Firstly, I am an ignorant gentile and am new to contributing to Stack Exchange, so I apologise in advance for any mistakes or missteps.

It is my understanding that a gentile who keeps certain mitzvot (eg keeping the Sabbath fully) is sinning. It is also my understanding that, from an orthodox perspective, a Reform or Conservative conversion is quite meaningless, as if nothing has happened. Am I right, therefore, in inferring that a Conservative (for example) convert who kept these mitzvot would be a sinning gentile?

Thank you.

  • 7
    Your analysis seems quite plausible.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 22:05
  • 4
    (Also, my assumption is that most Conservative converts are not keeping shabbat fully since Conservative Judaism these days is relatively lax regarding Shabbat observance/laws.)
    – Loewian
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 22:40
  • This Rabbi--youtube.com/watch?v=QUWtj1qiFcM --quotes the Chatam Sofer who holds a that non-Jew can keep the Jewish Sabbath (Retreived from @Rosen's answer to this question judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/18995/…). Commented May 5, 2015 at 1:45
  • 3
    @Alexander You're instincts are accurate. He is a highly sketchy figure to say the least. I wouldn't rely on him for anything.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 4:43
  • 1
    I never heard of that Rabbi before watching the video, and after reading up about his views, I will now say that I do not endorse his radical movement or his radical views. I do not judge the man though, because I do not know his intent. Commented May 6, 2015 at 2:50

3 Answers 3


Let me start by quoting Maimonides (Ty @Yishai) who is discussing an inadvertent transgression of a gentile of one of the Seven Noahide laws, which are punishable by human court. http://m.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188355/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-10.htm

"A gentile who inadvertently violates one of his commandments is exempt from all punishment with the exception of a person who kills inadvertently. In such an instance, the redeemer of the blood is not executed for slaying the killer, nor may the latter seek asylum in a city of refuge. However, the court will not execute him.

When does the above apply? When he inadvertently violates a command without sinful intention; for example a person who engages in relations with his colleague's wife under the impression that she is his own wife or unmarried.

If, however, one knew that she was his colleague's wife, but did not know that she was forbidden to him or it occurred to him that this act was permitted or one killed without knowing that it is forbidden to kill, he is considered close to having sinned intentionally and is executed. This is not considered as an inadvertent violation. For he should have learned the obligations incumbent upon him and did not."

In this interesting case you have presented, the gentile will be keeping the Sabbath by the type of accident which is not punishable, being that he kept the Sabbath under a false pretence of having converted, similar to "a person who engages in relations with his colleague's wife under the impression that she is his own wife or unmarried".

It should be noted that keeping the Sabbath is a heavenly offence not punishable by human courts, so this idea may not hold true.

One more idea found in commentaries dissection of Miamonides words in the aforementioned chapter, halcha #9 which would have an impact here is the following: Rambam writes "The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them".

Some of the commentaries take this idea very literally and therefore believe that the only prohibition is when the gentile is acting this way to create a Mitzvah. The Imrei Yosher points out that a gentile who wants to convert, but has not as of yet may actually keep the Sabbath, being that he is keeping it as future Jew, not as an inventor of something new. This however is not the common practice AFAIK. Future converts are told to desecrate the Sabbath until conversion. However, this is a valid opinion upon which one can probably rely when stuck in a situation.

As a matter of practical advice though, I would point to a similar but not analogous situation brought in the footnotes of the work Mitzvos Hashem, a work dedicated to laws concerning gentiles, page 460. A person who is questionably Jewish, such as a foundling, will have to act on the Sabbath in a way to keep it as a possible Jew, or desecrate it as a possible Non-Jew. There are a number of options based on various opinions.*

1) He should perform work in the contemporary sense, but not one that is based on the 39 forbidden acts. In accordance with the latter authorities who argue with Mishna Limelech chapter 10 of Hilchos Melachim halcha 2.

2) He should do one of the forbidden acts before evening of Friday and after nightfall Saturday. In accordance with Panim Yafos in Noach who says night follows day for gentiles.

3) He should wear tzitzis in a public domain which is allowed for a Jew but would be considered carrying for a NonJew in accordance with Chassam Soffer.

4) Or he suggests doing a half of a forbidden act, for 'amounts', shiurim, were given to Jews alone.

Any of these would seemingly alleviate the issue at hand, but it is not analogous as the orthodox would not consider an unorthodox conversion as even questionable.

*This particular issue is also addressed in Minchas Chinuch towards the end of mitzvah 32. The Shabsi Frenkel mafteach also brings sources for this on the aforementioned chapter in Maimonides.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented May 8, 2015 at 15:52

Conservative Judaism is a movement that began in the 19th-20th centuries as an offshoot of the Reform movement that sought to overturn traditional Jewish practice and belief. It rejects what are generally considered to be the fundamental tenets of traditional (i.e. "Orthodox") Judaism (e.g. the 13 principles of faith of Maimonides). Therefore, the consensus of traditional Jewish authorities is that a conversion performed by a Conservative "bet din" is not a valid conversion in the eyes of halacha (traditional Jewish law) for any purpose. That said, it is hypothetically possible that if the 3 judges that formed the bet din kept halacha according to traditional ("Orthodox") standards including regarding ideological beliefs, and they, in turn, required the convert to accept all the mitzvot (again, according to halacha), there may well be grounds to consider the conversion valid even from an Orthodox perspective (implicit from Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 3:107; See however Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer 3:4 where Rav Moshe Feinstein says that a Conservative bet din is definitely invalid since the overwhelming majority of Conservative rabbis keep neither halachic practice nor beliefs and similarly Yoreh Deah 1:160; 2:128; 2:132). See also: http://www.halakhicconversion.org/downloads/Who%20is%20a%20Convert%20Essay.pdf

