The Sages of the Talmud had a mnemonic for remembering the ‘sheva mitzvot bnei noach’, and its explanation was recorded in the Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 56b and in the Kuzari 3:73, which are quoted below:From The Kuzari (3:73)The Rabbi said: “Let us present another two possibilities. Either they utilized an esoteric tradition of how to interpret Scripture – using the thirteen methods of derivation – whose methodology is now hidden from us, or they utilized Scripture as an asmachta, meaning that Scripture is used merely as a device to help them remember an oral tradition.*
“They did this, for example, with the verse (Bereishis, 2:16), ‘The Lord G-d commanded man saying, [from all the trees of the garden you may surely eat].’ They explained that this verse is a reminder of the seven Noachide laws:
- ‘Commanded’ refers to establishing courts.
- ‘The Lord’ refers to cursing G-d.
- ‘G-d’ refers to idolatry.
- ‘Man’ refers to murder.
- ‘Saying’ refers to illicit sex.
- ‘From all the trees of the garden’ refers to robbery.
- ‘You may surely eat’ refers to eating [flesh taken] from a living animal.
These laws obviously are very far from the subject of the text, yet our people have a tradition that we may rely on this verse to help us remember the seven commandments.
* Before the advent of the Mishnah, it was prohibited to write down any of the Oral Tradition. To prevent a particular tradition from being forgotten, therefore, the Sages used a verse from the Torah whose words would mnemonically remind them of the halachah, but which really had no direct relation to it.
ויצו יי אלקים על־האדם לאמר מכל עץ־הגן אכל תאכל
Va’Ytzav Hash-m Elokim Al ha’Adam Leimor Mi’Kol Etz ha’Gan Achol Tochal
And the LORD G-d commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat’
“Va’Ytzav” – this refers to Dinim, as it says “Asher Yetzaveh Es Banav (…La’asos Tzedakah u’Mishpat)”
“Hash-m” refers to blasphemy – “V’Nokev Shem Hash-m…”
“Elokim” refers to idolatry – “Lo Yihyeh Lecha Elokim Acherim”
“Leimor” refers to Arayos – “Leimor Hen Yeshalach Ish Es Ishto…v’Haysah l’Ish Acher”
“Al ha’Adam” refers to murder – “Shofech Dam ha’Adam”
“Mi’Kol Etz ha’Gan” – not from theft
“Achol Tochal” – not a limb of a living animal
אבר מן החי
From the Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 56b (English translation by Soncino)Whence do we know this? R. Johanan answered: The Writ saith: And the Lord G-d commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. And [He] commanded, refers to [the observance of] social laws, and thus it is written, For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment. The Lord is [a prohibition against] blasphemy, and thus it is written, and he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. G-d is [an injunction against] idolatry, and thus it is written, Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. The man refers to bloodshed [murder], and thus it is written, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. Saying refers to adultery, and thus it is written, They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and became another man’s. Of every tree of the garden but not of robbery. Thou mayest freely eat but not flesh cut from a living animal. Notes:
- Gen. 2:16
- Gen. 18:19. Thus ‘command’ relates to justice and judgment.
- Lev. 24:16 ‘The Lord’ being used in connection with blasphemy.
- Ex. 20:3.
- Gen. 9: 6.
- Jer. 3:1. Thus ‘saying’ is used in connection with adultery.
- Since it was necessary to authorize Adam to eat of the trees of the garden, it follows that without such authorisation i.e., when something belongs to another it is forbidden.
- By interpreting thus: Thou mayest eat that which is now ready for eating, but not whilst the animal is alive. It is perhaps remarkable that a verse, the literal meaning of which is obviously permission to enjoy, should be interpreted as a series of prohibitions. Yet it is quite in keeping with the character of the Talmud: freedom to enjoy must be limited by moral and social considerations, and indeed only attains its highest value when so limited. Cf. Ab. VI, 2: No man is free but he who labours in the Torah.
An alternative mnemonic for the noachide commandments*:
Starting with the first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet:
- Alef ( א ): Ever Min HaChay – אבר מן החי – Eating a limb torn from a live animal
- Bet ( ב ): Birchat HaShem – ברכת השם – Blasphemy
- Gimel ( ג ): Gezel – גזל – Theft
- Dalet ( ד ): Dinim – דינים – Courts system
The final three commandments are the three cardinal sins for which a Jew is expected to give his life rather than commit:
- Idolatry: Avodah Zarah – עבודה זרה
- Sexual immorality: Gilui Arayot – גלוי עריות
- Murder: Shefichat Damim – שפיכות דמים
* by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.
A method for remembering the Seven Noahide Commandments from the first seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet
- Alef – Eiver – Limb – torn from a living animal, which we are prohibited from eating
- Beit – Brachah – Blessing – a euphemism for not cursing G-d or anyone in His name
- Gimmel – G’neivah – Theft – not stealing or kidnapping
- Dalet – Dinim – Laws – Justice. Establishing an educational system to teach people the proper way to behave, and convening law courts to enforce these Seven Commandments.
- Heh – Harigah – Killing – not committing murder
- Vav – Vay – Hebrew & Yiddish for ‘Woe!’ – Not worshiping idols (idolatry is the beginning of all tragedies) –”Everywhere that we find a verse in the Bible which begins with the word Va’yee, we find tragedy.”
- Zayin – Z’noot – Sexual Immorality – Promoting family life and healthy relationships.