«Brit Shalom» – a guide to practical Noahide daily life, brief version

Chapter Nine. Judicial Systems (Application of Law)

I must judge between a man and his neighbor. I must make known to them the statutes of Gоd and his teachings. (Exodus 18:16)
But you must seek out from all the people men of ability, Gоd-fearing men of truth who hate improper gain, and place over them princes out of thousands, princes out of hundreds, princes out of fifties, and princes out of tens, and let these judge the people at all times. (Exodus 18:21-22)
Judge fairly the needy and the orphan, vindicate the poor and the impoverished. Rescue the needy and destitute, and deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalms 82: 3-4)

This is a brief version.

To get a full version [hide]1. It is the duty of the leaders of a society to set up a judicial system that will rule with justice.295

2. The value of a judicial system was already established at the beginning of the nation of Israel’s history. Regarding Gоd choosing Abraham it was said:296 “in order that he should command his children and his household after him that they would keep the way of the Lord to practice dutiful benevolence and justice.” (Genesis 18:19) King Solomon designated doing justice as one of the central functions of the state: “With justice a king will rule the land.”297 (Proverbs 29:4) The messiah king will bring about doing justice in the world to perfection: “And he will judge among the nations and reprove many nations. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation and they will not learn war anymore.”298 (Isaiah 2:4)

3. The generation of the flood had to be destroyed because they lived without justice, as it was said:299 “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with wrongdoing.” (Genesis 6:13)

4. The laws of the state need to be good and upright. Sodom and Gemmorah were destroyed since they judged in courts of injustice.300

5. Included in this mitzvah of just judgment is the duty to teach the people the laws that Noahides were commanded to keep.301

6. It is the obligation of Noahide sages to make statutes and legislate just laws and to make fences302 around these laws in order that the world will not be destroyed,303 to keep society orderly,304 and to enforce said laws.

7. It is obligatory to have both judges concerning religious matters and judges concerning regular judicial issues in every district.305

8. The implementation of this mitzvah is the responsibility of the heads of state, since the government is in their hands, and it is not the responsibility of the individual.306

9. It is obligatory upon the religious judges to rule where the first six Noahide laws are concerned and to punish those who violate these laws.307

10. It is forbidden for a religious judge to accept a bribe or to sway a judicial decision with his own prejudices.308

11. It is forbidden to carry out a punishment before the accused stands trial.309

12. It is forbidden to delay judgment, that is, to lengthen the judicial process, the handing down of a verdict and administering any sentence in the absence of a legitimate reason for doing so.310

13. In our time, states do not set up courts obligated to pass judgment in accordance with Noahide law. However, it is possible in most states to set up an independent court according to the rules of arbitration and within the limits of the law.311 In the case of a lawsuit, it is desirable to suggest arbitration before a Noahide court that will be set up for this purpose and will be in session either on a regular basis or whenever the need arises.

14. The court will be authorized to punish and even to administer the death penalty312 for those who violate the seven Noahide laws according to the considerations313 of the judge.

15. The death penalty should only be administered in cases where the violation of Noahide Law was clearly intentional.314

16. No punishment should be administered in a case where someone was forced to violate Noahide law.315

17. Whoever thinks that it is permissible to murder or to have relations with someone else’s wife is not considered an accidental violator of the associated law but as an intentional violator.316

18. It is possible to rely on a verdict handed down against a Noahide even if there is only one witness and that witness is a relative of the accused, and even if there is only one judge ruling in the case.317

19. A woman may not be either a judge or a witness in capital crimes.318 If there is agreement between the sides to judge the case before an arbitrator, then a woman may be either a judge or a witness.319

Behavioral Guidelines

20. The judge will not hear the arguments of one side unless the other side is present.320

21. The judge will not judge his relatives or those who hate him.321

22. The judge will not accept testimony from an evildoer.322

23. Judgment should not be rendered by a single judge.323

24. Judgment will be rendered according to a majority decision.324

25. No judge will sit in judgment after drinking an intoxicating beverage.325

26. No preferential treatment will be afforded to either litigant.326

27. Testimony is to be given exclusively in court.327

28. There is to be comprehensive examination and questioning of the witnesses.328

29. A judgment should not be rendered according to the testimony of a single witness alone.329

30. Judgments are only to be rendered after careful deliberation and based on a profound understanding of the law.330


295 Bavli Sanhedrin 56b; Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14.

296 Genesis 18:19.

297 Proverbs 29:4.

298 Isaiah 2:4.

299 Genesis 6:13.

300 Bavli Sanhedrin 109a-b.

301 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14.

302 Ramban, Genesis 34:13.

303 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 10:11.

304 Mishnah Avot 1:1, “and they put a fence around the Torah.”

305 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14.

306 Ramban, Genesis 34:13; Ha’amek She’alah, She’iltah Beit, Yad Peshutah comment on Mishneh Torah ibid.

307 Mishneh Torah ibid.

308 Yerushalmi Talmud referenced in ibid. Ramban; see Sdei Chemed, Ma’arechet (Chapter) 6, Klal 26, Paragraph 31.

309 Numbers 35:12; see Ha’amek She’alah, She’ilta Beit.

310 Tosefta Sotah 86:6; Mishnah Avot 5:5; Bavli Shabbat 33:1; see Kiryat Melech, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14.

311 As in the case of ‘Syrian courts’; see Bavli Sanhedrin 23a.

312 Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14, 10:5.

313 See Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, Lev Ibra, p. 125. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, Be’Inyan Bnei Noach (On the Matter of Noahides), Beit Yitzhak (5747), p. 335; see Igrot Moshe, Part 2, Siman 68.

314 Mishneh Torah ibid. 10:1.

315 Deuteronomy 22:26; Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 556.

316 Mishneh Torah ibid.

317 Ibid. 9:14.

318 Ibid.; Yad Eliyahu, Responsa, Siman 38 ד”ה אלא.

319 According to Mishnah Sanhedrin 83a-b; Mishpatei Aziel, Choshen Mishpat, Siman 5:1.

320 Exodus 23:1; Rashi ibid.; Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 74.

321 Bavli Ketubot 105b.

322 Exodus 23:1.

323 Mishnah Avot 4:8; Bavli Rosh Hashana 25b.

324 Exodus 23:2.

325 Bavli Eiruvin 64a; Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 152.

326 Deuteronomy 1:17.

327 Leviticus 5:1.