Moses has commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the community of Jacob.
And it shall come to pass in the end of days … And many nations shall come and say, 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths.
The prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews is well known to students of Jewish law. Equally well known is the role of Abraham as the "father of the multitude of nations" entrusted with the sacred task of carrying the teaching of monotheism to idolatrous peoples. A person unfamiliar with the extensive rabbinical literature devoted to this topic may perceive a certain tension, and perhaps even contradiction, between a recognized need to disseminate religious truths and an almost xenophobic reluctance to share the greatest repository of such truth—the Torah. Yet even a cursory examination of the relevant sources dispels the notion that while the community of Israel jealously guards its spiritual wealth, it refuses to share these riches with others. On the contrary, it is unique among western religions in its willingness to share its teachings without seeking to impose its observances. This necessarily involves a vocation of teaching despite the stricture against teaching Torah to non-Jews. The latter, while based upon substantive philosophical considerations and of definite halakhic import, admits of sufficiently broad exclusions to assure that Israel remains true to its role as a lamp unto the nations.
In every legal system there are laws which at first glance appear to be severely restrictive but which upon closer scrutiny yield so many exceptions as to render such laws virtually nugatory. It would certainly be an overstatement to describe the prohibition against the study of Torah by non-Jews as an example of such a law. Nevertheless, in some contexts it is permissible to teach Torah to non-Jews, in others it is even praiseworthy to do so. The matter is greatly complicated by numerous disagreements between halakhic authorities with regard to the precise parameters of this prohibition. Thus numerous scholars permit the study or teaching of the Written Law, others permit forthright responses to inquiries with regard to any facet of Torah study and/or instruction to correct erroneous views, while still others permit the teaching of Torah but not of its "secrets or reasons." In the medieval period no less a personage than Rambam entirely excluded Christians from this prohibition, while in the last century R. Israel Salanter, the acclaimed founder of the Mussar movement, actually mounted a campaign for the incorporation of talmudic studies in the curricula of European schools and universities. With regard to some points there emerges a consensus; with regard to others, controversy remains. In order to understand properly how it may be that for some authorities and under some conditions an act may constitute a violation of a divine command, while for other authorities or under other circumstances the deed may be meritorious, it is necessary to undertake a careful examination of the halakhic sources.
I. Rabbinic Sources and Responsa Literature
Judaism teaches that the study of Torah, whose essence is a covenant between God and the community of Israel, is a privilege reserved for adherents of Judaism. Non-Jews, who are not bound by the commandments of the Torah, are neither required nor permitted to study Torah. The Gemara, Sanhedrin 59a, declares that a non-Jew who engages in the study of Torah has committed an offense deserving of the penalty of death. Rambam, Teshuvot Pe'er ha-Dor, no. 50,1This statement also appears in a somewhat different version of the same responsum published in Teshuvot ha-Rambam, ed. Abraham Chaim Freimann (Jerusalem, 5694), no. 364 and in Teshuvot ha-Rambam, ed. Joshua Blau (Jerusalem, 5718), I, no. 149. followed by Kesef Mishneh, Hilkhot Melakhim 10:9, explains that this punishment is to be meted out by Heaven but not by a mortal court.2Cf., Leḥem Mishneh and Be’er Sheva, Be’er Mayim Ḥayyim, no. 14, who infer that the prohibition is rabbinic in nature from Rambam’s categorization of the death penalty as connoting “death at the hands of Heaven.”
The biblical text cited in establishing this prohibition is the verse, "Moses has commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the community of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4). In explaining the nature of the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews, the Gemara, Sanhedrin 59a, offers two distinct exegetic interpretations of this verse. Scripture speaks of the Torah as an inheritance bequeathed to the community of Jacob. According to one explanation, this phraseology serves to exclude non-Jews from participation in that legacy. Since the Torah was given only to the Jewish people, a non-Jew who studies Torah is, in a sense, appropriating to himself something which was not intended for him. Study of the Torah by a non-Jew is, according to this explanation, described as an offense akin to theft. Alternatively, the Gemara suggests that the biblical term "morashah," meaning "inheritance," should be vocalized as "me-'orasah," meaning "betrothed." The Torah is the "betrothed" of the community of Jacob. The bond which exists between Jews and the Torah is depicted as similar to that which exists between bride and groom. One who is not a member of that community but nevertheless engages in the study of Torah has committed a violation akin to adultery; he has illicitly intruded upon an intimate and exclusive relationship.3Cf., Zohar, Emor 91b.
It must, of course, be remembered that Torah is not an abstract science. Judaism teaches that Torah study must be pursued for purposes of implementation rather than as a theoretical, intellectual discipline. A non-Jew, who is under no obligation to observe its precepts, would subvert the very purpose of Torah study were he to pursue such study solely for purposes of satisfying intellectual curiosity. Misappropriation of the Torah in this manner is both a form of theft and a violation of the unique relationship which exists between the Torah and its adherents. In this context it is significant to note that Me'iri, Sanhedrin 59a, declares that a non-Jew may study Torah, and indeed acquires merit in doing so, if it is his intention to fulfill the precepts which he studies.
Me'iri, in his commentary on Sanhedrin 59a, quite apparently views the terminology employed by the Gemara in depicting the nature of this prohibition as metaphoric and explains that the prohibition against a non-Jew studying Torah is rooted in the fear that a non-Jew who becomes proficient in Torah scholarship may be accepted as a Jew and thus be in a position to subvert the religious practices of Jews. R. Solomon Luria, Yam shel Shlomoh, Baba Kamma 4:9, although he does not explicitly state that this is the rationale underlying the prohibition, decries the fact that some Jews in Spain and in oriental countries were wont to provide instruction in Torah studies to non-Jews for personal gain and asserts that this practice contributes to heresy. The possibility that non-Jews, particularly those engaged in missionary activity, might misinterpret the teachings of the Torah, whether consciously or otherwise, and thereby undermine the faith of Jews was indeed, historically speaking, a cogent cause for concern. The prohibition against teaching Torah to a non-Jew serves to thwart such an untoward misuse of Torah.
Just as non-Jews are prohibited from studying Torah, so are Jews forbidden to teach Torah to gentiles. Tosafot, Haggigah 13a, declares that a Jew who causes a non-Jew to transgress in this manner is guilty of violating the commandment "You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14).4Cf., Teshuvot Emunat Shmu’el, no. 14, cited by Pitḥei Teshuvah, Yoreh De‘ah 62:2 and R. Ben-Zion Blum, Tel Talpiyot, Sivan 5690. Moreover, the Gemara, Haggigah 13a, states that teaching Torah to a non-Jew is a violation of an admonition inherent in the words of the Psalmist, "He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel. He hath not done so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them" (Psalms 147:19-20). This verse, according to Tosafot, serves to establish a prohibition against teaching Torah to a non-Jew which is independent of any infraction on the part of the non-Jew.5Minḥat Ḥinnukh, no. 232, states that Rambam records the prohibition forbidding a non-Jew to study Torah but not the prohibition against a Jew teaching Torah to a gentile because, for Rambam, as distinct from Tosafot, the sole prohibition devolving upon the Jew is the general prohibition against placing a stumbling block before the blind. See also R. Shlomoh Yitzchak Levine, Ha-Pardes, Kislev 5710. R. Yechiel Ya‘akov Weinberg, Seridei Esh, II, no. 92, opines that since in “our day” there exist numerous translations of Scripture and there are non-Jewish scholars “capable of reading the Bible and Talmud” teaching such material to non-Jews does not constitute placing a “stumbling block” before them; cf., however, Teshuvot Besamim Rosh, no. 327.
Over the course of centuries various questions have arisen with regard to possible exceptions to the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews. One question frequently posed in our age of rampant intermarriage is whether the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, who, insofar as Jewish law is concerned, is a non-Jew, may enroll in a Talmud Torah or Day School and, conversely, whether the instructor teaching Torah to a class while such a child is in attendance is guilty of an infraction of Jewish law. This very modern question is addressed by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in the Adar 5737 issue of Or Torah, but was discussed much earlier by Rabbi David Hoffmann, Melamed le-Ho'il, Yoreh De'ah, no. 77. An earlier, broader treatment of the topic by Rabbi Yosef is included in Yabi'a Omer, II, Yoreh De'ah. no. 17. The question addressed to Rabbi Hoffmann seems to have been posed by a teacher in the German equivalent of our public school. Apparently, a specified number of hours were designated for religious instruction to be provided on behalf of each student in accordance with his or her religious persuasion. The problem referred to Rabbi Hoffmann involved a child born of a gentile mother and a Jewish father. The child was registered as konfessionslos, but the father nevertheless desired that his son receive religious instruction together with the Jewish children. In his response Rabbi Hoffmann correctly notes that conversion of the child is not an acceptable approach in obviating the problem since "what benefit is there to us in converts such as those who without doubt will desecrate the Sabbath and transgress all commandments?" But, at the same time, Rabbi Hoffmann was loath to counsel expulsion of the child from the class lest the father "forsake the community or create controversy within the community." Rabbi Hoffmann's advice to the teacher was that he explain to the parent that such an education can only lead to conflict and breed disdain for the parent on the part of the child. Since the father is a Sabbath violator, asks Rabbi Hoffmann, "How can the son honor his father if he hears from his teacher of religion that his father is guilty, according to his religious faith, of a capital transgression?" Such counsel may well have been cogent in an age when impious persons were viewed as pariahs but similar advice would fall on deaf ears in an age when, all too frequently, parents of many children in the same peer group are equally unobservant.
