Sanhedrin 56a-b

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Sanhedrin 56a

Our Rabbis taught: seven precepts were the sons of Noah commanded: social laws;[1] to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry; adultery; bloodshed; robbery; and eating flesh cut from a living animal.[2]

To make the text more readible, the introductory Mishna on Blasphemy has been placed at the end
תנו רבנן שבע מצות נצטוו בני נח דינין וברכת השם ע"ז גילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים וגזל ואבר מן החי

Sanhedrin 56b

R. Hanania b. Gamaliel said: Also not to partake of the blood drawn from a living animal. R. Hidka added emasculation. R. Simeon added sorcery. R. Jose said: The heathens were prohibited everything that is mentioned in the section on sorcery. viz., There shall not be found among you any one, that maketh his son or daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them [sc. the heathens in Canaan] out from before thee.[3] Now, [the Almighty] does not punish without first prohibiting.[4] R. Eleazar added the forbidden mixture [in plants and animals]: now, they are permitted to wear garments of mixed fabrics [of wool and linen] and sow diverse seeds together; they are forbidden only to hybridize heterogeneous animals and graft trees of different kinds.
רבי חנניה בן <גמלא> [גמליאל] אומר אף על הדם מן החי רבי חידקא אומר אף על הסירוס רבי שמעון אומר אף על הכישוף רבי יוסי אומר כל האמור בפרשת כישוף בן נח מוזהר עליו (דברים יח) לא ימצא בך מעביר בנו ובתו באש קוסם קסמים מעונן ומנחש ומכשף וחובר חבר ושואל אוב וידעוני ודורש אל המתים וגו' ובגלל התועבות האלה ה' אלהיך מוריש אותם מפניך ולא ענש אלא אם כן הזהיר רבי אלעזר אומר אף על הכלאים מותרין בני נח ללבוש כלאים ולזרוע כלאים ואין אסורין אלא בהרבעת בהמה ובהרכבת האילן
Whence do we know this? — R. Johanan answered: The Writ saith: And the Lord God commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.[5] And [He] commanded, refers to [the observance of] social laws, and thus it is written, For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.[6] The Lord — is [a prohibition against] blasphemy, and thus it is written, and he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death.[7] God — is [an injunction against] idolatry, and thus it is written, Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.[8] The man — refers to bloodshed [murder], and thus it is written, Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.[9] Saying — refers to adultery, and thus it is written, They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and became another man's.[10] Of every tree of the garden — but not of robbery.[11] Thou mayest freely eat — but not flesh cut from a living animal.[12]
מנהני מילי אמר ר' יוחנן דאמר קרא (בראשית ב) ויצו ה' אלהים על האדם לאמר מכל עץ הגן אכול תאכל ויצו אלו הדינין וכן הוא אומר (בראשית יח) כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו וגו' ה' זו ברכת השם וכן הוא אומר (ויקרא כד) ונוקב שם ה' מות יומת אלהים זו <עבודת כוכבים> {עבודה זרה} וכן הוא אומר (שמות כ) לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על האדם זו שפיכות דמים וכן הוא אומר (בראשית ט) שופך דם האדם וגו' לאמר זו גילוי עריות וכן הוא אומר (ירמיהו ג) לאמר הן ישלח איש את אשתו והלכה מאתו והיתה לאיש אחר מכל עץ הגן ולא גזל אכל תאכל ולא אבר מן החי
When R. Isaac came,[13] he taught a reversed interpretation. And He commanded — refers to idolatry; God [Heb. elohim] to social law. Now 'God' may rightly refer to social laws, as it is written, And the master of the house shall be brought unto elohim [i.e., the judges].[14] But how can 'and He commanded' connote a prohibition of idolatry? — R. Hisda and R. Isaac b. Abdimi-one cited the verse, They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, etc.[15] And the other cited, Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.[16] Wherein do they differ? — In respect of a heathen who made an idol but did not worship it: On the view [that the prohibition of idolatry is derived from] they have made them a molten calf, guilt is incurred as soon as the idol is made [even before it is worshipped]; but according to the opinion that it is from, because he willingly walked after the commandment, there is no liability until the heathen actually follows and worships it. Raba objected: Does any scholar maintain that a heathen is liable to punishment for making an idol even if he did not worship it? Surely it has been taught: With respect to idolatry, such acts for which a Jewish Court decrees sentence of death [on Jewish delinquents] are forbidden to the heathen; but those for which a Jewish Court inflicts no capital penalty on Jewish delinquents are not forbidden to him.[17] Now what does this exclude? Presumably the case of a heathen who made an idol without worshipping it?[18] R. Papa answered: No. It excludes the embracing and kissing of idols.[19] Of which idols do you say this? Is it of those whose normal worship is in this manner; but in that case he is surely liable to death? — Hence it excludes the embracing and kissing of idols which are not usually worshipped thus.
