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Is a Ben Noach Obligated in Tzaar Baalei Chaim?

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

Most readers are aware that the Torah’s obligations of following halacha are not exclusively for Jews.   Gentiles as well must follow a certain set of halachic guidelines.  The guidelines are
known as the Seven Laws of Noah.

The Sefer HaChinuch points out that these seven laws are not, in fact, laws, but categories of laws.  The Seven Laws are found in the Tosefta to tractate Avodah Zarah (9:4) and are cited in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 56a).  They are:

  • The obligation to believe in G-d
  • The prohibition of Murder
  • The prohibition of theft
  • The prohibition against adultery and other forms of similar immorality
  • The prohibition in cursing G-d
  • The prohibition involved in eating flesh from a live animal
  • The obligation to establish a just court of law to enforce the laws.

The question is do these laws include the idea of Tzaar Baalei Chaim?  Is a gentile obligated in observing this halacha?  If he is, under which of the Seven Noachide Laws is it subsumed?

In Rav Binyomin Cohen’s excellent new Sefer Chelkas Binyomin on Pru uRvu – he cites the Otzer HaPoskim which cites the Sefer Toldos Yaakov who is unsure as to whether they are commanded in it.  Rabbi Cohen suggests (page 336) that it may be subsumed under prohibition #6 – Aiver Min haChai – eating a limb of a live animal.

There is yet another possibility.  The Minchas Chinuch in Mitzvah #80 states that the Mitzvos of Prikah and Te’ina are subsumed under #7 dinim.  It would be logical to also extend this to include Tzaar Baalei Chaim.

The Pri Magadim in his Mishbetzes HaZahav (468:2) writes that a gentile is not commanded in this Mitzvah, however.

The Orach Chaim on Bereishis 29:7 writes that Yaakov Avinu chastised the shepherds on account of their Mitzvah of Tzaar Baalei Chaim – which would indicate that the Orach Chaim did not think that the halacha was like the Pri Magadim.  Also, there is a Ramban in parshas Bereishis that states that Adam was initially forbidden in eating meat because of Tzaar Baalei Chaim.  This halacha was adjusted later to allow it for eating purposes according to the Ramban.

There is another possibility that this author would like to suggest.  Believing in G-d (Mitzvah #1) perforce indicates that one should try and be like Him too.  The verse tells us, “V’rachamav al kol Maasav – And His mercies extend to all His Creations.”  It could also be subsumed under the first one as well.

It is a bizarre reality that many people are unaware that for Torah observant Jews Tzaar baalei Chaim is a real prohibition.  Indeed, most Rishonim are of the opinion that Tzaar Baalei Chaim is, in fact, a biblical prohibition, as is the implication of the Talmud (Shabbos 128b). The Rambam, however, is understood by most commentators as holding that it is of Rabbinic origin. [See Vilna Gaon CM 272:11, notwithstanding the view of the Keseph Mishna who reads the Rambam as holding that the prohibition is biblical as well].

As an interesting aside, Rabbi Dovid Parro in his monumental work Chasdei Dovid on the Tosefta writes (Korbanos 13:1) that each of the seven Noachide laws have an associated positive commandment.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


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