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Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot)
Sh'lom Director Michael and Academy Rabbis!
Is a Noahide allowed to study the Pirkei Avot tractate of the Oral Torah since it contains so many important principles?
Thank you for your answers.

Greetings Teodor,

It is allowed for Noahides to read straight Mishnah (without in-depth commentaries) for the sake of getting acquainted with the information, since Mishnah itself is not an in-depth or analytical level of Torah study. However, caution is still advised for reading Mishnah, since many Gentiles have trouble with the concept that seemingly different opinions among the Sages are included regarding some points of Torah Law, whereas the foundational body of the Oral Torah teachings was received from G-d by Moses on Mount Sinai.

Also take special notice that Tractate of Mishnah called "Pirkei Avot" praises types of Divine service for Jews that are forbidden to Noahides, such as striving to be deeply involved in Torah study, observing the restrictions of the Jewish Sabbath and Holy Days, and keeping as many of the 613 Jewish commandments as possible, but not for the sake of receiving any reward. Noahides, on the other hand, are allowed to serve G-d completely altruistically only in their own Noahide Code, since those precepts are their actual "mitzvot." Taking on other observances should only be for some practical benefit that will come out from it - to themselves, or others, or to society - or to help the person to be extra-careful in observing the Noahide Code. (For more information, see "The Divine Code," Part I, ch. 3.)

So it will be OK for you to read the Mishnah's chapters of Tractate Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) if you keep the following in mind:

1) Pirkei Avot is OK for Noahides to learn if they do it for a practical purpose, which most appropriately would be learning how to improve their character traits.

2) Pirkei Avot was actually written for already observant Jews, to teach "ways of chassidus" - going above and beyond the letter of the Torah Law. The following Mishnah paragraphs in Pirkei Avot don't apply to Noahides, and in fact the opposite applies:

1:3 "Do not be like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward, but rather be like servants who serve their master without the intent of receiving a reward..."

- If a Noahide wants to take on a Torah mitzvah beyond what is included in the Noahide Code, he or she may do so if it gives some practical benefit to themselves or others (such as honoring parents, giving proper charity, returning lost objects, etc.).

4:8 "Do not act as judge alone ..."

- That applies to Jewish judges on a Jewish court. Gentile/Noahide court cases may be decided by a single judge.

4:10 "... if you toil much in the Torah, there is ample reward to be given you."

- That applies in general to Jews. A Noahide is forbidden to "toil much in the Torah," except for working hard at learning and understanding the details of the Noahide Code, which is permitted and encouraged, and rewarded by G-d.
But in other areas that are not related to the Noahide Code, a Noahide who "toils much in the Torah," especially if it is done just for its own sake, is liable to be punished by the Hand of Heaven, and it is our duty to warn him and try to persuade him to stop learning in-depth in those areas.

4:13 "There are three crowns - the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship ..."

- The "crown of Torah" applies to observant Jewish Torah scholars, AND to observant Noahides who become expert in the details of the Noahide Code. The "crown of priesthood" refers to Jewish father-to-son descendents of Aaron the first High Priest, and "the crown of kingship" refers to Jewish kings from the dynasty of King David.

5:8 "Seven kinds of punishment come to the world for seven kinds of transgressions..."

- This and the rest of this Mishnah, and Mishna 5:9, refers to Jews who transgress the stated Jewish commandments, G-d forbid.

5:11 "Easily angered and easily pacified ..."

- The Jewish prayer book edited by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (c. 18'00) uses a version of the Mishnah in which THIS is the character type for which the person's loss (he is easily angered) is outweighed by his merit (he is easily pacified).

Best regards,
Director Michael

Sh'lom Director Michael,
Thank you so much for this answer! That was exactly the information (even more) I've hoped to receive by stating my question. It's very interesting and even surprising at first sight to me, that a Noahide is only allowed to perform Mitzvos (additional to the 7 Noahide Commandments and not forbidden for gentiles) if "for the sake of receiving some practical benefit".
I wish you a nice day and happy celebration of the birthday of the saintly Rebbe Rayatz of blessed memory.

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