More significantly, insofar as application in our day is concerned, Rabbi Hoffmann offers alternative advice as well and in the process indicates that certain aspects of Torah may be taught to non-Jews with impunity.6Cf., the divergent opinion of Tosafot as published in Ein Ya‘akov, Ḥaggigah 13a and cited in Hagahot ha-Baḥ, Ḥaggigah 13a, who maintains that subsequent to revelation at Mt. Sinai non-Jews may no longer be taught the Seven Commandments. For an attempt to explain this difficult position, see Pri ha-Adamah, Hilkhot Talmud Torah, chap. 1; cf., also Teshuvot Pnei Yehoshu‘a, I, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 3. This position is explicitly rejected by Teshuvot Yad Eliyahu, no. 48 and by R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi‘a Omer, II, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 15, sec. 13 and Yoreh De‘ah, no. 15, sec. 10. See also R. Yehudah Rosenbaum, Teshuvot Ben Yehudah, no. 50. It may readily be demonstrated that a non-Jew may be taught all matters7A sixteenth-century Venetian scholar, R. Elia Menachem Chalfan, states, “Go see how many branches develop out of these seven roots so that if a gentile or Noachide is to know them in accordance with their laws and minutiae he may, and it is necessary for him to, study Sifre, Sifra and all [relevant sections of] the Talmud with permission.” This responsum was published by D. Kaufmann in The Jewish Quarterly Review, IX (1897), 503-508. The quotation cited is a translation of a statement which appears on p. 505. Whether or not “reasons and secrets” associated with Noachide commandments may be taught to non-Jews will be discussed later. pertaining to the fulfillment of the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah.8Indeed, it appears that they may be taught any matter pertaining to themselves even if not specifically encompassed within the contents of the Seven Commandments. The Noachide Code does not obligate non-Jews to offer sacrifices, yet they are permitted to do so even in our day if they so wish. Rambam, Hilkhot Ma‘aseh ha-Korbanot 19:16, basing himself upon Zavaḥim 116b, states, “… but it is a miẓvah incumbent upon us to teach them how they shall conduct themselves,” i.e., we are not only permitted but obligated to teach them the laws concerning the offering of sacrifices. As cited earlier, Me’iri, Sanhedrin 59a, states that a non-Jew may study Torah if his intention is to fulfill the precepts which he studies. Such a conclusion represents a position which is entirely cogent. Since the Noachide Code is binding upon non-Jews it stands to reason that they must be thoroughly familiar with its contents in order properly to observe its provisions.9In opposition to this view, R. Yissachar Graubart Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 96, citing Teshuvot Maharil, no. 199, which discusses the teaching of Torah to women, states that while a non-Jew may study matters pertaining to the Noachide Code with impunity, a Jew should not give instruction in such matters because the majority do not fulfill the obligations imposed upon them by that code. Moreover, the Noachide Code is the "Torah" of non-Jews. Hence there can be no question of "theft" with regard to appropriation of its contents. Moreover, Shiltei Gibborim, in his comments on Alfasi's citation of Avodah Zarah 20a, declares that non-Jews may be taught the Prophets and Hagiographa so that they may be aware of the "consolation and redemption vouchsafed to Israel." Such study is not forbidden because it serves a proper purpose, viz., to influence in a positive manner the comportment of gentiles vis-à-vis Jews. By the same token, argues Rabbi Hoffmann, they may be taught the narrative portions of the Pentateuch so that they may recognize the omnipotence and grandeur of God and become more aware of His miracles and thereby be spurred to renounce paganism, as is their obligation according to the Noachide Code. Accordingly, Rabbi Hoffmann advises the teacher to divide his time and to devote specific hours of instruction to Bible and to the study of those mizvot which are included in the Noachide Code and to devote the balance of his time to the study of mizvot of a ritual nature which are incumbent only upon Jews. The non-Jewish child would be permitted to participate in the former studies but be excluded from the latter. Rabbi Hoffmann takes it for granted that this arrangement would prove satisfactory to the father since, he argues, there is no logical reason for the father to want his son to study the detailed nature of observances in which the son will not participate. Rabbi Yosef also gives blanket permission for non-Jewish students to participate in classes devoted to the study of Bible and of mizvot which are incumbent upon non-Jews for reasons that will be delineated presently.
Similar questions are discussed by R. Abraham Zevi Klein, Be'erot Avraham, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 12; R. Pinchas Teitz, Ha-Pardes, Tammuz 5714, reprinted in Ha-Ma'or, Av-Elul 5726; Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, She'elot u-Teshuvot mi-Ma'amakim, I, no. 14; Rabbi Yechiel Ya'akov Weinberg, Seridei Esh, II, no. 92; Rabbi Menasheh Klein, Mishneh Halakhot, V, no. 172; Rabbi Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah, II, no. 132; and R. Isaiah Even-Sapir, Tevunah, Tishri 5715 and No'am, X (5727), 128-142.
Rabbi Teitz' article was written shortly after the inauguration of his popular Yiddish-language Daf ha-Shavu'a radio program. His question regards the propriety of a similar program in the English language. Although such a program would be directed to a Jewish audience there would exist the distinct possibility that some non-Jews might be found among the members of the radio audience. The propriety of Torah broadcasts in the vernacular is also the subject of Rabbi Even-Sapir's contribution to No'am. Rabbi Klein was asked the identical question with regard to Torah programs on television.
During World War II Rabbi Oshry was placed in charge of a warehouse in the Kovno ghetto in which the Nazis had assembled rare and valuable rabbinic works. On a number of occasions the Germans demanded of him that he read and translate some of the texts in his custody. Rabbi Oshry examines the question of whether or not compliance with these requests would constitute an infraction of the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews. Rabbi Weinberg was asked whether it was permissible to lecture "on a Talmudic topic" at a non-Jewish university. In his responsum Rabbi Weinberg reports that he first considered the question many years earlier when he himself had been appointed instructor of Jewish studies at the University of Giessen in Germany.
The question submitted to Rabbi Feinstein concerns a young man, apparently of a non-observant background, about to return home from his yeshivah for the Passover holiday. The young man wished to translate the Haggadah at the seder table so that his parents would be able to fulfill the mizvah as well. His problem was that a relative and his spouse were to be invited by his parents as seder guests. The woman in question had been converted to Judaism by a Reform clergyman. Since in the eyes of Halakhah her status as a non-Jew remains unchanged the student wished to know whether he might translate the Haggadah in her presence.
The answers to the specific questions posed in each of these responsa is affirmative, although the reasoning advanced by the various decisors is not always identical.
II. Written Law as Distinct from Oral Law
The first question which must be analyzed is whether the prohibition against a non-Jew studying Torah is limited to study of the Oral Law only or whether it includes the Written Law as well. The most extreme view in this regard is that recorded in Sefer Hasidim, no. 238, who advises that a Jew should not teach even the Hebrew alphabet to a priest.10Teaching the Hebrew alphabet to non-Jews is also forbidden by Dvar Shmu’el, no. 75; R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Sheyurei Berakhah, Yoreh De‘ah 246:4; and Teshuvot Pri ha-Sadeh, IV, no. 96. See also R. Ze’ev Wolf Leiter, Teshuvot Bet David, no. 17. However, the phraseology and context of this statement are indicative of prudent advice rather than of a statutory prohibition. Incidents of persecution and arousal of anti-Semitism by clerics claiming proficiency in Jewish law and lore were not at all infrequent during the medieval period. Hence prudence dictated that no assistance be provided to enemies of Judaism in their attempts to distort Jewish teaching for their own malevolent purposes. The Zohar, Aḥarei Mot 73a, also categorically forbids teaching non-Jews "words of Torah" but the reason given is clearly mystic rather than halakhic.11Sefer ḥaredim, miẓvot aseh me-divrei kabbalah u-me-divrei soferim ha-teluyot be-peh 4:37, understands the Zohar as frowning upon teaching non-Jews matters pertaining to the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah as well; see above, note 3. See also Shnei Luḥot ha-Brit, p. 185, who, following the Zohar, states that one should not teach non-Jews even the Hebrew alphabet. However, Yad Eliyahu, no. 48, understands the Zohar as referring only to the “secrets” of the Torah. Although the practice was decried by later scholars, R. Eliyahu Bachur reports in the introduction to his Mesoret ha-Mesorah that he himself gave instruction in the Hebrew language to non-Jews. R. Ovadiah Sforno is also known to have tutored Reuchlin in Hebrew literature at Rome between 1498 and 1500; see Ludwig Geizer, Johann Reuchlin, Sein Leben und Seine Werke (Leipzig, 1871), pp. 87 and 105. For discussions of the propriety of teaching the Hebrew language to non-Jews see Besamim Rosh, no. 327; Teshuvot Maharaẓ Ḥayes, no. 32; Teshuvot Va-Yomer Yiẓḥak, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 21; Yafeh le-Lev, III, no. 246, sec. 21; Afarkasta de-Anya, no. 46; Teshuvot Ma‘aseh Ish, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 7; Teshuvot Bet David, no. 17; Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, sec. 9; and R. Abraham Mordechai Hirschberg, Ha-Pardes, Tammuz 5754.
In another age and under quite dissimilar circumstances, R. Israel Salanter endeavored to gain acceptance of Talmud as a recognized academic discipline.12See Emil Benjamin, R. Israel Lipkin-Salant (Berlin, 1899), pp. 27-29; Louis Ginsberg, Students, Scholars and Saints (Philadelphia, 1958), pp. 160-161; and R. Dov Katz, Tenu‘at ha-Mussar (Tel Aviv, 1958), I, 22. As noted earlier, he sought to have the study of Talmud incorporated in the curricula of European universities and gymnasia. His primary concern, presumably, was to dispel prejudice born of ignorance. One historian speculates that, in addition, R. Israel Salanter was motivated by a desire to enhance the dignity and prestige of the Talmud among Enlightenment figures who, despite their own profession of Judaism, tended to denigrate all rabbinic studies. He perhaps also felt that recognition of Talmud as a respected academic discipline might have a positive effect upon non-observant Jewish students.13Tenu‘at ha-Mussar, I, 22.
