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Why to be "fruitful and multiply" is not a Noachide Law

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AT&T Bell Laboratories, in Columbus, Ohio asks:

In Parshat Vayishlach, you wrote that "There are only three mitzvot in Sefer Bereishit. The first mitzvah, to be fruitful and multiply, is essential to the survival of all of Mankind..." And yet, on the surface, "p'ru ur'vu" is not one of the commandments for the Bnei Noach. Why not?

Dear AT&T,

There are 7 commandments from Hashem for the Bnei Noach to govern their behavior. They are:

Prohibition against Prohibition against adultery. 
idolatry. Prohibition against eating a limb 
Prohibition against of a live animal. 
blasphemy. The commandment to establish courts 
Prohibition against of law. 
Prohibition against 

The Sefer HaChinuch lists the three mitzvot taught in the Book of Bereishit, and writes that they apply only to the Jewish People.

  1. "Be fruitful and multiply" in Parshat Bereishit.
  2. "Brit mila" in Parshat Lech Lecha.
  3. "Don't eat the gid hanashe" in Vayishlach.

Brit mila is a covenant "between Me and you [Avraham] and your seed after you" (Bereishit 17:10). Thus, the Bnei Noach are excluded from this mitzvah.

In Vayishlach, the Torah states "The children of Israel shall not eat the gid hanashe" (Bereishit 31:33). Once again the Bnei Noach are exempted.

The mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply was given to the first Man (Bereishit 1:28) and repeated to Noach (Bereishit 9:1). It would appear equally incumbent upon all Mankind. Yet, this is *not* one of the 7 Noachide Laws.

The Talmud explains that:

"All mitzvot that were given to the Bnei Noach and *repeated* at Sinai, apply to both Jews and non-Jews. Those mitzvot that were given to the Bnei Noach but *not* repeated at Sinai were given only to the Jews."

"P'ru ur'vu" was not repeated at Sinai. So, even though Adam and Noach had been personally commanded to reproduce, the mitzvah did not become one of the 7 Noachide Laws.

It should be noted, however, that there is a special obligation to ensure that the world is fully populated, and that this obligation is equally applicable to Jew and Gentile. It is derived from a verse in the writings of the Prophets which calls upon Mankind inhabit as much of the Creation as possible:

"He [Hashem] did not create the world to be desolate; [rather] to be settled he formed it."


  • Tractate Sanhedrin, 59a.
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim ch. 9.
  • Sefer HaChinuch.
  • The Path of the Righteous Gentile, by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Regalsky (Targum Press).
  • Isaiah 45.

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