1 Sivan 5760
I am currently attending a secular college where the majority of the class is not Jewish. Every thing that I do or don’t do causes them to ask me questions regarding various aspects of Judaism. The questions range from Kashrus to tznius and many other things. I was wondering if you could give me some guidelines about what I can respond due to the halacha of not being able to teach a non-Jew Torah. Thank You and I appreciate your time.
Bnot Torah Institute 5756-7
Thank you for your interesting question. The source of the prohibition that you mention is the Gemara in Sanhedrin 59a, that states “Rav Yochanan says a non-Jew who is Osek in Torah is Chayav Misah, as it says (Devarim 33:4) “Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe Morasha…”- for us it is an inheritance (Morasha) and not for them, etc.” The Gemara then qualifies this by stating that this only applies to Torah that is not relevant to them, but it is a Mitzvah for them to study (and for a Jew to teach them- see Chagigah 13a, Tosafos D”H Ain Mosrin) the Sheva Mitzvos of B’nei Noach, and if they do they are “on the level of a Kohen Gadol.”
We must realize that the seven Mitzvos are actually categories, and there are numerous smaller obligations under each category. Consequently, not only may a non-Jew learn about Arayos, for example, he may also learn about what the Torah approach to not violating this is, including the laws about modest dress, Yichud, etc. Additionally, we must realize that the operative word in the Gemara is “Osek”- which means more than just learning, but studying with the intent to become expert in these Halachos, as stated in Rashi there (D”H B’Sheva Mitzvos). Consequently, if you are explaining Mitzvos and Halachos to them just to satisfy their curiosity about them, there is no Issur in this, even regarding things that they aren’t obligated in, such as Kashrus, etc.
Therefore, if your classmates question what they see you do or not do, there is nothing wrong with politely explaining the rationale for it, or just informing them that this is a Jewish law or custom. If one of them would actually request to study Torah with you for the sake of becoming an expert in Mitzvos that we are commanded to do, this should only be done if the subject is one of the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach that they are also obligated to keep, or one of the sub-categories.
There is a very interesting Teshuvas HaRambam (Vol. 1 Siman 149) that discusses whether or not it is permitted to study the Chumash (bible) with a non-Jew, just to go through the scripture with them. He states that it is permitted to study it with a Christian, to show them that their beliefs are not valid. However, it is not permitted to study bible with a Moslem. The difference is that the Christians accept the divinity of the Chumash, and will not come to mock what you teach them, whereas the Moslems believe that the Chumash was written by humans, and by teaching them you are causing them to mock the Torah.
I hope that this has been helpful for you.