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In Sanhedrin 59a, Rashi writes (s.v. לזה ולזה נאמרה):

כי יהיב קודשא בריך הוא תורה לישראל לא שקלינהו להנך מבני נח וכדקיימי להו קיימי
When Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave the Torah to Yisroel, he did not take those [Noahide laws] from Bnei Noach, and they remain as they were

Rashi states that the Noahide commandments that were given to Noah were unchanged.

However, in Chullin 92a, Rabbi Ulla states:

This verse refers to the thirty commandments which the Noachites have accepted. But they keep only three of them. One, they do not draw up marriage contracts for homosexuals. Two, they do not merchandize (human) flesh in the marketplace. Three, they do have respect for the Torah (and for Torah scholars).

From this, two questions arise: a) Why do Noahides allegedly only keep three commandments and more importantly b) Why is a commandment to respect Torah scholars included in the Noahide commandments when the Torah wasn't even given at the time, not to mention that depending on how we define Torah scholars, even after the Torah was given, proper Torah scholarship didn't emerge until centuries later.

Basically, why three and why that specific one. Most codifications of Noahide laws have much more than three, and they include the respecting-the-Torah commandment.

According to Rashi's logic, it would make no sense to have a commandment to respect Torah scholars to Noahides if the Torah wasn't even given and so Torah scholars didn't even exist (assuming that we're referring to human Torah scholars), not to mention that the universal and eternal Noahide commandments cannot change as G-d, blessed be He, Himself cannot change.

So how to reconcile this? Is there a commandment for Noahides to respect Torah scholars or not? Logic would say no, but Rabbi Ulla says yes.

Please refrain from referring to Rambam on this matter since there is some debate about the interpretation here.

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  • Rabbi Ullah is saying that they accepted those thirty upon themselves, without being commanded…
    – שלום
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 3:26
  • @שלום But why do most codifications of the Noahide laws today include far more laws than what Rabbi Ulla said? And then where are they getting those other rules, and how does it not count as inventing a new religion?
    – setszu
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 3:40
  • Just because they don’t keep more than three doesn’t mean that they don’t have more than that
    – שלום
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 3:43
  • @שלום I don't understand. Were they commanded more or not? Can you paraphrase it without using the word "keep"?
    – setszu
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 3:44
  • Those thirty are all things that they accepted upon themselves, however there are seven commandments, which they are commanded and punished by a court if they don’t keep, and then a few more for which they are punished by heaven
    – שלום
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 3:49

1 Answer 1

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So I looked into this myself, and I think I arrived at an answer.

a) According to this website, it states:

According to Ulla, while the Gentiles were given thirty commandments, in reality they do none of them. The notice that they “observe” three of the thirty is tongue-in-cheek, for the manner in which they “observe” them is in reality proof of their paganism. Thus, though they engage in homosexual relations,they do not sanctify such relationships with a marriage contract (ketubbah). Likewise, even though they eat dead meat (and some would understand this even to include human flesh), they do not sell it openly in the markets (they don’t weigh it out).

And so on. Basically, it states that Rabbi Ulla is saying that there are 30 mitzvot given, but that the non-Jews are really doing none of them except for three which they are "technically" observing. So there is no issue with Rabbi Ulla's statement according to this as its merely stating what the non-Jews were doing. Rabbi Ulla was still maintaining the thirty mitzvot statement. In reality, non-Jews are supposed to be keeping all of the thirty mitzvot that Rabbi Ulla is thinking of, but they're actually performing only three unfortunately. It does not refer to the idea that the other 27 mitzvot were abrogated or anything like that.

b) According to Rabbi Moshe Weiner in The Divine Code: The Guide to Observing the Noahide Code, Revealed from Mount Sinai in the Torah of Moses , which is dubbed as the "Shulchan Aruch" of the Noahide laws, having been given a "stamp of approval" by numerous halachic authorities and Rabbis, including I believe two former Chief Rabbis of Israel, he states at the beginning of the book:

Rambam explains in Laws of Kings 8:11: “...The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them [the Seven Noahide Commandments] in the Torah, and informed us through Moses our teacher that Noaĥ’s descendants had been previously commanded to fulfill them.” This means that even though Noaĥ’s descendants were previously commanded to fulfill them – and this Divine command was not nullified in legal terms, and Gentiles are still obligated by the power of the original commands – nevertheless, there were more details added by God through Moses at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Clearly, the Noahide Commandments were commanded to Moses, because even though they were commanded previously to Adam and Noaĥ, they were never written down as Torah before Mount Sinai. Their recording in the Written Torah was through Moses, and their explanations and details as transmitted in the Oral Torah were given to Moses, as will be explained. According to his above-cited ruling, Rambam explains that (a) the descendants of Noaĥ are obligated to observe their Seven Commandments because these were commanded to them by God through Moses, and (b) when the Torah was given by God through Moses, there was a spiritual dimension that He added for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews.

So basically the reconciliation is that despite Noah and his descendants being commanded to fulfil the original mitzvot, at the time the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, additional laws were added (and as far as I can recall, even some non-Israelites/people who didn't go on to become Israelites, like some Egyptians were there, so it makes sense for the Noahide mitzvot to get expanded so that they'd hear it for themselves too in my view), hence why we find the mitzvot of respecting the Torah scholars in there because Torah scholarship (studying the Torah that was given) begins immediately after Mt. Sinai revelation.

In summary, there are more than three Noahide commandments, and Rabbi Ulla was simply listing the three that the non-Jews were performing instead of doing the full thirty that Rabbi Ulla was stating, and respecting the Torah scholars is a Noahide commandment because Noahide commandments despite never being abrogated, were added upon after the revelation at Mt. Sinai. According to Rabbi Moshe Weiner who cites Rambam, this is one of the reasons why its necessary to acknowledge that one is following the Noahide mitzvot because they come from the revelation and not merely from one's personal reason/rational deduction.

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