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Recent Questions

What Does a Noahide Actually Do?

I grew up a believing Christian but after years of research I have come to believe in the God of Israel. I view myself today as a Noahide. (There are several reasons why it wouldn’t be feasible for me to convert.) My greatest desire is to know God and live in accordance with His word. But my question is, what do I actually do? The Noahide Laws are very basic, and they are almost all things not to do. I want to serve God, but as a Noahide what is there for me actually to do?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Before all, it's nice to hear from someone so sincere in his beliefs, and I wish you continued spiritual growth.

You are right that the Noahide Laws are only very basic, and beyond the negative prohibitions, they leave the Noahide with almost nothing to do. But the most important thing to realize is that observance and connection to God do not end with the Noahide Laws. Rabbi Abraham Twerski observed the same regarding the Torah. People make the mistake of viewing the 613 Commandments as the sum total of Jewish observance. But in truth, that is where Judaism begins, not ends. The 613 provide only the basic framework and starting point for spiritual growth. But God wants us to go far beyond the minimum. We can go infinitely higher – and this is what truly defines us as great human beings.

The same is true of the Seven Noahide Laws. They provide only the bare framework of civilized living - not to kill, steal, commit adultery, etc. If all a person does is that, he does have some degree of connection to God – even if all the rest of his time is spent drinking beer and watching TV.

But in truth, there is so much more a person can do – to develop himself as a human being and make the world a better place. God gave each of us our unique set of skills and talents to make our own contribution to the world – such as working in a worthy profession, giving charity, volunteering for worthy causes, raising a family with good values, offering others counseling and advice, Israel activism, etc. Every one of us needs to look into himself to see what special gifts he can use to improve the world (and himself) and what opportunities are available to him. And needless to say, our portion in the World to Come is directly proportionate to how much we labored for God - to improve both ourselves and the world.

In addition, although a non-Jew is not obligated, he can voluntarily keep most of the commandments of the Torah, although he should have in mind that he is doing so as “extra credit” and not as a regular obligation. There are several exceptions to this – such as Shabbat and holidays, Tefillin, Tallit and Mezuzah. He may also study Torah, although he should study only the parts relevant to him – such as the written Torah, the Seven Laws, and basic matters of belief and ethics.

Finally, there are several large Noahide organizations today. They have websites with guidance in this and many other related issues, which I'm sure you will find helpful. See this past response about the Noahide movement:

http://www.aish.com/atr/Seven_Laws_of_Noah.html


Attending Wedding on Yahrtzeit

I am invited to a wedding in a few weeks and I realized it falls out on my father’s yahrtzeit (the anniversary of his date of death). Am I allowed to attend?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I’m sorry for the bad timing, but the custom is not to accept a wedding invitation on the yahrtzeit of a close relative’s passing. If it’s a close friend, you could come in briefly during the chuppah to wish him mazal tov.

(For other events other than a wedding, there are different customs and it depends on a number of different factors. A rabbi should be asked for specific situations.)

Note that if your father’s yahrtzeit falls out in the daytime and the wedding will primarily be held at night, you may come to the part of the wedding which is celebrated after nightfall.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 391:3, Pitchei Teshuvah 8, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 221:7.)


Mars Colonization

I know this is a hypothetical question, but let’s say living conditions become too difficult on Earth and people begin colonizing other planets such as Mars. Would there be any concerns in Jewish law with doing so?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for the fascinating question. Such questions have actually been discussed for many years, when such topics were pure science fiction. Some even asked if man is permitted to blast off into space at all, for did not King David state in Psalms, “And the heavens are the heavens of God, and the land He gave to the sons of man” (115:16)? More recently, and actually on a practical level, the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon of blessed memory asked how he could observe Shabbat on a space shuttle which circles the Earth every 90 minutes!

Although such questions have been posed many times, most of the issues raised have no clear resolution. To begin with, when would a person observe Shabbat? Would the days of the foreign planet count for halachic days? These certainly do not seem to be the “days” defined in the Torah – and in fact are not the 7 days God spent creating the world (which is what Shabbat commemorates). And furthermore, some planets rotate extremely slowly (such as Venus, 243 days), while some rotate quickly, in a small fraction of a day. (Martian days happen to be only slightly longer than Earth days.) And as above, the same question is posed regarding space shuttles, which can have artificial days of virtually any length of time, if they have “days” at all.

A very similar question is posed regarding the many mitzvot which depend on the time of day – such as prayer and wearing Tefillin, and which depend on the calendar date, such as the holidays. How does one calculate the days and seasons? Based on the planet or spaceship he is on? Based on the times of the place on Earth he departed from? Based on Jerusalem? Or does he not observe such mitzvot at all?

Some suggest comparing this question to a somewhat less exotic one which occurs on Planet Earth. Say a person travels (or lives) close to a pole, so that the sun never sets certain times of the year and never rises on others (or alternatively, at certain times it does not become fully dark or light). How can he pray arvit, the evening services, and when does Shabbat begin and end? This question too has no clear resolution, but the most accepted ruling actually would not help extraterrestrials – that the point at which the sun begins dipping down from the midpoint of its path is “sunset” and when it reaches its lowest point is “midnight”. Thus, even at the poles, halachic times follow the earthly sun.

My father of blessed memory, R. Azriel Rosenfeld, pointed out to me one reason why Jews could never colonize other planets. Even if the calendrical issues could be satisfactorily resolved, one thing could never exist on another planet: a mikvah (ritual bath)! These may only be constructed directly attached to the ground (of Planet Earth), and from natural water. The surfaces of other planets, even if usable, would not have the true status of “ground” as defined by the Torah. Thus, family life would not be possible anywhere other than Earth.

My father also pointed out to me a humorous science fiction story on this subject. (I wasn’t able to find it online just now.) Orthodox Jews were living on a badly overpopulated future Earth. They were unsure if it was within their rights to depart for a different, more hospitable planet. At last they concluded that they were allowed to, based on Deuteronomy 30:4: “If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you and from there He will take you.” Thus, we can be assured that God will bring us to the promised salvation wherever the Jewish people may be!


Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

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