JEIR (GER) DEFINITIONS:

Basic definitions - according To RaMb"M. This article is not intended to be an exhaustive study of these  terms or issues.

Both of these terms represent the only two options afforded to Gentiles - in accordance with the Torah of Moses:

GER TOSHAB: (Lit: Resident Stranger Alien):

"What is meant by a resident alien (Ger Toshab)? A gentile (גו) who accepts (or commits) not to worship false idols and to observe the commandments give to the children of Noah. He does not circumcise himself nor immerse. We accept his committment, and he is one of the righteous people (nations) of the world." (Hilchoth Issurei Bi'ah 14:7)

An Idolater who has undertaken to forsake idolatry, and to observe the seven Noahide laws, but has neither been circumcised or immersed is a GER TOSHAB (in action). However, the status change from idolater to Ger Toshab doesn't "formally or officially" take place until the person accepts the Noahide Laws in the presence of three Torah Scholars (a court) and is thus officially termed a GER TOSHAB.

Torah observers are required to compel idolaters to officially (whenever possible) or even unofficially accept the seven eternal Noahide Laws. Regardless of where this acceptance takes place (in or outside the land of Israel), they are still termed Ger Toshab. Moses (and thus his descendents) were commanded by the Almighty to compel all the inhabitants of the world to accept the laws given to Noah's descendents. (Hilchoth Melachim 8:10). In today's times, this is actually possible (in an official way). Although many further efforts (in today's times) are now being made to officialize this process, while convincing the world to reclaim their eternal covenant (and to abandon idol worship).

From my understanding of Jewish Law, a Ger Toshab may only be accepted in the era when the Jubilee year is observed. Otherwise, only full converts to Torah may be accepted. (Hilchot Avodath haKochavim 10). Someone who observes the seven Noahide laws (at any point in history) is worthy of the protection and divine blessings of the G-d of Abraham, and His Israelite people (10:3).

A present may be given to a Ger Toshab: (Deut 7:2) : "You may give it to the stranger in your gates so that he may eat it or sell it to a gentile." Of course, his life must be saved, in addition to securing his well being !!! Whereas an idolater is not afforded a command to love or protect.

RMb"M / Maimonides: Lists Torah commandments concerning righteous converts:
 
Postivive command #207:  To love the convert, as it is written "love ye the stranger" (Deuteronomy 10,19).
 
Negative command #252:  Not to wrong converts in speech, as it is written "and a stranger shalt thou not wrong" (Exodus 22,20).
 
Negative command #253:  Not to wrong the convert in buying and selling, as it is written "neither shalt thou oppress him" (Exodus 22,20).
 
Negative Command #256: Exodus 22:22 - Not afflicting the orphans and widows.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
 
Negative command #280:  Not to pervert the judgment of converts and orphans, as it is written "thou shalt not pervert the justice due to the stranger, or to the fatherless" (Deuteronomy 24,17).

GER TZEDDIQ: Basically, a "ger tzeddiq" is a fully converted follower of the Torah of Moses. According to Hilchoth Melakchim 10:3-4, a "ger tzeddiq" is defined as someone who has confirmed their conversion (ie: a minor who submerged in a mikvah and then "did not object" to a conversion, upon reaching the age of majority). Later on (in verse 12), we see that a "ger tzeddiq" must non-selectively accept all of the commandments of the Torah of Moses. No one can be forced to convert to the Torah of Moses (Hilchoth Melachim 8:10).

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I have preserved an older discussion of these definitions - that is not based on Maimonides.

I am still checking into these things. As of right now, the RaMb"M's definitions are the most reliable ones we have. :

Old Definitions:

In biblical times a Gentile who observed the seven Noachide laws in the Holy Land was regarded as a resident alien or Ger Toshav in Hebrew. (גֵר תּוֹשָׁב)

The Gemara (Talmud Bavli, Avodah Zarah 64b) quotes three opinions regarding who is a Ger Toshav, and they are:

  1. Rebbi Meir maintains that a Ger Toshav is a Nochri (stranger) who accepts upon himself, in front of three "Chaverim" (Talmidei Chachamim), not to worship idols.
  2. The Chachamim say that a Ger Toshav is a Nochri who accepts upon himself to observe the seven commandments of Bnei Noach.
  3. Acherim maintain that the above opinions are incorrect, and that a Ger Toshav is a Nochri who accepts all of the Mitzvos except for not eating Neveilot (animals that were not slaughtered properly).

 

JEIR: (originally non-Jew/resident-alien/stranger): Most Jeirim (eventually) converted (in olden times), which is why the term Jeir eventually blurred with "convert." However, when the Jeir actually did convert, Jewish Law recognized them as having a status. If they did a full Jewish conversion, the prohibits anyone from reminding them of their non-Jewish past. In public, there are no longer referred to as a Jeir(âh)--other than to distinguish important legal issues (i.e.: Marriage and Aliyah), where his/her status is/ must be known. Thus, the ben Abraham or Bat Sarah status is needed.

A Jeir had to recognized by a Beit Din (court of three) as learning - and applying what they learned - to become non-selectively Torah observant and to integrate into the Jewish community, with the goal of converting (except when circumstances prohibit conversion).