Between the polar views forbidding any instruction and permitting all instruction are a significant number of positions which view the prohibition as operative with regard to certain forms of instruction but not with regard to others. Chief among these is the view that the prohibition serves to restrict only instruction in the Oral Law.
A clear distinction between the Oral and the Written Law is formulated by Rabbi Zevi Hirsch Chajes in his commentary on Sotah 35b and Haggigah 13a as well as in his Teshuvot Maharaz Hayes, no. 32. The Gemara, Sotah 35b, states that gentiles acquired knowledge of the contents of the Pentateuch prior to the entrance of our ancestors into Erez Yisra'el. Maharaz Hayes, without citing specific sources, explains that the "decisors" have long distinguished between the Oral Law and the Written Law. Restrictions with regard to the study of Torah by non-Jews, he declares, apply only to the Oral Law but not the Written Law.
Although Maharaz Hayes (with one exception, as will be noted later) does not identify the earlier authorities who distinguish between the Oral Law and the Written Law, this distinction may readily be inferred from a comment incorporated by Rabbenu Gershom in his commentary on Baba Batra 21b.14Indeed, the verse “… for it is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’ ” (Deut. 4:6) would seem to indicate that it is the divine intent that non-Jews be aware of the contents of the Pentateuch; cf., R. Chaim Sofer, Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 46, sec. 3. Alternatively, the verse must be understood as referring to the observance of the statutes; cf., Rashi’s commentary ad locum. See also R. Reuben Margulies, Nefesh Ḥayah, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 334:12. The Gemara declares that although residents sharing a common courtyard cannot prevent one of their group from accepting Jewish pupils for Torah instruction they may legitimately prevent any person who shares their courtyard from providing instruction to non-Jewish students. Since it is, in general, forbidden to teach Torah to non-Jews, the immediate question which presents itself is what type of instruction is under consideration? Rabbenu Gershom comments that the type of instruction under discussion is instruction "in medical texts or mikra," i.e., the Written Law.15This distinction between the Written Law and the Oral Law is also found in the earlier cited responsum of R. Elia Menachem Chalfan, Jewish Quarterly Review, IX, 507. This responsum is probably the earliest explicit formulation of a distinction between the teaching of Written Law and Oral Law. The obvious implication is that, when such instruction is provided under conditions which do not cause nuisance to others, the Written Law may indeed be taught to non-Jews.
A similar distinction may be inferred from the comments of Me'iri, Sanhedrin 59a. Me'iri states that a non-Jew may study Torah if he does indeed intend to fulfill the precepts which he studies, but is deserving of punishment if he studies solely in order to acquire knowledge of "our Torah and our Talmud." Me'iri's inclusion of the phrase "our Talmud" would indicate that it is only the study of the Oral Law which is objectionable.16See Bet ha-Beḥirah al Masekhet Sanhedrin, ed. Abraham Sofer (Jerusalem, 5731), p. 229, n. 3. However, R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, understands Me’iri’s phrase “our Torah” as including the Written Law. Again, in his commentary on Haggigah 13a, Me'iri speaks of "secrets of the Torah" which may not be imparted to non-Jews. It may be inferred that the Written Law, which is readily accessible to all, may be taught to a non-Jew. Among later authorities, Rabbi Naphtali Zevi Yehudah Berlin, Meshiv Davar, II, no. 77,17See also R. Naphtali Zevi Yehudah Berlin’s commentary on the Bible, Ha‘amek Davar, Harḥev Davar, Leviticus 18:15. rules that one may teach the Written Law to non-Jews as do Rabbi Judah Asad, Teshuvot Maharya, Yoreh De'ah, no. 135 and the son of this author in a gloss appended to Teshuvot Maharya, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 4. Meshiv Davar points to the fact that "God commanded Joshua to translate the Pentateuch into seventy languages," presumably for the edification of non-Jews.18In response to Meshiv Davar’s argument, Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 96, states that only the content of the seven Noachide commandments were made available for non-Jews. There is, however, no hint of this distinction in the talmudic discussion recorded in Sotah 35b. See also Rashi, Deuteronomy 1:5, who interprets that passage as meaning that Moses expounded the Torah in seventy languages, presumably for the edification of the seventy gentile nations. See, however, Arugat ha-Bosem, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 213, who opines that Moses’ exposition was for the benefit of Jews only and that he taught Torah in seventy languages in anticipation of the exile of Israel and the dispersal of Jews among the seventy nations. Cf., also Magen Avraham, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 334:17. See also R. Abraham I. Kook, Iggerot ha-Re’iyah (Jerusalem, 5722), I, no. 90, sec. 5, who declares that no normative halakhah can be derived from this narrative since the divine command was limited to a particular incident and occurred in conjunction with the exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Mount Sinai. During this unprecedented and unparalleled historical epoch the Divine Presence was perceived in some manner even by the gentile nations. A similar distinction is made by numerous other authorities including Sefer ha-Mezaref, no. 97; Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschutz, Ahavat Yonatan, Parshat Beshalaḥ; Ma'or va-Shemesh, Parshat Hukat; R. Jacob Meskin, Mishpat le-Ya'akov, no. 24; and Anaf Yosef, Haggigah 13a.19According to the authorities who maintain that non-Jews may study the Written Law it is somewhat difficult to understand the negative attitude toward translation of Scripture expressed in Midrash Tanḥuma, Parshat Ki Tissa, 34, Soferim 1:6, and elsewhere, Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 580:2, states that it is proper to fast on the eighth day of Tevet because on that day the Torah was translated into Greek in the time of Ptolemy “and there was darkness upon the world for three days.” [The statements in Soferim 1:6 and Oraḥ Ḥayyim 580:2 with regard to the translation at the behest of Ptolemy do not appear to present a difficulty since the published text of Soferim 1:6 indicates that the source of grief was the inadequacy of the translation, apparently a reference to the intentional mistranslation of a number of passages as reported in Megillah 9a. Tanḥuma cannot be resolved in this manner because it specifically decries translation as a means of making Torah accessible to non-Jews.] Teshuvot Maharaẓ Ḥayes, no. 32, resolves this difficulty by stating that making the Written Law available to non-Jews is not decried in these situations because of the prohibition against non-Jews studying Torah, but because the gentile nations failed to adhere to the Noachide Code, as stated in Avodah Zarah 2b. Under such circumstances, knowledge of Torah serves no beneficial purpose, particularly since the meaning of the Torah was distorted by them. However, continues Maharaẓ Ḥayes, there exists no continuing objection to translation of the Bible since translations are now readily available and the teaching of Scripture to non-Jews is not intrinsically forbidden. Cf., R. Moses Sofer, Torat Mosheh, Parshat Shemot, and Teshuvot Arugat ha-Bosem, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 213. See, however, R. Ezekiel Landau, Ẓelaḥ al Masekhet Berakhot (New York, 5716), addendum to introduction, p. 110, who decries translation of the Bible. This statement should not be confused with statements against Mendelssohn’s translation of the Bible attributed to R. Ezekiel Landau. The statement contained in the introduction to Ẓelaḥ decries all translations but is not cited by R. Landau’s biographers or by scholars assessing his role in the Mendelssohn controversy. If this addendum is authentic it appears to be at variance with the same authority’s approbation of a facile German translation designed to aid students of the Hebrew text; see Ben-Zion Katz, Rabbanut, Ḥasidut, Haskalah (Tel Aviv, 1956), pp. 198-199 and Shlomoh Wind, R. Yeḥezkel Landau: Toldot Ḥayyav u-Pe‘ulotav (Jerusalem, 5721), pp. 118-119.
Nevertheless, some authorities fail to make any distinction between the Oral and the Written Law and view the prohibition as encompassing both. This certainly seems to be the position of Shiltei Gibborim as expressed in his previously cited comments. Shiltei Gibborim permits the teaching of the Prophets and the Hagiographa to non-Jews (and, according to Rabbi Hoffmann, the narrative sections of the Pentateuch as well). He certainly implies that other portions of the Written Law, viz., the sections of the Pentateuch dealing with law and ritual, may not be taught to non-Jews.20Rabbi Oshry appears to be in error in his citation of Shiltei Gibborim in support of the position of Maharaẓ Ḥayes.
R. Zevi Hirsch Chajes in his comments on Haggigah 13a and in Teshuvot Maharaz Hayes, no. 32, cites Shitah Mekubezet, Ketubot 28a, in substantiation of his distinction between the Written Law and the Oral Law.21Shitah Mekubeẓet is also cited by R. Jacob Meskin, Mishpat le-Ya‘akov, no. 24, in establishing a distinction between the Oral and the Written Law. Indeed, Shitah Mekubezet is the sole source cited by Maharaz Hayes in drawing this distinction. Nevertheless, as Rabbi Oshry correctly points out, a distinction between the Oral and the Written Law is advanced only tentatively by Shitah Mekubezet while in his concluding remarks Shitah Mekubezet states that references to Torah study forbidden to non-Jews are general in nature and hence presumably refer to the Written Law as well. Accordingly, Shitah Mekubezet must be numbered among those authorities who forbid the teaching of even the Written Law to non-Jews.
