Gentiles Learning Torah


Moshe Ben-Chaim




Reader: Over the last few months one of the members of the Young Israel I go to has been having a gentle over for Shabbos, every Shabbos. He is most definitely not Jewish. He sits in on Torah classes, so I have been saying something to the Rabbis that are there. They have told me it is ok if he sits in on a class that is already going. Personally I'm against this idea. Can you offer any words on this subject?


Mesora: Based on Talmud Sanhedrin 59a (top of page) and Maimonides' Laws of Kings (Chap. 10, Law 9) a Gentile may not learn Torah except for his 7 Noachide laws, punishable by death. It follows that a Jew may not teach him other than these laws. I don't see how attending a class was permitted for this Gentile, although the teacher need not stop if the Gentile attends after it starts. I would tell the Gentile he may no longer attend, unless the classes are specifically on the 7 Noachide Laws.


It should be understood why the punishment is so severe, if a gentile learns Torah other than what applies to his seven Noachide Laws. By doing so, the Gentile then blurs the lines of who is a “Torah Authority”, and this done en masse, will destroy Torah, as other Gentiles not fit to teach, will proliferate ignorant rulings. Only by the Rabbi/student system discussed in the JewishTimes these past two week, is the Torah insured from falling into the hands of those without proper training.


It may be very possible that a Gentile has the same intelligence as a Rabbi. Judaism does not make false claims such as “we are more intelligent than others”, as I have unfortunately heard from ignorant fellow Jews. There is no difference between a Jewish mind and a Gentile mind. However, a Gentile is not bound to fulfill the 613 Commands. As such, the level of meticulous Torah study and adherence will probably not be found among Gentiles who study Torah for its theoretic beauty alone.


Perhaps it is the Jews’ obligation, which engenders the proper attitude essential for the highest level of Torah study, and thus, Torah leadership. This secures for Jews alone the right to study and disseminate Torah. I would note that many converts became some of Judaism’s greatest teachers. However, to teach Judaism, one must be one of those people who inherited Torah, through “obligatory” Torah study – and this is only the Jew or the convert.


I will suggest this solution, which I hope your Rabbi agrees with and puts into action: suggest to your Rabbi that he teach Torah and Talmudic portions that apply to the 7 Noachide laws. This alone can keep someone busy in Torah study for many years. In this manner, the Gentile may continue to learn of G-d’s Torah with you. You will both be studying matters that apply equally to Jew and Gentile.