Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi, Los Angeles, CA

Lo Sichaneim – Do Not Grant Them Favor

by | Jan 4, 2011 | 15 comments

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

By Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.


  1. marc

    WOW, I am stunned that you are advocating not following the Rama, the father of ashkenazic psak.

  2. Eliyahu

    About your quote of “keeping the peace.” I have heard from Rabbi Hanan Balk (shirr from yutorah.org) in the name of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, that one can be medayek in the Rambam in Hilchot Melachim that darkei shalom in the context of cheesed is not only to “keep the peace,” but rather it is an outright fulfillment of the mitzvah והלכת בדרכיו. The diyuk is from the fact that Rambam adds that this darkei shalom is based on the psukim דרכיה דרכי נועם and …טוב ה’ לכל (as opposed to just משום איבה)

  3. Eliyahu

    * I meant R Aharon Soleveitchik

  4. Eliyahu

    About your point that a get toshav must be accepted in brit din: Look at a yeshiva of Maharetz Chayut (i forgot the source) who calls Christians a get toshav. I believe (and I saw a contemporary Rabbi say the same thing) that even if a goy is not technically a get toshav, but since רחמנא לבא בעי, a God fearing Christian, Muslim, or whatever, who tries his best to keep the 7 Miotzvot, is a ger toshav, because he would become a noahide if he understood what the Torah really wants from him. He may even have negative views on Jews because of the chillul Hashem going on today, but he is a tinok shenishba and Hashem sees the heart. (Furthermore, many devout goyim nowadays may be from the lost tribes and are actually Jewish!).

  5. Tzvi Haber Haber

    Thank you for your insightful comments.
    That’s an interesting diyuk in the Rambam, and I will try to listen to the shiur. It is very much not the common understanding, and there would be many Gemaras that one can question that from.
    There are minority opinions that a Ger Toshav is automatic. That’s why I wrote generally understood. However the general consensus is that it requires Basi Din. You wouldn’t say רחמנא ליבא בעי for a full fledged modern day convert, would you?

  6. Eliyahu

    True a non-Jew is not a full fledged ger toshav halachikly according to the majority opinion, but I find it hard to believe that when Hashem says to love people and bring them close to Torah (Avot chapter 1), it would be forbidden to do chesed for them or praise them, if not for “keeping the peace.” I understand if he is an idolator who doesn’t keep 7 Mitzvot; but as regards to a monotheist, and even possibly an idolator who is moral (like many people from Asia) and just follows his idolatrous religion because “minhag avoteihem biyadayhem,” I find it very hard to believe that Hashem doesn’t want us to be good to them for the sake of chesed and out of love. Therefore my heart pulls me to whatever opinion agrees with this; whether it is a diyuk in Rambam, a minority Meiri, or whatever; my spiritually attuned heart cannot accept the conventional understanding of this misunderstood and crucial sugya.

    I may agree with the “keeping the piece” shita, because practically it almost always allows us to do chesed in todays connected and public world; but I would make sure to go about my chesed with love in my heart towards them. Unfortunately, I know people who follow this shita, and mistakenly forget how Hashem is good to all and that He enjoins us to love all people whether or not we are supposed to actively extend chesed to them.

    I just thought of a chiddush: One way to explain the majority shita may be to compare goyim to a wife who is a nidda; we can feel the love for them but there must be a certain separation in order to keep us Tahor. I believe that all good people are part of one body. The only problematic idea for me is the Ramchal’s statement that there will be a difference between us and goyim in the next world; but I have a hunch that in a later stage in time all of us will be one.

    (Rabbi Balk has a whole series concerning this topic on YUTORAH.org. I forgot which shiur quotes what I brought in an earlier note).

  7. Eliyahu

    Further support for why one should proactively extend chesed to goyim (e.g. like chabad and other kiruv efforts around the world), even according to the majority shitot, is 1- Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai made sure to be the first to greet people (by saying שלום), even non-Jews, in the marketplace (Brachot 17a); 2- It is a mitzvah to return an aveida to a goy when a kiddush Hashem will result (Shulchan Aruch in Chosen Mishpat somewhere). I say that whenever Jews are kind to people it is a tremendous kiddush Hashem, especially because Jews/Israel, unfortunately, have an undeserved bad reputation in the public eye. Therefore no Jew should hesitate before being kind to non-Jews.

  8. Crazy Kanoiy

    Rabbi Elias in his footnotes to the 19 letters makes the same diyuk as R Ahron Solovetchik regarding the Rambam. He understands that Rav Hirsch espoused the same thing.

    Rav Chaim Vital states that it is an obligation to love all of a creation even nonJews

  9. Tzvi Haber

    I’d love to see the footnote, do you have the page number?
    Loving, being kind and pleasant and greeting is different than praising or gifting, I don’t see any contradiction.

  10. Eliyahu

    To #8: Rav Hirsch in Collected Letters 7 writes to the Russian Czar in defense of the Talmud that non-Jews today are treated unlike idolators of the past (like Meiri).
    Also, I understand R Chaim Viotal in Sharei Kedusha that it is not an obligation to love them, but rather it is a good midda (middos are the foundation of the entire Torah as he says in the beginning of the sefer)

  11. Crazy Kanoiy

    To #9. Letter 15 Footnote 11. (See Also Horeb 503 and Letter 15 Footnote 23 regarding the status of contemporary non-Jews.)

  12. Crazy Kanoiy

    #10 You could be right regarding Rav Chaim Vital. However it should be noted that the Sefer Habris states that the obligation of Vahavta l’reiacha Kamocha applies to Non Jews.

    The Tanna Dbei Eliyahu and Rabbeinu Bachya both understand “reiacha” to include non Jews in some instances even though the norm is reiaha b’mitzvos.

  13. Avi

    Actually, the prohibition of praising them only refers to idol worshippers. It would seem that according to Rabbenu Tam that Natzrut is permitted to gentiles there would be a question and even more so would there be a heter regarding a secular gentile.

  14. Avi Keslinger

    Actually, the prohibition of praising them is referring to idol worshippers. Thus, there would be a questin regarding Notzrim according to Rabbenu Tam that it is permitted to gentiles while still being idolatry for us, especially today when they are merely following customs, and even more so secular gentiles.

  15. Tzvi Haber

    I actually dealt with this in the beginning of the article – according to most poskim, including the Shulchan Aruch, the prohibition applies to all non Jews, wvwn confirmed non-idolators. I recommend you take a second look.


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