Among latter-day decisors there are a number who do not distinguish between the Written and the Oral Law with regard to the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews. Chief among those who explicitly reject such a distinction is Rabbi Joseph Saul Nathanson in the comments appended to his letter of approbation which appears among the prefatory pages of R. Judah Asad's Teshuvot Maharya. His argument is that no such distinction is made by Tosafot, Baba Kamma 38a,22Teshuvot Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 96, similarly cites the comments of Tosafot, Ḥaggigah 13a, in rejecting this distinction. or by Yam shel Shlomoh, Baba Kamma 4:9. This argument, however, does not appear to be conclusive. The comments of both Tosafot and Yam shel Shlomoh focus upon the talmudic narrative concerning two Roman officials who were sent to the Sages by their government to study Torah. The problem to which Tosafot and Yam shel Shlomoh address themselves is, in light of the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews, how was it permissible for the Sages to accede to this request? R. Joseph Saul Nathanson draws attention to the failure of these authorities to draw a distinction between the Oral and the Written Law in resolving this difficulty. Their failure to do so, he argues, indicates that they regard any such distinction as invalid. However, examination of the problem as formulated by Tosafot and Yam shel Shlomoh reveals that such a distinction, even if valid, would not dispel the difficulty. The Gemara records that, inter alia, the Sages instructed the non-Jewish emissaries with regard to the laws governing liability for damages in the event that an ox belonging to a Jewish master gores an ox belonging to a non-Jew and vice versa. The provisions of law which are cited are clearly part of the Oral23Cf., however, Teshuvot Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 97, who, in another context, remarks that perhaps “explanation” of the Written Law is considered as part of the Written Law. rather than the Written Law.24The distinction between the Written and the Oral Law is also rejected by Teshuvot Va-Yomer Yiẓḥak, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 21; Yafeh le-Lev, III, no. 246, sec. 21; Teshuvot Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 96; Teshuvot Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 46, sec. 3; Teshuvot Kiryat Ḥanah David, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 13; Sedei Ḥemed, Pe’at ha-Sadeh, ma‘arekhet ha-alef, no. 102; and R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, secs. 6-7 and 11. See also R. Fichel Cichanowicz, Torat Yeruḥam, I, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 2. Cf., R. Gedalia Felder, Tanya Rabbati, Pri Yeshurun, pp. 135-137 and 165-167.
Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Oshry both infer from the comments of Maharsha, Shabbat 31a, that this authority also refuses to make a distinction between the Written and the Oral Law. The Gemara reports that Hillel agreed to the conversion of a non-Jew who wished to become a proselyte in order that the latter might be appointed High Priest, but only after teaching him Torah so that the convert was aware that he would not be qualified for this office. It is evident that in this instance Hillel taught Torah to a non-Jew despite the prohibition against doing so. Maharsha states that it was permissible for Hillel to teach Torah to the non-Jew because it is permissible to teach Torah to a prospective convert. A much simpler explanation would have been that the requirement that a High Priest be a lineal descendant of Aaron is readily obvious upon even superficial study of the Bible and requires no knowledge of the Oral Law. A distinction between the Oral and the Written Law would readily have dispelled the question raised by Maharsha. Failure to supply this answer indicates that Maharsha does not recognize the validity of any such distinction.
III. In Contemplation of Conversion
As has been noted, Maharsha, Shabbat 31a, permits the teaching of Torah to a prospective proselyte. Maharsha's position is disputed by Teshuvot R. Akiva Eger, no. 41, and by the Sephardic authority, R. Chaim Moda'i, cited in "Kuntres Zikharon la-Rishonim," Berakh Mosheh, p. 159a.25See also Teshuvot Bet David, no. 17, who endorses the position of R. Akiva Eger.
Support for Maharsha's position is found in the comments of Me'iri, Sanhedrin 59a. Me'iri states explicitly that it is permitted to give instruction to a prospective convert. Indeed, Me'iri goes beyond Maharsha's position and declares that a non-Jew is forbidden to study Torah only if he does not intend to apply what he has learned in practice. Me'iri is thus quite consistent in permitting Torah study on the part of a prospective convert. Teshuvot Erez Tovah, no. 2, sec. 3, finds evidence bolstering the position of Maharsha in a midrashic statement. Midrash Rabbah, Deut. 1:18, implies that although a non-Jew dare not observe the Sabbath he may do so with impunity once he has undertaken to convert even though he has not yet undergone the conversion ritual. [It may be noted that Tosafot Yeshanim, Yevamot 48b, opines that a non-Jew may observe the Sabbath under such circumstances.] Similarly, argues Erez Tovah, the prohibition against studying Torah does not apply to a non-Jew who has reached a decision to convert.26Teshuvot Ben Yehudah asserts that even according to Maharsha a candidate for conversion may be taught Torah only if the prospective convert has made a definite decision to undergo conversion immediately but the Bet Din insists upon delay. If, however, the candidate is not prepared to convert immediately he may not be taught Torah, argues Teshuvot Ben Yehudah, for “perhaps he will not convert subsequently.”
R. Chaim Sofer, Maḥaneh Hayyim, I, no. 7, rules that a prospective convert may be taught the Written Law and definitive halakhot without accompanying analysis. Maḥaneh Hayyim bases this ruling upon the thesis that the study of the Written Law and of definitive halakhot is forbidden to non-Jews only by virtue of rabbinic decree. This decree, asserts Maḥaneh Hayyim, does not extend to non-Jews preparing for conversion.
Teshuvot Minḥat Elazar, IV, no. 63, rules that it is imperative that a candidate for conversion be taught the shema and the order of prayer so that he may be able to fulfill those obligations immediately upon conversion. Failure to do so prior to conversion, he opines, constitutes "placing a stumbling block before the blind."27See below, note 35.
IV. "Reasons and Secrets"
Another limitation upon the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews is expressed by Maharsha, Haggigah 13a. Maharsha states that the prohibition is limited to instruction in the "reason and secret of the mizvot."28The Gemara, Ketubot 111a, speaks of a solemn oath sworn by Israel not to reveal “the secret.” Rashi, in one explanation, states that this oath binds Jews not to reveal the “reasons of the Torah.” This position is based on the fact that the terminology employed in the formulation of the prohibition is not: "It is not permitted to teach the words of Torah to non-Jews," but rather: "It is not permitted to give over the words of Torah to non-Jews."29Zekan Aharon, II, no. 71, equates the entire Oral Law with “reasons and secrets.” Other authorities understand the phrase in a much narrower sense; see, for example, Mishpat le-Ya‘akov, no. 24. Similarly, Me'iri, Haggigah 13a, speaks of a prohibition against transmitting "secrets of the Torah" to a non-Jew. Maharsha states that the prohibition against teaching "reasons and secrets" extends to instruction in these aspects of Noachide commandments as well.30See Mishpat le-Ya‘akov, no. 64, who cites an explanation advanced by Keter ha-Melekh in support of this distinction. The biblical passage containing the prohibition reads, “He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel.” Jews are recipients of both ḥukkim and mishpatim, statutes and ordinances. With regard to non-Jews the Psalmist continues, “He hath not done so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them.” Statutes have been bestowed upon non-Jews, but not ordinances. The distinction drawn in rabbinic sources between ḥukkim and mishpatim is well known: ḥukkim are laws for which no reason is given; mishpatim manifest a readily perceived rationale. Non-Jews are recipients of ḥukkim, i.e., unexplained statutes, but are not privileged to receive laws as ordinances whose reasons are conveyed to them. Therefore, continues the explanation, they may be taught Torah as ḥukkim, unexplained law, but not the reasons and explanations associated with mishpatim; cf., Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 30:6. See also R. Elia Menachem Chalfan, Jewish Quarterly Review, IX, 504, who notes that the numerical equivalent of the word “khen” in the passage “lo asah khen le-khol goy” is identical with that of the word “sod,” meaning “secret.” Cf., R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, sec. 8, who states that despite his use of the terms “reason” and “secret,” Maharsha intended to forbid only “secrets” but does not prohibit either “reasons” or explanations which enable the non-Jew to make proper deductive inferences. In direct opposition to this latter point, Me'iri, Sanhedrin 59a, indicates that insofar as the content of the Noachide Code is concerned there are no limitations upon the nature of instruction which may be provided. It would appear then, that, according to Maharsha, there is no restriction upon teaching the factual content of any portion of the Torah to non-Jews.31This also appears to be the position of Rashbam, Baba Batra 115b. Teshuvot Be'er Sheva, Be'er Mayim Hayyim, no. 14, makes a similar distinction between "reasons and secrets" and other aspects of Torah study insofar as the prohibition is concerned, but nevertheless cautions against teaching Torah in any form to non-Jews. A similar position is maintained by Teshuvot R. Eliyahu Mizraḥi, no. 57. This authority adds, however, that it is forbidden to disclose the rationale underlying a mizvah or law only when it is possible to avoid doing so. When, however, one cannot readily extricate oneself from such a situation even this information may be provided.
Maharsha, in his comments, makes no reference to a distinction between study of the Seven Noachide Commandments and other aspects of Torah. Since he fails to draw such a distinction there appears to be strong reason to assume, as he has been stated earlier, that Maharsha does permit a non-Jew to study any area of Torah so long as he avoids the "reasons and mysteries" of the mizvah. Maharsha was certainly understood in this manner by Teshuvot Yad Eliyahu, no. 48 and Teshuvot Ma'aseh Ish, Yoreh De'ah, no. 7.
