Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, Ph.D., teaches at the City University of New York (CUNY), and has taught at New York University, Yeshiva University, University of Denver, Jews' College (London), and Yeshiva Hechal HaTorah. He is the author of "The Seven Laws of Noah" (Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press) and also "Noachide Communities Throughout the Ages", was staff editor at the Encyclopedia Judaica, and authored a dozen of its articles on the Marranos of Portugal. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, following the general consensus of halacha, sees the Seven Laws as Categories. In Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein's opinion it is possible to look at all seven laws with the view towards establishing the extent to which they, severally, correspond to the Jewish law directed at Jews. His study seeks to resolve the question raised in the correspondence as to the categorization of the Laws of Noah. He sought to prove that the earliest sources on Noahism, and the writers who deal with these sources conscientiously, view the seven categories as subject heads for a mass of legal dicta.
The Seven Laws of Noah
His intention was not to simply define Noahide law in terms of an expanded list of sixty six laws, rather only to prove that the volume of Noahide Law is greater - when compared to the volume of Israelite Law - than a ratio of 7 to 613 would indicate. His book "The Seven Laws of Noah" demonstrates the breadth of Noahic legislation.
His study of Noahism concentrates on those aspects of Jewish law which Jew and Gentile have in common. Rabbi Lichtenstein felt this was necessary in order to effect the comparison which comprised the essence of his study. In due course, however, he came across instances of point-blank dissimilarity in legislation for Noahide and Jew. Some of these dissimilarities were treated in passing. Seen from the present vantage point, a systematic study of the why, where, when, what, and how of these varying legal dicta is the next necessary step toward gaining insight into the substance of Noahism.
Rabbi Lichtenstein felt that his study demonstrated that the Seven Noahide Laws are more than seven stark pronouncements. He claims that, as envisioned by the Talmudists, each of these seven laws represents a significant legislative area and that each area may encompass numerous legal dicta. This fact has been underscored by the compilation of a list of biblical laws that are operative in Noahism, within the seven laws. The listing yields a total of sixty-six Imperatives which pertain to the Noahide system as well. The breakdown of the list, as established in the foregoing, is as follows:
- Theft (16)
- Justice (19)
- Homicide (1)
- Illicit Intercourse (10)
- Limb of a Living Creature (2)
- Idolatry (10)
- Blasphemy (8)
As a consequent, the ratio of 613 to 7 should not be considered the indicator in any comparison between the Israelite and Noahide systems as to the relative mass of legal material. Instead of this ratio, which is roughly 100 to 1, one should consider the ratio of 613 to 66, roughly 10 to 1. What is more, even a 10 to 1 ratio constitutes an underestimation of the relative breadth of Noahide legislation when one takes into account the number of the 613 commands which are not now - during the post Exilic period - in force. These commands, whose practical validity depends on the existence of a Jewish theocracy in Palestine, should probably not be included in effecting an accurate comparison between the two systems, because one should not expect that Noahide law be involved with dicta that are tied to singularly, Jewish national and historical phenomena. In other words, those of the 613 commands which are practically valid only when the Jerusalemite Temple is operative should not be used in making any comparison because the state of Jewish religious rites and institutions aught play no role in the constitution of Noahide law in its basic form.
Two hundred seventy-one of the total 613 commands remain in constant effect through both pre-Exilic and post-Exilic times, according to the figure arrived at by Yisrael Mair HaCohen Kagan, known popularly as Chofetz Chaim, in his Sefer HaMitzvoth HaKatzer (An Abbreviated Book of the Commandments), which bears a subtitle that translates: "Selected and gathered herein are all the Positive Commandments that can be fulfilled during the present era; also all the Negative Commandments whose restrictions hold for the present era, according to the enumeration of them by Maimonides and many of his contemporaries.
If one pursues this tack, he emerges with an Israelite/Noahite ratio of 271 to 66, or roughly 4 to 1, a far cry from the ratio that juxtaposing 613 and 7 yields. The ratio of 4 to 1 being considered here is based on the acceptance of the dominant or majority opinion when the inclusion of any commandment is subject to dispute. This procedure has been followed throughout the present study. However, the ratio would continue to improve in favor of Noahism if one were to incorporate such minority opinions as those of Tana Debe Menashei and R. Eliezer and others mentioned earlier. While such minority opinions are properly omitted from the list being compiled, these minority opinions do reinforce our awareness that the Talmudists envisioned Noahide Law as a system of considerable breadth, and more than a haphazard combination of some seven laws. 
Rabbi Lichtenste ... \n
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- Lichtenstein, Aaron. "The Seven Laws of Noah". New York: The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press and Z. Berman Books, 2d ed. 1986
- See "Seven Laws of Noah" Notes 43, 56, 66, 80, 81, 85, 134, 135, 136.
- A recent, limited example of this approach is Aaron Kirshenbaum's "The Rule 'no man may incriminate himself' in the Noahide Laws," Dine Israel, Annual of Jewish Law and Israeli Family Law. (Z. Falk and A. Kirshenbaum editors), Tel Aviv University, Volume 2 pages 71-82
- Yisroel Mair HaCohen Kagan, Sefer HaMitzvoth HaKatzer, New York Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, 1958. The total given for the Positive Comamndments is 77 (page 29) and the total given for the NegAtive Commandments is 194 (page 78). Because the Chofetz Chaim uses "the enumeration of them by Maimonides and many of his contemporaries," his calculation can be incorporated with a safe probable margin of error into the present study, which also follows Maimonides in the main, while at the same time taking into account the varying opinions of his contemporaries.
- For contrast, see how Baron imputes to the talmudic jurists the view that Noahide Law is merely a skimpy, halting legal formulation: "The farthest the Jewish jurists were able to go in recognizing 'natural law' was to formulate six or seven 'Noahite commandments,' to which all peoples must submit and which were to be enforced on all subjects of a Jewish state." (Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History ot the Jews, volume VI, page 5.)