כי אתא רבי יצחק תני איפכא ויצו זו <עבודת כוכבים> {עבודה זרה} אלהים זו דינין בשלמא אלהים זו דינין דכתיב (שמות כב) ונקרב בעל הבית אל האלהים אלא ויצו זו ע"ז מאי משמע רב חסדא ורב יצחק בר אבדימי חד אמר (שמות לב) סרו מהר מן הדרך אשר צויתים עשו להם וגו' וחד אמר (הושע ה) עשוק אפרים רצוץ משפט כי הואיל הלך אחרי צו מאי בינייהו איכא בינייהו <עכו"ם> {גוי} שעשה ע"ז ולא השתחוה לה למאן דאמר עשו משעת עשייה מיחייב למאן דאמר כי הואיל הלך עד דאזיל בתרה ופלח לה אמר רבא ומי איכא למאן דאמר <עכו"ם> {גוי} שעשאה ע"ז ולא השתחוה לה חייב והתניא <בעכו"ם> {בעבודה זרה} דברים שבית דין של ישראל ממיתין עליהן בן נח מוזהר עליהן אין בית דין של ישראל ממיתין עליהן אין בן נח מוזהר עליהן למעוטי מאי לאו למעוטי <עכו"ם> {גוי} שעשה ע"ז ולא השתחוה לה אמר רב פפא לא למעוטי גיפוף ונישוק גיפוף ונישוק דמאי אילימא כדרכה בר קטלא הוא אלא למעוטי שלא כדרכה
'Social laws.' Were then the children of Noah bidden to observe these? Surely it has been taught: The Israelites were given ten precepts at Marah, seven of which had already been accepted by the children of Noah, to which were added at Marah social laws, the Sabbath, and honouring one's parents; 'Social laws,' for it is written, There [sc. at Marah] he made for them a statute and an ordinance;[20] 'the Sabbath and honouring one's parents'. for it is written, As the Lord thy God commanded thee![21] — R. Nahman replied in the name of Rabbah b. Abbuha: The addition at Marah was only in respect of an assembly, witnesses, and formal admonition.[22] If so, why say 'to which were added social laws'?[23] — But Raba replied thus: The addition was only in respect of the laws of fines.[24] But even so, should it not have been said, 'additions were made in the social laws'? — But R. Aha b. Jacob answered thus: The Baraitha informs us that they were commanded to set up law courts in every district and town. But were not the sons of Noah likewise commanded to do this? Surely it has been taught: Just as the Israelites were ordered to set up law courts in every district and town, so were the sons of Noah likewise enjoined to set up law courts in every district and town! — But Raba answered thus: The author of this Baraitha [which states that social laws were added at Marah] is a Tanna of the School of Manasseh, who omitted social laws and blasphemy23 [from the list of Noachian precepts] and substituted emasculation and the forbidden mixture [in plants, ploughing. etc.].[25] For a Tanna of the School of Manasseh taught: The sons of Noah were given seven precepts. viz., [prohibition of] idolatry, adultery, murder, robbery, flesh cut from a living animal, emasculation and forbidden mixtures. R. Judah said: Adam was prohibited idolatry only, for it is written, And the Lord God commanded Adam.[26] R. Judah b. Bathyra maintained: He was forbidden blasphemy too. Some add social laws. With whom does the following statement of Rab Judah in the name of Rab agree: viz., [God said to Adam,] I am God, do not curse Me; I am God, do not exchange Me for another; I am God, let My fear be upon you?[27] — This agrees with the last mentioned [who adds social laws to the list].
דינין בני נח איפקוד והתניא עשר מצות נצטוו ישראל במרה שבע שקיבלו עליהן בני נח והוסיפו עליהן דינין ושבת וכיבוד אב ואם דינין דכתיב (שמות טו) שם שם לו חוק ומשפט שבת וכיבוד אב ואם דכתיב (דברים ה) כאשר צוך ה' אלהיך ואמר רב יהודה כאשר צוך במרה אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה לא נצרכה אלא לעדה ועדים והתראה אי הכי מאי והוסיפו עליהן דינין אלא אמר רבא לא נצרכה אלא לדיני קנסות אכתי והוסיפו בדינין מיבעי ליה אלא אמר רב אחא בר יעקב לא נצרכה אלא להושיב בית דין בכל פלך ופלך ובכל עיר ועיר והא בני נח לא איפקוד והתניא כשם שנצטוו ישראל להושיב בתי דינין בכל פלך ופלך ובכל עיר ועיר כך נצטוו בני נח להושיב בתי דינין בכל פלך ופלך ובכל עיר ועיר אלא אמר רבא האי תנא תנא דבי מנשה הוא דמפיק ד"ך ועייל ס"ך דתנא דבי מנשה שבע מצות נצטוו בני נח ע"ז וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים גזל ואבר מן החי סירוס וכלאים רבי יהודה אומר אדם הראשון לא נצטווה אלא על ע"ז בלבד שנאמר ויצו ה' אלהים על האדם רבי יהודה בן בתירה אומר אף על ברכת השם ויש אומרים אף על הדינים כמאן אזלא הא דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב אלהים אני לא תקללוני אלהים אני לא תמירוני אלהים אני יהא מוראי עליכם כמאן כיש אומרים
Now, what is the standpoint of the Tanna of the School of Manasseh? If he interprets the verse, And the Lord God commanded etc. [as interpreted above], he should include these two [social laws and blasphemy] also, and if he does not, whence does he derive the prohibition of the rest? — In truth, he does not accept the interpretation of the verse, 'And the Lord God commanded etc., but maintains that each of these [which he includes] is separately stated: Idolatry and adultery.
תנא דבי מנשה אי דריש ויצו אפילו הנך נמי אי לא דריש ויצו הני מנא ליה לעולם לא דריש ויצו הני כל חדא וחדא באפי נפשיה כתיבא ע"ז וגילוי עריות

