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I am an Italian Noahide.

There are several discussions in this forum about shituf, understood as associating other entities with HaShem.

Unless I am mistaken, it is generally held that on the halachic level worshiping such intermediaries constitutes idolatry even for non-Jews (a possible, though not very clear, exception could be represented by Rav Yaacov Emden in She'eilas Yaavetz 1:41, see here ).

A different issue is the status concerning belief in such intermediaries with worship only towards HaShem .

Two very authoritative codes of the Noahide Law, namely Rav Moshe Weiner's The Divine Code and Rav Oury Cherki's Brit Shalom, state that the belief in question, if not accompanied by worship towards these "lesser powers", is lawful for Gentiles, although Rav Weiner adds, so not exactly consistent for me, that if a non-Jew professes this belief he is not a "pious among the Gentiles", which determines his non-participation in the World to Come (see Rambam's Mishneh Torah Hilchot Melachim 8: 11; Rav Weiner does not establish such exclusion explicitly, but this is the logical consequence of his words).

Rav Oury Cherki says, in the English edition of Brit Shalom:

"An individual or nation believing it is being led by some power, whether physical or spiritual – which exists on a lower level than the all-encompassing Creator – is not prohibited as long as no worship is associated with said belief"

In support of his ruling,Rav Cherki quotes Rabbeinu Bahya (Rav Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa), Commentary on Deuteronomy 31:16.

I report below Rabbeinu Bahya's words in the English translation from Sefaria website :

(...)After the gods of the foreigners of the land.” The Torah tells us that such gods as had been permitted to the Gentile nations were nonetheless “strangers” in the Holy Land as that land was always under the direct supervision of the Lord, and He had never assigned what goes on there to the supervision of any celestial/planetary forces. This land is G-d’s own “inheritance.” This is also what the sages meant when they said אין מזל לישראל, “the Jewish people are not subject to the horoscopic influences we know as mazal.” They meant that the Jewish people, when in the land of Israel and observing the laws of the Torah, are not subject to such influences. This must be so, as we have a clear statement by these same sages that מזלו גורם, that “his mazal was a causative factor in his fate.” (Yevamot 64, et al) Seeing that the planets, stars, and all other celestial phenomena have been created for the sake of the righteous, how could it possibly be that these same righteous people are suddenly subject to these horoscopic constellations? Each of these horoscopic constellations has been assigned to certain nations, such as the constellation known as scorpion which was assigned to the people of Ishmael, the constellation Sagittarius, the archer, to the people of Persia, etc., etc. This was what the Torah referred to in Deut. 4,19-20 “which He assigned to them, whereas He (personally) took you out of the iron crucible, etc.” Clearly, the supervision of the fates of the other nations by celestial forces has been entrusted to agents of the Lord, i.e. the horoscopic forces, whereas that of the Jewish people is not determined by means of intermediaries. It is noteworthy that nowhere in the Torah does G-d accuse the Gentile nations of idolatry or describe them as being punished for relating to these forces as gods. Only the Jewish people have been warned again and again not to turn to any form of intermediary, and they are being held responsible for observing this commandment in the strictest possible sense. The only time Gentile nations are described as being punished for the practice of idolatry is if they did so in the Holy Land, the land which G-d claimed as His share and inheritance''

Now, from reading the aforementioned passage it seems to me that Rabbeinu Bahya supports the real existence of these intermediaries, celestial powers appointed by HaShem as His ministers in charge of governing the Gentile Nations according to the orders of the Creator,while Israel alone is directly subjected to the rule of HaShem, without the presence of any intermediary

A similar conception seems to me to belong to another very authoritative master, Nachmanides (Ramban), who often expresses himselfelf in these terms in his Commentary on the Torah, for example when he says, on Leviticus 18.25 translation from Sefaria website:

''The Glorious Name created all things and placed the power of the lower creatures in the higher beings, giving upon each nation in their lands, after their nations, some known star or constellation, as it is known by means of astrological speculation. It is in referring to what is said, that the Eternal, your G-d has assigned to all the people, for he has assigned to all nations constellations in the heavens, and higher above them are the angels of the Supreme who has placed as lords on them, as it is written: "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia resisted me" (Daniel 10:13), and it is written: "Behold, the prince of Greece will come" (Daniel 10:20), and "there I was left with the kings of Persia". Now the Glorious Name is G-d of gods, and Lord of lords over all the world. But the Land of Israel, which is in the midst of the inhabited earth, is the inheritance of the Eternal designated by His Name. He has not set any of the angels as a leader, observer or ruler, as He has given it as an inheritance to His people who declare the Unity of His Name, the seed of His beloved [ie the patriarchs]. It is in reference to this that he said, and you will be my own treasure among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine, and it is also written, so you will be My people, and I will be your G-d, and you will not be subject to other powers at all."

