The Holy One declares no creature unfit, but receives them all. The gates [of mercy] are open at all times, and he who wishes to enter may enter.
R. Meir said: What is the proof that even a Gentile who occupies himself with Torah is like a high priest? Scripture says, “With which if a man occupy himself, he shall live by them (Lev. 18:5). It does not say, “A priest, a Levite, an Israelite,” but, “A man.” Hence you many infer that even a non-Jew who occupies himself with Torah is like a high priest.
R. Jeremiah used to say: What is the proof that even a Gentile who keeps the Torah is like a high priest? The verse “Which if a man do, he shall live by them.” Scripture also says, “This is the Torah of man, O Lord God ” (2 Sam 7:19) –not “of priests, Levites or Israelites,” but “of man.” Scripture also says, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous Gentile…may come in (Isa 26:2) — not that “priests, Levites, or Isrealites may come in,” but that “the righteous Gentile who keeps the faith may come in.” Scripture also says, “This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter it” (Ps. 118:20) — not priests, Levites, or Israelites shall enter it,” but “the righteous shall enter it.” Scripture also says, “Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous” (Ps. 33:1) — not “Rejoice, O ye priests, Levites, and Israelites…” but “Rejoice…O ye righteous.” Scripture also says, “Do good, O Lord, unto the good” (Ps. 125:4) — not “to priests, Levites, and Israelites,” but “Do good, O Lord, unto the good.”
Thus even a Gentile who keeps the Torah is like a high priest.
— from The Book of Legends, 354:151, Bialik and Ravnitzky*
Bottom sources: Babylonia Talmud Sanhedrin 59a and Baba Kama 38a; Exodus Rabbah 19:4, and Sifrei Leviticus 86b
Vayikra/Leviticus 18:5 is also cited by Rabbi Judah, in the name of Samuel, when he heard about five traveling rabbis considering, “How do we know that danger to human life supersedes the laws of the Sabbath?”: If I had been there, I should have told them something better than what they said: He shall live by them, but he shall not die because of them. — Babylonian Talmud Yoma 85a (also found in Bialik & Ravnitzky, 683:39)
* Please see Source Materials for full citations and additional information.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.