However, one recent authority, R. Aaron Walkin, Teshuvot Zekan Aharon, II, no. 71, argues that this argumentum ad silencium is entirely fallacious and that, quite to the contrary, when Maharsha's comments are examined in context it becomes evident that this is not at all his intention. The ban against a non-Jew studying Torah is formulated in the Gemara in two places. Sanhedrin 59a cites the words of R. Yoḥanan who declared, "A non-Jew who engages in the study of Torah is culpable of death." Haggigah 13a records the dictum of R. Ami who stated, "It is not permitted to give over the words of Torah to a non-Jew." Maharsha's distinction is predicated upon the terminology employed by R. Ami. R. Yoḥanan's statement is more general in nature and does not lend itself to the same inference. Indeed, R. Ami's statement, which is based upon a passage in Psalms seems redundant, as noted by Tosafot, since R. Yoḥanan had already posited a pentateuchal prohibition, viz., "Moses commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the community of Jacob." It is this difficulty which Maharsha seeks to dispel. R. Yoḥanan's dictum is all-encompassing and proscribes Torah study of any nature, excluding only the study of the Seven Noachide Commandments. Study of the latter are specifically permitted to non-Jews as stated in Sanhedrin 59a. R. Ami's statement, declares Zekan Aharon in his analysis of Maharsha's comments, serves to explicate the dictum of R. Yoḥanan. R. Ami's intent is to circumscribe the exception admitted by R. Yoḥanan, i.e., study of the Seven Commandments. Although a non-Jew may study the Seven Commandments, declares R. Ami, he may not be introduced to their "reasons and mysteries." According to this understanding of Maharsha, other areas of Torah study are totally forbidden to non-Jews on the basis of R. Yoḥanan's statement and are not within purview of R. Ami's dictum.32See also Sedei Ḥemed, ma‘arekhet ha-alef, no. 102; Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, sec. 9; and Rabbi Even-Sapir, No‘am, X (5727), 140, who similarly understand the halakhah which may be deduced from Maharsha’s comments. These authorities, however, provide no basis for their interpretation of Maharsha’s position.
Maharsha's distinction between "reasons and secrets" and other aspects of Torah study is not accepted by all authorities. Maharsha's position is based entirely upon use of the phrase "ain moserin" which means "It is not permitted to give over" or "It is not permitted to deliver." Rabbi Weinberg, citing Teshuvot Maharaz Hayes, no. 32, points out that Tosafot must certainly reject any inference based upon considerations of phraseology because the textual reading of the Gemara as cited by Tosafot Baba Kamma 38a is "One who teaches Torah to non-Jews transgresses a positive commandment" and does not at all contain the phrase "ain moserin."
V. Other Exclusions
1. Intensity of Study
Another significant limitation upon this prohibition is found in the previously cited gloss appended to Teshuvot Maharya, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 4. The Gemara states that a non-Jew who is osek be-Torah, i.e., one who "engages" in Torah, commits a transgression. The identical verb is included in the formula of the blessing recited each morning in praise of God who commanded His people "la-asok," to "engage," in the words of Torah. Taz, Oraḥ Hayyim 47:1, defines this term as connoting not merely study, but intellectual engagement in the sense of exhaustive analysis and mental travail. Citing Sefer ha-Mezaref, no. 97, the author of the gloss appended to Teshuvot Maharya argues that only this type of intense study is forbidden to a non-Jew, but that cursory study is not at all forbidden. Rabbi Jacob Emden, in a gloss to Sanhedrin 59a, makes a similar point and explains why it is that only this type of study is forbidden. R. Emden declares that only study and investigation which involves elucidation or clarification of otherwise incompletely understood matters is forbidden and is considered to be an act of "theft" on the part of the non-Jew because it is properly the function of Jews to plumb the depths of Torah in order to discover all possible insights by means of study and penetrative analysis. A non-Jew who achieves priority in uncovering a hitherto unknown meaning or explanation has "stolen" a prerogative of the Jewish people. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Naphtali Zevi Yehudah Berlin, Meromei Sadeh, Haggigah 13a, as well as of Teshuvot She'ilat Ya'akov, no. 67, and is accepted as authoritative by Rabbi Weinberg. It should also be noted that Tiferet Yisra'el, Zevaḥim 14:4, states that the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews restricts only explanation or expository clarification but that the factual content of the law may be taught to a non-Jew.33Teshuvot Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, I, no. 7, draws a similar distinction but maintains that teaching the factual content of halakhot is forbidden by rabbinic decree.
2. Regularity of Study.
Another significant limitation is found in the commentary of Turei Even, Haggigah 13a. Commenting upon the fact that there are occasional references in the Gemara to Sages who themselves transmitted information concerning Jewish law to non-Jews, Turei Even states that the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews applies only to instruction provided be-kevi'ut, i.e., on a regular, ongoing basis. However, non-Jews may be provided with instruction in an occasional manner, particularly when it is necessary to do so in order to maintain amicable relationships. The phraseology employed by Shitah Mekubezet, Ketubot 28a, supports this distinction. That commentary speaks of a prohibition against teaching Torah be-kevi'ut. It may readily be inferred that on an occasional basis such instruction is indeed permissible.
The talmudic references to various incidents in which Sages of the Talmud imparted information of this nature is explained by Teshuvot Yad Eliyahu, no. 48, in a somewhat different manner. According to Yad Eliyahu, a Jew may not provide instruction to a non-Jew on his own initiative. However, when such information is expressly solicited, he may respond in an accurate manner "for purposes of sanctification of the Name lest they say that they have conquered by means of their words and [lest] they speak evil, Heaven forfend, against our holy Torah."34This position is accepted by Yabi‘a Omer, II, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 17, secs. 5 and 12. See also R. Shlomoh Yitzchak Levine, Ha-Pardes, Kislev 5710. Similarly, Pri ha-Sadeh, II, no. 71, declares that such information may be imparted to non-Jews when the motivation for doing so is a desire for the defense and honor of the Torah rather than edification of the non-Jew. Thus, for example, Jewish scholars may engage in disputations with gentiles in order that the teachings of the Torah not be misrepresented.35Teshuvot Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, II, Yoreh De‘ah, nos. 45 and 46, draws a distinction which is almost the reverse in nature. A question was posed to him based upon the obligation of the Bet Din to inform the prospective proselyte of some commandments both “easy” and “difficult.” How can this obligation be reconciled with the prohibition against teaching Torah to a non-Jew according to the authorities who maintain that such instruction is forbidden even in contemplation of conversion? [This question is raised and left unanswered by Minḥat Elazar, IV, no. 64.] He answers that the prohibition, which is described by the Gemara as being akin in nature to theft or adultery, is operative only when the non-Jew solicits instruction. Only when the non-Jew seeks alienation of Torah from Jews in his own favor is he guilty of unlawful appropriation of the Torah. When a Jew voluntarily initiates the process of instruction, declares Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, no act of “theft” or “adultery” occurs. Subsequently, in the concluding section of responsum no. 46, Maḥaneh Ḥayyim states that providing instruction to a non-Jew is forbidden only if the non-Jew is actually desirous of acquiring knowledge, but not if the purpose is to correct erroneous views held or publicized by the non-Jew for, in such instances, “the non-Jew does not wish to know Torah and also the Jew does not intend to teach him Torah.…” Cf., Teshuvot Maḥaneh Ḥayyim, I, no. 7.
3. Mixed Audiences
Rabbi Weinberg, Rabbi Feinstein, Rabbi Klein and Rabbi Yosef state that there is no objection to teaching Torah to Jews in the presence of non-Jews even though it is inevitable that the non-Jews receive the instruction as well.36See however R. Akiva Sofer, Oẓrot Yerushalayim, ed. Zevi Moskowitz, no. 18 (5717), sec. 224, who forbids English-language radio programs of this nature because of the likelihood of there being non-Jews among the audience and also forbids Torah programs in Hebrew because the program may be played in unseemly places. Rabbi Feinstein declares that the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews is limited to intentional transmission of Torah to non-Jews. As evidence for his thesis he cites the fact that Tabi, a servant of Rabban Gamaliel, is reported to have been a proficient scholar. Rabbi Feinstein opines that Tabi acquired vast knowledge as a result of his attendance upon the discussions of Rabban Gamaliel and his colleagues who did not refrain from the study of Torah in his presence.37Rabbi Feinstein’s analysis is compatible with the explanation found in Korban Edah’s commentary on the Palestinian Talmud, Megillah 5:3; Pnei Mosheh, loc. cit., however, states that Rabban Gamaliel instructed Tabi directly. Rabbi Yosef sanctions this practice on different grounds. He avers that it is permissible to teach Torah to Jews even in the presence of non-Jews by virtue of reliance upon the position of the Arukh who maintains that a pesik reisha de-lo niḥa leh, i.e., an act which produces an unintentional and undesired ancillary effect, is permissible even though the resultant effect is an act which, if intended, would be forbidden. Rabbi Klein appropriately points out that, in accordance with this line of reasoning, such instruction is indeed forbidden if the Jew really does intend to teach the non-Jew as well.38Rabbi Even-Sapir presents a rather tenuous argument designed to demonstrate that providing Torah instruction on the radio does not involve a violation of “Thou shalt not place a stumbling block.” Komeẓ le-Minḥah, no. 232, declares that this prohibition is not operative vis-à-vis non-Jews if the non-Jew is unaware that the act is forbidden. To be sure, a non-Jew is culpable even if he transgresses through ignorance of a prohibition, as definitively stated by Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 10:1; nevertheless, a Jew bears no responsibility for enlightening a non-Jew who is ignorant of the law in order to preserve him from transgression. Such obligations flow from the concept of surety (arevut) which, in turn, is engendered by the reciprocal covenantal relationship entered into by the entire Jewish community at Arvot Mo’av prior to entrance into the Promised Land. Gentiles were not parties to this covenant and, hence, Jews do not bear religious responsibility for the conduct of non-Jews; see Shakh, Yoreh De‘ah 151:4. Since it may be assumed that non-Jews tuning in to such broadcasts are unaware of the prohibition against Torah study by gentiles, argues Rabbi Even-Sapir, the prohibition against placing a stumbling block does not apply.
