The Secular Jew’s Place in Halacha
in which you will find that
the truth is not at all pretty. Halacha’s view of secular Jews is as criminals who must be excommunicated and thrown out of the Jewish community, and whose rights to participate in the community’s ceremonies or pray to G-d must be revoked! This is exactly what Rabbi Abraham the son of Mordechai HaLevi (Egypt, 1650-1712) wrote (Responsa Ginat Veradim part one, rule two, paragraph 31):
“And to the evildoer G-d said, ‘Who are you to recite My laws and mouth the terms of My covenant?’ (Psalms 50:16). Since he followed his heart and the fear of G-d is not before him, what gains he from fulfilling the commandments and learning Torah? The apostates and heretics who fulfill commandments and learn Torah not only get no reward, they add insult to injury. About them the Scriptures say ‘See, they reject the word of the Lord so their wisdom amounts to nothing’ (Jeremiah 8:9). This is as one who dresses in kingly clothing to show the world that he is one of the king’s men who follow his word and do his work, but he really rebels against the king. He will be surely punished for this trick of dressing himself up so.”
In this essay we will see how the Jewish Halacha and laws forbid the secular person any access to Jewish culture, communal or ceremonial involvement. We wonder why the public which values democracy and critical thought has abandoned the wealth of Jewish culture to the Rabbinic-Charedi public which jealously guards its hide-bound rituals as unchangeable, which lives off the secular public and yet ridicules it, which sees this public as inferior and discriminates against it every chance it gets, on all Halachic issues.
Halacha’s View of Secular Jews
A brief introduction for the readers:
Orthodox Judaism is unable to cope adequately with the phenomenon of secular Judaism. The very concept of “secular Jews” is seen by the Orthodox as an oxymoron. They see the term “Jew” as including, by its very nature, the fulfillment of commandments, and the phrase “secular Jew” makes as much sense as “deserting soldier.”
Therefore it is no surprise that the whole Halachic-legal-orthodox system is not set up for co-existence between religious and cultural Judaism. On a Halachic, conceptual level secular people are defined with classic references to criminals — heretics and apostates (kofrim, apikorsim, and minim and mumarim — these terms will be defined in the body of the essay). According to normative Halacha one may, in principle, kill them with no trial, wherever and whenever possible!
Of course, this approach is only possible when Halacha-observers are the majority and the secular are a minority (but even so, this possibility is remote, for modern religious Jews have internalized some democratic values, such as the prohibition against faith-based killings, even if this contradicts Halacha). In the present situation, where secular people are the majority, the very mention of this “treatment” of faith criminals is impossible. All that is left are those Halachic sanctions which try to leave those who do not fulfill commandments in a state where they retain all their obligations but few of their privileges in the Jewish community. Thus, for example, according to Halacha a secular person must still give charity, but one is forbidden to give charity to him…
It is quite important that the secular reader understand that beyond Halachic commands (detailed in this essay), religious Judaism deeply and utterly delegitimizes cultural Judaism. The unwillingness to recognize a non-orthodox viewpoint is so deep they deny the rationality of the secular world-view. “The seculars don’t really believe in their world-view,” say a thousand voices of religious Jewry. “They just don’t know/don’t understand the holy truth.” That is why there are so many phrases like “captured child” and “boor” to describe secular people and their world-view. These phrases are meant to do more than just show contempt and belittlement, they are an expression of religious Judaism’s inability to comprehend the phenomenon of cultural Judaism. This disability is even worse in Israel, a Jewish entity founded as a vision of cultural Judaism and in which religious Jews are dependent, economically and physically, upon the secular Judaism they despise…
Therefore this essay will bring not only the range of Halachic/Rabbinic rulings which relate to secular people and their actions, but also the many absurdities created by the simultaneous co-existence of two so very different Jewish world-views in the same place, time, and under the same political/legal framework, which by and large is not Halachic.
In this essay we will discuss Halacha’s view of secular Jews and we will detail the rights and legal standing of the secular person according to Halacha. But first we must clarify two things:
One, is there a way that a person defined by Halacha as a Jew can have his Judaism revoked, so that he is no longer considered a Jew, but a gentile for all intents and purposes?
Two, what exactly is the definition of the “secular person” we are dealing with in our essay?
Revoking a person’s Judaism
First things first. According to Halacha there is no way to revoke a person’s Judaism; he is a Jew all his life. His whole life he is obligated to fulfill commandments and whenever he does not he is considered a sinning Jew.
Thus is it brought in Kiddushin 36a: “You are sons to the Lord your G-d. When you act like sons you are called sons; if you do not act like sons you are not called sons. These are the words of Rabbi Judah. Rabbi Meir says: one way or the other you are called sons, as it says, ‘[For My people are stupid, they give Me no heed] they are foolish sons. [They are not intelligent, they are clever at doing wrong but unable to do right]’ (Jeremiah 4:22); it also says, ‘Sons with no loyalty in them’ (Deuteronomy 32:20); it also says, ‘[Ah, sinful nation! People laden with iniquity!] Brood of evildoers! Depraved sons! [They have forsaken the Lord, spurned the Holy One of Israel]’ (Isaiah 1:4); it also says, ‘Instead of being told “You are Not-My-People” they shall be called Sons-of-the-Living-G-d’ (Hosea 2:1). What are these ‘it also says’? [Why did R’ Meir bring so many proof-texts and not just one?] [Because] one could say that foolish [sons] are called sons but those lacking faith are not called sons – so [he quoted] the verse, ‘Sons with no loyalty in them.’ [Still] one could say that those lacking faith are called sons, but those engaged in idol-worship are not called sons – so [he quoted] the verse, ‘Brood of evil-doers, depraved sons.’ [Still] one could say that those who engage in idol-worship are called depraved sons but not worthy sons – so [he quoted] the verse ‘Instead of being told “You are Not-My-People” they shall be called Sons-of-the-Living-G-d.’ [through repentance — Rashi; and they do not need to convert, for their Judaism was not revoked].”
Thus is it written in the responsa of the Rashba, part one, paragraph 194: “Does an idolatrous meshumad (mumar) convey impurity by the way of a tent [after his death] or not? [Is he considered a gentile whose body would not impurify the tent?] Though he sinned, he is still Jewish. Perhaps, since lost items should not be returned to him and he should be loaned to at interest, he has been completely removed from the Jewish people… even for matters of impurity though such impurity is defined by the Torah?
“Answer: It is true that a meshumad [mumar] may be loaned to at interest, as written in the Jerusalem Talmud, chapter one of Avodah Zara, regarding the Cutheans of Caesarea [chapter 5, law 4 in all extant versions]. Similarly, we do not return his lost item, for forgoing interest and the returning of lost items are based on [the Halachic concept of] ‘brotherhood’. If one wants to go above and beyond the letter of the law, one may wish to be merciful to him, but this one is not our brother and one should not show him pity. More than that: we kill him whenever and wherever possible. But the Scripture based impurity on the [concept of] ‘manhood’ [see Yevamot 60b-61a, Bava Metzia 114a-b]; and this [apostate] is considered a man, not an animal [because he is a Jew, not a gentile, who is considered like an animal]. His acts of betrothal are valid; so are his bills of divorcement; and his wife is forbidden to others until he, like [any other] Jew, gives her a bill of divorcement. He is considered a son, as Rabbi Meir says at the end of the first chapter of Kiddushin (36a)…[here he brings as a proof the gemara we quoted above].” So, too, is it written in the responsa of the Rashba, part one, paragraph 242.
From the words of the Gemara and the Rashba you learn an important distinction, that a Jewish idolater has not lost his status as a Jew (though one is permitted to kill him without a trial, with no witnesses nor warning). On the matter of the impurity of the dead in a structure, he is treated as a Jew, and therefore the Talmudic statement (Yevamot 61a), “‘And you, the sheep, the sheep of my flock, you are Man’ (Ezekiel 34:3). You are called Man, idolaters are not called Man” applies only to the Gentile and not to the Jew, even an idolater who may be freely killed.
Therefore the Baal Haturim ruled (Tur Yoreh Deah paragraph 159): “A mumarwho has rejected the main principle we are not commanded to sustain and we may not borrow from him at interest, for though he is a sinner, he is a Jew, and one who lets him [loan at interest] transgresses a prohibition, for before the blind you may not place a stumbling block.” This is exactly the nebulous status of the apostate (mumar, apikoros, or secular Jew): on the one hand we are not commanded to sustain this apostate Jew, but on the other hand he is obligated to fulfill the commandments and it is forbidden to make him transgress, lest one “place a stumbling block before the blind.”
To illustrate the matter we will compare his status to that of an Israeli citizen who murdered or spied [for another country] who is sentenced to life in prison or perhaps even death, but whose Israeli citizenship is not rescinded. It should be noted that according to Israeli law an Israeli’s citizenship can be revoked, the complete opposite of Jewish law, which does not allow for the revocation of a Jew’s being Jewish. In the Law of Citizenship 5712-1952, section two, “Loss of Citizenship,” paragraph 10a, it is written: “An adult Israeli citizen who does not reside in Israel may declare in writing that he surrenders his citizenship.” Paragraph 11a: “An Israeli citizen who illegally leaves the country to one of the states mentioned in paragraph 2 of the Law to Prevent Incursion (Criminal Activity and Judgment) 5714-1954 [Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq] or who obtained its citizenship shall be considered as having surrendered his Israeli citizenship and it will be invalidated from the day he left Israel,” and paragraph 11b reads: “The Minister of the Interior may revoke the Israeli citizenship of any person whose actions are a breach of faith with the State of Israel.”
It is unnecessary to state that a Jew’s statement relinquishing his Judaism or his decision to become a Christian or a Muslim does not cause a revocation of his Jewish status according to Halacha though, as has already been said, any Jew may kill him.
Thus wrote Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in his responsa, Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim 4, paragraph 83: “…There is no way that a Jew can, according to Halacha, become a gentile; for there is a novelty in the concept that a gentile can become a Jew through conversion, which [could not be acceptable unless] the Torah taught about [it], but there is nothing in either the Written or the Oral Law which says that a Jew can become a gentile. He will always remain a Jew and holy as a Jew in his obligation to fulfill the commandments, marriage, and the pedigree of his children. Children of a mumar remain complete Jews.”
It is important to understand this and get to its roots, not to confuse the two issues: revoking a person’s Judaism and treating him like a sinner. Whenever you find something like (Sanhedrin 44a): “Rabbi Abba the son of Zavda said, ‘though he sinned, he is still a Jew’,” this refers to revoking his Judaism, but when you find something like, ‘A Jew who has worshipped idols is just like a gentile’ (Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry, chapter two, halacha five), it refers to punishment (that he may be beaten and killed) and the treatment religious Jews must give him (they need not sustain him, they may loan to him at interest, are not obligated to return his lost items, etc.). Further on in this article we shall detail the secular person’s fate according to Halacha.
Definition of “A Secular Jew”
The secular Jew of whom we speak in this essay is a Halachically Jewish person who does not fulfill the Torah and the commandments, publicly violates the Sabbath, and understands that all Halachic Judaism is man-made, that it is like any other human creation. The Written Torah (the Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Writings and the Oral Torah with all its halachot are human creations. A secular person is one who believes that Jewish identity, with all its rituals and holidays, is human culture (though exclusively Jewish) and is like any other culture which is unique to a particular nation.
It is important to understand this, for this was the outlook of most of the Zionist founding fathers who established the State of Israel! Moreover, it is because of this shaking off of the Jewish faith and the acceptance of scientific, critical thought that they managed to establish the State of Israel. As one of the great Jewish philosophers, Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) prophesized in his “Political-Theological Treatise,” at the end of chapter three, “I would go so far as to believe that if the foundations of their religion have not emasculated their minds they may even, if occasion offers, so changeable are human affairs, raise up their empire afresh, and that G-d may a second time elect them.”
This change which befell the Jewish people has been well described by Prof. Eliezer Schweid in the introduction to his book Likrat Tarbut Yehudit Modernit, pp. 8-9: “The concept ‘Jewish culture’ was born from a desire to create an alternative, in keeping with the scientific, critical Zeitgeist, to the traditional religious outlook according to which the faith and knowledge, values, literary urges, the science and the arts which made the Jewish people unique among other people are a sort of Divine teaching, a teaching humans may not take away from nor add anything to, much less change, ‘fix,’ or ‘develop’ with the goal of ‘improving’ it according to their judgment and needs…According to those who created the alternative, the maskilim and the founders of Wissenschaft des Judenthums…Judaism was from its founding a culture like all other national cultures…they understood that there were fundamental differences between a culture which arose from a consciousness of being completely a product of Divine revelation and a culture which arose from a consciousness of its human source: the same concepts, the same values, the same symbols, and the same norms have fundamentally different meanings when they are perceived to be human creations which represent human authority.”
