The Ramban on Devarim 7:6 says:

בך בחר ה' אלהיך להיות לו לעם סגלה שאין לך קצין שוטר ומושל בכל מלאכי מעלה אבל אתה סגולת ה' תחת ידו ולכך לא תטעה לעבוד ע"ז מאלהי העמים וכבר הזכרתי זה פעמים רבות

Loosely translated:

because G-d chose you to be his treasured nation since you have no ruling officer, enforcer, or ruler among the angels. You are directly under G-d's control. Therefore don't stray and worship the idols of the other nations. I already mentioned this many times. 1

The Ramban seems to be talking about the idea that since the Jews, unlike the other nations, do not have a "patron angel". Instead, G-d himself directly rules the Jewish Nation. (as the Ramban says in Devarim 4:15) Therefore, we must only serve G-d, and not turn to idol worship.

There are some opinions that non-Jews are allowed to believe in Shituf (partnership, i.e. that there are other forces in addition to G-d who have influence over the world (see here for a discussion of this)).

Based on my understanding of the Ramban, does the Ramban then hold that the other nations may believe in Shituf, since they do have a "ruling officer, enforcer, or ruler among the angels"?

If the Ramban himself does not hold this view, are there other opinions to that use this logic to explain why non-Jews may believe in Shituf?

1 I don't know where else the Ramban has mentioned this, so perhaps he goes into this in more detail in other places, and answers my questions.

  • 1
    Note there are no classical sources that actually say that shittuf is permitted, a miquoted Tosafot notwithstanding.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 22:34
  • Sukkah 29a talks about the concept of patron angels. “There is no nation that is afflicted without its patron angel being afflicted with it, as it says, ובכל אלקי מצרים אעשה שפטים.” I find it interesting that it doesn’t quote the passuk of מצרים נסע לפניהם, from which the Mechilta ad. loc. derives this principle. Translation of the Braisa follows Rashi - others translate it “its idols” instead of “its angel.”
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 14:05
  • @DonielF: Thanks for that link. I'm still looking for somewhere that says that all nations except for the Jews have a patron angel. Can you link to the mechilta? I wasn't able to find it, and perhaps it has some more details.
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:25
  • Probably the discussion for that is at the end of Mishpatim, where Hashem says He will send His angel ahead of us, which is taken to mean as a punishment for the Eigel we will have a patron angel (out of place chronologically).
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:27
  • It's might be worth clarifying what you mean by "belief" in shituf, since, for example, believing in something is not necessarily the same as serving it. For example, one can believe in malachim without serving them. Similarly, "other forces in addition to G-d" might be interpreted as creatures who exist as His agents and have no ability outside of His will. Though I assume you mean in the other sense.
    – Loewian
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


R' Yaakov Kaminetzky discuses the opinion of Ramban in his Emes LiYaakov, parshas ViEschanan 4 19 on the verse

וראית את השמש ואת הירח גו׳ אשר חלק ה׳ אלקיך אתם לכל העמים תחת כל השמים.

He says there are two approaches to this passage amongst the mefarshim. Some say it means he gave the sun and moon for light, but don't worship them. Whereas Ramban and Ibn Ezra say each nation has a star and mazal which actually can have influence on the nation they are over. (He points to Ramban in Bereishis 1 18 as well.)

He continues that there is a fundamental argument at play here. Rambam famously states that no avoda zara have any power and anyone who worships them are wasting their time. Ramban and Ibn Ezra on that verse disagree. They hold that Hashem actually placed the nature in the universe and gave power to these item to influence those nations under their charge.

However, the nations are not allowed to worship these items, as that is idolatry! He explains then that the ban against idolatry for the nations is because the only power these items have is from Hashem and it is not fitting to pray or to worship them. All prayer and worship must only be directed to Hashem, the source of all this power. He does concede that if in fact they would worship and pray to their mazal, it would in fact have an effect.

R' Yaakov goes on to point to the book of Shoftim 11 24 where Yiftach tells the king of Amon

הלא את אשר יורישך כמוש אלהיך אותו תירש ואת כל אשר הוריש ה׳ אלקינו מפנינו אותו נירש

He points to Ralbag who explains Yiftach's words as having been said in jest. (In accordance with Rambam, presumably.) But goes on to say that according to Ramban, his words can be explained according to their simple understanding.

The footnote on the Emes Liyaakov says the Yalkut Meam Loez in Shoftim brings this exact pshat in the name of Nefesh Yehonason. The footnote adds that this has practical halakhic ramifications and points to the Taz in Yoreh Deah 147 2 and Meshech Chochma at the end of Chukas.

That Taz is arguing on a Ramma who said

מותר לומר לעובדי כוכבים אלהיך יהיה בעזרך או יצליח מעשיך.

See Taz at length (and Shach quoting Bach, whom Taz said is quoting him) that the Ramma confused the intent of the Rambam etc and one may only say אלקים בעזרך not אלהיך בעזרך.

The Meshech Chochma is on the haftora. He explains the passuk in Shoftim used the phrase הוריש & not הורישך specifically because he did not want to even imply that his idol actually benefited him anything. He points to the words of the Taz to hammer in this point.

Unfortunately I could not find any Emes Liyaakov online to link. It's always worth checking inside when coming across a big chidush. Here is a picture of the page.

enter image description here

  • 1
    That's great. It sees that the Emet LeYaakov is saying that according to the Ramban, non-Jews are allowed to believe in Shituf, but not pray to the partner.
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 2:08
  • Right. Pray or worship. I had tried looking for this recently to answer a different question on this site but couldn't locate it. Tonight there was success baruch Hashem. I really wish there was a good topic index on that seffer!
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 2:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .