The “Ger” and the “Ger Toshav” Nonsense

written by Alan Cecil, author of Secular by Design: A Philosophy of Noahide Laws and Observances, The Noahide Code and The Noahide Guide to Matthew. The original article can be found at https://academyofshem.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/top-ger-and-the-ger-toshav-nonsense/

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I would like to talk about the new fad sweeping the Noahide community, the ger toshav.

As you probably know, the ger toshav was the term for the non-Jew who formally accepted the Noahide Law so he could live in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. By doing so the ger toshav would have certain benefits under Torah law. Of course, the status of the ger toshav has been in limbo for nearly 2000 years, and has, until recently, been little more than an academic curiosity.

In the past few years, however, the ger toshav has been resurrected by a baal teshuva [a Jew who was non-observant and then returned to Torah observance] named Rabbi David Katz. Rabbi Katz teaches that the ger toshav is an elevated status of the Noahide, a Noahide with “benefits.” Dazzling Noahides with his mastery of Hebrew sources, Rabbi Katz teaches that there are actually three categories of the non-Jew: the goy, the Noahide, and the ger toshav, or “resident alien.” Rabbi Katz teaches that the ger toshav is to be considered a “fourth house” of Israel (along with Kohen [priest], Levi and Israel). Rabbi Katz teaches that a common run-of-the-mill Noahide can achieve the exalted status of ger toshav by jumping through a few rabbinic hoops, the most important of which is to declare him/herself before three rabbis. The main benefit is that a ger toshav, being a “fourth house” of Israel, would have greater access and comradery with the Jews.

For many Noahides who wish for a deeper religious commitment, this seems like welcome news. Instead of being a mere Noahide, they can attain the Biblical moniker ger toshav, which is sort of like “proselyte second-class,” just a step below the ger tzedeq, or full proselyte.

There are some problems with this ger toshav theory. The first is the focus. This can be understood by looking at the verse, Devarim 24:14, which according to R’ Katz, “serves to be the benchmark of the entire ger story.”

“You shall not cheat a poor or destitute hired person among your brethren, or a proselyte [ger] who is in your land, or one who is in your cities.” [Devarim (or Deuteronomy) 24:14]

Without going into the rabbinical calisthenics that R’ Katz uses to prove that the use of the word ger in this verse supports his “ger theory,” we need to look at this verse in the broader context of the Noahide Law.

This verse, Devarim 24:14, is closely linked to another verse, Vayikra (or Leviticus) 19:13—“Do not cheat your fellow and do not rob; and do not withhold a worker’s wage with you until morning.” In his commentary to this verse (Devarim 24:14), Rav S. R. Hirsch explains: “These duties of conscientiously paying wages punctually have already been declared in Vayikra 19:13, in the chapter of sanctifying our lives and there we have explained them fully. Their repetition here in the compendium for the setting down in the land is accompanied by the most impressive warning against sinning in this respect, especially towards the poor and needy. For its practical importance only really begins with the settling down, and the experience of ages teaches how just the unpunctuality of rich people in paying their obligations towards their workmen and craftsmen has undermined their developing and prospering.”

Both verses teach a principle which falls under the category of the Noahide law of theft, and of honest business practices. It is also worthy to note that Rav Hirsch talks about “settling in the land,” a sore point among the “ger toshavists” who claim that the ger toshav status goes beyond the borders of Eretz Israel.

Rabbi Katz spends a great deal of his time talking about his “proof texts” and rabbinic commentary to back up his theory. What he does much less of is enlighten us to what good this “new” status of ger toshav is for. The idea that the ger toshav is one of the four houses of Israel runs into a few problems. If the ger toshav can be classified as one of the four “houses” of Bnai Yisrael [the descendents of Israel, Israelites, Jews], is it then halakhically permissible for a ger toshav to marry a Jew? Would any God-fearing observant rabbi allow a ger toshav to marry an observant Jew? The answer, of course, is NO (cf. Devarim 7:3). The Torah also states quite clearly that the (ger) toshav may not eat the lamb of the Pessach [Passover] offering (Shmos [or Exodus] 12:45.) Also, the verse 14:21 in Devarim states that Jews are commanded to give neveilos (animals that died without proper slaughtering) to a ger toshav. In fact, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 111b) describes a ger toshav as “one who may eat neveilos.” The Talmud goes on to explain why a ger toshav does not have the prohibitions of a day laborer as would a Jew. Clearly, the Talmud makes a distinction between a ger toshav and a ger tzedeq, or a full convert. Here we see that the teaching that the ger toshav is a “fourth house of Israel” is a tad deceiving.

