Genesis 26:5 states:

Because that Avraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

What were these laws, statutes, and commandments that Avraham was observing?

A Christian site claims that Avraham was observing the laws of Noah.

What does the Jewish tradition teach us about this?


6 Answers 6


The whole Torah is the issue, not 7 mitsvot Bne Noach.

It is written in Mishna. For an inquiry about the precise meaning of this, you can find interesting interpretations in Chassidic literature. But concerning the OP, the mishna bellow is a clear answer.

See the Mishna in Kiddushin (4, 14):

מָצִינוּ שֶׁעָשָׂה אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ אֶת כָּל הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִתְּנָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, (שם כו) עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי וַיִּשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמַרְתִּי מִצְוֹתַי חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי:‏

We find that our father abraham observed the whole torah before it was given, for it is said, because that abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Note: Thanks to @Double AA I learned that this snippet of Mishna is not present in all versions of the Mishna (in The mishna of the Mel'echet Shelomo, which cite Harav Yehosef it was, in the version of the Tif'eret Israel too), however, it is "almost" in Tosefta at end of the masechet (5, 14) in an enlarged version:

וכל כך למה מפני שעשה את התורה עד שלא באת שנא' (בראשית כו) עקב אשר שמע אברהם בקולי וישמור משמרתי מצותי חוקותי ותורותי תורתי לא נאמר אלא ותורותי מלמד שנתגלו לו טעמי תורה ודקדוקיה.

Relevant for us at the end: The use of plural "torotay" taught that AA practiced the whole torah and even halachic details were disclosed to him.

  • 1
    That isn't found in many old editions/manuscripts of the Mishna (and even of the Bavli). See Shinui Nuschaot here hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37944&st=&pgnum=333 and note where Bartenerua ends commenting, the Rambam's Mishna here he.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    – Double AA
    Jul 25, 2016 at 20:28
  • @DoubleAA I apologies but I know only this edition that is in Shas Vilna and Gemara, from where it come?
    – kouty
    Jul 25, 2016 at 20:30
  • @DoubleAA The Melechet Shlomo reports it in name of Harav Yehosef but a bit shorter. the Tif'eret Israel also. Bartenura, and also Rashi and Tosfot end commentary before. I agree that it is a good indice. I am interested to know if it is not a tosefta I will search.
    – kouty
    Jul 25, 2016 at 21:03
  • @found in Tosefta chapter 5 at end. edition Tsukermendel
    – kouty
    Jul 25, 2016 at 21:05
  • @DoubleAA fixed as "almost" a snippet of Tosefta
    – kouty
    Jul 25, 2016 at 21:12

The Ramban says (al derech hapeshat) that the posuk only refers to Avraham's belief in Hashem, his ethical behavior, the teachings given to his children/servants, and the Noachide laws, not to all 613 mitzvot.

  • 1
    Rabbenu Avraham ben HaRambam writes very similarly.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 9, 2016 at 0:09

It seems from many seforim that Avraham kept some of the torah. For example Avraham baked matzos for pesach. I do not know to what extant he kept it, but he kept some of it.


For an additional source, the gemara in Yoma 28b discusses that verse and states that:

Raba or R. Ashi said: Abraham, our father, kept even the law concerning the ‘erub of the dishes,’ as it is said: ‘My Torahs’: one being the written Torah, the other the oral Torah.

(Translation courtesy of e-daf, italics and boldface are mine)

Earlier on the page, the gemara rejects the suggestion that he kept only the Noahide Laws, since we know he also performed circumcision.


Rashi on that verse explains:

Mishmarti (in OP translated as "My charge", but literally translated as "My safeguard") - these are decrees to help people avoid sinning (from Yevamos 21a).

Mitzvosai ("My commandments") - these are "logical" commandments which we would obey even had we not been explicitly commanded, like "don't kill."