It should be noted that evidently neither Rabbi Feinstein's nor Rabbi Yosef's line of reasoning was acceptable to R. Judah Asad, since that authority, Teshuvot Maharya, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 4, decries the publishing of translations of works of Torah scholars as "placing a stumbling block before the blind," i.e., making such works accessible to non-Jews as a result of publication in the vernacular constitutes the placing of a "stumbling block" before them. Maharya views publication of Torah works in the vernacular as impermissible even though such publication is undertaken for the benefit of a Jewish readership.39See also Teshuvot Yad Eliyahu, no. 48, who similarly forbids selling of sacred books to non-Jews unless they contain material dealing with the seven Noachide commandments. The sale of sacred books to non-Jews is also forbidden by R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Shiyurei Berakhah, Yoreh De‘ah 246:5. R. Isaiah Even-Sapir, No‘am, X (5727), 142, opines that even for these authorities there exists no prohibition with regard to such sale when similar works are already readily accessible.
4. Noachide Laws and Jurisprudence
As has been shown earlier, non-Jews may be given instruction with regard to matters pertaining to the Noachide Code.40See above, note 6. Rabbi Weinberg rules that lectures before a non-Jewish audience on matters of jurisprudence are unquestionably permissible since non-Jews are bound to fulfill the commandment of dinin, which is one of the Seven Noachide Commandments, and encompasses Torah laws relating to all matters pertaining to ownership of property and financial liability.41The specific nature of the miẓvah of dinin is the subject of controversy between Rambam and Ramban. Ramban, in his commentary on the Bible, Genesis 34:13, understands the commandment as a general obligation with regard to the establishment of laws and regulations governing commercial and interpersonal behavior essential to the maintenance of a social order, e.g., laws governing theft, fraud, prompt payment of wages, bailment, etc. Teshuvot Rema, no. 10 and Teshuvot Ḥatam Sofer, VI, no. 14, maintain that in these areas Jewish law is incorporated in the Noachide Code in all its details by virtue of the commandment concerning dinin. Rambam understands dinin as binding Noachides to punish transgressors for infractions of the first six Noachide commandments. Nevertheless, Ḥatam Sofer, basing himself upon Teshuvot Rema, avers that Rambam does not reject as binding upon Noachides the obligations recognized by Ramban under the rubric of dinin. Ḥatam Sofer maintains that, according to Rambam, all such matters are subsumed under the commandment banning theft. While Rabbi Weinberg’s reference to dinin is obviously a reference to Ramban’s position as understood by Teshuvot Rema and Teshuvot Ḥatam Sofer, it is also substantively reflective of Ḥatam Sofer’s understanding of Rambam’s position regarding the normative obligations of Noachides, although for Rambam such obligations flow from the prohibition against theft rather than from the miẓvah of dinin. It should, however, be noted that R. Naphtali Zevi Yehudah Berlin, Ha‘amek She’elah, She’ilta 2:3, understands Ramban to be of the opinion that, while non-Jews are commanded to establish a system of jurisprudence and tort liability, the detailed formulation of such a system is left to their discretion and need not reflect the provisions of Torah law which are binding upon Jews. This is also the position of R. Iser Zalman Meltzer, Even he-Azel, Hilkhot Malveh ve-Loveh 27:1.
5. For Intellectual Purposes
Although he expresses some doubt with regard to the matter, Rabbi Weinberg endeavors to show that according to Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 10:9, the prohibition against teaching Torah to a non-Jew is designed to establish a readily determinable distinction between Jews and non-Jews and to prevent non-Jews from masquerading as Jews. Hence, he argues, the study of Torah is forbidden to a non-Jew only if he does so in the manner of a Jew, i.e., he seeks to fulfill a mizvah thereby. However, if his intent is purely intellectual, argues Rabbi Weinberg, there is no prohibition against such study.42Cf., R. Zalman Zevi Aufhausen, Oẓar ha-Vikuḥim (Jerusalem, 5729), pp. 182-183, who states that the prohibition is limited only to teaching Torah to gentiles who seek such knowledge solely for purposes of contentiousness (le-kanter) but not to those whose quest for knowledge is genuine. Of course, no halakhic inferences may be drawn from statements made in the context of a disputation.
A situation similar to that which confronted Rabbi Oshry is the subject of a discussion by Tosafot, Baba Kamma 38a. Tosafot rules that the prohibition against teaching Torah to non-Jews is suspended in face of a decree of the ruling authorities since failure to comply would result in endangerment of life. Such considerations were certainly germane during the period of the Nazi occupation.
Of particular significance with regard to the applicability of this prohibition in the present age is Teshuvot ha-Rambam, no. 364 (ed. Chaim Freimann).43Also published in Teshuvot ha-Rambam, ed. Joshua Blau (Jerusalem, 5718), I, no. 149. A somewhat shorter version of this responsum permitting instruction of Christians but omitting any reference to Moslems appears in Pe’er ha-Dor (Amsterdam, 5525), no. 50. Rambam’s distinction between Jews and Moslems, formulated in response to a query addressed to him by a student of R. Ephraim of Zur, is also quoted in Teshuvot R. Mosheh Alsakar, no. 19. See also R. Yitzchak Heller, Minḥat Yiẓḥak, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 13. Rambam states that the prohibition extends only to gentiles who do not accept the divinity of Torah and specifically includes Moslems among those to whom the Torah may not be taught. However, declares Rambam, it is permitted to teach "the mizvot and their explanations to Christians" who accept the divinity of Torah.44See Me’iri, Ḥaggigah 13a, who states, “One may not transmit secrets of the Torah to non-Jews, that is, to one who serves idols, for since he denies the existence of God how may we teach him Torah? With regard to them [Scripture] states, ‘He teaches His words to Jacob…. ’ ” Me’iri appears to limit the prohibition to idolators and atheists. This distinction, as formulated by Me’iri, is not cited in any of the numerous discussions of this topic. Also of interest is the comment of Rabbenu Yechiel of Paris who states that various talmudic references to non-Jews, among which he enumerates the prohibition against teaching Torah to gentiles, denote only members of the Seven Nations, i.e., the pagan tribes indigenous to the land of Canaan. See Vikuaḥ Rabbenu Yeḥi’el mi-Pariz, ed. Reuben Margulies (Lwow, 1928), p. 21. However, as indicated in note 42, no halakhic inferences may be drawn from statements made in the context of a disputation. Christians are described by Rambam as accepting the authenticity of the Masoretic text but as having interpreted it incorrectly. However, continues Rambam, if the correct meaning of Scripture is explained to them it may perhaps be accepted by them; even if this does not prove to be the case, no harm is done in making knowledge of Torah available to Christians since they accept the Bible as the revealed word of God.
R. Ze'ev Wolf Leiter, Teshuvot Bet David, no. 96, suggests that the ban against teaching Torah to non-Jews may not apply to young children. Minḥat Hinnukh, no. 232, states that the sole prohibition devolving upon a Jew who teaches Torah to a non-Jew is that of "Thou shalt not place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14).45See above, note 5. Since, however, a non-Jewish child who has as yet not reached the age of legal capacity46Teshuvot Ḥatam Sofer, Yoreh De‘ah, no. 317, states that although a Jewish boy reaches majority at 13 years of age and a Jewish girl at 12 years of age, provided that hair has developed in the pubic region, Noachides may be culpable at whatever age their intellect becomes developed. Sho’el u-Meshiv, Mahadurah Tinyana, I, no. 14, states clearly that this occurs at a much younger age. [In light of the principle which establishes that there is no commandment binding upon Noachides from which Jews are exempt (Sanhedrin 55a and 59a) some scholars aver that mentally mature Jewish minors below the age of halakhic majority are obligated to abide by the provisions of the Seven Commandments no less than are non-Jews of similar maturity; see R. Chaim Auerbach, Divrei Ḥayyim, Nizkei Mammon, no. 11, and R. Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Moriah, Elul 5742. Divrei Ḥayyim asserts that although he is bound by the Seven Commandments, a Jewish minor who has attained intellectual maturity is not liable to punishment for infraction of those commandments.] incurs no punishment,47See, however, R. Joseph Saul Nathanson, Sho’el u-Meshiv, Mahadurah Tinyana, I, no. 14, who declares that under the Noachide Code even minors are culpable. the Jew who provides instruction has not placed a stumbling block before him. However, in an earlier responsum, no. 57, the same author states that the prohibition derived from the verse "He hath not done so with any nation" (Psalms 147:20) applies to the teaching of minors as well.48See also R. Isaac Liebes, Teshuvot Bet Avi, I, no. 96, who similarly forbids enrollment of the child of a non-Jewish mother in a Talmud Torah. Moreover, contends Rabbi Leiter, a non-Jew taught Torah as a child may well review what he has studied after reaching the age of majority. The Jew, in providing instruction to a child, would thus be assisting in the latter's transgression at a later time.49See Teshuvot Tashbaẓ, III, no. 133; Teshuvot Radbaz, nos. 741 and 796; Magen Avraham, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 347:4; Shakh and Dagul me-Revavah, Yoreh De‘ah 151:6; and Pitḥei Teshuvah, Yoreh De‘ah 151:3.
Quite apart from the normative halakhic ruling, enrollment of non-Jewish children of intermarried couples in Jewish schools poses a policy decision of the highest magnitude. Rabbi Maurice Lamm, in a recently published book, The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), discusses the implications of such a practice and quite cogently argues that, as a matter of policy, non-Jewish children should not under any circumstances be granted admission to Day Schools and Yeshivot.