Generations come and go and outlooks, even Halachic, change. Therefore themumar of the Talmudic period is not like the mumar of our age. We will bring the definition of mumar, min, and apikoros according to Maimonides and from there will learn about contemporary secular reality.
Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, chapter three, halacha eight: “Three are called apikoros: one who says that there is no such thing as prophecy and that no knowledge was passed from the Creator to the hearts of Man, one who denies the prophecy of Moses our teacher, and one who says that the Creator knows not the actions of Man — each of these three is an apikoros. Three arekoferim baTorah: one who says the Torah is not from G-d — even a single verse, even a single letter — and if he says that Moses said it on his own, he is a kofer baTorah. So, too, is one who rejects the Torah’s interpretation, which is the Oral Law, and who denies its tellers, such as a Sadducee or a Boethusian, and one who says that the Creator replaced this commandment with another, and that the Torah is already invalid, though it did come from G-d…each of these three is a kofer baTorah.”
Maimonides further says, in Laws of Idolatry chapter two, halacha five: “Theapikorsim in Israel are not like Jews in any way and may never repent, for it says ‘all its comers will never return and never obtain the ways of life’ (Proverbs 2:19). Apikorsim are those who follow their hearts’ wishes until they high-handedly transgress the substance of the Torah just to anger, and yet say this is no iniquity. It is forbidden to speak amongst them or to give them any answer, as is said, ‘Do not come near the doorway of her house’ (Proverbs 5:8).
In Maimonides Laws of Repentance chapter three, halacha nine: “Two types of Jews are mumar [who transgress against the laws of the Torah]: one is amumar on account of a transgression and one is a mumar on account of the entire Torah. The mumar on account of a transgression is used to committing a specific transgression and is [publicly] known for that.”
This is the secular Jew: Anyone who thinks and understands on his own that all the Holy Writ and Halacha is a human invention and not Divine and who knows that we have no direct knowledge of what G-d wants from people, or even one who merely does not fulfill the commandments and who sees some of the commandments as rituals which do not fit the spirit of the time and place isconsidered by Orthodox halacha as an apikoros, a kofer, and a mumar! This is the secular Jew to whom we refer in this essay.
This is important to understand, for there are many rabbis who are unwilling to be intellectually honest and state what the secular Jew is considered and what the implications of that are, in order to be accepted and liked by the secular. They go and quote phrases or Halachic laws irrelevant to today’s secular Jews and say that the secular are not kofrim since they are as people taken captive as children [Jews who had no opportunity to learn of their obligations].
They even cite Maimonides (as backup for their opinion) from Laws of Apostates chapter three, halacha three: “Of what are these things [that any who kills an apostate has performed a great good and removed an obstacle] said? Of one who rejects the Oral Torah when he sees fit, who follows his own fickle-minded opinion and his heart, starting with a rejection of the Oral Torah [and then proceeding to reject other fundamentals of faith], like a Sadducee or a Boethusian or those who followed them. But the sons of those who erred [thus], and the sons of their sons, who were pushed away by their parents — [for example,] those born amongst the Karaites and raised according to their opinion — are similar to captured children, raised among [gentiles] and therefore are reluctant to grasp the ways of commandments. Such are considered as those [who sin] under compulsion. Even if later [in their lives] such a person hears [that he is a Jew and sees Jews and their ways, he is still considered as sinning under compulsion, for he grew up in their errors. So it is with those who follow the ways of their errant Karaite fathers; it is appropriate to bring them to repentance and to attract them with words of peace until they return to the unfailing [stream] of the Torah.”
Thus the rabbis conveniently judge secular people to be captured children, fools, and ignoramuses who have no opinions or knowledge and exempt themselves from dealing directly and intelligently with this current halachic problem: what is the rule for a secular Jew who knows and has thought through and believes in his secular ideology? Moreover, they do not cite Maimonides’s opinion that a secular Jew is a kofer.
Yet this is Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah, Tractate Hulin chapter one, as brought in the responsa of the Ridbaz, part two, paragraph 796: “And Maimonides OBM, in his commentary on the Mishnah, wrote, in agreement with the other commentators, that the ritual slaughter of the Sadducees is forbidden, even when a Jew oversees it; and these are his words: ‘Regarding the mumarof whose slaughter one may eat, the following condition should be met: that he be a Sadducee or a Boethusian — the two sects which began to deny the tradition, as I clarified [while commenting] on [tractate] Avot, until they came to treat falsehood as though it were truth and turned the paths of light into darkness on the face of the earth. These [people of whose slaughter one may not eat] are in our generation called definitely apostates [minim] — although they are not truly apostates but only considered as such; that is, it is permitted to kill them now, in the exile, for [otherwise] they will become true apostates. And know that we have a tradition from our rabbis, that though in this time of exile we cannot administer capital judgment — this pertains only to a Jew who has committed a [specific] transgression punishable by death; but the apostates, Sadducees, and Boethusians, since their views are so evil, are to be killed, so that they would not lead the Jews to lose their faith — as had already happened to many people in Western lands.’ The wise critic [the rabbi whose opinion the Ridbaz disputed] concluded that this disagrees with what is written in the ruling, and to pursue his opinion to the end, one should also conclude that this disagrees with what [Maimonides himself] wrote in Laws of Apostates [chapter three, halacha three]. But in my humble opinion there is no contradiction in Maimonides’s words, for what he wrote in the commentary on the Mishnah is about those who have been warned several times and did not listen. Therefore they are as utter gentiles in regard to slaughter, and as utter apostates in regard to being killed. But what is written in the ruling about the ritual slaughter of a Sadducee being allowed to a Jew is about a regular Sadducee who has not been warned. Since they are the children of those who erred and considered as those [who sin] under compulsion, their slaughter is permitted. This is what he wrote in Laws of Apostates, that one should not rush to kill them. However, from that [very text] it may be concluded that if they were warned to return to the unfailing [stream] of the Torah and did not listen — as happens now daily between us and these Karaites who, on the contrary, only apostatize more and more — they should be killed. All the more so that their slaughter and their wine are forbidden.”
Since we are dealing with the secular Jew whose outlook is clear and thought out and is the basis on which the State of Israel was founded, it is clear that he is considered an apostate and not a captured child, for he will not listen to rabbis whom he considers to be like any other person. Worse yet (from a halachic point of view), he does not consider rabbis enlightened and intelligent people; he sees them as inferior.
To reinforce our words we will quote the Chazon Ish in Laws of Ritual Slaughter, paragraph two, section 18: “Maimonides added to the law [that certain people should be actively killed] heretics; and in Laws of Murderers he wrote about ‘heretics who reject the Torah and prophecy’…It is possible that those who are heretics…even if [they were driven to it] on account of their appetites are like those who reject the whole Torah since they have thrown off the yoke of Torah. A heretic has no share in the Torah of Moses, for if he has no faith he has nothing… For the sin of heresy is a sin intended to spite [the Heavens]: the whole matter of ‘to spite [the Heavens]’ is forming within oneself an objection to observance of any of the commandments; all the more so for forming within oneself heresy [regarding the commandments as a whole]…The rule about one who rejects the Oral Torah, according to the Rashba…is like one who rejects the entire Torah… It seems that the ‘one who does not believe in the words of our rabbis OBM’ of whom the Rashba spoke is one who does not believe in the Jewish way of life established by the Sages, the Torah and the commandments, which is included in the category of heresy, that is, rejection of the Torah…”
It is clear that according to the Chazon Ish, a heretic (kofer) is a person who does not believe in the way of life established by Chazal on the basis of the Torah. Today’s secular Jew does not live according to the Torah but according to the just laws of his country. Halacha and the Torah make no difference to him and he does not live according to their laws.
In conclusion, we will show you how even the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, does not deal in depth with the problem, but evades and ignores secular reality.
In the responsa Yachel Yisrael (paragraph 20) he discusses giving kashrut certification to catering halls or hotels owned by secular Jews: “One of the difficult problems facing any rabbi are problems of kashrut in his area, both the kashrut of food and of the places where food is served…Often, for financial reasons and the like, the local Rabbinate cannot send a permanent mashgiachto stay in the place the whole day through and supervise the food brought in, ensure that nothing be brought in without the mashgiach‘s permission, and that the food be prepared [properly, e.g.] that meat and dairy products are not mixed, nor dairy utensils mixed with meat utensils. Therefore the rabbis are forced to rely upon the owner to keep his word and not stray from the directions of the Rabbinate. I have brought this matter and the associated problems for discussion based on the foundations in the Gemara and our rabbis the Halachic arbiters…
“Now, on the matter of one who rejects the whole Torah, an idolater, or one who violates the Sabbath, we have found that the Rishonim defined him as an idolater for all intents and purposes…Therefore we find that since one who violates the Sabbath is judged as an idolater for all matters, the wine of one who violates the Sabbath is forbidden as though it were a gentile’s…[and therefore one should not believe the secular owner, for he is as a gentile, none of whose words are trustworthy]. But on the other hand we have found place to be lenient, for in the responsa Binyan Tziyon HaHadashot (paragraph 23) it is written: ‘I do not know what to consider the sinners of Israel in our times, for because of our sins the disease has spread to the majority — so for most of them violating the Sabbath is as something permitted; and perhaps they should be considered as [erroneously] supposing that it is indeed permitted, which is only close to [but not identical with] willful transgression. [There are also those among them who pray Sabbath prayers in the synagogue and make kiddush and then violate the Sabbath, transgressing Torah and Rabbinic commands. Now, the reason that one who violates the Sabbath is considered a heretic is because by denying the Sabbath he denies the Creation and (so, even) the Creator – but these people acknowledge (the Sabbath) through prayer and kiddush]. Furthermore, their sons who follow them neither know nor have heard about the laws of Sabbath and are not considered heretics, even though they violate the Sabbath — for they [merely] follow the ways of their fathers and are as captured children. Therefore, in my humble opinion, one who is stringent and considers the wine of these sinners as gentile wine will be blessed. But the lenient also have upon whom to rely unless we find out that [the owner] knows the laws of Sabbath and willfully violates them in front of ten Jews, for then he would be an utter apostate and it is forbidden to touch his wine.’ According to this, there is no requirement to consider them as idolaters…But as I said, the reason to consider one who publicly violates the Sabbath as an idolater, and not to find his words trustworthy, is from the gemaras in Hulin and in Eiruvin we brought above, and according to the Binyan Tziyon HaHadashot which we brought, we can say that this rule is not about the Sabbath violators of our days. Therefore the rule is that one who is suspected of violating the Sabbath is not suspected about forbidden foods. Therefore it is possible to believe a Sabbath violator since he is not suspected of forbidden foods.”
It is as though Rabbi Lau’s eyes were blinded to the reality of a secular worldview which treats the Holy Writ and the Halacha as a human creation, and as we have written above, those who share it as ones who reject the entire Torah. His evasions on this matter are only because the Chief Rabbinate is funded and appointed by the secular “apostate” establishment and he cannot pull the ground out from under his own feet. Therefore rabbis distort Halachic reality so that the secular will listen to them, too, and they do not have the courage and the intellectual honesty to relate Halacha with its full force, possibly because they themselves feel that the Halacha given in the Talmud is not relevant. Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz OBM already noted this (in his book “Judaism, the Jewish People and the State of Israel,” page 184): “It has been agreed [by religious and secular Jews] that the State will be secular but will be presented as religious. This agreement, from a religious standpoint, is a desecration of G-d’s name, a shaming of the Torah and a ruination of religion. From a humanistic point of view it destroys the society. Any sensible person sees that it destroys the nation through lies and hypocrisy…The Jewish religion is not upheld in the nation and the people as a spiritual factor and an independent public force, but is one of the branches of the secular authority…And in exchange for the right to be recognized as a partner in this government they continue to mask the degradations and humiliations which the Jewish religion suffers each day by the hands of the government. In this environment of lies and hypocrisy all perceptions are falsified and distorted.”
Another thing which should be explained is that what we wrote in the introduction to The Status of Women in Halacha: “It is appropriate to explain that we will deal here only with pure Halachic (legal) status and not with the public mood. Just as in the secular society strides are being taken towards equality, so too in the religious and Charedi communities are certain changes taking place on the way to women’s equality. But there is an essential difference: while the secular society, in its laws, promotes women’s equality even before society at large becomes aware of the necessity of such promotion, in the religious and Charedi communities the opposite is true. The public mood does indeed change, but Halacha does not.” This is also the case for the relation to secular Jews. Though Halacha rules that such a Jew should not be supported or assisted, as we will explain, in fact the religious public feels in their hearts the need to help even the secular. This is because of the influence of the times and the world’s push towards equality between people despite difference in religion and opinions.