Chukosai ("My statutes") - these are "illogical" commandments, such as the Red Cow (see Rashi to Bamidbar 19:1 for these two translations - apparently our passuk swaps in "mitzvos" for "mishpatim").

Torosai (in OP translated as "My laws" but more literally translated as "My Torahs" - plural) - one Torah that's written and one that's oral (Yoma 28b). Bereishis Rabbah (64:4) adds that Avraham knew every Halacha that was destined to be decided.

That Christian site you quoted isn't entirely wrong. That aforementioned Gemara in Yoma had a thought that the passuk was referring to the Seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach plus Bris Milah, but ultimately it rejected that approach.

  • Interesting thought - there is an opinion that states the the 7 Noahide laws actually encompass many of the 613 mitzvos in their details (lefikach hirba lahem torah umitzvos implying that the subdivision isn't predominantly an increase in load, but rather in reward). So observing the "Noahide Laws" would also include much of the 613... Still doesn't explain Matza, but eruvin would fall under "mishmarti" and the logical precept of listening to the elders... Aug 2, 2016 at 17:41
  • Why wouldn't it explain Matza? That's a Mitzvah from the Torah and thus would fall under Mitzvosai or Chukosai.
    – DonielF
    Aug 2, 2016 at 18:03
  • I was attempting to bridge the possuk with the noahide laws. Jewish holiday laws are absolutely not included within the noahide laws, even according to the broadest understanding of their scope. Aug 2, 2016 at 18:44
  • @DonielF Bereishis Rabbah (64:4) adds that Avraham knew every Halacha that was destined to be decided.. That is extremely fanciful and incapable of proof. Rambam is more reasonable: He says (al derech hapeshat) that the posuk only refers to Avraham's belief in Hashem, his ethical behavior, the teachings given to his children/servants, and the Noachide laws, not to all 613 mitzvot. May 16, 2019 at 11:05
  • @CliffordDurousseau For those who interpret it literally, I imagine it’s understood to the effect of he was able to intuit such laws prophetically. I understand if you don’t want to take Midrashim literally, but in that case, what are Chazal saying? If it’s not meant literally, it’s meant metaphorically, but for what?
    – DonielF
    May 16, 2019 at 14:21

Da'at Mikra inerpertation:

משמרתי הוא הכלל ובסמוך פרטיו... מצותי -כל המצות אשר צוה, החל ב"לך-לך" הראשון עד "לך-לך" האחרון, כך פירש ר' יצחק שמואל ריגייו

ורבנו בחיי פירש.. על מצוות שנצטוו בני נוח כי "מצותי" הם גזל ושפיכות דמים וחוקתי אבר מן החי וכיוצא בזה, "ותורותי" דינין ועבודה זרה

חוקותי" לדעת ר' יצחק שמואל ריגייו היא עשיית צדקה" ומשפט ולדעת אחרים הן העריות... "ותורותי" - ופרש ר' דוד צבי הופמן כל מה שנאמר לנוח ולאברהם. פרוש אחר: שהיה הולך ממקום למקום ומורה לכל באי עולם דרך ה'
וחז"ל דרשו שעשה אברה אבינו כל התורה...

"My commandments" is the general term, and it's details follows... "My commandments" all the Mitzos that he did, starting from the first Lech-Lecha to later, that Rabbi Yizhak Shmuel Rigyu, And Rabuen Be'Chaie' said... that it means the seven Noah commandments, "My laws" are stealing and bloodshed, and "My teachings" means establish courts and idol worshiping.

Rabbi Yizhak Shmuel Rigyu says that "My laws" is doing charity and justice and others think it means the rules of forbidden sexual relationships.

"My teachings" - Rabbi David Tzi Hoffman says it means all the teaching that were given to Abraham an Noa, other interpretation: that Abraham was wandering and teach people God's way

And our sages explained, [not by simple understanding] that Abraham kept all the Mitzos.

Also, the Rashbam explains that it means all the logical commandments.

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