If the Noahide thinks that being a ger toshav elevates his or her status, and that observing mitzvoth [commandments] that are specifically for the Bnai Yisrael to observe gains themselves spiritual brownie points, he is mistaken. “[As for] the New Moon and Sabbath, and your calling of convocations, I cannot abide mendacity with solemn assembly. My soul detests your New Moons and your appointed times; they have become a burden upon Me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; even if you were to intensify your prayer, I will not listen…Learn to do good, seek justice, vindicate the victim, render justice to the orphan, take up the grievance of the widow.” [Isaiah 1:13–15, 17.] In other words, to Hashem [God], social justice is more important than festivals and prayer. And the verse from Isaiah was directed to Jews. What about the Noahide that is not commanded to observe Yom Tov or to pray? This is what the gist of Devarim 24:14 and Vayikra 19:13 is about; social justice, not a new status of Noahide.

One of the teachings of Rav S. R. Hirsch is the importance of the juxtaposition of verses in the Torah. In the verse immediately following Vayikra 19:13, verse 14, we read: “Do not curse the deaf, do not place a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God – I am Hashem.” In Bava Metzia 90b, in a dialogue about Jews instructing Noahides to do something that the Jew is forbidden, it points out that this verse (Vayikra 19:14) applies not only to the Jew but also to the Noahide. In other words, a Jew violates halakha when he causes a Noahide to violate one of the Noahide Laws. The question is: is the teaching of the ger toshav a violation of halakha [Torah law] if it leads to non-observance of the Seven Laws by the Noahide?

Here is the problem. The traditional status of the ger toshav was that of “resident alien,” or, to put it in modern terms, a citizen of Israel. The new version of ger toshav is told that by acquiring that status, he or she can be “closer” to the Jewish people, a co-religionist who is “allowed” to keep Shabbat, Yom Tov, and all the other “fun” things associated with Judaism. The problem is, by submitting to rabbinic authority, the Noahide will have to conform to Jewish halakha such as observance of Dina D’Malchuta Dina [the law of the land is the law] and not to actively attack other non-Jewish religions. Since the Noahide law of Dinim requires that a Noahide replace any legal system and government that is not based on Torah, and is violating Torah law, this is problematic for the Noahide when told that, as a ger toshav, they must work within the system instead of trying to dismantle it and replace it with a Torah-based system. It is the same for organized religions such as Christianity; the Noahide is commanded to enact laws which prohibit idolatry, and since the First Amendment has been interpreted to mean “freedom of idolatry and blasphemy,” we may deduce that this is keeping the Noahide from observing the law of Dinim. It can be argued that the rabbis are merely trying to get all the non-observant goyim to become observant Noahides, but this in itself is not enough; the Noahide must change the legal system itself to make not just idolatry but all organized religions illegal. Since we have learned the Noahide is forbidden to create any organized religion, even if it is based on the Noahide law, a Noahide cannot accept the halakha of Dina D’Malchuta Dina which is only for Jews living outside Eretz Yisrael in a sovereign non-Jewish state.

If indeed the rabbis teach that a ger toshav should learn the halakha of keeping Shabbat, Jewish prayer and other things that are not part of the Noahide Code while at the same time telling the Noahide that they should not keep the Noahide law of Dinim, this is putting a stumbling block before the blind. At the very least, by filling the Noahide’s mind with things that do not apply to the Noahide law such as Sukkas, Red heifers, and Mikvahs while ignoring the commandment of Dinim, the rabbis are violating the halakha by preventing the Noahide from observing the Noahide law.