Thus wrote Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Russia-Germany-Switzerland, 1885-1966) (in the responsa Seridei Aish, part two, paragraph 57): “The apostates [mumarim] of our times require a special consideration, for kosher meat is expensive and is not always easily found. Are they [those used to eating non-kosher meat] to be considered apostates for spite, or can we say that their actions are those of apostates on account of appetites, in which case we must sustain them? Also, this way we bring them closer beneath the wings of Judaism when they see that those who fear G-d excel at charity and mercy. Extraordinary acts of charity and social ethics have a greater power to attract than the words of rebuke uttered by preachers. Our merciful Jewish brothers, sons of the merciful, are accustomed to being charitable to any Jew, even if he is far from fulfilling the commandments of our holy Torah.”
Rabbi Yechiel Weinberg thus finds fault with the Jews of the Talmudic times, who did not sustain and support apostates. He freely admits that the public mood of religious Jews has become more merciful from the times of Talmud when Halacha was set. Another thing which follows from the words of the Seridei Aish is that the permission to help a secular Jew is to “bring him closer and attract him to the fulfillment of Torah and the commandments” and not because it is right to help any person. These changes were made on matters whose immorality screams to the heavens and do not contradict the words of the Torah. On matters which contradict the laws of the Torah, such as recognizing a secular Jew’s testimony in court or making him a judge, as we will discuss in the body of the article, there is no change to this very day.
We will bring you, dear reader, the pure opinion of Halacha, unadorned and without favor. We will survey the status of the secular Jew in all areas of life, public and private, according to Halacha, and wherever we quote the concepts mumar, kofer, or apikoros from the sources, remember that these refer to the modern secular Jew who does not observe the Sabbath, as we have explained well and defined above.
The secular Jew is not part of the Halachic system of justice and legislation
Know that the Jewish religion is not a religion which belongs to the individual alone, but is a societal system of laws — just like any other legal system aimed at the organization of society as deemed best by the legislators. Therefore the people of Israel were commanded (Deuteronomy 16:18) “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your G-d is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.” Rashi explains: “Judges who decide the law and officers are those who govern the people after their command, who strike and bind with a rod or with a lash until one takes upon himself the decision of the judges.”
Another important thing you should know is that the beit-din judges (as is the case for the Sanhedrin) are both judges and legislators (and there is no separation between the judiciary and the legislature as is found in democratic countries), so one who may not be a magistrate is not allowed to be a judge and is forbidden to be a legislator.
The secular Jew is not allowed to be a judge or a witness — As brought in the Mishnah Berurah (Sanhedrin chapter three, mishnah three): “These are invalid [to judge and to testify–Rashi] one who gambles with dice [which is considered stealing according to Halacha] and one who loans at interest, one who races pigeons [gambling which is Halachically considered stealing] and those who trade in goods from the seventh year” and in the Gemara (Sanhedrin 27a) it is said: “An apostate who eats non-ritually-slaughtered animals merely to satisfy his appetite — according to all he is invalid [to testify]. If he has done it for spite, Abaye says: he is invalid. Rava says: he is suitable…Abaye said he is invalid, for he has done evil, and the Merciful One said ‘do not make an evil one a witness’…and the Halacha is as Abaye said.”
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, paragraph 34, section one: “An evil-doer is invalid as a witness, and even a kosher witness who knows that his fellow is an evil-doer, while the judges do not know it, may not testify with him, even if [the evil-doer] bears true testimony. There is no need to mention that a kosher witness who knows that his fellow’s testimony is not true must not testify. Who is an evil-doer? Anyone who commits a transgression punishable by lashes [negative commandments such as eating pork, an animal killed by a beast of prey, or an animal that died of natural causes]; there is no need to say that this includes one who is liable to a death sentence by the beit-din. It does not matter if he commits the transgression out of mere appetite. Gloss (by the Rama): One who commits a transgression not punishable by lashes is still invalidated [from bearing testimony] by a Rabbinic law.” In Choshen Mishpat paragraph seven, section nine it is ruled: “All who are invalid [to bear testimony] because of consanguinity or sin may not judge.”
There you have it: A person who transgresses a Torah prohibition is not fit to testify or judge. How much more so a secular Jew, who does not observe the Torah and the commandments as a whole, and is therefore considered an apostate. Even if he knows the whole Torah in all its details he may not sit as a judge.
Do not think that these are ancient laws which are not practiced. Come see how in our days religious judges invalidate the testimony of secular Jews (Rabbinic Law Decisions, Mishpatei Shaul, paragraph five) on matters of transgressing against religion and alimony when leaving the family (appeal and counter-appeal on case 155/5726, heard by the judges Rabbi Betzalel Zolty, Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, and Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef).
“…We must deal with the validity of the witnesses and their reliability. In examining the witnesses one said of himself that he ‘is somewhat Sabbath-observant’ and that he ‘puts on tefillin only on Sabbaths and holidays.’ The second said that he rode on buses on the Sabbath. Had we had testimony from other [Sabbath-observant] witnesses that these had violated the Sabbath, their testimony should not have been accepted, as ruled in Halacha: ‘An evil-doer is invalid as a witness… Who is an evil-doer? Anyone who transgresses and therefore is liable to lashes; there is no need to say that this includes one who is liable to a death sentence by the beit-din. It does not matter if he transgressed due to his appetites or for spite (Choshen Mishpat, paragraph 34, 1-2).”
The judges were upset that they had no kosher testimony (of Sabbath-observant witnesses) about the Sabbath violations of those who appeared before them. They admit that if they’d had kosher testimony about the Sabbath violations of the people who appeared before the beit-din, they would have immediately invalidated their testimony for “there is no call to accept the testimony of Sabbath-violators.”
The hands of these religious rabbis, who accept their monthly wages from Sabbath violators, did not shake when arrogantly writing that their financial supporters are invalid to bear testimony, that their words are not to be believed, and that of course they may not sit as judges.
Not only did they invalidate those who violate the Sabbath as witnesses and judges, they even subvert the secular courts.
Thus wrote Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his book (Responsa Yichaveh Daat part four, paragraph 65): “Even though the body currently authorized by the government to deal with issues of financial upkeep and inheritance is the secular law court and the judges there are Jewish, it is clear that according to the laws of our holy Torah one who sues his fellow in their courts commits an unbearable sin, and it is as Maimonides ruled (in chapter 26 of Laws of Sanhedrin, halacha seven) and the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat (paragraph 26, section one): whoever goes to their system is an evil-doer and it is as though he reviled and cursed and raised a hand against the Torah of Moses our teacher. Not only do the judges know nothing about the laws of the Torah used to judge between a man and his fellow, as laid down in Choshen Mishpat and its commentators, and Chazal has said (Gittin 88b): ‘Before them, and not before idolaters and not before common people,’ it is also known that they judge based on the laws of idolaters and allow relatives, women, and lone witnesses, who are invalid, to testify, and many of them are invalid to judge according to Halacha… How much more so these Jewish judges, who are warned and sworn from Mount Sinai to judge only according to the Torah and yet they turned their backs on it! Instead of judging according to the laws of the Torah, which a man does and by which he lives, they judge according to the Ottoman and Mandatory laws, as a maid who has taken her lady’s place; they follow chaos and are startled. They value and think highly of the laws of the gentile idolaters and thus pay honor and respect to their gods, as Rashi explains (beginning of the portion of Mishpatim). How much more so is the matter utterly forbidden, and one who goes for judgment before them also transgresses [the commandment] ‘do not place an obstacle before the blind’.”
All our words lead to the conclusion that if the prayers of the religious, “return our judges as in days of yore” are answered and a Halachic legal system arises in the Holy Land, the secular Sabbath-violating Jews will have no part in it! They will be ostracized and removed from the formulations of laws and will not be permitted to serve the legal system as judges or witnesses, as required for the establishment of a proper society. When a secular Jew sees Reuben punching Simeon and wants to testify about it in the beit-din, he will not be heard and his testimony will not be considered at all.
Providing for the Secular Jew’s Well-Being and Welfare
An inseparable part of society’s existence is setting regulations for aid and assistance in times of need: loans, financial aid (charity), and the like. According to the Halachic law system, secular Jews deserve no help or assistance.
As is written in Sefer Yeraim paragraph 156 [old printing–47]: “If one has willfully transgressed any of the commandments enumerated in the Torah and did not repent, we are not obligated to sustain him or to loan to him [i.e., assist him financially or even save his life], as it is written ‘Let him live by your side as your kinsman’ (Leviticus 25:36) and on the matter of loans it is written ‘your brother.’ Since such a person has willfully sinned, he has removed himself from the [category of] brotherhood…We have learned that an evil-doer is not part of the brotherhood.”
If you wonder, for nowadays religious organizations help even the secular public (though this pertains only to a small portion of the Charedi charitable organizations), know that they do so for three reasons:
First, as we wrote in the introduction to The Status of Women in Halacha, the public opinion influences the G-d-fearing and they, too, are influenced by equality, though it is not dictated by the Torah.
Second, they justify their actions which are not in accordance with Halacha as a preferred “tactic” to bring people closer to religion, as we quoted the words of the Sreidei Aish in our introduction: “Extraordinary acts of charity and social ethics have a greater power to attract [to the fulfillment of commandments] than the words of rebuke uttered by preachers,” and the words of the Chazon Ish which we will bring below (Laws of Slaughter paragraph two, section 16), “Since we must try to repair, we do not practice the law [that one may kill a secular Jew]; rather, we must try to make them return through bonds of love and stand them in rays of light as far as we can.”
The third reason is the main one. The Charedi public is growing, and with it the natural human need of each person to fulfill himself through some sort of work. Not every Charedi has the talent to learn Torah every day for the rest of his life, so there is a natural need to go outside the study hall walls; but since they are not professionals they take to fields which require no real expertise (aside from a short course of study). Therefore they can be found assisting in the medical field (Yad Sarah), in gathering body parts for burial (Zaka), and the like.
Most of the following has been brought in the essay Morality in Halacha and we will briefly recap here what we wrote there and add in what we didn’t.
All the laws of kindness are not practiced in regard to the secular — Visiting the sick, comforting mourners, etc. are not practiced in regard to the secular, as we explained in our essay Morality in Halacha, that the laws of loving-kindness stem from the commandment “Love your fellow as yourself.” Maimonides in Laws of Opinions chapter six, halacha three, wrote: “It is commanded upon each person to love each and every person of Israel as himself, as is said, ‘Love your fellow as yourself’.” And it is written in Hagahot Maimoniyot ad loc., section one: “Because he is your fellow in Torah and commandments, but a wicked man who does not accept reproof–him it is a commandment to hate, for it is written, ‘the fear of G-d is the hating of evil,’ and it is said, ‘Do I not hate them, o Lord, who hate You?’…”
There is no need to give charity to a poor secular Jew — Thus is it ruled in the laws of “to whom is charity given” in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, paragraph 251, section one: “One who willfully transgresses one of the commandments enumerated in the Torah and does not repent — a person is not obligated to sustain or to loan to him.” The reason for this is written in the Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah paragraph 251, section one: “If he willfully transgresses one of the commandments enumerated in the Torah and does not repent — a person is not obligated to sustain or to loan to him, as is written (Leviticus 25:36) ‘Let him live by your side as your brother’; and it is written (Deuteronomy 15:7) ‘one of your brothers.’ Since he had willfully sinned, he has removed himself from the [category of] brotherhood until he is given lashes.” According to the Shach in the above paragraph it is even forbidden to sustain and support and give charity to a poor person who has transgressed for spite, such as one who ate unkosher meat or violated the Sabbath in public.
It is forbidden to return a lost item to a secular Jew — Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat paragraph 266, section two: “Lost items must be returned to Jews even if the owner is an evil-doer and eats unkosher meat due to appetite. But one who eats for spite is an apostate; and to apostates, Cutheans, andJews who publicly violate the Sabbath lost items may not be returned, just as to idolaters.” This law is learned from tractate Avodah Zarah 26b, see there.
Know that anyone who walks along Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv (where most people “publicly violate the Sabbath”) and finds a lost item need not return it! (See the essay Morality in Halacha.)
It is permissible to loan at interest to a secular Jew — As is known, it is forbidden to charge any Jew interest on a loan of money. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 159, section two: “One is permitted to loan to amumar at interest, and it is forbidden to borrow from him at interest.” According to the Rama: “There are those who are stringent about loaning to amumar at interest.”
In the responsa Yabiya Omer, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ruled a leniency. Part five, Yoreh Deah, paragraph 13, reference one: “Thus wrote the Chacham Tzvi (paragraph 43), that one may undoubtedly loan at interest to a person who publicly violates the Sabbath, see there…in any case, the rule is that there is room to be lenient, since the author of the Shulchan Aruch simply wrote mumar. In the Beit Yosef it is clarified that even if he only eats unkosher meat for spite one may loan to him at interest (and in the Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah paragraph 268) one who publicly violates the Sabbath, even as a matter of appetite, is as one who eats unkosher meat for spite.”
According to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, a person who eats in a non-kosher restaurant (who is considered to be eating out of spite, for he could eat in the kosher restaurant across the street) may be loaned to at interest, and the categories of kindness and brotherhood because of which the Torah commanded one not charge interest to a Jew do not apply to him, though he is fully a Jew (see the essay Morality in Halacha).