In a brief ruling unaccompanied by explanatory discussion, R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah, III, no. 77, unequivocally declares that such children should not be granted admission to Yeshivot. He further adds that the selfsame ruling applies to children born to a mother who has converted to Judaism under Conservative auspices. Since Conservative clergymen are disqualified from serving as members of a Bet Din the mother's conversion is a nullity. It then follows that her progeny are also non-Jews.
A similar view regarding enrollment of non-Jewish children in Jewish schools is expressed by the Tzelemer Rav, the late R. Levi Yitzchak Gruenwald, in his posthumously published responsa, Migdelot Merkaḥim, Yoreh De'ah, no. 78.
VI. Positive Obligation
Non-Jews are not only bound by the prescriptions of the Noachide Code but are also duty bound to enforce that code. Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 9:14, defines the last of the Seven Commandments as an explicit injunction addressed to Noachides admonishing them to enforce the first six commandments and to punish violators. Jews as individuals are not required to secure compliance with the Noachide Code on the part of non-Jews. However, in the Jewish commonwealth, Jews were obliged to establish courts for this purpose in the event that Noachide residents failed to do so. Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 10:11, states that this obligation devolves upon the Bet Din rather than upon individual Jews. Nevertheless, the rationale underlying this obligation, viz., "so that the world not become corrupt" indicates that, even in the absence of technical responsibility, there is a universal and hence a Jewish interest in the enforcement of the Noachide laws.
It has been noted earlier that a Jew is not halakhically bound to admonish a non-Jew in order to prevent the latter from transgressing.50See above, note 38. Cf., however, R. Yom Tov Lipman Heller, Tosefet Yom Tov, Pirkei Avot 3:14, who does posit an obligation to utilize moral persuasion in convincing non-Jews to abide by the provisions of the Noachide Code. Tosefet Yom Tov cites an obligation to coerce non-Jews to accept the Seven Noachide Commandments. This is apparently a reference to the ruling recorded by Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 10:6. That obligation, however, flows from the commandment, “They shall not dwell in your land lest they cause you to sin against me” (Exodus 23:33), which applies only to non-Jews residing in Ereẓ Yisra’el. This does not, however, mean that Jews are absolved from all responsibilities with regard to non-Jews. The Gemara, Makkot 9b, declares that a non-Jew is culpable for violations of the Noachide Code even if he is ignorant of the halakhic restrictions because "he should have learned, but did not learn." The notion that the non-Jew "should have learned" certainly entails the assumption that the requisite information is available to those desiring to acquire such knowledge. Yet, it may readily be inferred from Rambam's comments, Hilkhot Melakhim 8:11, that Noachides do not possess an independent mesorah or tradition based upon divine revelation.51Cf., also Rambam, Commentary on the Mishnah, Ḥullin 100b. See also Rambam, Hilkhot Ma‘aseh ha-Korbanot 19:16, cited above, note 8. The authoritative source of the mesorah upon which the Noachide Code is predicated is the revelation which occurred at Mt. Sinai. Since only Jews were privileged to participate in that event, it is readily apparent that instruction in the Noachide laws must ultimately come from Jews. Jews are the bearers of the mesorah not only of the 613 commandments of the Children of Israel but also of the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah. Obviously, then, the Jewish scholar must be under some correlative obligation requiring him to impart knowledge. Otherwise a non-Jew could not justifiably be held accountable because "he should have learned but did not learn."
It seems to this writer that while there exists no obligation to volunteer information (although it may well be laudable to do so), there is an obligation to respond to a request for information. Jews are commanded to disseminate Torah as widely as possible among their fellow Jews, but there is no obligation to seize the initiative in teaching the Seven Commandments to Noachides. Nevertheless, when information or advice is solicited there is a definite obligation to respond. When the non-Jew takes the initiative in posing a query, the Jew must respond to the best of his ability.52For a similar distinction in a different context see Teshuvot Ḥatam Sofer, Ḥoshen Mishpat, no. 164.
In the context of influencing legislation, it would appear that the Jewish community is under no binding obligation aggressively to advocate legislative implementation of Halakhah even as it pertains to non-Jews. Nevertheless, Jewish scholars are not at liberty to shirk their responsibility as teachers when asked to present Jewish teaching as it relates to any legislative issue. In making such a request, the legislators, knowingly or unknowingly, are engaged in discharging the obligation placed upon them by the Noachide Code.
Cognizance must be taken of yet another aspect of our concern. Despite the absence of a specific obligation to influence non-Jews to abide by the provisions of the Noachide Code, the attempt to do so is entirely legitimate. Apart from our universal concern, fear lest "the world become corrupt," as Rambam puts it, is also very much a matter of Jewish concern and self-interest. Disintegration of the moral fabric of society affects everyone. Particularly in our age we cannot insulate ourselves against the pervasive cultural forces which mold human conduct. Jews have every interest in promoting a positive moral climate.
Accordingly, Jews should certainly not hesitate to make the teachings of Judaism as they bear upon contemporary mores more readily accessible to fellow citizens. That is the most direct means available to us for exercising a positive influence in improving the moral atmosphere in which we all live.
The prophet Isaiah testifies that in the end of days there will be a pervasive thirst for the word of God and, ultimately, non-Jews will turn to Jews in their quest to become familiar with the Law of God: "And it shall come to pass in the end of days … And many nations shall come and say, 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob and He will teach us His ways (derakhav) and we will walk in His paths (orḥotav)' " (Isaiah 2:2-3). Malbim, in his commentary on this passage, notes that elsewhere the Hebrew term "derakhav," translated as "His ways," denotes major roads or highways while the term "orḥotav," translated as "His paths," refers to secondary roads. Thus, according to Malbim, Isaiah speaks of an obligation incumbent upon Jews to teach all nations the "roots and principles" of Judaism and prophesies that, in the end of days, these nations will seek even greater edification and will, of their own accord, seek to discover even the byways and footpaths, i.e., the details and minutiae, of the Torah.
See also R. Shlomoh Kluger, Ha-Elef Lekha Shlomoh, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 257, who bases his opposition to Mendelssohn's translation upon the negative attitude expressed with regard to the Greek translation at the time of Ptolemy. Cf., below, note 39.
It may be inferred that this was R. Akiva Eger's position as well since the question addressed to him, Teshuvot R. Akiva Eger, no. 41, concerned a non-Jew who wished to be taught "Scripture and the order of prayer" in contemplation of conversion. R. Akiva Eger's negative reply quite apparently refers to instruction in Scripture; see Teshuvot Minḥat Elazar, IV, no. 63.
Teshuvot Divrei Yissakhar, Yoreh De'ah, no. 96, rejects a possible distinction between the Written Law and the Oral Law and cites a statement of the Gemara, Sanhedrin 59a, in support of his position. In questioning R. Yoḥanan's dictum prohibiting non-Jews from studying Torah the Gemara cites R. Meir's statement that a non-Jew who studies Torah is likened unto a High Priest. The Gemara replies that R. Meir's comment must be understood as referring to the study of the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah. Failure to resolve this difficulty by distinguishing between the Written and the Oral Law, argues Divrei Yissakhar, indicates that such a distinction is invalid.
On the other hand, Rabbi Weinberg, Seridei Esh, II, no. 92, opines that even if the non-Jew is not intent upon actual conversion but will cherish and honor the teachings of the Torah he may, according to Me'iri, be given instruction; cf., below, note 42. See also R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Shiyurei Berakhah, Yoreh De'ah 246:3-5; R. Elijah of Lublin, Teshuvot Yad Eliyahu, no. 48; R. Eleazar Horowitz, Teshuvot Yad Elazar, no. 76; R. Jacob Saul Alyashar, Ma'aseh Ish, Yoreh De'ah, no. 7; R. Meir Arak, Teshuvot Imrei Yosher, II, no. 130; Teshuvot Divrei Malki'el, VI, no. 19; Teshuvot Maḥazeh Avraham, I, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 54; Lev Sameaḥ, ma'arekhet mem, no. 21; Ma'asai la-Melekh, Hilkhot Bet ha-Beḥirah 2:2, secs. 3-4; Teshuvot Pri ha-Sadeh, IV, no. 96; Seridei Esh, II, no. 91; Teshuvot Maḥaneh Hayyim, I, no. 7; R. Abraham Reinhold, Teshuvot Minḥat Avraham, no. 20; and Teshuvot Minḥat Yizḥak, I, no. 36, sec. 6 and III, no. 98, sec. 2. Cf., however, Rambam, Teshuvot Pe'er ha-Dor, no. 50, who states that one should withhold instruction from a non-Jew "until he converts."
If the views of Yad Eliyahu and Maḥaneh Hayyim are co-joined the resultant position is that the prohibition encompasses only instances in which the non-Jew seeks general instruction, but not instances in which the Jew seeks to enlighten the non-Jew or instances in which the non-Jew poses specific questions in order to be enlightened with regard to the teachings of Judaism concerning particular matters.
A somewhat different position is independently advanced by Zekan Aharon, II, no. 71. Zekan Aharon adopts the position that no violation of R. Yoḥanan's dictum takes place on the part of the non-Jew if Torah is transmitted by a Jew. The Jew is forbidden to teach Torah to a gentile by virtue of R. Ami's dictum, but R. Ami forbids only the teaching of "reasons and secrets"; other matters may be transmitted with impunity. This inference is, however, contradicted by R. Yoḥanan's own corollary statement declaring that a Jew who teaches a gentile has transgressed in placing a stumbling block before him. Zekan Aharon, in explaining R. Yoḥanan's statement, modifies his conclusion by stating that no individual has the right to alienate Torah, which is the inheritance of the community of Jacob rather than the individual's personal possession, in favor of a non-Jew; however, the Bet Din which acts on behalf of the entire community may authorize the instruction of a non-Jew and regularly does so with regard to candidates for conversion.
