Ger toshav (Hebrew: גר תושב, ger: "foreigner" or "alien" + toshav: "resident", lit. "resident alien") is a term in Judaism for a Gentile (non-Jew) living in the Land of Israel who agrees to be bound by the Seven Laws of Noah, a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity. A ger toshav is therefore commonly deemed a "Righteous Gentile" (Hebrew: חסיד אומות העולם Chassid Umot ha-Olam, "Pious People of the World").
A ger toshav (literally "resident stranger") is a gentile who accepts the authority of the Torah and the rabbis upon himself, but specifically as applied to gentiles. The term ger toshav may be used in a formal or informal sense.
In the formal sense, a ger toshav is a gentile who officially accepts the seven Noahide Laws as binding upon himself in the presence of a beth din (Jewish rabbinical court). In the Talmud there are two other, differing opinions (Avodah Zarah, 64b) as to what the ger toshav accepts upon himself:
- To abstain from idolatrous practices of any kind (detailed in Exodus 20:2–4, Deut 5:6–8).
- To uphold all the 613 commandments in rabbinical enumeration, except for the prohibition against eating kosher animals that died by means other than ritual slaughter, or possibly (Meiri) any prohibition not involving kareth.
The accepted opinion is that the ger toshav must accept the seven Noahide Laws before a rabbinical court of three. He will receive certain legal protection and privileges from the community, the rules regarding Jewish-Gentile relations are modified, and there is an obligation to render him aid when in need. The restrictions on having a gentile do work for a Jew on the Sabbath are also greater when the gentile is a ger toshav.
In the informal sense, a ger toshav is one who accepts the Noahide Laws on his own, or alternatively, simply rejects idolatry (the latter issue is in particular brought up regarding Muslims). A gentile who accepts the Seven Mitzvot, although not before a beth din, is known as chasid umot ha'olam, which means "Pious People of the World." There is a discourse among the halakhic authorities as to which of the rules regarding a ger toshav would apply to the informal case.
The procedure has been discontinued since the cessation of the year of Jubilee, and hence, there are no formal gerim toshvim (plural) extant today. However, it can be argued that a great deal are "informal" ones, especially since it is possible to be a chasid umot ha'olam even when the Jubilee Year is not observed.
Modern times and views
Judaism encourages non-Jews to adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, encouraged his followers on many occasions to teach the Seven Laws of Noah, devoting some of his addresses to the subtleties of this code. Since the 1990s, Orthodox rabbis from Israel, most notably those of the Chabad-Lubavitch and religious Zionist organizations, including The Temple Institute, have set up a modern Noahide movement. These organizations are aimed at non-Jews in order to proselytize among them and commit them to follow the Noahide legal system.
According to the Jewish philosopher and professor Menachem Kellner's study on Maimonidean texts (1991), a ger toshav could be a transitional stage on the way to becoming a "righteous alien" (Hebrew: גר צדק, ger tzedek), i.e. a full convert to Judaism. He conjectures that, according to Maimonides, only a full ger tzedek would be found during the Messianic era. Furthermore, Kellner criticizes the assumption within Orthodox Judaism that there is an "ontological divide between Jews and Gentiles", which he believes is contrary to what the Torah teaches. According to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the status of ger toshav will continue to exist, even in the Messianic era. This is based on the statement in Hilchot Melachim 12:5 that (kol ha'olam) lit. “ all the world” will be nothing but to know G‑d." In its plain meaning, he asserts, kol ha'olam also includes Gentiles. As proof, he cites 11:4, which deals with the Messianic era, and the similar term ha'olam kulo, "the world in its entirety," refers to Gentiles. Continuing the text in Hilchot Melachim 12:5, Maimonides explicitly changes the topic to Jews by using the term Yisra'el, explaining that "Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential," indicating that Jew and Gentile will co-exist in the time of the Messiah.
In any case, even when there is a Jewish king and a Sanhedrin, and all the twelve tribes live in the Land of Israel, Jewish law does not permit forcing someone to convert and become a ger tzedek against his will.
- Am ha-aretz
- Conversion to Judaism
- Righteous Among the Nations
- Seven Laws of Noah
- Virtuous pagan, similar concept in Christianity
- Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1986). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 3 (Fully Revised ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. p. 1010. ISBN 0-8028-3783-2.
In rabbinic literature the ger toshab was a Gentile who observed the Noachian commandments but was not considered a convert to Judaism because he did not agree to circumcision. [...] some scholars have made the mistake of calling the ger toshab a "proselyte" or "semiproselyte." But the ger toshab was really a resident alien in Israel. Some scholars have claimed that the term "those who fear God" (yir᾿ei Elohim/Shamayim) was used in rabbinic literature to denote Gentiles who were on the fringe of the synagogue. They were not converts to Judaism, although they were attracted to the Jewish religion and observed part of the law.
- Jacobs, Joseph; Hirsch, Emil G. (1906). "Proselyte: Semi-Converts". Jewish Encyclopedia. Kopelman Foundation. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
In order to find a precedent the rabbis went so far as to assume that proselytes of this order were recognized in Biblical law, applying to them the term "toshab" ("sojourner," "aborigine," referring to the Canaanites; see Maimonides' explanation in "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7; see Grätz, l.c. p. 15), in connection with "ger" (see Ex. xxv. 47, where the better reading would be "we-toshab"). Another name for one of this class was "proselyte of the gate" ("ger ha-sha'ar," that is, one under Jewish civil jurisdiction; comp. Deut. v. 14, xiv. 21, referring to the stranger who had legal claims upon the generosity and protection of his Jewish neighbors). In order to be recognized as one of these the neophyte had publicly to assume, before three "ḥaberim," or men of authority, the solemn obligation not to worship idols, an obligation which involved the recognition of the seven Noachian injunctions as binding ('Ab. Zarah 64b; "Yad," Issure Biah, xiv. 7).