A secular captive is not redeemed — In the Gemara it is related (Gittin 46b): “A man who sold himself to [cannibals — Rashi] came to Rabbi Ami and asked to be redeemed…the rabbis said to Rabbi Ami: that man eats unkosher meat for spite [though he has the possibility of eating permitted meat, he still eats forbidden meat]. Rabbi Ami decided not to redeem him.” Based on this Gemara the Shulchan Aruch ruled in Yoreh Deah paragraph 251 section two: “One who transgresses even one commandment for spite, such as one who ate unkosher meat when kosher meat was available, may not be redeemed from captivity.”
So you see, there is a prohibition against redeeming a secular Jew and saving him from captivity, even if he is being held captive under conditions of mortal danger.
Laws of burial and mourning upon the death of a secular Jew
It is forbidden to mourn for a secular Jew who has died — In the minor tractates, Tractate Smachot chapter two, halacha eight: “Anyone who separates from the ways of the public is not dealt with at all. Their brothers and relatives wear white and wrap themselves in white and eat and rejoice that an enemy of the Omnipresent has gone, for it is said, ‘O Lord, You know I hate those who hate You and loathe Your adversaries. I feel a perfect hatred toward them, I count them my enemies’ (Psalms 139:22).” Thus ruled Maimonides in Laws of Mourning chapter one, halacha ten: “All who separate from the ways of the public — that is, those who have thrown off the yoke of commandments from their necks and are not included in the people of Israel in the performance of commandments and honoring the festivals and sitting in synagogues and study halls, but consider themselves free men [like the rest of the nations] and theapikorsim [and the mumarim] and those who tattle [to the gentile authorities] — none of these are mourned, but their brothers and the rest of their relatives wear white and wrap themselves in white and eat and drink and rejoice, for an enemy of the holy One, blessed be He, has gone, and about them the Scriptures wrote ”O Lord, You know I hate those who hate You’.”
The matter of a cohen, who has returned to religious observance, becoming impure for his secular father is the true test for religious Jews, since according to Halacha a cohen may not become impure (enter a cemetery at the time of the funeral) for his secular mother or father, as explained (Sanhedrin 47a): “Rav Shmaya said: Even if his parents [the cohen’s mother and father — Rashi] separated from the public ways [such as a mumar — Rashi] should he become impure? It is written ‘among his people’ (Leviticus 21:1-2) [“The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them–None shall defile himself for any person among his people except for the relatives that are closest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, and his brother”] — one who does as his people do.” That is, a priest may impurify himself for his father and mother only if they observe the commandments.
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 376 section eight: “A cohen whose parents separated from the ways of the public, such as the informers [Rashi on Rosh Hashanah 17a — informers who hand Jewish money over to idolaters] should not impurify themselves for them.”
We, the people of Daat Emet, asked the opinion of the former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu shlita on the matter of a cohen who has returned to religious observance and whose secular father has died. Is he permitted to enter the cemetery to say Kaddish over his father’s grave? The answer was an unambiguous “A cohen may not impurify himself for his secular father.” This is a sign of the confusion in which the G-d-fearing public lives. On the one hand they are told they may follow the customs of mourning for their secular parents though Halacha says they are not to be mourned, and all this “so that there will be no desecration of G-d’s name” [mockery of religion because of its evil prohibitions], but when it comes to uprooting the word of the Torah, such as the impurity of a cohen in a cemetery, they suddenly become frightened and leave Halacha alone.
Prohibition on burying a secular Jew — (Jerusalem Talmud Terumot chapter eight 45c): “A butcher from Sepphoris fed Jews unkosher meat. Once he drank wine on the night of the Sabbath, went up to the roof, fell and died. Dogs licked his blood. They came and asked Rabbi Hanaiyah whether to move his body so the dogs would not eat it. He said to them: It is written ‘You shall not eat meat fallen prey in the field, but throw it to the dogs’ (Exodus 22:30). This one would steal from the dogs and feed the meat to Jews — leave him be, for the dogs are eating what is rightfully theirs.” Based on this passage in the Jerusalem Talmud, the Or Zarua [Rabbi Yitzchak the son of Moshe of the city Vienna, Austria, who lived c. 1180-1250 and was a student of the Raviyah], part two, Laws of Mourning (417-451) section 422: “A man of whom it is known that he is a transgressor, there is no need to say that there is no commandment to be busied with his burial; it is forbidden to be busied with his burial.” (See further in the Or Zarua, part one, Laws of the Sinew [444-458].)
We will also bring here the words of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tikutchinski OBM (1872-1955) when asked how a chevrah kaddisha should act in our times. In his book Gesher Hahayim chapter 22, paragraph four he said: “One who is known to have separated himself from the ways of Israel and who has shrugged off any yoke of the Jewish religion — one does not mourn for him…he must be buried and his funeral and shroud attended to…but he should not be buried amongst those who fulfill the Torah and the commandments, he should be buried off to the side… Even though the Riva [the father of the Or Zaruah’s teacher]…was very strict not to bury a sinner…this is not meant to be a hard and fast rule…the people of a city or the members of a chevra kaddishamay prevent the burial of a known sinner [who does not fulfill the Torah and the commandments — perhaps like Shulamit Aloni, of whom Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef said: “On the day that she dies we should celebrate and throw a feast. She is a disciple of the evil Pharaoh,” see the Yediot Acharonot newspaper of 17.12.1977] in a Jewish grave as a measure to seal the lapse. They have permission to prevent the burial of an uncircumcised dead man to prevent licentiousness…and a mumar who switched religions [to another, such as Christianity]…they are absolutely forbidden to bury in a Jewish grave; nor should they busy themselves with his burial at all… they are certainly not permitted to mourn [him]. It is customary to mourn him the moment one hears of his conversion, G-d save us, and even though Rabbeynu Gershom sat 14 days for his son who died after having converted…most of the Achronim instructed one should sit a day and cut kriyah upon hearing of a conversion, as for any other bad news, and when [the convert] dies there is no need to cutkriyah or mourn for even a day.”
Kaddish is not said for a secular Jew — In the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 376 section four, the Rama writes: “There are those who say that if amumar is killed by idolaters, his sons say kaddish for him.” The Shach in Yoreh Deah paragraph 376 subparagraph 15 explains: “If he was killed, but not if he died in his bed…when he is killed he has been atoned [but when he simply dies he has not been atoned and therefore one should not say kaddish for him].”
We will bring here a wonderful example which proves that when the public mood changes, our rabbis do a Halachic dance to change the ruling. All the laws of burying the dead, mourning, and saying kaddish are things that arouse people’s souls, and nothing arouses people’s indignation more than disgracing the dead, whoever he may be. How much more so when the apostates (secular Jews) outnumber those who observe commandments and even support them is it difficult to uphold laws in the public eye like burial, which separate and harm the secular public. Even the souls of those who fulfill commandments are not happy with the laws, especially since they will cause them to be isolated and if they behave that way, the secular will reject them.
Therefore Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, who served as Av-Beit-Din in Jerusalem, answered in his responsa Tzitz Eliezer, part 10, paragraph 41, to the question: “A Jew who had been civilly married to a gentile woman and whose actions always divided him from the Jewish community, before his death requested that he be buried in the Jewish cemetery and that he be given a full Jewish burial, that he be mourned and that kaddish be said for him. Below, the law would be also clarified for the case when such person [dies] without having made such request… I answer and say: Though the punishment awaiting this man is great, for he separated himself by his actions from the Jewish community throughout his life, and his sins are burdensome because he left the source of living water, the daughter of Israel, to search for a broken well which will hold no water by taking the daughter of a foreign god who, G-d save us, stays tied to him like a dog, see Sotah fol. 3b [which states that the sin is not atonable]…But so as not to make him an outcast (and in a way which will not set a precedent) we find that our great Halachic arbiters OBM told us to behave mercifully to this one and find whatever cause for favor that we can, to find some way of permitting him to join the Jewish community in the cemetery, though in a special place and not in the same location as kosher Jews…Basically, his son has the right to say kaddish for his mumar father, whether the latter acted so out of appetites or for spite; only if there are other mourners can he be told that they have precedence and are more obligated in giving merit to their Jewish fathers…” See further his long responsum.
How sad that our present-day rabbis do not dare stand up and say clearly and unambiguously: the Halacha which was ruled in the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch was fine and good for ancient times, in which there was no religious tolerance nor love for all men who were created in G-d’s image, without distinction between faith, gender, or race. This is only because the rabbis are tied, bound, and subjugated to that same ancient Halacha.
The relationship between parents and children when one of the sides is secular
A secular Jew’s inheritance from a religious father — There is a debate about whether a secular Jew inherits from his religious father, as brought in responsa Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah section, paragraph 312 “In the Mordechai, first chapter of Kiddushin on the matter of a mumar inheriting, a Geonic opinion is brought [by Mar Rav Tzedek Gaon] that by the Torah’s law, a mumar does not inherit, though he leaves inheritance for others. Others say that by the Torah’s law, a mumar does inherit, yet he is penalized by the rabbis.” According to all opinions a secular Jew (remember that a mumar is a secular Jew, for he has “rejected the commandments”; see what we wrote above) does not get his parents’ property as an inheritance, whether because this is the Halacha or because the rabbis have thus punished him.
Thus wrote Maimonides in Laws of Inheritances chapter six, halacha 12: “A Jew who converted away inherits from his Jewish relatives, but if the beit-din saw fit to take away his money and penalize him by not allowing him to inherit so as not to strengthen their hands, they have that right. If he has Jewish sons they inherit in place of their mumar father, and this has always been the practice in the West.”
The Shulchan Aruch, paragraph 283, section two: “A Jew who converted inherits from his Jewish relatives, but if the beit-din saw fit to take away his money and penalize him by not allowing him to inherit so as not to strengthen the hands of the evil, they have that right. If he has Jewish sons they inherit in place of their mumar father. Gloss [by the Rama]: Even if the mumar has given his share in the inheritance to others, his gift does not hold, for the property falls to [other] inheritors immediately [with the father’s death] and he has no control over it. Some say one should leave the inheritance in the trusteeship of the beit-din, so that if [the inheritor] repents they would give it to him (this is all in the Tur in the name of the Rosh)…A mumar Jew whose mother has died and who has relatives on his father’s side, if he has reached majority [above the age of responsibility for observance of commandments — 13] and it is appropriate to penalize him through his inheritance, his inheritors also do not inherit, leaving the inheritance for the other inheritors of his mother.”
See what Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ruled, that a father may choose to pass his inheritance to his religious son, though Halachically it is not appropriate to pass inheritances from one brother to another.
Responsa Yabiya Omer part eight Choshen Mishpat paragraph 10: “Thus wrote the gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in responsa Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat part two (paragraph 50, section three) that the prohibition against passing an inheritance from an evil son to a good son is when the bad son simply misbehaves, such as not being sufficiently careful with the commandments, but he does believe in G-d and His Torah and teaches his sons to follow G-d’s Torah and His commandments, for we can hope that he will have worthwhile sons. But if he publicly violates the Sabbath and violates all the Torah’s prohibitions and does not teach his sons Torah and the commandments, one should not think that he might have worthwhile sons, for children follow their parents, and though sometimes even those who publicly violate the Sabbath and who transgress end up with observant sons, it is only a small minority that is not common…In the end we find that there is no reason not to transfer [before the father’s death] the inheritance from the son who publicly violates the Sabbath and violates all the Torah’s prohibitions to the wise son who follows the faith. In any case, the wise man will act moderately lest the stone follow the one who falls. There is hope he may return to what is best, return and be healed. Perhaps we should follow what Rabbi Tzur Yaakov mentioned above, to deposit part of the inheritance in the hands of a trustworthy person, with absolute conditions like those of the sons of Reuben and Gad, that if the son repents or has worthwhile sons, he will receive his portion of the inheritance and if he does not, it will be given to his wise son or to charity. Truth and peace love each other.”
Honoring secular parents — One of the Ten Commandments is “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:11), and in the Gemara (Bava Kama 94b): “If your father left you a cow or a garment or any other specific item — they must return it because of the honor of their father. — Why should they have to return it for the honor of their father? ‘Do not curse a chief of your people’ (Exodus 22:27) — one who acts as your people [but we are not concerned for honor of the wicked]! [This father did not act as your people (for he was a thief) and we are not commanded to honor him–Rashi.] — As Rav Pinchas answered in the name of Rav Papa: the case is, the father had repented.” From this gemara we see that only if the father and mother observe the commandments does the command to honor one’s parents apply. Based on this gemara the Sefer Yeraim paragraphs 221-222 [old printing — 56] ruled: “If one’s father has willfully transgressed any of the commandments mentioned in the Torah and did not repent, [the son] is exempt from fearing him.”