Additionally, Shabbat as kept by Conservatives is unlikely to meet the strict requirements of halacha either, so it's unlikely a Conservative convert actually keeps Shabbat according to the halacha. Additionally, it's disputed what is meant by the prohibitions for a non-Jew to keep Shabbat (or study non-practical Torah, for that matter, which I believe is the other exclusive Mitzvah). As usual when it comes to practical questions, this site's policy (and the policy of good practice in general) is "AYLOR".

(It is also perhaps worth noting that there is a famous quote of Maimonides that [originally Jewish] Christianity and Islam were created as a vehicle to expose the pagan/idolatrous nations to the teachings of the Torah. Considering that the newest Jewish movements are arguably themselves swiftly becoming Torah-oriented communities of righteous gentiles [in the sense that their conversions are not halachically valid and their intermarriage rates are very high], the same principle could be said to apply.)

  • 2
    Didn't Conservative Judaism start trying to restore traditional Jewish practice and belief?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 14:22
  • @DoubleAA sounds correct. I believe that Reform came first as an attempt o "break away" from the strict halachic practices. which is why it is called "reform". As a result, the term "Orthodox" appeared to describe what they considered "strict". Conservative tried to "reform" the Reform. Now, as a I gather, Conservative is further reforming itself by trying to move closer to the Orthodox. Then, of course, you have Chareidi, and many current "Orthodox" are trying to become "Chareidi", so even THAT's "reforming".
    – DanF
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 15:34
  • @DoubleAA Some Jewish practice. I'm fairly certain Jewish beliefs (e.g. the Maimonidean 13 principles of faith that have generally been assumed to be essential to "Judaism") were never a particular concern. In any case, as I said, they were an offshoot of Reform, which, in turn, sought to "reform" "Judaism". (My understanding is that the OP is also asking about Reform and that he correctly surmises that there is no halachik distinction between the two since both are considered rejections of Torah law with all the halachic ramifications thereof.
    – Loewian
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:33
  • @DanF My understanding is that, if anything, mainstream Conservative has actually been moving to the left. (Reform itself has moved a bit to the right [e.g. regarding Israel and some rituals], so really the 2 movements are perhaps approaching reconciliation.) This has pehaps isolated their most traditionally-minded adherents who are being somewhat driven toward Orthodoxy. Also, the "Open-Orthodox" movement of Rabbi Avi Weiss, has ideas that are to the left of traditional Conservative, so that might mean in that sense the more traditional wing is "NeoOrthodox".
    – Loewian
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:46
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    loewian, your summary of the history of the Conservative movement is incomplete and unfair to the shomrei Torah umitzvot who were important participants in it. More to the point, it's unnecessary. If posekim consider Conservative conversions completely invalid, cite them and move on. If you want to explain the reasoning of those posekim, go ahead an quote that. No reason to write your own impression of imprecise reasoning based on not-completely-correct history. (CC @DoubleAA)
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 18:05

If the non-Jew swore off idolatry then he is not stam "goy"(see Hilchot Maachalot Assurot 11:8). It is forbidden for a stam "goy" to keep shabbat(see Hilchot Melachim 10:9) and some opinions even for the stam goy to rest on Shabbat. However, if he has given up idolatry then he is no longer a stam goy and then Hilchot Melachim 10:10 applies, in that he is a ben Noach and can rest on Shabbat. To actually fully keep Shabbat as a mitzvah like a Jew seems to be ok according to Rambam Hilchot 10:10, but other opinions differ. The key is if he is an idolator or not and if he's keeping Shabbat as a mitzvah or what.

In other words, a non-Jew should give up idolatry per the sheva mitzvot. He does not have to honor Shabbat, but should. He should not say he is commanded to keep it per Torah of Moshe as a ben Yisrael, but should just say he is honoring it or the like. HaShem repays measure for measure.

  • 1
    -1 As far as I can tell, this completely misrepresents the Rambam.
    – Yishai
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 0:00
  • But isn't the possible-convert in this case thinking he is "keep[ing] it per Torah of Moshe as a ben Yisrael"?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 1:10
  • 1
    I should point out that the Chasam Sofer (Chulin 31a) does read the Rambam as you present it here. However, he seems to rely on the standard girsa which puts halacha 9 as saying Akum, vs. 10 as saying Ben Noach. But the Mechon-Mamrei version, although it has the variance, says Goy with Halacha 9 (11 in their edition), but the reading is extremely forced, especially with the more likely version. CC @DoubleAA, just because you are here.
    – Yishai
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 19:07
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    Melachim 10:9 says that an aku"m may not get involved in Torah study or keep Shabbat. Melachim 10:10 says that a ben Noach may keep any of the other Mitzvot. How does that imply that the latter may keep Shabbat? It sounds like the opposite.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 19:12
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    @IsaacMoses For better or worse, it's very hard to make meaningful diyukim in goy/akum/nokhri/min/etc. without very old manuscript basis.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 2:57

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