See Also


  1. I.e., to establish courts of justice, or, perhaps, to observe social justice (Nahmanides on Gen. XXXIV, 13): Hast. Dict. (s.v. Noachian precepts) translates 'obedience to authority'.
  2. These commandments may be regarded as the foundations of all human and moral progress. Judaism has both a national and a universal outlook in life. In the former sense it is particularistic, setting up a people distinct and separate from others by its peculiar religious law. But in the latter, it recognises that moral progress and its concomitant Divine love and approval are the privilege and obligation of all mankind. And hence the Talmud lays down the seven Noachian precepts, by the observance of which all mankind may attain spiritual perfection, and without which moral death must inevitably ensue. That perhaps is the idea underlying the assertion (passim) that a heathen is liable to death for the neglect of any of these. The last mentioned is particularly instructive as showing the great importance attached to the humane treatment of animals; so much so, that it is declared to be fundamental to human righteousness
  3. Deut. XVIII, 10ff
  4. Therefore, since it is stated that they are being expelled as a punishment for these sins, they must first have been warned (i.e., prohibited) against them.
  5. Gen. II, 16.
  6. Gen. XVIII, 19. Thus 'command' relates to justice and judgment.
  7. Lev. XXIV, 16 — 'The Lord' being used in connection with blasphemy.
  8. Ex. XX, 3.
  9. Gen. IX, 6.
  10. Jer. III, 1. Thus 'saying' is used in connection with adultery.
  11. Since it was necessary to authorize Adam to eat of the trees of the garden, it follows that without such authorisation — i.e., when something belongs to another — it is forbidden.
  12. By interpreting thus: Thou mayest eat that which is now ready for eating, but not whilst the animal is alive. It is perhaps remarkable that a verse, the literal meaning of which is obviously permission to enjoy, should be interpreted as a series of prohibitions. Yet it is quite in keeping with the character of the Talmud: freedom to enjoy must be limited by moral and social considerations, and indeed only attains its highest value when so limited. Cf. Ab. VI, 2: No man is free but he who labours in the Torah.
  13. V. p. 361, n. 5.
  14. Ex. XXII, 7. The root idea of 'elohim' is power, majesty.
  15. Ex. XXXII, 8.
  16. Hos. V, 11, referring to idolatry; thus in both cases 'command' is used in connection with idolatry.
  17. V. Mishnah 60b.
  18. For which a Jew is not punished by death.
  19. Teaching that these are not punishable.
  20. Ex. XV, 25. Ordinance (Heb. mishpat) refers to social law.
  21. Deut. V, 16. This occurs in the fifth commandment of the second Decalogue. Similar words are used in the fourth commandment: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. In both cases then there is a reference to some previous event, shewn by the use of the past tense: commanded thee. Now the second Decalogue, though spoken by Moses towards the end of his life in the plains of Moab many years after the first at Sinai, was nevertheless a repetition thereof. Therefore this reference back must have been made in the first promulgation also, and can only relate to Marah, where, as stated above, 'he made for them a statute and an ordinance', i.e., gave certain laws to the the Israelites.
  22. I.e., that Justice should be meted out by an 'assembly'. viz., a Sanhedrin; that an accusation was to be attested by at least two witnesses, and that a formal warning or admonition was to be given to the accused before he committed his offence, as otherwise he was not liable to the prescribed penalty. But the sons of Noah, though bidden to observe civil laws, were not bound by these regulations.
  23. Since the addition was only in the method of procedure, but not in actual content.
  24. E.g., Deut. XXII, 19, 29, where a slanderer of a woman's honour is ordered to pay 100 silver shekels to her father, and a seducer of a virgin 50 silver shekels. These payments are not regarded as equitable indemnifications against loss sustained, but as fines for reprehensible acts. These laws were wanting in the civil code of the sons of Noah, and only these commands added at Marah.
  25. The text employs abbreviations for these commands.
  26. Which means that He commanded him to remember His Godhead, and not to reject it for a different deity.
  27. 'Let my fear be upon you' is an exhortation to dispense justice uprightly, without fear of man.