Meanwhile, according to Maimonides there is a commandment to honor parents who do not fulfill commandments (Laws of Apostates chapter six halacha 11): “Even if his father was an evil-doer and transgressor he must honor and fear him.”
In the Shulchan Aruch the author, Rabbi Yosef Karo, and the author of the Glosses, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, disagreed (Yoreh Deah paragraph 240, section 18): “Even if one’s father is an evil-doer or transgresser, he should honor and fear him.” Gloss [by the Rama]: “Some say that he is not obligated to honor his evil-doing father unless the father has repented.”
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef explained Maimonides’s opinion without disagreeing with the gemara we brought above (responsa Yabiya Omer part eight–Yoreh Deah, section 21): “In the responsa Meshivat Nafesh (Yoreh Deah, section 16), it seemed to him that Maimonides’s reason was because [the father] might have repented in his heart, for evil-doers are full of remorse… Because of this doubt sons are obligated to honor their fathers, for following a Torah law, one should be stringent; but regarding a cow or a garment or any specific item — it is not taken away from the inheritors [and returned to the original owners] because of this possibility that [the thief-father] may have repented. Since we don’t know for certain that he had repented, we do not take property away from the inheritors who hold it.” According to Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef everyone acknowledges that in principle one should not honor parents if one is certain that they do not fulfill the commandments and they have not repented.
Since this topic is controversial we will bring, though it is not our custom, the opinion of the Zohar (volume one [Genesis], portion of Vayetze, page 164b) in the Sulam’s translation: “Even though Rachel did this [hid the idols from Laban her father (Genesis chapter 31)] to remove her father from idolatry, she was punished and did not raise Benjamin nor was she with him even for a single hour in this world. All because she distressed her father, even though her intentions were good].” Though the Zohar states the opposite of Halacha’s view, we do not rely upon Kabbalah and Aggadah, as we clarified in the portion of Vayeshev. To strengthen our words we will bring an Aggadah which contradicts the Zohar, from the Mishnah, tractate Pesachim chapter four, mishnah nine: “Hezkiyah did six things. Three he was praised for and three he was not. He dragged his father’s bones on a bed of rope and was thanked.” Rashi explains (Berachot 10b): “He dragged his father’s bones — for he was an evil-doer — he loathed him and did not give him the honor due him at his burial, to bring him out as was wont on beds of gold and silver.” Rashi wrote in his commentary on Psalms (15:4): “He was despised in his eyes and loathed — one who is despised because of his evil is loathed by the righteous, like Hezkiyahu who dragged his father’s bones in loathing.”
One who curses and strikes his secular mother and father is not as wrong as one who hits his commandment-fulfilling father and mother — In the Gemara it is explained that the Torah prohibition (Exodus 21:15-17) “He who strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death…He who insults his father or his mother shall be put to death” does not apply to secular parents (Yevamot 22b): “The mamzer is liable if he hits his father [who has slept with a married woman]. — Why? See here: ‘Do not curse a chief of your people’ (Exodus 22:27). This is when he acts as your people do [he fulfills the commandments]! — As Rav Pinchas answered in the name of Rav Papa: the case is, the father had repented.”
The Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 241 section one ruled: “One who curses his father or his mother, even after their deaths, should be stoned.” In section four it is written: “Even if his father and mother were absolute evil-doers and transgressors, even if their trial ended with a death sentence and they were killed, he may not hit them and curse them. If he hit them or cursed them he is exempt [from stoning].” There is no death penalty for one who strikes and curses his secular parents as there is for one who strikes and curses his Torah-observing parents, but there is a prohibition against hitting secular parents. The Rosh (Yevamot chapter two, section three) adds that one may hit an inciter and an instigator: “He is liable for hitting him and for cursing him. It is written, ‘Do not curse a chief of your people’ — that is, when he acts as your people do, when he has repented. But this speaks only of liability [to punishment], while the prohibition itself stands even if he did not repent, so it is forbidden for a son to hit his father and curse him, as taught in Sanhedrin, in the chapter V’elu hen hanechnakin (85b): ‘Rava Bar Bar Hana said, and the study hall of Rabbi Yishmael taught, that the son is made an emissary to hit his father and curse him only in the case of an inciter and instigator [but not in other cases, even if the father is a transgressor], for of such the Torah said, “do not pity and do not conceal him”.'”
According to the Vilna Gaon (Yoreh Deah 241 section six) there is no prohibition against hitting one’s father and mother if they do not fulfill the commandments: “Unless [the father] repents there is no difference between the prohibition and liability [for striking the father]…the Gemara’s question is whether it is permitted [to strike him] a priori.”
Saving a secular Jew from death
It is permitted to kill a secular Jew — “Do not kill,” written in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12), does not apply to a gentile, as explained in the essay Gentiles in Halacha; and this law does not apply to secular Jews either, as explained (Avodah Zarah 26b): “The minim and the informers and themumarim — lower them [to the pit to kill them — Rashi on Avodah Zarah 13b] and do not raise them [from the pit].” Thus ruled Maimonides in Laws of Apostates chapter three, halacha two: “Once it has become known that a person rejects the Oral Torah [he is lowered into the pit] and not raised, and he is like all other apikorsim and those who say there is no Divine Torah, like the informers and the mumarim, for all these are not included in the community of Israel and there is no need for witnesses nor for warning nor for judges. Rather, anyone who kills one of them does a great good deed and removes an obstacle.” The blood of a secular Jew is worth nothing!
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 158 section two: “It was customary in Eretz Israel to kill Jewish apostates — those who worship idols or who transgress for spite, even if one ate unkosher meat or wore sha’atnez for spite, and apikorsim who reject the Torah and Jewish prophecy. If one has power to kill them with a foil he does so in public, and if not, he should act against them with cunning, until he causes them to be killed. If he sees one [of them] fall into a well and the ladder is in the well, first he should remove the ladder and say, ‘I must take my son down off the roof, I’ll bring it back’ or some such thing.” Again, the blood of a secular Jew is worth nothing!
Since secular Jews in these days have become numerous, a problem has arisen: On the one hand, religious Jews would not think of killing the [majority of] Jews, but on the other hand there is a clear halacha which states an obligation to kill secular Jews! How do our rabbis deal with the contradiction between Halacha and the public’s Zeitgeist?
This is how the Chazon Ish settles it in Yoreh Deah, Laws of Ritual Slaughter paragraph two, section 16: “And it seems that this law applies only in those times when His supervision is clear, like in the time when there were miracles and a Heavenly voice and the righteous of the generation were under clear personal supervision. Heretics were then especially perverse in swaying the impulses towards lust and lawlessness, and at that time clearing out the evildoers was protection of the world, for all knew that pushing the generation away [from the ways of the Torah] brings punishment to the world and causes pestilence, war, and hunger to come upon the world. But when Divine supervision is hidden and faith has been uprooted from the doorways of the nation, such acts do not build a fence against lawlessness but add to the lawlessness, for they will see it as an act of destruction and violence, G-d forbid. Since we are supposed to fix things, we should not apply this law when it does not lead to correction. But we must return them through ties of love and put them in the rays of light as much as we can.” (See what we wrote inpamphlet 8 on the topic of “Reality changes and so Halacha Changes.”
If you look deeply into the words of the Chazon Ish you will see that in his opinion we do not kill secular Jews nowadays only because Divine supervision is not obvious, but in the ideal, appropriate, and proper situation, “when the Blessed One’s supervision is obvious,” it is a commandment to kill all secular Jews.
Saving the life of a secular Jew does not supercede the Sabbath — Rabbi Israel Meir of Radin, the author of the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) ruled in the Mishnah Berurah paragraph 329, subsection nine: “A Jew who has transgressed due to his appetites, as long as he has not rejected the Torah, it would seem that we violate the Sabbath to save him; but if he has done it for spite, one is forbidden to save him even on a weekday. Certainly it is forbidden to violate the Sabbath for him.”
One who violates the Sabbath to save the life of a secular Jew (after warning and before witnesses) is stoned, and if he did it accidentally he must bring a sacrifice, for he had violated the Sabbath without it being a matter of life and death (the life and death of a secular Jew doesn’t count).
How do our contemporary rabbis deal with the fearful issue of Sabbath violation?
In responsa Tzitz Eliezer part eight paragraph 15, section Meshivat Nafesh chapter five: “Is it permitted to violate the Sabbath for a critically ill patient who is a mumar and violates the Sabbath publicly, be it for spite or due to appetites…
“…From all that has been said, it would be difficult to permit the violation of the Sabbath for a critically ill mumar, one who publicly violates the Sabbath, particularly if he is a mumar for spite…The permission we can discuss when faced with such a critically ill patient is as follows. First, there is absolutely no need to do an extensive examination of the patient’s practices, and each Jew should be considered kosher, even if his appearance shows that he probably is not among the kosher Jews who fulfill the Torah’s commandments. He should still be considered as one who transgresses not for spite and as one who does not publicly violate the Sabbath for spite.
“Second, even if it is known that he publicly violates the Sabbath, there is still a great deal of doubt and shadows of doubt in Halacha about whether he is truly considered one who publicly violates the Sabbath, who is thought of like an idolater, for the matter rests on which prohibition he has violated and before how many people, and whether he is one of those people who do not know how severe the prohibitions about creative labor are on the Sabbath. There is a strong opinion which holds that the idea of a mumar who publicly violates the Sabbath as like one who rejects the whole Torah is only a Rabbinic decree…another strong, old opinion states that one who publicly violates the Sabbath is not considered a mumar until they testify before a beit-din that he has violated the Sabbath before ten kosher Jews. Thus it is very rare that a critical patient is considered a mumar, one who violates the Sabbath publicly and for spite, according to all opinions though he might be according to most opinions. On matters of saving lives we tend to be lenient; behold, we even do not follow the majority to be stringent [which is otherwise a common way of Halachic deliberation].”
It is as though he said, “Let’s close our eyes to what the secular Jews do and make all kinds of suppositions which everyone knows are not true, and then we’ll be allowed to save secular Jews on the Sabbath.” Indeed, it is a proper act and deserving of praise, but it follows a great deal of twists and turns. Wouldn’t it be better to say “Every person, if he is in critical condition, should be saved by any means possible.” But since Halacha truly does not recognize the equality of all people, what are the rabbis to do?
On the portion of Balak we cited the words of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef who gave a reason why in our days we may violate the Sabbath to save a gentile (if we did not save them there is a chance that gentiles will not help Jews). From there we also learn the reason why it is permitted to violate the Sabbath to save a secular Jew.
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef was asked in responsa Yabiya Omer part eight Orach Chayim, paragraph 38: “I was asked by G-d fearing doctors who work in public hospitals, including on the Sabbath, if they are permitted to treat hospitalized gentile patients who are in danger if this involves violating a Torah prohibition in force on the Sabbath.” His answer was: “We learn that in our times, there is fear of more than mere enmity. If Jewish doctors refuse to treat gentile patients on the Sabbath and leave them to die, this has an aspect of saving Jewish lives, for when gentile physicians find out about this they will cease treating Jewish patients.”
No morality, no human decency, and no mercy. Only considerations of utility and value. It is as though he said “A non-Jew? Save him on the Sabbath? No. It would be appropriate for him to die. But if he does die, perhaps it would be bad for the Jews. Therefore, and only because of this, it is permitted to treat him.”
Every sensible person would be made indignant by such opinions.
Circumcision, marriage, and the ritual immersion of a secular Jew
Is it permitted to circumcise a secular Jew on the Sabbath — About circumcisions for secular Jews we have found a few Halachic arbiters who forbid circumcising him even on a weekday.
According to Rabbi Abraham the son of Mordechai HaLevi (lived in Egypt c. 1650-1712) in his responsa Ginat Veradim, Orach Chayim section, rule two, paragraph 31: “When the father and mother are both mumarim, there is no hope that the child will do other than follow in his parents’ ways. What is the point of circumcising him since he will follow an evil culture. It is appropriate to withhold from him the commandment of circumcision. If only his mother were a complete [observant] Jew, there would be hope that the mother would teach the child the ways of G-d and that he would not go out to an evil culture — which is undoubtedly the intent of the Tur…Thus one should refrain from circumcising him even on a weekday, for in his circumcision there is no true commandment, which is that he should fulfill the commands of his G-d…It seems that one who busies himself with attempts to get evil-doers to fulfill commandments will be punished, as it says in the section HaZroah, page 133, one who teaches an inappropriate student falls to Hell…Rav Zira quoted Rav, any who teach an inappropriate student is as one who throws stones at [a statue of] Mercurius…”
But most Halachic arbiters permit circumcising a secular Jew on a weekday and are only divided on whether it is permitted to circumcise him on the Sabbath — for any who circumcises one whom there is no complete obligation to circumcise, violates the Sabbath.
Tur Yoreh Deah paragraph 266: “A Jew who changed his religion to idolatry and is married to a Jewish woman and a son was born to them, the child is circumcised on the Sabbath and we do not hold that he will go out to an evil culture, since his mother is a Jewess.”
