law.22 Other sages of Israel hold it is the responsibility of Noahide sages to ascertain definitions on these matters according to their best judgment.23 Practically speaking, the second opinion is more fitting.24
8. Minimum measurements regarding certain mitzvot, as are customary in halacha (Torah law), such as the size of an olive or an egg in regard to blessings over food, are not applicable to Noahides.25
9. A Noahide minor,26 as defined by the sages of one’s prevailing culture, is exempt from Noahide laws.27
10. Whoever is deaf, mute from birth, or mentally incapacitated is exempt from Noahide laws.28
11. Noahides are not obligated to give up their lives to avoid violating Noahide laws,29 with the exception of the prohibition of murder.30 However, whoever wants to give up his life rather than violate any of these laws is permitted to do so and, in doing so, sanctifies Gоd’s name.31
12. Halachot added by the sages of Israel, known as rabbinic laws, do not apply to Noahides.32
13. Noahide sages accepted among their own people to judge and deliberate in legal matters must be experts in Noahide Law as well as the customary practices and common characteristics of their people.
14. Noahide Law applies to men and women equally.33
15. If an uncertainty arises regarding how to rule in Noahide Law, one may rule according to the lenient opinion.34
16. A Noahide who violated one of the Noahide laws inadvertently is exempt from punishment.35
17. The 27th day of the month of Marheshvan is the day on which Noah left the ark36 and accepted the Noahide laws.37 Therefore, several Noahide communities accustomed themselves to mark this day as a “festival of the nations.”38
14 See addendum to Ben-Noach entry, Talmudic Encylopedia (Hebrew).
15 Genesis 2:16-7; Mishneh Torah, Yesodei Hatorah 7:1.
16 See commentary of Rambam to Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1.
17 Mishneh Torah, Yesodei Hatorah chaps. 7-10.
18 Introduction of the Ran (Rav Nissim Gaon) to the Talmud; see Bavli Chulin 92a, addendum to Ben-Noach entry, Talmudic Encyclopedia (Hebrew); Ramban commentary to Genesis 6:13; Chizkuni commentary to Genesis 7:21; see Ruach Chaim, 5:10ד”ה שלי ; Rav Kook, Etz Hadar, Alef and Mem.
19 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:9, Meiri commentary to Sanhedrin 59a.
20 Isaiah 45:18; Yerushalmi Berachot 9:2 (end of halacha); Bereishit Rabbah 39:8 (end), Ramban commentary to Genesis 1:28; Menachem Azariah da Fano, Asarah Ma’amarot, Ma’amar Chikur Din 3:21; Rav Kook, Etz Hadar, Beit.
21 e.g. the definition of different plant species regarding kilayim (hybrids), the age of mitzvah obligation, and similar matters.
22 Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles), Responsa, Siman 10, in accord with Rabbi Yitzchak as opposed to Rabbi Yochanan; Chatam Sofer, Responsa, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 91 ד”ה ומה; Rabbi Yaakov of Lissa, Nachalat Ya’akov, Responsa, Part 2, Siman 3; Avnei Ezer, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 55 ד”ה ע”כ Zera Ha’Aretz pp. 242-3.
23 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14; Ramban, commentary on Sefer HaMitzvot, principle 14 (end), Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Ruach Chaim 5:10ד”ה שלי ; Maharam (Moshe Schick), Responsa, Orach Chaim, Siman 142 ד”ה ועכשיו ; Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (HaNatziv), Ha’amek She’alah, Sheilta 2:3 ד”ה וכד; Binyan Tzion, Responsa, Siman 127; RavKook, Etz Hadar, Alef and Mishpat HaCohen, Siman 13; Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Lev Ibra, p. 125.
24 See discussion of Rabbi Professor Nachum Rakover, Shilton Hachok B’Yisrael (The Rule of Law in the Jewish Sources), Noahide Laws pp.34-40.
25 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:10; See Rav Kook, Etz Hadar, Alef (for an explanation of why ‘measures’ do not apply to Noahides).
26 A minor is one who is less than a specified age, set by the sages of his national culture, at which one acquires intelligence, i.e. knowledge and skills as well as the ability to apply them. See Chatam Sofer, Responsa Yoreh De’ah, Siman 217; Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natansohn, Responsa Shoel U’mashiv Tanyina 1:14; Rav Kook, Etz Hadar, alef.
27 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:2.
29 Yerushalmi Shevi’it 4:2; Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:2; see below Chapter 3, Paragraph 16.
30 Bavli Sanhedrin 74a; Yerushalmi Shabbat Chap. 14 (end); Yerushalmi, Avoda Zarah 2:2; see Rabbi Yehuda Rozanes, Parashat Derachim Derech Ha’Atarim, Lecture 2 ד”ה אמנם על פי האמור.
31 See Ramban, Milchemot HaShem on Bavli Sanhedrin chapter 8 (end); see Parashat Derachim Derech Ha’Atarim, Lecture 2 (end).
32 Chatam Sofer, Responsa 6:25; Aharon Shmuel Kaidanover, Emunat Shmuel, Siman 14; see Etz Hadar, Alef.
33 Bavli Sanhdrin 57b.
34 Etz Hadar, Alef.
35 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:1; Ramban on Bavli Makkot 9a, not like ibid. Rashi ד”ה לפיכך.
36 Genesis 8:14-16.
37 Ibid. 9:1-7.