What is the jewish view on reading biographies of remarkable gentiles which one finds inspirational provided there is no apikorsus in the content.

Have come across a website about a certain person who led a remarkable life, dedicated herself to living the golden rule. Is it permitted to read this stuff if it significantly inspires one to improve his conduct? or is it better to stay away

  • rabbisedley.blogspot.com/2008/12/…
    – Double AA
    Jan 26, 2013 at 23:43
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    @DoubleAA I've always thought it was interesting that Cheshbon HaNefesh is based on Benjamin Franklin, considering that Franklin himself was a notorious plagiarizer of sayings of Chazal (and Tanach, too).
    – Fred
    Jan 27, 2013 at 3:01
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    I don't think anyone can be called a plagiarizer of tanach. That's like accusing someone of breathing for free.
    – Seth J
    Jan 27, 2013 at 3:59
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    @SethJ Maybe so. I was sort of thinking that myself (hence the parentheses), but he didn't let on that the quotes were from the Bible. I suppose it could've been considered obvious though, especially in those days when (I assume) a higher percentage of the population could quote chapter and verse.
    – Fred
    Jan 27, 2013 at 4:17
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    Iyov, according to the opinion that he was not Jewish, is a gentile biography
    – wfb
    May 19, 2015 at 12:53

2 Answers 2


I think there would be no problem with this, especially if it is fully appropriate and they adhered to Jewish values (even though they weren't Jewish themselves). There are incredible and interesting gentiles out there, like Oskar Schindler and Benjamin Franklin.

Besides, I am not aware of anything that says that reading history is asur, and biographies are history, with some added inspiration.

  • 5
    While your opinion is perhaps interesting, none of us know you that we should value it at all. Try editing to cite some sources for your ideas so we can learn from them.
    – Double AA
    Mar 20, 2015 at 3:14
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    Bnjamin Franklin was infamous for womanizing.
    – Bach
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:54
  • FYI there are those that prohibit reading history books based on SA OC 307:16, unless there's some toeles involved (like you mentioned, inspiration etc.)
    – robev
    Jun 23, 2017 at 12:50

See gra on shir hashirim 1, 3 who explains that akum'z are able to assimilate the kedushah of torah shebichsav but not torah shebaalpeh.

Therefore at best you would be left with literalistic views of right, wrong and self-sacrifice if you absorbed the lessons in that website.

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