Beit Yosef Yoreh Deah paragraph 266 [Bedek HaBayit]: “It seems to me that even if he is married to a female mumar the son they bear should be circumcised on the Sabbath, for they are obligated to observe all the commandments, and ‘a Jewess’ mentioned in the Itur does not mean that amumar should be excluded, but only that a gentile woman should be excluded.”
And in the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 266 section 12: “A Jew who converted away and has a son born of a Jewish woman, the son is circumcised on the Sabbath.”
The Shach in Yoreh Deah paragraph 266 subparagraph 16 wrote: “I do not think as does the Beit Yosef [that even if the mother is a mumar one is permitted to circumcise the boy on the Sabbath]…when his mother is a femalemumar it is forbidden, and the matter requires study.”
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef brought the divided opinions about whether one is permitted to circumcise a secular Jew on the Sabbath.
In responsa Yabiah Omer, part one, Yoreh Deah paragraph 11, section (6): “I saw in the responsa of our rabbi Abraham the son of Maimonides (paragraph 53) that it was asked about a man and his wife who had left Judaism and a boy was born to them on the Sabbath. Is it permitted to circumcise him on the Sabbath? He answered: A gentile should do it to prevent a Jew from having to do it. End of quote….The author of the Beit Yosef in Bedek HaBayit (Yoreh Deah subparagraph 266) wrote about what the Itur wrote, that a Jew who converted to idolatry and married a Jewish woman has his son circumcised on the Sabbath, and it seems to me that even if he is married to a mumar their son is circumcised on the Sabbath, for they are obligated to observe all the commandments. It is possible that when the Itur wrote ‘a Jewish woman,’ he did not mean to exclude a mumar but only to exclude a gentile woman…This is not as Rabbi Abraham the son of Maimonides holds above….There are two reasons to permit the Sabbath circumcision of a son born to a mumar and a Jewish woman. One is that he may repent and educate his son in the Jewish religion, and the other is that the boy might be educated as his mother the Jew. According to the first it is permitted even if his mother is a mumar, for even in that case it is possible that he will repent and educate his son in the Jewish faith. According to the second reason it is forbidden to circumcise him on the Sabbath, for his mother is also a mumar.”
Thus ruled the responsa Tzitz Eliezer part six, paragraph three: “We have found by several Halachic arbiters that they went a step further and said even that the sons of those who spitefully and publicly violate the Sabbath should not be circumcised on the Sabbath…In concluding the matter, in my humble opinion it seems that the circumcision should be done at its proper time, on the Sabbath, since this is a communal responsibility and not just the father’s. It is also the responsibility of the beit-din and all Jews, including the one who performs the actual circumcision.”
Does a secular Jew who returns to religion have to immerse in the mikveh like a gentile who converts? — In the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 268 section 12 the Rama wrote: “A mumar Jew who repents does not have to immerse; only due to a Rabbinic regulation does he have to immerse himself and accept upon himself affiliation before three people.”
In responsa Melamed L’Hoil [by Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffman, b. Werbo, Hungary 1843, d. Berlin, 1921], part two (Yoreh Deah) paragraph 84 the question of whether a person without religion, a secular person, requires immersion is considered.
“Question: I wondered whether, since Rabbinically a Jewish mumar who repents must immerse himself and accept upon himself affiliation before three people (Yoreh Deah, end of paragraph 268), we should be stringent even with Jews who did not change their religion to another, but who only stated in writing that they wish to be considered persons of no religion at all. If now such one wants to repent and publicly return to the Jewish faith — should we say that the matter depends on switching religion, and since he had not really switched, there is no room to be stringent with him that way; or since he had left the Jewish faith in any case and now is willing to return to it, should we apply to him the Rabbinic regulation and treat him as a gentile who came to convert?…
[After considering a certain responsum of the Ridbaz dealing with a similar issue, the rabbi concluded:] “From here, no decision can be made on our question, neither from the words of the questioner nor from those of the respondent, for the questioner doubts and the respondent does not clarify the doubt. But it seems to me that a conclusion can be reached on the basis of another responsum of the Ridbaz, and it would be a stringent conclusion. That is, one who has left the Jewish fold is considered a mumar, for in the book Leket HaKemach he cites in the name of the Ridbaz’s responsa that a Jew must choose death rather than follow the ways of the Ishmaelites, for one who admits to their faith must reject the teaching of Moses our teacher — which is an absolute idolatry. End of quote. For even though the Ishmaelites are not idolaters, as Maimonides has stated, in any case one who admits to their faith must reject the teachings of our teacher Moses and is as an idolater. So, too, one who leaves Judaism, even if he does not take upon himself another religion — in any case, he publicly states that he rejects the teachings of our teacher Moses, and if so, he is as an idolater and one who has switched to another religion; so he must immerse when he returns.”
Today there is no practice to immerse those who return to religion, as is written in responsa Minchat Yitzchak part one, paragraph 10: “There is no practice here of requiring those who violate the Sabbath and the like to immerse; only one who has changed his religion to another and returned.”
Is one permitted to perform a marriage ceremony for secular Jews? First we will state that according to most Halachic arbiters a secular Jewish man who marries a secular Jewish woman is considered married.
In the Gemara in Yevamot (47b) it is stated that his marriage is valid, and as we wrote in the introduction, he is considered a Jew for all things: “[A convert who changed his mind] is considered a Jewish mumar and his marriage is valid.”
The Tur Even HaEzer, paragraph 44, wrote: “A Jewish mumar who married is considered wed, and his wife needs a bill of divorcement from him. There are those who say that a mumar who publicly violates the Sabbath and worships idols is considered a gentile and his marriage is not valid, but this view is not clear [and the Tur does not rule so].”
The Beit Yosef wrote in Even HaEzer paragraph 44, section nine, s.v. Yisrael mushumad: “One who changed to another religion and publicly violates the Sabbath and worships idols is considered an absolute gentile and his marriage is not valid. The author of the Itur (section 100) brought this assumption and wrote about it…And one who publicly violates the Sabbath [is only considered a gentile] on matters of real estate, but his marriage is valid and his divorcement is valid. In the name of Rashi he wrote that even if he turned to idolatry and violated the Sabbath, his marriage is valid.”
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer paragraph 44 section nine: “Amumar Jew who married is considered wed. [His wife] needs a bill of divorcement from him.”
Now we will clarify whether rabbis and G-d-fearing Jews may help secular Jews marry each other, for it is clear that they do not mean to fulfill the Torah, the commandments, nor the laws of family purity, and thus the rabbis are “helping transgressors.” Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss discussed this question and concluded that one is permitted to help secular Jews get married, while it would be appropriate to immerse the women at least the first time so that she will be pure for her husband.
In responsa Minchat Yitzchak part one paragraph 10: “I will consider now the question about one who changed his religion and afterwards regretted it and returned to the Jewish religion, but not completely, for he still publicly violates the Sabbath as he did before he switched religions; and now he wishes to marry a Jewish girl. Are we to make a stand and refuse to officiate?…” [Answer] “…Indeed, this relates to all Sabbath violators, which is common in our time, even if they did not switch religions entirely. In any case, they are considered to be mumar and the law that zealots may harm them applies [they are killed with no intervention of the beit-din]… Even to the opinion that holds their marriages to be valid, their relations are forbidden and zealots may harm them…I wonder how it is that the world is not more careful about this…if so, it is difficult — how have we found our way to officiate at so many weddings of Sabbath violators, while we ought to be stringent to accord with the above opinions…Therefore it must be said that they rely upon the Chatam Sofer, Even HaEzer part two (paragraph 73), who wrote disagreeing on the matter of the zealots harming such a person… [and stated] that this applies when one has accepted matters through a priest, and cannot return to his religion without endangering his life or fleeing, but if he does have the chance to return to religion, this does not apply to him…How correct were the words of the gaon in Chelkat Yaakov (paragraph 23) on whether a rabbi may officiate at the wedding of a Jewish couple who are not careful about the laws of family purity… (as is written there, that anyway one must be scrupulous about the immersion before marriage and what can be fixed should be fixed; I have also seen it brought in the name of the book Shulchan Ezer, part two, paragraph eight, section seven, that he cites the gaon Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld OBM of Jerusalem that according to Halacha one is forbidden to officiate at the wedding of a bride and groom one is certain will not follow the laws of family purity, and he discusses his words a bit, and at the end of the book in the notes he states that in Hungary they were careful about the first immersion…This was the practice when I was head of the beit din in Grossvarden).”
Your eyes see how our rabbis change Halacha when reality forces this upon them, for what can they do? Not officiate at the weddings of those who finance them and on whose money they live in this world? Another thing it is important to say here to explain the confusion and embarrassment of contemporary Halachic arbiters who have not expressed their opinions on this matter: halachot which were made about mumarim and Sabbath violators came from eras when most Jews observed the Torah and the commandments, or at least believed in the Divine Torah. But now there is a vast Jewish majority which does not believe in a Divine Torah and certainly not in the Oral Torah. Therefore Halachic arbiters in our times must gird their loins and make clear Halachic determinations regarding the secular public, rather than swing on absurd suppositions from the Talmudic world which are not relevant. Thus they will not turn themselves into laughing stocks with all sorts of strange rulings that one may officiate at the wedding of secular Jews, but be certain that the woman immerses herself at least the first time, and close your eyes to the known fact that the woman would never think of immersing herself ever again, and everyone, including the rabbi, knows this. Why turn a blind eye and hide your head in the sand and bend clear and known halacha? There is no greater insult and affront than this to religious Jewry, and the rabbis know this, yet they do not arise and do anything — quite the opposite. They should change the Halacha or stay loyal to it and refuse to officiate at secular weddings.
Commandments a Secular Jew is Forbidden to Perform
It is forbidden for a secular Jew to perform a circumcision — Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 264 section one: “But an idolater, even if he is circumcised, may not circumcise at all…One who rejects the entire Torah, or one who is a mumar on the issue of circumcision, is considered an idolater.”
Thus was it ruled in Jerusalem Rabbinic Court Decisions, Clarification of Judaism I, page 75, in a case heard in the beit-din for clarification of Jewishness at the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem, in front of the judges Rabbi Abraham Dov Levin, Rabbi Eliyahu Schlisinger, and Rabbi Baruch Shraga, case 249-51, in a decision on sprinkling a drop of blood following a circumcision without intent.
“The story: Mr. Michael N., his wife and son came before the beit-din. The beit-din was asked to recognize their Jewishness and circumcise their son. According to his own words, he did not need circumcision since a Jewish doctor in Russia had already circumcised him for health purposes. After an examination by the beit din’s faithful translator, Rabbi Yehudah Gordon (who himself is a ritual circumciser), the man was found to be circumcised, and it seemed to have been a perfect job. The examination made into his Jewish status was done through a look at his birth certificate and a conversation with his mother, who spoke Yiddish, and who told [the court biographical] facts of definite Jewish background.
“The beit-din’s ruling instructed the petitioner to find a certified circumciser who will decisively determine whether his circumcision was indeed a perfect job and afterwards a drop of blood must be sprinkled from the site, for though he was circumcised by a Jew, it was performed for health and not religious reasons. It is also to be supposed that the Jewish doctor, like most Jews of his generation in Russia, was not circumcised and therefore we should be stringent and sprinkle a drop of blood from the site of the circumcision.”
The honored rabbis are paid their salaries by those who reject the entire Torah, those whom they consider invalid to circumcise, and who even if they performed the circumcision as it should have been, would not have their work considered valid until a Charedi circumciser supervised the sprinkling of a drop of blood! There is nothing more vile than this; on one hand, today’s rabbis do not hesitate to enjoy the fruit of secular Jews’ labor, yet on the other hand they reject them and invalidate them at every turn, and keep them from becoming partners and an indispensable part of the Jewish community.
It is forbidden to accept charity from a secular Jew — “We accept sacrifices from the sinners of Israel so they will return in repentance, except for from amumar, one who pours libations [to idols], and one who publicly violates the Sabbath” (Eiruvin 69b).
From the Shulchan Aruch it seems that one is forbidden to accept charity from a secular Jew (Yoreh Deah paragraph 254 section two): “And all this [that we do not accept charity from a gentile] is when they give to an individual, but if they donate something to a synagogue we accept it from them, but not from amumar.”
We find that we do not accept a donation to a synagogue from a mumar (let us again recall that this is one who “rejects the commandments”), much less charity.