Maḥanah Hayyim further resolves the problem posed in the inquiry addressed to him by stating that an applicant for conversion need be told of mizvot only in a general way. However, in the absence of specific information with regard to how mizvot are to be fulfilled (e.g., precise time of performance, precise definition of that which is forbidden, or exact quantity or measurement, etc.) the individual receiving such information has incomplete and hence inaccurate information. Such information is not to be considered "Torah" in the proper sense of the term. It then follows that only precise and complete information may not be taught to non-Jews. In a somewhat similar vein, Pri ha-Sadeh, II, no. 71, states that the statutory requirement for purposes of conversion is to "make known" the nature of mizvot to non-Jews. Imparting such information, declares Pri ha-Sadeh, is qualitatively different from "teaching."
However, the thesis advanced by Komez le-Minḥah is difficult to sustain. It may well be cogent if applied to a situation involving ignorance of fact, as distinct from ignorance of law. A non-Jew is not culpable, for example, for eating flesh torn from a living creature if he is unaware of the fact. A Jew is not obligated to prevent him from doing so and, arguably, has not placed a stumbling block before him in presenting him with such meat. However, as noted earlier, ignorance of law does not exonerate a Noachide. Since the Noachide Code makes no distinction between willful transgression and transgression which results from ignorance of the law, it is difficult to see why the assistance of a Jew, since it is forbidden in the former case, should not likewise be forbidden in the latter. In the absence of the obligations flowing from the concept of arevut there may be no obligation to prevent the non-Jew from sin; however, actively causing a non-Jew to transgress is clearly forbidden. Cf., however, Mishneh le-Melekh, Hilkhot Kela'im 1:6; Bi'ur haGra, Yoreh De'ah 295:2; and Pri Megadim, Oraḥ Hayyim 443:5 and 444:6, who maintain that passive non-intervention also constitutes "placing a stumbling block before the blind." Derishah, Yoreh De'ah 297, disagrees and maintains that the prohibition includes only overt action but does not extend to passive nonfeasance. See also R. Ya'akov Breisch, Helkat Ya'akov, III, no. 136.
Tosafot, Gittin 60b, cites a midrashic comment which explains that the major portion of the Torah was transmitted through the Oral Law and only a small portion thereof was recorded in the Written Law because God does not wish the Torah to be accessible to non-Jews. On the basis of this source Torat Yeruḥam, I, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 2, forbids the publication of Torah works devoted to the explication of either the Oral or the Written Law on behalf of non-Jews.
For an account of Hatam Sofer's letter of approbation in support of the publication of a German translation of the Talmud prepared by Ephraim Moses Pinner and his subsequent retraction thereof see R. Naphtali Benet, Imrei Shefer, p. 8b; Iggerot Soferim, ed. R. Shimon Sofer, II, nos. 66–69; Likutei Teshuvot Hatam Sofer (London, 5725), Helek ha-Mikhtavim, no. 38; Teshuvot Maharam Schick, Oraḥ Hayyim, nos. 306 and 307; Rabbi Y. Y. Greenwald, Ozar Neḥmad, pp. 81-83; and R. Even-Sapir, No'am, X, 142. See also R. Judah Nachshoni, Rabbenu Mosheh Sofer (Jerusalem, 5741), pp. 194–196 and R. Raphael Nathan Nata Rabbinovicz, Ma'amar al Hadfasat ha-Talmud (Jerusalem, 5725), p. 246. One volume of the Pinner translation of the Talmud was published in Berlin in 1842, but without Hatam Sofer's letter of approbation. For a report of a similar attempt on the part of Rabbi Israel Salanter to have the Talmud translated into the vernacular and of his unsuccessful journey to Paris for this purpose see R. Israel Lipkin-Salant, pp. 27-29; Students, Scholars and Saints, pp. 160-161; and Tenu'at ha-Mussar, I, 22. Cf., Teshuvot Maharya, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 2; Teshuvot Arugat ha-Bosem, Oraḥ Hayyim, nos. 213 and 214; and Zekan Aharon, II, no. 71. Regarding the translation of Ein Ya'akov into the vernacular see Teshuvot Arugat ha-Bosem, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 214. Compilation of halakhic compendia in the vernacular is discussed by Teshuvot Arugat ha-Bosem, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 213. See R. Shlomoh Kluger, Ha-Elef Lekha Shlomoh, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 258, who opposed a proposed German translation of the Mishnah on the grounds that it is impossible for any translation to preserve nuances of meaning or to use language which accommodates conflicting interpretations of the original text.
See also Seridei Esh, II, no. 92, who cites and refutes the opinion of R. Reuben Margulies, Margaliyot ha-Yam, Sanhedrin 59a, who maintains that it is forbidden to teach Torah to non-Jews only in the Hebrew language, but that there is no prohibition against such instruction in other languages.
See also R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi'a Omer, II, Yoreh De'ah, no. 17, sec. 2, who maintains that the culpability of minors is a matter of dispute between Rosh and Rashi: Teshuvot ha-Rosh, klal 16, no. 1, states that the age of legal capacity is a matter of halakhah le-Mosheh me-Sinai, i.e., transmitted orally to Moses on Mt. Sinai as one of the many shi'urim or specifications of quantity and size with regard to precepts and transgressions, all of which were transmitted in this manner. Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 5:10, states that such shi'urim pertain only to commandments binding upon Jews but not to Noachide obligations. Thus Noachides are culpable for eating even a minute particle of flesh torn from a living animal while Jews are culpable only upon consumption of a quantity of food equal to the size of an olive. [Cf., however, Maharit Algazi, Kehillat Ya'akov, s.v. ḥazi shi'ur, who maintains that Tosafot disagrees with this ruling.] Rashi, Avot 5:21 and Nazir 29b, however, states that the age of religious majority is rooted upon the principle that a person is not a "man" until he reaches the age of thirteen as evidenced by the scriptural description, "And the two sons of Jacob, Simon and Levi, took each man his sword" (Genesis 34:25). Levi, at the time, was thirteen years old. The definition of the term "man" is a concept applicable to Noachides as well as to Jews. Rambam exempts Noachide minors from punishment, argues Rabbi Yosef, because he is in agreement with Rashi that exclusion of minors from culpability is a matter of definition rather than of shi'ur.
See Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, no. 184, who resolves the problem with regard to the apparent contradiction in Rambam's rulings by declaring that the "minor" exempted from culpability by Rambam is not a child below the age of twelve or thirteen, which is a matter of shi'ur, but a minor lacking in development of reason who cannot logically be held responsible for his actions. See also R. Isaiah Even-Sapir, No'am, X, 137-138.
[A difficulty presented by a statement found in Hagahot Asheri, Ketubot 11a, may be resolved on the basis of Hatam Sofer's thesis. Hagahot Asheri states that a ger katan is permitted to marry a Jewess even though he enjoys the option of renouncing his conversion upon reaching the age of majority. The obvious difficulty is that a minor does not have the legal capacity to contract a valid marriage; see R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Yoreh De'ah, I, no. 162. If indeed Hagahot Asheri maintains that the age of majority for Noachides is not thirteen but the age of intellectual maturity a resolution of this problem presents itself. Although Sho'el u-Meshiv, as earlier cited, states that intellectual maturity occurs at a younger age, this is certainly not a hard and fast rule. Some individuals may achieve such maturity at a later age. Furthermore, it would appear that since the conversion becomes absolute only upon reaching the age of legal majority, a child converted while a minor may renounce his conversion when he reaches the age of majority as provided for Noachides. Thus, a child who matures later than most would be entitled to renounce his conversion after the age of thirteen. However, if he does not renounce the conversion, he will be deemed to have reached the age of legal capacity at thirteen in accordance with the law applying to Jews. Hagahot Asheri may then be understood as referring to precisely such a child, i.e., a ger katan who marries a Jewess after reaching the age of thirteen but before he has achieved intellectual maturity. Such a child may renounce the conversion upon reaching the age of maturity, but if he does not do so, any marriage contracted after the age of thirteen would be valid. Cf., Helkat Yo'av, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 1. Cf., also the remarks of R. Aharon Kotler and comments of R. Shimon Moshe Diskin in the latter's Mas'et ha-Melekh (Jerusalem, 5736), no. 275.]
Cf., R. Ya'akov Moshe Toledano, Yam ha-Gadol, no. 18, who maintains that according to all early authorities there is no distinction between Jews and Noachides with regard to the age of majority and R. Chaim Sofer, Teshuvot Maḥaneh Hayyim, I, no. 10, p. 21, who avers that there is no distinction between Jews and non-Jews with regard to the age at which legal capacity is reached, but that non-Jews achieve majority even in the absence of pubic hair. A similar view is advanced by R. Baruch Mordecai Lifschitz, Brit Ya'akov, I, no. 21.
R. Shlomoh Drimmer, Bet Shlomoh, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 67, and R. Zevi Hirsch Teumim, Teshuvot Erez Ẓevi, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 32, assert that there exists no distinction between Jews and non-Jews with regard to the age of legal capacity. Cf., R. Yitzchak Chajes, Sedei Yizḥak, no. 9, who, in the course of a lengthy discussion, reaches the same conclusion with regard to the age of majority of a slave. See also R. Benjamin Adler, Halakhot ve-Halikhot Bar Mizvah (Jerusalem, 5734), p. 59.