As the widely acknowledged world's foremost expert in Hellenism, Louis H. Feldman, makes clear in his article in the Biblical Archaeology Review (86.09-10, p. 58ff), in both Biblical and Talmudic times, the term JEIR usually referred to non-Jews, who were unconverted proselytes to Judaism.

JEIR TOSHAB: Originally, a Jeir Toshab was a usually a non-Jew who was considered a candidate for conversion to Judaism (the Torah of Moses). In the first section above, we termed a Jeir Toshab as someone who CONVERTED to (ie: officially accepted) the seven Noahide Laws.

Here, a Jeir Toshab was (many times) considered more of a mid-way point towards a true Jewish conversion.

In the case of a full conversion to Torah, I am unsure as to whether they initially required any official acceptance of the Noahide Laws, before they decided to convert to the Torah of Moses. I think they did (as a prerequisite). Either way, they eventually had to be accepted before a legitimate Beit Din (i.e. in the legitimate Jewish community') - to be recognized as non-Jews with probationary status in the Jewish community, committed to learning, and keeping the Torah and law, as they learnt.

Non-Jews never came to Judaism (already Torah-observant and satisfying all of the requirements for being converted). When non-Jews became interested in learning about Judaism, they required a special status that distinguished them from the Benei Noah (non-Jews who followed the seven Noahide Laws).

Upon coming before, and being recognized by the Beit Din as 1) keeping the Noakhide laws and 2) committed to learning and practicing the rest of Torah-observance, these postulants to Judaism were granted the status of Jeir toshav (fem. Jeirah toshevet). Thus, I believe they were simultaneously following the Noahide laws, and converting to Torah at the same time.

I believe the Talmudic discussion above is the key to unlocking the meaning behind the term. Perhaps it had multiple functions, depending upon different time periods and functions. It is hard to say.

In the Talmudic discussion of the requisites for becoming a Jeir toshab, R. Meir is of the opinion that renunciation of idolatry is the only requisite. His colleagues made the acceptance of all seven Noahide laws requisite, and others made the acceptance of all the commandments of the Torah requisite, with the exception of the prohibition of eating non-kosher meat, for which gentiles were seen as being specifically exempted by Scripture.

The relevant verses are:

"Who is a Jeir toshav? Whoever has resolved to convert and has renounced idolatry but who still has not actually converted. We allow him twelve months to do so. This applies to a Jeir Toshab, but as for a gentile it is forbidden for him to dwell among Jews and to work on the Sabbath lest the Jews learn from his deeds" (Tannaitic text published 40 years ago called MRE, sec.20, 374. See P. Yeb 8.1 / Also referenced by the Saadyah Gaon ca. 1000) ** Side note: I have been unable to verify this source though.

"Who is a Jeir Toshab (resident alien)? – Whoever, in the presence of three rabbinical fellows (haberim), obligates himself not to worship idols. This is the opinion of R. Meir. But the sages say whoever obligates himself for the seven commandments for which the sons of Noah obligated themselves. Others say… who is a resident alien? Whoever eats non-kosher meat but who obligates himself to uphold all the commandments in the Torah except the prohibition of eating non-kosher meat." (B. Az 64b. See P. Yeb 8.1)

BEN NOAH vs JEIR:

JEIR: Lit. "resident-alien." In Medieval & Modern Hebrew: "proselyte." In Biblical through Talmudic Hebrew: a non-Jew neophyte

Note that the difference between a Jeir and a Ben Noah is as follows:
By contrast, the BEN NOAH:

ONE COMMENT TO ABOVE:

I'm not entirely sure what the suggestion is that you quoted. If the suggestion is that someone who wanted to convert, to become a Ger Tzedek, was first required to undergo a test period as a Ger Toshav before he converted, I would say interesting and, if true, an excellent idea on the part of the tannaim and/or amoraim. If the suggestion is that originally a Ger Toshav was someone who HAD to convert after a period of time, I would say that this is a difficult idea which needs much more proof than offered. I'm not familiar with the MRE. However, the passages in TY Yevamot 8:1 and TB Avodah Zarah 65a seems to support the theory I quoted in an earlier post that a Ger Toshav can accept whichever mitzvot he wishes with a minimum, that is debated by tannaim. The passage in TY Yevamot 8:1 (44a) is difficult to read. The Ridbaz tries to infer from the RMb"M's Mishneh Torah how the RMb"M read the passage. According to the Ridbaz, all of the cases in that passage are of a Ger Toshav who accepted different levels of mitzwah observance but DID NOT accept to be circumcised. Even if the passage can be read simply (I'm not sure that it can) and a Ger Toshav can accept all of the mitzvot, that still does not equate him with a Ger Tzedek. A Ger Tzedek has the intent to become a Jew and join the Jewish people and immerses in a mikvah for that purpose. A Ger Toshav does not have that intent and therefore remains a gentile. The passage in TB A"Z 65a quotes a tannaitic source who says that a Ger Toshav who is not circumcised within 12 months is considered to be a regular gentile i.e. he loses his status of Ger Toshav. An amora then explains that this is referring to a Ger Toshav who accepted to circumcize himself. In other words, if a Ger Toshav does not fulfill the conditions of his acceptance then his acceptance is nullified. From neither sources do I see any proof for the suggestion that a Ger Toshav is a Ger Tzedek-in-training.