Thus ruled the responsa Minchat Yitzchak part six, paragraph 100: “About accepting donations from Sabbath violators so they will have a share in the Torah learned, a Yissachar/Zevulun partnership, it was asked: I was asked by a poor scholar, to whom a certain donor offered a livelihood in exchange for some of the reward for his studies, a partnership like Yissachar and Zevulun or like Simeon the brother of Azariah; but since the donor was, Heaven help us, a Sabbath violator, he wondered whether to make this deal with him. Likewise, there are certain kollelim based on the Yissachar/Zevulun partnership — [and the question is] whether they are permitted to take from a donor who is a Sabbath violator according to the rules of such [a partnership]… Now, after all this we come to our question about making a partnership with a Sabbath violator, to share Paradise with him. Though we know not what is hidden, much less the mind of He who is above all, in any case one should highly doubt such a partnership. Though we should not lock the door in his face if he wishes to gain merit by giving charity and upholding the Torah, for our teacher R’ Moshe Schick wrote that [as long as they believe in G-d and His Torah, there is hope that they will recognize the truth and will fulfill His commandments and His Torah, and one who does not take from them locks the door in the faces of those who return], and as stated above; but about the abovementioned partnership…what Chazal said about them sharing Paradise does not apply, for not only would they be embarrassed to be there, the righteous would be embarrassed by their neighbors…”
So according to Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (the Minchat Yitzchak), who had served as the head of the beit-din of the Edah Charedit since 1970, if a secular Jew does not believe in G-d and His Torah, it is forbidden to accept charity from him, and if he believes in G-d and His Torah but violates the Sabbath, the rule is that charity is accepted from him, but one should not enter into any partnership with him about the study of Torah.
A secular Jew may not write a Torah scroll, tefillin, and mezuzot — It is clear from the Talmud and the Halachic arbiters that a secular Jew is invalid to write a Torah scroll, tefillin, and mezuzot.
Gittin 45b: “A Torah scroll, tefillin, and mezuzot written [by an apostate] or an informer, an idolater or a slave, a woman or a minor, a Samaritan or a Jewishmumar — are invalid, for it is written ‘And you shall bind…and you shall write’ (Deuteronomy 11:18-20). Only one who binds may write, and one who does not bind, may not write.”
Thus ruled the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, paragraph 39 section four: “Tefillin written by an apikoros should be burned. Some say they should be placed in a genizah.” In the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, paragraph 281 section one: “A Torah scroll written by an apikoros should be burned.”
In Biur Halacha (Rabbi Israel Meir of Radin, the author of the Chofetz Chaim, in his book Mishnah Berurah), paragraph 39 s.v. sheketavam apikoros: “…Apikoros — a Jew who does not believe in the words of our rabbis OBM… To be sure, regarding other matters such a one is considered an apikoros, but not on the matter of burning [tefillin written by him]. Regarding the latter, the law seems clear to me: that the portions written [by a Jew who does not believe in the words of Chazal] must be placed in a genizah, for it may be that the parchment was not worked with proper intent, or that G-d’s names were not written with proper intent, or that the scribe was not careful about the proper forms of letters since he does not believe in the words of Chazal. He is also suspected of causing others to stumble. If others watched over his shoulder and saw that he did everything properly, that he only wrote some of the letters in the [tefillin] portions before him or in the Torah scroll pages while they were watching him — even then one should check whether this [scribe] is included in the category of ‘one who binds’; and it would seem that a special argument is needed to permit it… Rather, one should reject it, for it is well-known that one who [has before him both something permitted and something forbidden, and yet] avoids the permitted and chooses the forbidden, even if he had done it only once, is considered an apikoros. And it is known that in our time such people are not afraid at all of transgressing the commandments, and public Sabbath violation is also common amongst them. Therefore the rule about them is as the Shach concludes there about Karaites. So it is better to erase [the portions written by such a scribe] and let someone else write them in his place. But if they cannot be erased, because they had been written in their proper order or because [the text contains] G-d’s names, the matter requires further study.”
One who carefully scrutinizes the words of the Mishnah Berurah will understand that he invalidates the secular Jew of our day, who rejects what is in the Written and Oral Torahs, and also one who is suspected of belief in the Written Torah but rejection of the Oral Torah. You must also notice that the secular Jew is forbidden to write, even if he has followed all the instructions required by Halacha.
This is one of the fields where the secular public behaves oddly. They do what they must to obtain tefillin and mezuzot and even pay full price for them, yet they don’t notice that they are forbidden to write but are permitted to buy. This is unconscionable. Imagine if the State of Israel ruled that its flags may only be manufactured by secular Jews who champion democracy while a flag manufactured by a Charedi who opposes freedom of religion may not be flown. Wouldn’t there be a great and bitter outcry from the Charedi? Perhaps the secular should at long last gird their loins and decide that they are allowed to write mezuzot. They should train scribes who love equality and freedom and write their own Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot if they happen to want to do this kind of ritual. It’s simple work and there’s no problem in doing it.
The ritual slaughter of a secular Jew is invalid — Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph two section five: “One who is a mumar for spite, even on one matter, or is an idolatrous apostate or has publicly violated the Sabbath, or one who rejects the whole Torah, even aside from those two [idolaters and Sabbath violators] — is considered as an idolater.” And the Mishnah in Chulin 13a: “The ritual slaughter of an idolater [gentile] is considered an unslaughtered dead animal.” Rashi explained: “Even [if he slaughtered] properly and others see him.”
So you see that if a secular Jew slaughters an animal or a bird, even if he followed all the laws of slaughter to their last detail, his slaughter is invalid. What a secular Jew slaughtered, even following the minutest halachic detail, is considered an unslaughtered dead animal.
See the despicable treatment being given us with the permission of the Torah and democracy [the religious and the secular authorities]. The Chief Rabbinate is given its authority to act by the secular government and its laws. It immediately takes the authority it was given by the state, most of whose citizens are secular, and invalidates the secular from all the work of Judaism.
All the laws of kashrut (based on the “Law for the prevention of deception in kashrut”) and of personal relations (based on the “Law of marriage and divorce”) were placed by the Knesset in the exclusive province of the Chief Rabbinate. And what is part of the laws of kashrut and of personal relations? That a secular Jew is invalid to slaughter, that he may not be a kashrut supervisor because he is invalid to give testimony, he may not write a Torah scroll, tefillin, and mezuzot, his wine is wine of libation and therefore he may not even work in a winery lest he touch the wine, he may not be a beit-din judge nor officiate at weddings or divorces, even if he were expert in all their details and had passed all the certification tests at Heichal Shlomo, the Chief Rabbinate.
Think what would happen if the country’s laws forbade Sabbath observers from being judges, witnesses, or if they did not permit them being doctors or veterinarians [similar to slaughterers] or being lecturers [like rabbis who lecture in the synagogue].
It is as though the rabbis said to the secular Jews “Give us the authority to invalidate you!” All who read these words immediately see the weird behavior, bordering on wickedness and stupidity, of both sides, the secular and the religious.
It is forbidden to eat a dish cooked by a secular Jew — The Halachic arbiters were divided about this, and Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef concluded that it is best if the kashrut supervisor and not the secular Jew lights the cooking fire.
In responsa Yabiah Omer part five, Yoreh Deah paragraph 10: “I was asked about canned goods manufactured by secular kibbutz members. There is supervision by a G-d-fearing scholar over the kashrut of the food itself, but since the workers all publicly violate the Sabbath with field labor, aren’t these canned goods within the bounds of gentiles’ cooking?…Even so, I say here that since many of the Achronim are stringent on the matter, it would be good to set a practice which follows all opinions: that the supervisor of that canned goods factory light the fire (by pushing an electric button) so the cooking is started by him.”
That is, if the kibbutz members light the fire the canned goods become unkosher! Therefore they need the supervisor to light the fire under the pot and not the unclean secular Jew. This is how it is: the Chief Rabbi, who is supported by the secular, Sabbath-violating public, feels no moral problem in taking money from people whose cooking he is forbidden to even eat.
Wine touched by a secular Jew is considered the wine of libation — Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah paragraph 124 section eight: “One who is pulled by his foreskin does not render wine a wine of libation [by touching it]. Amumar, even circumcised, renders wine a wine of libation by touching it [so it is forbidden for drinking].”
In responsa Yabiah Omer part one Yoreh Deah paragraph 11: “I was asked about wine touched by a mumar who publicly violates the Sabbath. Can it be permitted for drinking so as not to embarrass the mumar or is it to be forbidden as the wine of libation?” See there for his lengthy answer, bringing many opinions on the matter and his conclusion that one may be lenient with those who violate the Sabbath but believe in the Torah and the commandments. This is what he says in that response: “In our humble opinion we have found on what to rely in being lenient when they keep the Torah and the commandments but stumble by publicly violating the Sabbath for their livelihood.”
From the words of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef it is clear that if a person is completely secular [does not keep Shabbat and thinks that the Holy Writ and Halacha are human creations and not Divine], a religious person is forbidden to drink the wine he touched.
The secular Jew’s status in the synagogue
Is a secular Jew allowed an aliyah to the Torah? According to Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch the son of Yaakov Ashkenazi [the Chacham Tzvi, b. Moravia (1660), d. Lvov, Galizia (1718)], one is forbidden to give an aliyah to a secular Jew.
Responsa Chacham Tzvi paragraph 38 forbids giving an aliyah to a secular Jew: “Particularly one who publicly violates the Sabbath is like an utter gentile…How could he go up to read from the Torah in public? There is no greater disgrace of G-d and extinguishing of the light of religion than this.” Rabbi Obadiah Yosef, in Yichaveh Daat part two paragraph 16 writes in his gloss: “In truth, it is clear that according to the letter of the law a mumar who publicly violates the Sabbath is not counted as one of the seven, for he is as a gentile in all matters.” In the summary of the response above he wrote: “We should allow those who shave their beards with razors to go up to the Torah and use them to complete the count of seven. If it is possible, it is best not to use them for the seven obligatory aliyot of the day, but amongst those added on beyond the day’s obligations.”
That is, one who keeps the Sabbath but shaves with a razor should be called up after the seven obligatory readers, but one who publicly violates the Sabbath may not be called up at all.
Thus did the Tzitz Eliezer, part 11 paragraph nine, answer the question, “May we call to the Torah a Bar-Mitzvah who is not circumcised?”
“It would seem to be an embarrassment to count in the prayer quorum or call to the Torah an uncircumcised man, for his coming thus in the congregation of Israel in the synagogue is like ‘And he brought the Midianite woman to his brothers before the eyes of Moses and the whole congregation of Israel’ (Numbers 25:6). When he dares approach the holy Torah to make blessing upon it, it is as one who immerses holding something impure, and it is worse than any other type of transgressor, for he approaches with the iniquity of sin, each minute transgressing a prohibition which carries the penalty of Divine punishment by premature death, without removing it from himself. How can he possibly go up to read from the Torah in public? Is there any greater desecration of G-d and extinguishing of the light of religion? All who stand there at that time and place and do not protest will be bound in his sins and will suffer the pain of his punishment (as the responsa Chacham Tzvi put it in paragraph 38). One should not assent for fear of being shamed before the inhabitants of the place, for shall a man make his sister a whore, shall he seduce the queen while the king is in the palace, and we remain silent and even signal our consent? We should also not take into consideration that by doing this we may bring him a little closer. On the contrary, we should say: ‘Stuff an evil-doer and let him die.’ It is said of a transgressor, that as long as he is not excommunicated he is counted towards the prayer quorum of ten — but this is said only of one who sins occasionally. One who high-handedly and contentedly sins, who throws off the yoke of commandments — even one simple commandment — is of those who have no place in the World to Come…From all that is said and explained, we see that one whose parents did not circumcise him in an act of rebellion should not be called up to the Torah, nor even one who at first had no choice but now remains uncircumcised willfully; and this conclusion is in accord with both the letter and the spirit of the law. Rather than asking whether we should call such a man up to the Torah, we should ask whether we may even make a bar-mitzvah ceremony for such a man, who comes to us with his transgression. To this we should give a clear, unambiguous answer: ‘Only this way will we consent to you: if you become like us and circumcise every male’ (Genesis 34:15).”
There you have it: deaf religious zealotry in all its glory.
The secular Jew does not join the prayer quorum — Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim paragraph 55 section 11: “A criminal who has transgressed against a public ordinance, or a sinner, if he has not been excommunicated — is counted in a prayer quorum.”
The Mishnah Berurah explains in paragraphs 46-47: “Or a sinner — the Pri Megadim wrote that this is one who sins due to his appetites, but if he does so for spite, even on a single matter, or if he is a mumar who worships idols or publicly violates the Sabbath, he is considered as a gentile and does not join…and the sect called the Karaites do not join the ten, for they do not accept the Oral Torah. Likewise, any who rejects the Oral Torah does not join in any holy assembly.”
A secular cohen may not give the priestly blessing — Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim paragraph 128 section 37: “One who is an idolatrous mumar shall not give the priestly blessing.” In the Mishnah Berurah paragraph 128 subparagraph 134: “And similarly if he is a mumar who publicly violates the Sabbath, he is as an idolator and shall not give the priestly blessing.”
See how Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef twists and turns in light of the unpleasantness of invalidating secular cohanim.