As far as rabbinic authority, we turn to none other than Raavad who teaches that, in his commentary to Malachim [Kings] 6:1, that Israel cannot enforce observance of the Noahide law on non-Jews that are conquered militarily, let alone sovereign non-Jewish states outside of their jurisprudence. This is also the teaching of Ramban in his commentary on Bereishis [Genesis] 26:5 and Devirim 20:1, 11 as well as the Tosafot in Avoda Zara 26b. This not only creates a problem with the validity of the “three rabbi council” in applying ger toshav status, but negates any sort of authority the rabbis have over Noahides. After all, the halakha is with Raavad…

It seems to me that the term “Noahide” means all non-Jews (Bnai Noah). There are only two types of Noahide: observant and non-observant. A non-Jew calling himself ger toshav does not alter this point. After all, the aim is to be observant, not righteous. The bottom line is: you can put a yarmulke on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

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15 Comments

  1. DP

    Wouldn’t it be better served for Noahides wishing to “observe more” (other than those Jewish-specific commandments that are off-limits) to, I don’t know, start with ethical commandments? I would be very disappointed if I were to come across a Noahide who’s all into kosher laws, Jewish rituals, and Jewish festivals, but who hasn’t lifted a finger to “observe more” ethical commandments.

    • Very much agreed! God knows the world needs more examples of ethical and morally upstanding characters, people that do so out of the goodness of a deed rather than its link to ritual or wanting to be part of Israel.

      • DP

        Amen!

        For example, the rape gangsterism in Sodom and Gomorrah was just the tip of the iceberg. That iceberg included a mix of arrogance, haughtiness, gluttony, and not helping the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49-50). I would be disappointed to come across such people who also state they observe the seven broad categories of laws given to Noah and also the kosher laws, Jewish rituals, and Jewish festivals.

        (Now since G-d stated in those same verses that these were sins even by standards set for Gentiles, it does mean that the seven broad categories of laws given to Noah were only an ethical minimum.)

  2. DP

    Amen!

    For example, the rape gangsterism in Sodom and Gomorrah was just the tip of the iceberg. That iceberg included a mix of arrogance, haughtiness, gluttony, and not helping the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49-50). I would be disappointed to come across such people who also state they observe the seven broad categories of laws given to Noah and also the kosher laws, Jewish rituals, and Jewish festivals.

    (Now since G-d stated in those same verses that these were sins even by standards set for Gentiles, it does mean that the seven broad categories of laws given to Noah were only an ethical minimum.)

  3. You say,
    “the ger toshav has been resurrected by a baal teshuva”

    Baloney – he takes it straight out of Rambam! The future of the world will be the utopia for the Jew, who will dwell among righteous gentiles, namely, bneiNoach, or Get Toshav. Forget not that Rambam’s laws, as every commandment in Torah, is eternal and also encompasses a future period when all of the lands will become Israel eventually, when, at that time, all of Israel will have the sanctity of Jerusalem. In those times, when Gentiles and Jews will co-exist, only Gentiles who accept the 7 laws, and thus become a Ben-Noach OR, which means the same thing, Ger Toshav.

    I do think I’m accurate here, although I learned this long ago (in the Rambam!).

    • there’s no such thing as becoming ben noach. If you can’t get that basic point, then there’s little point in arguing this out. If you don’t know the difference between ger toshav and ben noah, again there’s no point in arguing this out.

      Look, this is just turning into endless debate. You don’t agree with my points. That’s fine. Go away and find someone who will agree with you. I won’t. Spend your energy somewhere else.

  4. The 3 groups I spoke of in a more recent post of yours are in fact the Jew, the Ger and the Ger Toshav.

  5. Stefke

    What a arrogant way to talk to some one Hesedyahu. Such a harch mentality tells enough about your wisdom.

    • That’s odd. At the start of the article, I made it clear that someone else had written it.

