When the Torah instructs the Jewish people regarding entering Eretz Yisroel and conquering the seven nations (Devarim 7:1-2), it says “lo sichaneim” literally translated as you shall not grant them favor or grace. What does this mean practically?
The Gemara (Avodah Zara 20) explains that there are three halachos derived from here:
1)Do not give them a dwelling place in the land
2)Do not praise them
3)Do not give them gifts
But first – who does the prohibition apply to?
The verse quoted above is referring to the seven nations that inhabit Eretz Yisroel. One can argue that this Halacha only applies only to them (and the Torah Temimah in Devarim 7:2 does, c.f. Tzitz Eliezer 15:47), however the Rishonim assume that it has a wider reach as well.
Most Rishonim understand that this prohibition applies to all non Jews, except for a Ger Toshav – A ‘Resident Alien’ who has accepted upon himself (generally understood in Beis Din) the seven Noahide laws. (See Avodah Zara 64b-65a.)
The Meiri understand this to mean specifically idolaters. For all other non Jews there would be no prohibition.
The Shulchan Aruch (See Beis Yosef CM 259) and the vast majority of the Poskim (see Shach YD 151:18) rule like the first opinion and extend the prohibition to all non Jews ‘even Yishmaelim’. There are some contemporary poskim who rule like the Meiri but this is firmly in the minority opinion. [It seems that even those who rule like the Meiri, do not apply this to the selling of land in Eretz Yisrael, which would still be prohibited].
Even according to the Meiri that only actual idolaters are included in lo sichaneim it isn’t clear cut as to the parameters and definitions of an idolater. The Rema famously writes (OC 156) that there is no prohibition of Shituf (partnership of gods, not quite polytheism but not the Jewish definition of monotheism either) for a non Jew. It is unclear if the Rema refers just to swearing in their name or actual worship. (see Pischei Teshuva 147:2) Furthermore, many achronim disagree with the Rema and write that those who believe in more than one God in any which way have the halachic classification of idolaters. (Pischei Teshuva Ibid, a well regarded contemporary posek told me that the ‘rov achronim don’t agree with the Rema and it is not the halacha).
In conclusion, it’s a bit of a stretch to not apply lo sichaneim to all non Jews; Definitely according to the Shulchan Aruch, and even according to the minority opinion of the Meiri.
Do not give them a dwelling place in the land
One is not allowed to sell a house or a field in Eretz Yisroel to a non Jew. One may not rent a field to a non Jew because you are causing that there will be no more tithing from this field. One may however rent a house to a non Jew. (YD 151:8)
That being said, the Shulchan Aruch (10) rules that one may only rent a house to a non Jew for storage but not for dwelling out of concern that they will bring in idols. However the Rema writes that nowadays one may rent to a non Jew since they don’t generally bring idols into their homes.This rema seems to be going in accordance to his opinion that those who practice shituf are not considered idolaters.
The Shach (17 c.f Biur Hagra 18), who seems to concur with the opinion quoted above that shituf is halachic idolatry, has trouble with the Rema, and suggests that the reason why we permit renting is because the non Jew has an actual acquisition on the home while he is renting and it is not considered as if he is bringing an idol into a Jewish home. He offers an additional rationale to permit renting to a non Jew – since taxes are payed to the non Jewish state it is not considered solely the Jews house.
It would seem from the Shach that the main concern is bringing idols into a house that is considered the house of the Jew. In contemporary landlord – tenant situations this doesn’t seem applicable, the rented home or unit is considered the home of the tenant, not the landlord.
The prohibition against renting, if applicable, applies even outside of Israel.
Do Not Praise Them
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 151:14) writes: “One may not speak in their praise, even to say how beautiful or handsome or well formed they are, and definitely not to praise their actions or be enthralled with their words”.
So it is forbidden to praise a non Jew, say how beautiful an actor/actress is or what a great ball player they are, as well as how muscular that guy is and so on. One also may not say look at that brilliantly designed building, well constructed bridge, beautiful artwork or beautifully decorated home (or tree).
The Shulchan Aruch continues: “if one intends with their praise to praise Hashem for creating such a beautiful thing then it is permitted”.
So it seems one may say “wow, Hashem blessed Kobe Bryant with tremendous athletic capabilities!”
Rav Shternbuch (teshuvos vehanhagos 4:197) debates whether debating the wisdom of non Jews, and even more so, the wisdom of non Jews he is not associated with such as a world leader, is included.
He concludes (and this can be found in the Sefer hachinuch 426) that one may also say praise as compared to Jews. The Rambam writes that Aristotle was one level under Ruach HaKodesh. Rav Shternbuch writes that this should be understood as “Aristotle is so smart he’s one level under ruach hoakodesh”. Likewise the Gemara says that Goliath was only praised to show the praise of David.
Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Daas 6:60) discusses praying and saying kaddish for a non Jewish parent and concludes that it is permissible as well.
Do Not Give Them Gifts
The Shulchan Aruch writes (YD 151:11): One may not give gifts to a non Jew he does not know. The Taz explains: if he knows him then it would not be a purposeless gift, because he expects or has received goodwill from him in return.
Based on this the Poskim discuss gifts to office staff, or customary tips to your mailman or hairdresser. Whereas it is expected, and he has either received or there is an expectation of good service, it would be permissible.
Likewise the Ran (Gittin 38b) in discussing the incident in which Rav shimon Ben Gamliel freed his slave in order to complete a minyan explains that when a gift is given for the givers benefit or then there is no prohibition.
Furthermore, the Debreciner Rav (Beer Moshe 3:117) says that one may tip a taxi driver, even though you’ll never see him again, because if you don’t he (and his friends) will no longer stop for Jews.
The Shulchan Aruch continues (Ibid 12,13) that one may support their needy, visit their sick, bury their dead and even eulogize and comfort their mourners ‘mipnei darkei shalom’ – to keep the peace. Additionally one need not stop them from taking the leket shikchah and peah (gleanings) gifts.
This would seemingly allow tips and such as well as anything expected out of common decency even without the Debreciner’s rationale.
Much thanks to Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz for his invaluable research and Maareh Mekomos