According to the Rambam (Shoftim ~ Melachim uMilchamot ~ Chapter 10 ~ Halacha 9), a non-Jew who studies Torah is obligated to die and a non-Jew should only study his Seven mitzvot. I reason that it applies to conversion candidates as well. Otherwise I expect the Rambam would have listed an exception and so would the Gemara on which the Rambam's ruling is based.

Why do Rabbis teach Torah to someone preparing for conversion? Is this because the ruling of the Rambam is not part of the Shulchan Aruch? Would a non-Jew preparing for conversion get punished by Hashem for studying Torah?

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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/96225/…
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 21:18
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    Welcome to MiYodeya Natanav and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 4:02
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    He's not most Rabbis but Rav Asher Weiss holds there's no prohibition teaching a non Jew Torah when he intends to convert. His reasoning is here: tvunah.org/תלמוד-תורה-למי-שבא-להתגייר
    – robev
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 13:52
  • Rabbi Yochanan said: A Gentile who studies the Torah deserves death [“chayyav mita” in Aramaic]. [Sanhedrin 59a] It must be noted that the phrase “deserves death” just expresses disapproval, and is not to be taken literally. Certainly, no action is called for. The phrase is common in the Talmud. Another example is: He who transgresses the words of the Sages deserves death. [Ber. 6b] Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 17:49

2 Answers 2


The Shulchan Arukh (YD 268:2) rules that someone who wants to convert to Judaism can be taught some of the basic mitzvot. The language there is borrowed directly from the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah (Isurei Biah 14). It seems from the language of the Rambam that the convert should not be taught in great detail, but should be generally informed about the laws:

And they inform him of some of the lenient commandments, and some of the stringent commandments. And they do not dwell at length on this.

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    @Natanav I'm not an expert on conversion but I suspect that "a thorough knowledge of Chumash" as required for converts is not considered "great detail" for these purposes. Great detail (and what Jews nowadays refer to as "Torah learning") would be more like learning halakhic concepts in detail including the mishna, gemara, rishonim, etc. That's beyond the level that would be taught to a potential convert.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 23:49
  • @Natanav This site should not be used as a final authority for halakhic decision-making (see here). Its main purpose is talmud Torah. If you are undergoing a conversion process, your sponsoring rabbi will determine what is appropriate for you to learn and you should accept his decision. It is very important for a potential convert to have a very good understand of what being Jewish entails since having regrets after the fact would be a disaster.
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 11:36
  • @Natanav The Rambam doesn't prohibit a gentile owning Tefillin and Mezuzot.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 14:38
  • @DoubleAA Could you please provide a source for that?
    – Nosson
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 17:33

The rabbis didn't contradict Rambam, the rabbis are in Gemara, and Rambam himself report this law.

Rambam isure bia 14.2

יד,ב ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת, שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עבודה זרה; ומאריכין, בדבר זה. ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצוות קלות, ומקצת מצוות חמורות; ואין מאריכין, בדבר זה. ומודיעין אותו עוון לקט שכחה ופיאה, ומעשר עני. ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצוות.‏

Before conversion, we teach him principles of religion, unicity of G-d and prohibition of idolatry, with details, we teach him few light mitsvot, few heavy mitsvot, quickly, we teach him isur to not leave leket, shichecha and pea and maaser ani, and punishment of mitsvot.

This is not Talmud Tora but knowledge about what is to be Jew.

The Rambam you report is in melachim chapter 10 halacha 9

[ט] גוי שעסק בתורה, חייב מיתה; לא יעסוק אלא בשבע מצוות שלהן בלבד. וכן גוי ששבת--אפילו ביום מימות החול--אם עשה אותו לעצמו כמו שבת, חייב מיתה; ואין צריך לומר אם עשה מועד לעצמו.‏

Non Jew who "take care of" Tora is punishable to death. From the text before and after, we understand that the problem is when he appropriate Tora to make his own religion, but if he wants to follow Tora as Israel do, this is an approach of conversion and there is no problem.

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    Can someone please provide me with the source for Kouty's interpretation of the Rambam that a kosher approach to conversion is to "take care" of the Torah, presumably meaning that that person is studying in depth commentaries on the halachot to perform them, otherwise how could they? Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 21:33

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