This conception is not without Talmudic foundation : in fact we read in the Gemara-Shabbat 156a, the following passage:

"It was stated that Rabbi Ḥanina says: A constellation makes one wise and a constellation makes one wealthy, and there is a constellation for the Jewish people that influences them. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There is no constellation for the Jewish people that influences them. The Jewish people are not subject to the influence of astrology. And Rabbi Yoḥanan follows his own reasoning, as Rabbi Yoḥanan said: From where is it derived that there is no constellation for the Jewish people? As it is stated: “Thus said the Lord: Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the nations are dismayed at them” (Jeremiah 10:2). The nations will be dismayed by them, but not the Jewish people. And Rav also holds that there is no constellation for the Jewish people, as Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: From where is it derived that there is no constellation for the Jewish people? As it is stated with regard to Abraham: “And He brought him outside, and said: Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, if you are able to count them; and He said unto him: So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). The Sages derived from this that Abraham said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, “Behold, You have given me no offspring, and one born in my house is to be my heir” (Genesis 15:3). The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: No. “And, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying: This man shall not be your heir; rather, one that will come forth from your own innards shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4)."

Always regarding the belief in the role played by the stars as intermediary authorities between HaShem and humanity , I transcribe below what my famous compatriot RaMHaL (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) affirms in his work "Derekh HaShem" (II, chapter 7- The influence of the stars):

"There is another function that God assigned to the stars. Every event and situation in the material world is prepared and initiated on high, and then is transmitted via the stars, step by step, finally appearing in the desired physical forms below. For example , life itself, wealth, wisdom, children and so forth all originate on high in the realm of the spiritual Roots, reflected down through Branches of these Roots through the agency of particular stars, so that the different phenomena take form on earth in their desired states. This is the result of particular divisions and combinations of the stars, following their specific cycles. Every event that takes place in the terrestrial world is allocated to a particular star, depending on its specific category. All terrestrial things are bound under their authority Through their systems, all things happen as a result of the influence emanating from the stellar array through its connection with each individual thing. Every human being is also subjugated to this system, and whatever happens to him is a result of this astrological influence. It is also possible, however, that this stellar influence be overridden by a higher power. [Accordingly], our Sages teach us, '[The people of] Israel are not bound by the influences of the horoscope (mazal).' The power of God's decrees and influence is stronger than that of the stars, and what results is therefore dependent on this higher influence rather than on the astrological ".

I point out that several others great Sages of Israel in the Middle Ages, like for example Rav Saadia Gaon (in his commentary on the Book of Creation), Rav Solomon ibn Gabirol (in his Keter Malkhut), Rav Abraham bar Hiyya ha-Nasi and Rav Abraham ibn Ezra considered astrology to be true wisdom and even expressed this belief in their works.Rav Judah Halevi also acknowledges in his magnum opus, Sefer ha-Kuzari, that the celestial bodies have an influence on earthly affairs.

It seems to me therefore that, on the basis of the teaching by several very authoritative Rabbis, the belief (I repeat, with worship only towards HaShem) in the real existence of intermediaries between the Creator and the Gentiles (while for Israel there is no intermediary, since HaShem directly governs the Jews) is a conception not only lawful, but also correct since such intermediaries really exist.

I therefore do not understand on what halachic basis Rav Weiner, in The Divine Code, can affirm that this belief prevents a non-Jew from being a "pious among the Gentiles",and that even this belief constitutes idolatry for the Jews, unless I believe that great masters such as Rabbeinu Bahya,Nachmanides, Saadia Gaon,Judah Halevi,RaMHaLetc.etc. are heretics who have spread teachings contrary to the Torah.

From Rav Moshe Weiner's The Divine Code, Limited Edition vol. 1:

Therefore,a person is also an idol worshiper if he serves God along another entity as an intermediary,even if he says that the Lord is the "main God",but he also serves another power. This is so regardless of whether one serves the intermediary alone,for example by bringing a sacrificial offering or bowing down to it,or if he brings a sacrifice and bows down and says that this service is for both God and the intermediary. However,if a person serves only the Lord,but he also believes there is another power or god under the Lord's command that one should also have faith in and swar by,then he is called a "believer in an intermediary". "Great Rabbinical authorities throughout history debated whether the false belief in an intermediary is actually idolatry and therefore prohibited to Gentiles, or if it is not included in the basic Noahide prohibition of idol worship and therefore not forbidden for Gentiles. The majority opinion and practical ruling is that it is not forbidden. But it is unrighteous, i. e. the person is not one of the Pious of the nations of the world" ( pag. 111).

"Even though belief in an intermediary in not forbidden to Gentiles,this belief is not true.It is fitting for every person to see the mistake in this idea ,which originated in the mistaken beliefs of Enosh and his generation, and to distance oneself from it, especially since many of the grat Sages determinated that this belief is actually idol worship (see Rambam quoted in footnote 6 above, - my note: about christian worship towards a divine trinity-) , and according to all opinions it is considereded to be idolatry for Jews. Even for those Rabbinical opinions maintaining that belief in an intermediary is permitted for a Gentile, this only means that the person should not be considered ad idolater.But a person does not reach the spiritual level of a Pious Gentile as long as he holding such a belief." (pages 203/204)

But Rambam considers the worship of intermediaries idolatry, not mere belief in them : Mishneh Torah -Avodat Kochavim 2:1

The essence of the commandment [forbidding] the worship of false gods is not to serve any of the creations, not an angel, a sphere, or a star, none of the four fundamental elements, nor any entity created from them. Even if the person worshiping knows that ‘ה is the [true] God and serves the creation in the manner in which Enosh and the people of his generation worshiped [the stars] originally, he is considered to be an idol worshiper. The Torah warns us about this, saying [Deuteronomy 4:19]: "Lest you lift your eyes heavenward and see the sun, the moon, and the stars... [and bow down and worship them], the entities which God apportioned to all the nations." This implies that you might inquire with "the eye of the heart" and it might appear to you that these entities control the world, having been apportioned by God to all the nations to be alive, to exist, and not to cease existence, as is the pattern of [the other creations with] the world. Therefore, you might say that it is worthy to bow down to them and worship them. For this reason, [Deuteronomy 11:16] commands: "Be very careful that your heart not be tempted [to go astray and worship other gods]." This implies that the thoughts of your heart should not lead you astray to worship these and make them an intermediary between you and the Creator.

In Mishneh Torah-Hilchot Teshuvah chapter three,Rambam himself furthermore describes twenty four categories of individuals who "do not have a portion in the world to come. Rather, their [souls] are cut off and they are judged for their great wickedness and sins , forever".

In point 3.14 Rambam makes it clear that they are "cut off" even if they are Jews, which makes it clear that he is talking about both Jews and Gentiles.

Well, in point 3.7 Rambam identifies, in the sub-category of "minim":

"one who serves a star, constellation, or other entity so that it will serve as an intermediary between him and the eternal Lord" (see Avodat Kokhavim 2:1)

thus confirming that the exclusion from world to come is, in his statement, about those who worship the intermediaries, not those who believe in their existence but worship only HaShem.

It is true, Rambam disputes this belief, but he does not consider it an obstacle for non-Jews to achieve the status of "pious Gentiles", nor does he claim that it even constitutes idolatry for Jews: if he had issued this last sentence, he would have accused so many great sages of Israel of idolatry!

The reference to what Rambam says about Christian worship does not seem to me to be relevant to the present case. True, Rambam claims that Christians are idolaters (uncensored version of Mishneh Torah-Avodat Kochavim 9:4; Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 11: 7), and this is in accordance with what is established by the Oral Torah (Gemara-Avodah Zarah 6a and 7b); however, Christianity is not a simple set of beliefs, but is a religion based on worship towards a divine trinity, to which Catholics and Eastern churches (obviously in the times of Maimonides, and even more so in the Talmudic times, the evangelical churches did not yet exist) add worship towards "angels", "saints" and Mary, the mother of Jesus the Nazarene, who is also called "the mother of G-d "; Catholics and Eastern Christians also make extensive use of cultic statues, in front of which they kneel and perform other service activities: they are all conducts of worship, not mere beliefs.

