Gentiles Studying Torah II


Moshe Ben-Chaim



Question: It seems that a most serious thing like death, if decided by the Rabbis, must at least be alluded to in the Tanach.  Is there a part in the Tanach suggesting that teaching Torah to Gentiles is so serious, that it is deserving of the death penalty?


Thanks, S.



Mesora: The Torah verse is Deuteronomy 33:4, “Moses commanded us in Torah, an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob.” This means that it is the “congregation of Jacob” who is bound to Torah, and no others. But God does not play “favorites”, as He created all men and women. How can He not desire the good for everyone, and only offer Torah to the Jew?


The great commentator Nachmanides says the following on this point, “The Rabbis explained, ‘congregation’ is used here and not ‘house of Jacob, or ‘seed of Jacob’, thereby including all those who yearn to cleave to the Torah. Thus ‘congregation’ is used to refer to even the convert. Therefore, both Jew an convert are referred to by God as His ‘congregation’.”


Nachmanides makes it clear that any human being desirous of leading the highest lifestyle as following all 613 commands is welcome, and is in the same footing. One born as “Jew” has no advantage over a convert. The reason Gentiles have but seven commands is not a “limit” to their performances, but a “minimum” requirement to retain a right to life. If a given person cannot comply with at least these seven Noachide laws, then his life is meaningless.


God’s desire that only the Jew study Torah is for good reason. 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 relationship 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, or a Jewish soul and a Gentile soul. 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 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.


The preservation of the Torah system by the obligated Jew in fact serves both Jew and Gentile. For without such care to accept the Jew’s designation as the sole Torah authority, other less informed people would corrupt the Torah system, not enabling a Gentile the opportunity to observe Torah accurately, or convert, according to true Torah law.  Additionally, any Gentile desirous of accepting more Torah laws is wise to do so and is fully permitted. For through these additional laws, he or she will become more perfected, as is God’s plan for every man and woman. The only laws a Gentile may not observe unless converted, are the Sabbath and Holiday, and I feel Tefillin as well. This is because these laws function to distinguish the Jew from others, as the Torah authority, as we have explained.