Thursday, August 09, 2007


Reb Chaim Qoton discusses this topic here: rchaimqoton. While the Jews have their own 613 commandments which G-d gave them in the Torah, G-d only commanded the rest of Humankind to follow the seven (categories of) Noahide laws. While there are over twenty forbidden relationships applicable to a Jew, the Rambam lists only six for a gentile: his mother, his father’s wife, another man’s wife, his maternal sister, another man, and an animal. Each of these sexual prohibitions is learned exegetically from one passage in Bereishis, save for the case of maternal sister, which is learned from Abraham’s encounter with Abimelech.

The Maimonides’s enumeration, by all means, is not accepted by everyone. The Kesef Mishna (Maran Rav Yosef Ben Efraim Karo, 1488-1575) points out (ad loc.) that the Maimonides decided the Halacha according to Rabbi Akiva (of Sanhedrin 58b), but according to Rabbi Eliezer (Ibid.) one’s father’s sister and mother’s sister should also be prohibited. Indeed the Sefer HaMizrachi (written by Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi, 1455-1526) says (Genesis 46:10) that we follow the law of Rabbi Eliezer in the case of a father’s maternal sister. Additionally, to the list of the Maimonides, the Lechem Mishneh (printed on the side of the Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah in more standard editions) adds one’s daughter (Sanhedrin 58b, second version of Rav Huna’s statement). The Ritva (Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham Alshevili, circa. 1300) seemingly argues (Yevamos 98b) on the Maimonides’s view and permits a non-Jew to marry his father’s wife. However, such an opinion contradicts the Talmud (Sanhedrin 58b) which proved otherwise from the fact that had Adam lain carnally with his daughter, he would have prohibited her to Cain under the prohibition of “father’s wife”, and thus the world’s population would never have successfully propagated. Kayin himself has a special exemption on the rule against marrying one’s sister due to the verse (written prophetically by Avrham Aveinu under the pen name “Ethan the Ezrahite,” Bava Basra 14b) which says, “For I said, ‘Forever will kindness be built’” (Psalms 89:2). Adam’s abstinence from relations with his daughter was deemed a gracious act, and upon that act of kindness, the world founded.