[...] The more rigorous seem to have been inclined to insist upon such converts observing the entire Law, with the exception of the reservations and modifications explicitly made in their behalf. The more lenient were ready to accord them full equality with Jews as soon as they had solemnly forsworn idolatry. The "via media" was taken by those that regarded public adherence to the seven Noachian precepts as the indispensable prerequisite (Gerim iii.; 'Ab. Zarah 64b; Yer. Yeb. 8d; Grätz, l.c. pp. 19–20). The outward sign of this adherence to Judaism was the observance of the Sabbath (Grätz, l.c. pp. 20 et seq.; but comp. Ker. 8b).
- According to the Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Jerusalem, 5741/1981, Entry Ben Noah, page 349), most medieval authorities consider that all seven commandments were given to Adam, although Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) considers the dietary law to have been given to Noah.
- Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Jerusalem, 5741/1981, entry Ben Noah, introduction) states that after the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people were no longer in the category of the sons of Noah; however, Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) indicates that the seven laws are also part of the Torah, and the Talmud (Bavli, Sanhedrin 59a, see also Tosafot ad. loc.) states that Jews are obligated in all things that Gentiles are obligated in, albeit with some differences in the details.
- Compare Genesis 9:4–6.
- Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, ed. (1979). ""Ger Toshav", Section 1". Encyclopedia Talmudit (in Hebrew) (Fourth Printing ed.). Jerusalem: Yad Harav Herzog (Emet).
- Talmud b. Sanhedrin 56a, 56b
- Sefer Sheva Mitzvot Hashem, p. 28: ד חיוב בן נח ואפשרותו להיות חסיד אומ"ה הוא בכל זמן, ואינו תלוי בזמן שמקבלין גר תושב. The obligation of the gentile [lit. Descendant of Noah] and his ability to be a chasid umot ha'olam are at all times, and are not dependent on the time that we accept a ger toshav."
- Sefer Sheva Mitzvot Hashem, pp. 27, 40 et al.
- Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 4, p. 1094; Vol. 26, p. 133; Vol. 35, p. 97.
- Feldman, Rachel Z. (August 2018). "The Children of Noah: Has Messianic Zionism Created a New World Religion?". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Berkeley: University of California Press. 22 (1): 115–128. doi:10.1525/nr.2018.22.1.115. Retrieved 31 May 2020 – via Project MUSE.
- Ilany, Ofri (12 September 2018). "The Messianic Zionist Religion Whose Believers Worship Judaism (But Can't Practice It)". Haaretz. Tel Aviv. Archived from the original on 9 February 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
- Kellner, Menachem (1991). Maimonides on Judaism and the Jewish people. SUNY Series in Jewish Philosophy. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-7914-0691-1.
against my reading of Maimonides is strengthened by the fact that Maimonides himself says that the ger toshav is accepted only during the time that the Jubilee is practiced. The Jubilee year is no longer practiced in this dispensation [...]. Second, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Maimonides thought that the messianic conversion of the Gentiles would be a process that occurred in stages and that some or all Gentiles would go through the status of ger toshav on their way to the status of full convert, ger tzedek. But this question aside, there are substantial reasons why it is very unlikely that Maimonides foresaw a messianic era in which the Gentiles would become only semi-converts (ger toshav) and not full converts (ger tzedek). Put simply, semi-converts are not separate from the Jews but equal to them; their status is in every way inferior and subordinate to that of the Jews. They are separate and unequal.
- Kellner, Menachem (Spring 2016). "Orthodoxy and "The Gentile Problem"". Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Marc D. Angel. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
- Schneerson, Menachem Mendel. Sha'arei Ge'ulah. pp. 267–8 (translated from Hebrew; emphasis and round brackets, but not the square brackets, in original text): There is a further detail in the wording of the Rambam in the completion and conclusion of his book [Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 12:5]: "And the occupation of the entire world will not be anything other than to know G‑d." Because in its plain meaning, it thereby includes the nations of the world as well (similar to what the Rambam wrote in the previous chapter, that the Messianic king will "improve the world in its entirety to serve G‑d... I will transform the nations etc."), especially since immediately afterwards the Rambam changes [terminology] and writes "And therefore Israel will be great sages etc." From this it is clear that the phrase entire world written above is intended to thereby include the children of Noah as well.
- Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 8:10
- The Seven Laws of Noah, Lichtenstein, Aaron, New York: The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School Press, 1981.
- The Image of the Non-Jew in Judaism, Novak, David, ISBN 0-88946-975-X, New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen Press, 1983.
- Tolerance in Judaism: The Medieval and Modern Sources, Zuesse, Evan M., In: The Encyclopaedia of Judaism, edited by J. Neusner, A. Avery-Peck, and W.S. Green, Second Edition, ISBN 90-04-14787-X, Leiden: Brill, 2005, Vol. IV: 2688���2713
- Encyclopedia Talmudit, Hebrew edition, 5739/1979, entry Ger Toshav
- Sheva Mitzvot Hashem, Weiner, Moshe, Jerusalem: Ask Noah International, 2008. (Hebrew)
- The World of The Ger, Rabbi David Katz and Rabbi Chaim Clorfene