It is true that traditional Christian beliefs, according to Rambam, prevent the adherent from participating in the world from coming regardless of the type of worship practiced. In fact, in Mishneh Torah-Hilchot Tesuvah 3:8 Maimonides indicates, among those whose souls are cut off as "Torah deniers":

"one who says that though the Torah came from the Almighty, the Creator has replaced one mitzvah with another one and nullified the original Torah, like the Muslims (literally "the Hagarites") and the Christians" (uncensored version of the passage, attested in the authoritative Yemeni manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah, as I have verified with friends and scholars of "Mechon Mamre").

It is therefore attested in Rambam that certain beliefs in themselves determine the exclusion from participation in the world to come, both for Jews and for Gentiles, positions however to which the simple belief in the existence of intermediaries does not belong, if only HaShem is worshiped and the perpetual validity of the Torah is not contested ((in this direction there are great Sages of the Torah such as the aforementioned Rabbeinu Bahya, Nachmanides, Judah Halevi etc. etc.).

Therefore I think that Rav Cherki's rule about this point is much more solid, on the halachic plane, than Rav Weiner's rule.

Are there other rabbis and / or poskim who deliberate on this matter in line with this, in my opinion, highly questionable ruling taken by Rav Moshe Weiner?

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  • Really great post. I think you got to the heart of the question and clarified many difficult aspects. However, I am wondering where this ruling from Rambam in chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/911896/jewish/… would fit in? ibb.co/VvZFYxj Two paragraphs is too long to fit in the comment window, so I posted it as a screenshot. Does that apply to Christians and other goyim, or only Jews? Can they worship the trinity all their life, then at the end say, "I repent," but no conversion, no brit milah, maybe they never even kept the Noahide laws? Apr 18 at 0:01
  • @ShipBuilding Thank you very much. As for the third chapter of Rambam's Mishneh Torah-Hilchot Teshuvah, I remind you therein speaks, in accordance with the Halachic and Midrashic sources, of "having a share in the World to Come". The extent and characteristics of this "share" depend on the merits acquired by a person on earth, and therefore it is not an equal share for everyone.
    – Amos74
    Apr 18 at 9:55
  • @ShipBuilding Also consider that Talmudic sources such as, for example, Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a, speak of a temporary Gehinnom for human beings neither totally good nor totally evil
    – Amos74
    Apr 18 at 10:03
  • Thanks Amos74. I am aware righteous gentiles have a share in the World to Come, but in the screenshotted portion, Rambam says "any wicked person," but quotes Jeremiah "return, faithless children," which unless I'm mistaken is speaking of Israel only. So I'm wondering if that screenshoted portion, "person" is referring to Jews or non-Jews also? If it's referring to both, fine, but what is meant by "repent"? What does a Jew need to do to repent "even in private" vs what does a goy need to do to repent "even in private"? Apr 19 at 4:50

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I transcribe below the kind response I received on the matter from Rav Dr Michael Schulman, editor of "The Divine Code" by Rav Moshe Weiner, as well as executive director of Ask Noah International:

"You're specific observation was based on a misunderstanding you have about the definition of "sheetuf", so it is worthy to make a clarification about that in the text of The Divine Code. "Belief in a sheetuf" does not refer to belief that an entity exists, or that it has operational influence in the creation (i.e., that it's operational influence in the creation exists). For example, it is well accepted within halacha that the planets, stars and mazalot, as well as the different angels at their different spiritual levels, play a role in the channeling of sustenance and the course of events into this world, from the spiritual source of that sustenance and those events. The book does not intend to intimate that this is not correct, nor that acceptance of (or "belief in") this fact is in any way unrighteous or not pious for either Jews or Gentiles. As I said, see Part II, topic 11:10 and the footnote there, about authentic astrology and Gentiles, and the underlying intent that this applies even for Chasidei Umot Ha'Olam.

Rather, the correct / accurate meaning of "belief in a sheetuf" refers to the person's belief about the nature of the operational influence which an entity has. This can be with the accepted understanding that the entity does have influence (such as the mazalot and the angels). I refer you to the book True Existence, which presents and explains a Chassidic discourse on this subject:

True Existence

Note: If a person believes that an imaginary thing exists in the physical or spiritual realm, and he believes that it has some supra-natural influence in the world, then whether or not that also constitutes "belief in a sheetuf" (which would be in addition to being foolish or misinformed for believing that the thing exists) will depend on his belief about the nature of the influence which he imagines that it has.

Nevertheless, even with that clarification about the definition of "belief in a sheetuf", a separate clarification (i.e. additional explanation) also needs to be added in the book about how "belief in a sheetuf" (which is not forbidden for Gentiles) affects the spiritual standing of a Gentile".

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