In responsa Yabiah Omer part seven Orach Chayim paragraph 15: “I was asked about a cohen who does not fulfill the Torah and the commandments. Should one prevent him from giving the priestly blessing?…Thus ruled our rabbi in the Shulchan Aruch (in paragraph nine): ‘A cohen who marries a divorcee shall not give the priestly blessing.’…But if he defiles the priestly sanctity, by marrying a woman inappropriate for a cohen, or becoming impurified by the dead, this is a special blemish to a cohen, so the Sages punished him by stating he shall not serve nor give the priestly blessing… Still, we have to decide whether a cohen who publicly violates the Sabbath should be prevented from giving the priestly blessing, for our rabbi the Shulchan Aruch (in paragraph 128, section 37) wrote that an idolatrous mumar shall not give the priestly blessing. And the Pri Chadash wrote there that it is the same if he publicly violates the Sabbath, in which case he is considered as an idolater and should not give the priestly blessing until he repents… But, to our sorrow, the transgressors have so multiplied in recent generations, and in several communities there are Sabbath violating cohanim, preventing whom from fulfilling the commandment to give the priestly blessing they will cause many strifes and fights, [causing what is written] ‘Your people are quarrelling with priests’ (Hosea 4:4). And since we have not the power to lay out all religious laws (Maimonides, in chapter 11 of Laws of Sanhedrin, and Tur Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat paragraph 17 section three), we have seen it necessary to seek for the [lenient] voices on this matter… We conclude that one need not prevent a Sabbath-violating cohen from joining his priestly brothers in giving the priestly blessing. If there is no other cohen, it would be best to convince him to step out of the synagogue and not give the blessing (as written in responsa Kinyan Torah part one, end of paragraph 35). And if this is also impossible, we should turn a blind eye on the issue and let him give the priestly blessing.”
A secular Jew may not lead the prayers — Mishnah Berurah paragraph 126 subparagraph two:
“Know, that all opinions uphold, that one who is known to reject the idea of the resurrection of the dead or to not to believe the future redemption, and certainly if he does not believe in the divinity of the Torah or in reward and punishment [meted from Heaven] — he is an utter apikorus and it is forbidden to let him lead the prayers. If he forced the issue, we do not answer Amen to him.”
We see that a secular Jew who wants to pray with his community (though he is not scrupulous about the commandments), according to most Halachic arbiters and halachot is not considered one of those who comes to the synagogue, but is what the prayer-leader speaks about on the eve of the Day of Atonement: “On the eve of the Day of Atonement the prayer-leader usually says: In the assembly above and in the assembly below, according to the opinion of the Omnipresent and the opinion of the community, we permit praying with sinners [including Sabbath violators]” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim paragraph 619 section one).
Anyone who reads what we wrote in this essay will see the deep cultural and ideological divisions which exist between the two populations, secular and religious. It can be said that on the one hand these two groups cannot live under the same roof, yet on the other, neither side wants to live alone.
The religious public needs the secular public, the source of its national security and economy, and even the laws and regulations pertinent to the running of a modern society. (The Orthodox know very well that though Halacha may allow them to embitter a secular Jew’s life by its demands, it cannot be used to run a modern state.) The secular public needs the religious for the cultural symbols which the secular do not wish to disavow.
Both lead us to social disaster. The Orthodox public suffers from intellectual impotence when it comes to an honest and deep discussion of the Halachic status of modern secular Jews. Today’s rabbis try to bring proofs from early sources which discussed mumarim and koferim when the religious reality was of a mostly Torah and commandment observant community. Now the public atmosphere, both among the Jews and in the whole world, is vastly different, but the rabbis are bound by frozen Halachic rules and create only a patchwork of rulings and laws. On the one hand the secular Jew’s wine is the wine of libation, but on the other hand it is forbidden to kill him, and one must bring him closer through ties of love. On the one hand the secular Jew’s slaughter is invalid, and on the other they will perform marriage ceremonies for him and even make sure to legislate in Israeli law that personal relationship law is governed by the Chief Rabbinate. On the one hand one is forbidden to eat from a secular Jew’s cooking, and on the other the rabbis will make any effort to ensure that secular Jews eat kosher food. This becomes ridiculous and absurd, and even sometimes morally corrupt. On the one hand one is forbidden to accept charity from a secular Jew who rejects the Torah and the commandments, but in reality all the livelihood of the religious and Charedi rabbinate comes from the charity of those secular apostates…
If you ask the rabbis, who have at their disposal political parties represented in the Knesset and even in the government, “What is your political vision?” the rabbis will immediately answer “A Halachic state” — yet they have no idea how this kind of state, whose laws would be Halachic, would look.
How would a Halachic state treat a secular Jew? Would he be disallowed to testify? Would he not be allowed to take part in the state’s judicial system? Would women, even the Sabbath observant, also be invalid to testify and to judge? This is what Rabbi Shlomo Goren, considered a moderate Israeli rabbi, wrote in his book Torat Medina (pg. 230): “We conclude from this that the Jewish Torah demands enforcement of 613 commandments on the Jews, and seven commandments on the Gentiles. This means not only punishment after the transgression, but also the proactive enforcement of positive commandments by any means possible.” How exactly will this happen? Halacha police? The renewal of the four deaths mandated by the beit-din? Rabbi Goren did not explain this in his book. Anyone who reads this book will immediately see that all his rulings are from the Talmud and Rabbinic literature, determined and practiced in totally different times, and all are neither here nor there.
Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz OBM already screamed about this in his book “Judaism, the Jewish People, and the State of Israel” (pg. 105): “The religious public which actively participates in the nation’s political movements, in building a homeland and designing the independence of the sovereign state coined the slogan ‘The land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel,’ but in the course of a generation and a half not a man, institution, or movement has arose among them which would explain to them — no need to say to everyone else — what ‘the Torah of Israel’ means for the present State of Israel and the nation of Israel. When we do not have these Halachic decisions about Jews and their individual and personal realities and we have neither the understanding needed to enact new legislation on the relationship between society and the state nor the will to set such religious legislation…[pg. 106] from this stems the moral weakness and lack of ideological backing of the Rabbinate when it discusses problems such as Jewish labor, conscription, and the like, which stem from the unique reality of our days — …therefore the religious public is left, for all the pressing questions of our day, as sheep without a shepherd, without religious leadership.”
And the secular public too is like a herd which has abandoned its cultural resources to the rabbis and the religious and Charedi public, and even gave them legal authority to treat the secular Jews according to Halacha, which is totally contrary to the secular Jews’ fundamental values. Go see how much humiliation and absurdity there is in the fact that rabbis wed secular couples although no secular person may be allowed to function as a witness to the ceremony. (All marriage ceremonies require two witnesses who see the act of matrimony and say “She is betrothed” — a secular Jew is invalid to be this sort of witness, too.) Secular Jews have abandoned the giving of kashrut certification to the rabbis, who are racists and forbid contact with the secular Jew’s and the gentile’s wine and even forbid the eating of what a gentile or a secular Jew cooks. On the one hand secular Jews give funds for building synagogues and on the other they abandon the cultural resource embodied in the synagogue (literally — the building in which the community gathers, not necessarily for prayer!) to rabbis who do not allow them to be an inseparable part of the synagogue community.
We find that even the secular community has no program or plan and has no clue how it wants the historic Jewish culture to look.
Until the secular community girds its loins and deals seriously and at depth with what type of culture, virtual rituals, what texts and holiday events it wants to adopt, and which halachic matters or viewpoints they want to reject and eject from their midst, until then they cannot complain against the Rabbinate which treats them in accordance with Halacha. How silly and pitiful it is to see that the secular have abandoned the laws and rituals of burial in the hands of the rabbis, and when they uphold Halacha and bury a non-Jew who died bravely in war, defending Israel, outside the cemetery fence, the secular scream and shout. You, the secular, gave them and their laws control — and now you complain that they use this control to enforce halachic laws?
Therefore we say to the democratic public, “How long can you have it both ways? If democracy is important to you, follow it. If the rabbis are important, follow them. But if you have decided that your way is that of the liberal-humanistic and democratic world, then don’t hand your cultural resources to rabbis but rise, deepen your knowledge of Jewish culture, and become its fearless and unhesitating owners: yes, exactly so! If you want it, write your own Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot for yourselves and your communities. Bury your own dead in ceremonies of your own choosing. (It is your right to choose an Orthodox ceremony, with or without a rabbi, with or without kaddish, with cutting kriyah or without.) Celebrate holidays and events and perform marriages and divorces according to your own world view.
Once again do what Jews throughout the ages have done: turn to the texts, interpret them as you will, and then design your cultural world according to your interpretation.
You are Jews and Judaism belongs to you!
Daat Emet is an organization founded in 1998 by scholars from the Charedi world. In the course of their studies they understood that all the Holy Writ and Halacha are not divinely written (as is taught in yeshivas) but are human creations like all other human creations.
All the articles published by Daat Emet have been published for the lofty purpose of showing and proving that Judaism as a culture is much more deserving than as a religion. As a religion, Judaism is not free of error in its laws nor from xenophobia (mainly of the gentile, the non-Jew), despises the secular Jew who does not keep commandments (as we have shown in this essay), and discriminates against women, the disabled, and the different (such as homosexuals). We have pamphlets which clearly show the mistakes Chazal made in the Talmud and from which they set many erroneous halachot. We also show the changes Halacha underwent and prove that this is the way of all cultures, which change in changing times and places.
Daat Emet’s goal is to introduce into the secular, religious, and Charedi publics the notion of Jewish culture as a human creation, because the belief enshrined in these publics, that the Jewish nation was chosen by G-d, who “gave us the Torah and the commandments at the Sinai Revelation,” is a dangerous belief.
This belief leads to racist thinking — for if the Jews are chosen, any who are not Jews are not chosen, and therefore are inferior and have fewer rights. More than that: If the Jew is chosen by his G-d merely to fulfill the Torah and the commandments, a Jew who does not fulfill the Torah and the commandments is a sinner against G-d and Man. He should be treated as such and “dealt” with.
Daat Emet thinks that these kinds of beliefs, together with the political power behind them, are a clear and present danger to the democratic nature of the State of Israel. If a belief takes hold within Israel that the Jewish nation is chosen above all people, that the Jews are to be “a light to the Gentiles,” that gentiles and secular Jews are inferior and that there is no place for women in public life — democracy will meet its end and all a citizen’s liberties and rights (which are not mentioned in the Jewish faith) will be repealed and will disappear.
Therefore all who love liberty are invited to join our movement and our fight: to make a complete separation between state and religion, to safeguard individual liberties, to grant rights and invoke obligations equally upon all citizens.
We see a special importance in the immediate enforcement of a true compulsory education act for all Israeli students, meaning compulsory education in democratic values and basic core subjects (English, math, history, geography, and civics) for all Israeli citizens, particularly the Charedi, who presently are unwilling to learn these subjects at all.
Any who are interested in joining or making a donation are invited to contact us.
P.O. Box 39425
Tel Aviv 61393
For anyone who seeks true knowledge, below is a list of the pamphlets and essays which have been printed to date.
Pamphlet 1 – discussion of Chazal’s error in saying that there is spontaneous generation of living organisms from non-living matter.
Pamphlet 2 – discussion of Chazal’s error regarding the anatomy of animals, which led them to make erroneous Halachic rulings on treifah.
Pamphlet 3 – a zoological error in the Torah: neither hare (arnevet) nor hyrax (shafan) bring up their cud.
Pamphlet 4 – Chazal supposed that the earth is flat and the sky is a dome, which served them as basis for making Halachic rulings on the times of beginning and end of the Sabbath.
Pamphlet 5 – clarification of Chazal’s knowledge regarding the length of the lunar cycle (the synodic month).
Pamphlet 6 – clarification of Chazal’s knowledge regarding the length of the year, which served as basis for determining the Jewish calendar.
Pamphlet 7 – discussion of Chazal’s error regarding the anatomy of women’s reproductive systems, which led them to make erroneous Halachic rulings onniddah.
Pamphlet 8 – the Oral Torah, as well as the Holy Writ, are human constructs.
Pamphlet 9 – changes in the letters of the Torah scroll, in spelling, script and count.
Essay – What the Sages Knew About Fish
Essay – The Variety of Torah Texts according to Koren, Breuer, Leningrad, and the changes from the versions of the Talmud and the Medrash.
Essay – The Status of Women in Halacha
Essay – Morality in Halacha
Essay – What the Sages Knew About Pi
Essay – The determination of the Shemita year, based on the disappearance of 170 years in the Persian and Greek periods!
Essay – A clarification of true prophecy and false, according to the Sages.
Essay – A refutation of Letter Skips in the Torah
Essay – Lubavitcher Rebbe
The following essays are available on our web site, but have not yet been released in print:
Weekly Torah portion (soon available in book form)
Mezuzah –is it required in non-residential settings (such as universities, offices, and cultural centers)?
Gentiles in Halacha — by Rabbi David Bar-Chaim