      Yet I still shared the post, so I guess that would still cause you to make negative statements about my wisdom. It doesn’t matter really as you haven’t given something to respond to. All you said essentially was “I see it as arrogant.” But I don’t. So that went nowhere. If you wish to give a concise, accessible, well thought out response going through one or more arguments that the post makes, then I’ll be happy to consider what you have to say.

  6. HM

    Wow, this author makes so many over-assertions I dont even where to begin, so I wont even try to cover it all. Buy for a simple example, Noahides today are NOY the same thing as Jews conquering a nation militarily and forcing observance. They are people who want to worship G-d voluntarily, so they seek the Israeli rabbinic authorities for support and advice, and to make an official, public break from idolatry. Also, all Noahides who do any real studying know that they arent to keep vomplete Sabbath and Yom Tov observance. They are free to attend local synagogue services and keep as many of the traditions and customs as they like with the community, but they may carry keys in their pocket or go to the store to buy things gor the occadion, for example, as an intentional way to make sure they arent keeping it as far as a Jew would. And it’s a mistake to say that they would be seeking an “elevated status.” Being a Jew is great in a lot of ways, but we all know (hopefully) that the reason Jews have a soul with a bigger capacity for mitzvot is because they need we extra help to perform them. In other words, it’s about being able to carry out our responsibilities, and yes, being “chosen” is about that responsibility, not being better than others. So the reference to putting a yarmulke on a pig is flat out ignorant and prejudice.

  7. HM

    Besides, the sages teach that a righteous Noahide is at more highly elevated spiritual level than even the high priest of Israel because they are choosing to stay in their host culture in order to rectify it back to G-d – something most Jews dont care to do for the Gentiles around them, even though we are supposed to be doing just that. Cant get more clear than that. Also, there was a comment in the post anout Noahides not being commanded to pray… How is that relevant, since Jews arent even commanded to believe in G-d? The assumption of scripture is that if you care to follow these things and want to draw rt o the creator, then belief and prayer are a given. Noahides are often asked to study halavha not because they are supposed to pretend to be jews, but so that they can understand the community they worship with and know what not to do (for example, do they dont accidentally keep a total Shabbat or create a holiday). Surely the author has thought these things through at different angles to understand them before trying to stir up lashon hara against Jews and non-Jews who follow G-d… People like this are what makes Judaism look bad in the eyes of the nations because they take some things way too far or way too seriously, and dont consider a balanced approach to a topic. Noahides are equal to Jews in every way especially in the sight of G-d, even if we practice *our same religion* differently, just as men and women Jews observe differently. The G-d of Judaism reserves a spot at thr table for everyone and respects their situations, and their desire to draw close to his chosen culture (which is chosen mostly for the sake of preserving his name and teaching G-d to the world). And no, I’m not a Noahide saying this. Intermarraige is stil sometjing we dont do, but that’s because we need to keep the culture intact, not because Noahides are beneath us – pigs in yarmulkas. That’s a disgusting statement. They are to be loved as righteous residents anong us, wherever our community is found.

  8. HM

    Choosing to share an article written by someone else doesnt make it any better. The problem is that someone found something like that to be worthy of passing on. Whether the blogger things it’s ok is irrelavent, as it’s still arrogant to speak that way through someone else. Lashon hara is lashon hara, no matter how you spread it.

  9. HM

    And yes, I’m aware there are typos in the comments. It’s a phone keyboard, not going to go back and edit the whole thing. The point is made.

    • You’ve said a lot. In places you’ve missed the point, for example when you say that noahides are not the same as those that Israel has conquered militarily. That statement has nothing to do with the point being made in the article. You seem to have an issue with the pig and yarmulke statement. I’m not sure what is insulting about it. Calling something “lashon hara” doesn’t make it lashon hara without a specific statement and a specific point of lashon hara that it conflicts with. You claim that all noahides know about the issues about keeping shabbath and yom tov. From my experience that is wrong. I know Gentiles being taught they can keep shabbath and yom tov.

      A lot of your statements are irrelevant to the ger issue the author is highlighting.

      You don’t like the way the author put his post. I do. There’s no point in debating with you. I’m not going to try and convince you or defend myself. You tried to make a point. I made it public.

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