theTalmud in Sanhedrin 105a states that "Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come" provided they observe the seven commandments of bnei noach.

Does this reward necessitate belief in the divine origin of Torah and Moses being a prophet of God, or even if a non-Jew does not believe this or is ignorant of this, and nevertheless believes in an ethical, monotheistic God (for example by observing nature) and strives to be upright and G-d fearing, observing these 7 laws by following his own conscience?

Looking especially for views of the latter option. If possible what is the majority view of this. I have heard the Rambam holds the former view though don't recall where.


2 Answers 2


Rambam Hilchos Melachim 8:11 writes in accordance with your first option.

כל המקבל שבע מצות ונזהר לעשותן הרי זה מחסידי אומות העולם. ויש לו חלק לעולם הבא. והוא שיקבל אותן ויעשה אותן מפני שצוה בהן הקב"ה בתורה והודיענו על ידי משה רבינו שבני נח מקודם נצטוו בהן. אבל אם עשאן מפני הכרע הדעת אין זה גר תושב ואינו מחסידי אומות העולם ולא מחכמיהם

Anyone who accepts the 7 mitzvos and is careful about them is of the righteous of the nations, and he has a portion in the world to come. And this is as long as he accepts them and does them because Hakadosh Baruch Hu commanded them in His Torah and informed us through Moshe Rabbeinu that Bnei Noach are commanded in them...

(Parenthetically, the Rambam seems to require acceptance before a Beis Din - see previous halacha)

Rashi seems to disagree. 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

Just as before the giving of the Torah their mitzvos did not rely on the giving of the Torah, so too afterwards.

The Mishneh Lamelech, commentary to Melachim 10:7, s.v. הכלל העולה attributes this position to Tosefos as well, based upon Tosefos in Chagiga 2b s.v. לא תהו בראה.

[These sources were taken from Rabbi Kraines' article in the first volume of Dialogue, here. See there for more.]

  • Possible further evidence of Rashi's view in this comment.
    – Fred
    Nov 29, 2015 at 5:05

I quote this very interesting article,written by Matthew Zachary Gindin, about the interpretation of the Rambam pass given by the famous HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine.

The correspondence to the thought on the subject by Rav Kook of what reported in this article was confirmed to me by Rabbi Daniel Roselaar, of the Office of the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain Rav Ephraim Mirvis.

Rav Kook on Wise Gentiles and their Fate.

This is a fascinating comment of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, z”l. Rav Kook was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of 20th century pre-Israel Palestine and was a great mystic and poet. Read it bearing in mind that the emended reading for the Rambam that he proposes is in fact found in the older Yemenite manuscripts of Mishneh Torah, and was also accepted and propounded by Rav Soloveitchik, z”l.

The Righteous Among The Nations [The Rambam wrote:] “Any [gentile] who accepts the seven Noahide commandments and is careful in their performance is one of the righteous of the nations (chasidei umot ha’olam), and he has a portion in the world-to-come. That is if he accepts them and performs them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and proclaimed through Moses that Noahides had previously been commanded in these. But if they perform them because it makes sense [to them], such a person is … not one of the ‘righteous of the nations’ nor one of their wise men” (Hilchot Melachim 8:11). [This statement of the Rambam requires emendation.] The correct reading is: “he is not [merely] one of ‘the righteous of the gentiles, ’ but one of their wise men.” I tend to think that the Rambam means to say that having a portion in the world-tocome is an inferior level (although it too is very great). Since even wicked and ignorant Jews attain it, it is-compared to [truly] spiritual levels-low. The Rambam says that intellectual awareness brings a person much closer to [understanding] the righteousness of God’s Providence. 10/8/2017 Rav Kook on Wise Gentiles and their Fate – Talis In Wonderland https://talisinwonderland.com/2011/04/06/rav-kook-on-holy-gentiles/ 2/4 Therefore, having a portion in the world-to-come is a level attained by the righteous of the nations who have not attained an intellectual awareness, but who have rather accepted the faith simply, with heart-felt emotion, and have acted well, as a result of having accepted the concept that the commandments were given by God. But if a person has come to understand the seven Noahide commandments as a result of his own thinking, he is truly wise of heart and lled with understanding. Such a person is considered one of their wise men, for the trait of wisdom is very great. And it is superuous to say that he has a portion in the world-to-come. [Indeed,] he stands on a holy level that needs to be spoken of with a fuller expression than “having a portion in the world-to-come.” However, even were we to accept the Rambam’s words simply [without emendation], we will nd nothing in them strange if we say that the quality of the world-to-come that the Rambam is speaking of is a particular state that the divine and special nature of our holy Torah gives to those who keep the Torah. But there are other states that can be transmitted by anything good-only, it is not called the “world-to-come.” That special [state called the “world-to-come”] derives from the power of the Torah, and is appropriate for anyone who accepts it and the sanctity of its faith. But this does not in any way deny other qualities that can be imagined regarding every philosophy, each in its own way. Igrot Hara’yah This passage says that the spiritual level conveyed automatically to Jews (and non-Jews) with simple faith in the Torah, “the world to come”, is a lower level than that attained by truly wise gentiles. This reading of Rambam is exactly the opposite of the reading accepted by many pre-modern (and some modern) Ashkenazi Rabbis, who read the Rambam as saying that wise gentiles do not have a portion in “the world to come” since they were not on as high a level as a simple Jew or a gentile with faith in the Torah. R’ Kook’s comment that various attainments result from the various philosophies of the world, and higher attainments can be imagined for those reach knowledge of God’s will based on their own wisdom, is intriguing

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