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Thanks for your questions. I'll answer them in reverse order, since one addresses the general principles, and the other addresses a specific example.

PlasticMan Wrote:I read on another site that the discourse [about prohibitions] among the Rambam and others was centered around 'idolaters' as opposed to Noachides when it comes to prohibitions, and an observant Noahide may carry out the mitzvahs required of Jews.

That idea is definitely a mistake, if the person who wrote that is claiming that it applies for all of the 613 Jewish mitzvahs (commandments) without exception. It would be ridiculous to think that it applies to all of the 613 Jewish mitzvahs. So the question is, of the 613, how do you know which ones a Noahide may observe, and which ones a Noahide should not observe? The answer is that this is set out in Torah law (halacha) in general principles, and from the general principles, you can deduce the answer for specific cases. Furthermore, several specific cases are ruled on explicitly, and from those specific cases and the general principles, we can correctly answer for the rest.

This issue is answered very expertly in the section "Foundations of the Faith," in the book "Sefer Sheva Mitzvot HaShem" (The Book of Seven Divine Commandments), by Rabbi Moshe Weiner:

The English edition by Rabbi Weiner is titled "The Divine Code":

The basic points for answering the question are found in Rambam's Laws of Kings, ch. 10, in Mishneh Torah, when it is understood correctly. The following references to chapter x and paragraph y (x:y) refer to that source.

General principle #1 (Beginning of 8:10) - Moses only gave the Torah and mitzvot as an inheritance to Israel, as [Deut. 33:4] says, "The Torah ... is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob."

Since Rambam then speaks separately about the 7 Noahide mitzvot as being given to the Gentiles, it is clear that in the beginning of 8:10, he is talking about the 613 Jewish mitzvot. So the Jewish mitzvot, as Divine Commandments, belong only to the Jews. But the general ideas of some of the Jewish mitzvot are also obligatory or have practical benefit based on human logic, so those parts of those mitzvos can be observed by Gentiles.

General principle #2 (10:9) - The general principle governing these matters* is: Gentiles are not allowed to innovate religious practices for themselves, including taking mitzvot upon themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts to Judaism and accept all the mitzvot, or observe their own part of the Torah [the Noahide Code] without adding or subtracting from it.

*[In "these matters" - the two details that Rambam mentions there explicitly are:
(a) Gentiles are prohibited to delve deeply into Torah study - for example, by reading Talmud or advanced Rabbinical commentaries - unless it involves information that is relevant to the Noahide Code (but Jews are commanded to study any part of Torah as deeply as they are able);
(b) Gentiles are prohibited to observe a sabbath or religious festival of ritual restraint from normal activities (but Jews are commanded about this).]

From here we see very clearly (!) that Rambam is NOT talking only about idolaters. He is talking about Gentiles in general, which includes Righteous Gentiles who faithfully adhere to their part of Torah and observe the Noahide Code. We see this from his words, "They should be 'deeply involved' only in the study of their seven mitzvot." This sentence cannot apply to an Gentile idolater. If a Gentile idolater (including an atheist) studies the seven mitzvot, while remaining an idolater (meaning that he does not accept the Torah that he studies), he sins and is liable to be punished by G-d for his Torah learning. (See Meiri on Tractate Sanhedrin 59a.)

Rambam then goes on to say more specifically that he means that this applies to a Gentile who takes on a "new thing," beyond his seven mitzvot. Something that has practical benefit or is obligatory based on human logic is not a "new thing." Rather, it means new ritual religious practices, including the new things that were introduced to the Jewish people as ritual commandments through Moses, that never existed before in the world, and no person would have thought of beforehand from his own human intellect - e.g. the mitzvot of mezuzah, tzitzit, tefillin, Torah scrolls, Jewish dietary laws, Jewish ritual purity and impurity, not wearing mixtures of wool and linen, etc. etc. (The case of Abraham is not a contradiction, because the Jewish mitzvot were revealed to him prophetically, as a prelude to the descendants of Jacob receiving the Torah through Moses.)

Rambam then goes on to a more specific delineation of what is allowed:

General principle #3 (10:10) - A Noahide who wishes to do one of the mitzvot which bring with it some tangible benefit is allowed to do so, for the purpose of receiving that benefit.

Rambam now gives an example of this class of mitzvot, which Noahides are allowed to take upon themselves in addition to their 7 Noahide mitzvot: giving charity. Giving charity provides a rational, tangible benefit for society. Furthermore, the person knows that if he gives charity with a kind heart to those in need, then G-d will be more receptive to respond measure for measure, and provide the kind person with the things he needs. From this we deduce that all mitzvot which are rationally incumbent on a person, and which provide a tangible benefit for society, may be observed by Noahides. For example:

- Other forms of giving charity from among the Jewish mitzvot:
Giving loans to poor people, foregoing the taking of interest, tithing income, leaving the crops in the corners of the fields for the poor, giving gifts to the Jewish priests (who rely on charity while they are serving in the Temple), etc.

- Honoring parents. This provides a rational, tangible benefit for society. It is also repaying the kindness which the parents did in creating the child and raising him. Also G-d will be more receptive to motivating the person's own children to honor him, measure for measure.

- Being honest (not deceiving others); refraining from speaking or otherwise relaying slanderous gossip (lashon hara); fulfilling promises; praying to G-d; repenting from sins; dressing modestly; burying the dead; sitting shiva (mourning) for close relatives; etc. All of these mitzvot and number of others are logical, and were known and performed as righteous practices by righteous Gentiles before they were commanded upon the Jews as specific, and more detailed, mitzvot of the Torah. Thus they continue to be appropriate to be observed by Noahides, with or without adherence to the specific details which are required for Jews.

PlasticMan Wrote:Hi Director Michael.  In another thread you said "A Noahide can draw inspiration and insight from Jewish commandments which are not incumbent on non-Jews."  With that in mind, isn't it ok to affix a Mezuzah if:
a) a Noahide understands that he/she is not obligated to do so;
b) treats it in the proper manner.

No, since this violates all of the general principles above from Rambam. Likewise we have the ruling to this effect, specifically regarding mezuzah, by Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles), the famous Ashkenazi rabbinical authority, in his gloss on the Shulkhan Arukh (Code of Jewsh Law), section Yoreh Deah, vol. 3, chapter 291, law 2.

If a Gentile wishes, he can write or print out the words of the "Shema Yisroel" verse(s) on regular paper, in a language he understands, and affix it to his door post, by some means that makes it very clear that it is not a "mezuzah". (But it should not be done with an intention that he is doing it as a performance of a religious precept.)

*Note added 17 Sep. 20'17: Please see the reply of Rabbi Moshe Weiner below in Post #10.

Messages In This Thread
Mezuzah - by Ben_Noach_AZ - 09-09-2007, 05:31 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by Director Michael - 09-12-2007, 04:12 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by Divash - 04-15-2008, 09:48 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by Director Michael - 04-17-2008, 01:02 PM
RE: Mezuzah - by PlasticMan - 05-11-2008, 08:40 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by Director Michael - 05-11-2008, 05:48 PM
RE: Mezuzah - by Rabbi Moshe Weiner - 09-18-2017, 01:48 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by PlasticMan - 05-12-2008, 12:59 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by rabbiyitz - 05-21-2008, 04:44 AM
RE: Mezuzah - by Director Michael - 06-26-2010, 10:12 AM

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