Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Not everything an Apikores writes is Apikorsus. If an Apikores writes a Sefer Torah we burn it NOT because the Sefer Torah c"v is Apikorsus – its not; it’s a regular Sefer Torah - but rather because we do not want to "recognize" the religious contributions of apikorsim, "kdei shelo lehaniach shem l'apikorsim."

As far as whether if you believe Apikorsus that automatically makes you an Apikores, the answer is not always. Here are the rules:

1) Apikorsus (a.k.a. “meenus” a.k.a kefirah – the words are often used interchangeably) is anything that is contrary to the Torah's opinion, regardless of whether it contradicts one of the 13 Ikarim or not.

2) Not everybody who says Apikorsus is himself an Apikores. As the Chazon Ish writes about a piece of Apikorsus he saw in a certain sefer: "Even though the author was a Yorei Hashem, he worshipped Apikorsus unwittingly." A similar sentiment was expressed by Rav Yosef Yedid ZTL regarding Rav Kook: "Even though there is a way to judge him a little favorably, that he himself is not a Min and Apikores ... but regardless of whether we are going to judge him to be an Apikores, for sure these words that come from his mouth are Minus and Apikorsus."

3) To be a full fledged Apikores yourself, which means we have no mitzvah to love you, - on the contrary, there is a Mitzvah to loathe you (“l’snoso”); we don’t return your lost items; your wine is yayin nesech; you lose your share in Olam Habah; you are, for all practical purposes, not part of Klall Yisroel, and you have the status of a goy regarding all privileges (even though you are still obligated to fulfill all the Mitzvos) – for that, you have to disagree with one of the 13 Ikarim, regardless of whether you are doing so on purpose or out of ignorance. That is, even if you don’t realize that you are disagreeing with them, you are still a full fledged Apikores, as Rav Chaim Brisker ZTL used to say: Nebach an Apikores is oich an Apikores "Someone who is an Apikores through no fault of his own is an Apikores nonetheless". If you knowingly disagree with anything the Torah says, meaning, you know the Torah says such-and-such, and then you say “The Torah is wrong,” you are in this category as well.

4) Even if you do not actually deny one of the 13 Principles, but merely are unsure about it, you are still a full fledged Apikores. You must be convinced of the absolute truth of these 13 Principles in order to get your share in Olam Habah and be considered part of Klall Yisroel, as per #3 above.

5) There is a disagreement between the Rambam and the Raavad regarding someone who, in the course of his Torah learning, makes an honest mistake, misunderstands something he sees in the Torah, and erroneously derives from the Torah a belief that is actually Apikorsus. The Rambam holds this person is an Apikores and the Raavad holds that he is not.

5a) Even the Ravad, however, agrees that even though the person himself is not considered an Apikores, his mistaken belief is indeed considered Apikorsus.

6) Please see my post elsewhere on the site that explains why 5a above is not a contradiction to Rav Chaim’s rule of nebach a Apikores is also an Apikores. {I don't know which post R' Mod was speaking of, but it seems to be explained below -taon}

7) Even Orthodox people who fulfill all of Torah and Mitzvos can be full-fledged Apikorsim. Said the Chazon Ish, “There are people whose homes are sufficiently kosher that you may eat the meat, the fish, and all of their food, but there’s only one food item you can’t eat: You can’t drink their wine, because their Hashkofos make it yayin nesech”. Even great Talmidei Chachamim can be Apikorsim. The Rambam states that even if a person has great wisdom and has great merits due to his Torah knowledge, he is still a full-fledged Apikores if he does not believe in the 13 Ikarim.

8) There is a belief held by many people that you have to know the whole Torah, or at least some great measure of it, in order to be an Apikores. This is a myth. There is no such thing. As long as you deny one of the Yesodei Hadas, one of the Fundemntals of our Religion, you are an Apikores. There is also a myth, believed by many, that there is “no such thing” as an Apikores nowadays. This, like the “kol haTorah kulah” myth, is a fairy tale. (Historically, they both cropped up as baseless rationalizations of religious Zionists who befriended and sometimes even raised to the stature of heroes, atheist Zionist Apikorsim. Through these wishful ideas, they attempted to remove those atheist enemies of G-d and Torah from the category or Apikorsim)

8a) In order to preempt what I have heard on more than one occasion cited as “a source” for the above myth, the Chazon Ish does not say anywhere any such thing. On the contrary, on numerous occasions he declares people to be Apikorsim, including frum Jews, as per #7 above. What he did say is that the Halachah of Moridin v’Lo Maalin – that you are allowed to kill an Apikores – does not apply nowadays, because we are not able to fulfill the prerequisite of properly giving them tochachah before hand, as well as the lack of open miracles nowadays.

9) Even though usually we have a rule that we try to be melamed zechus (judge favorably) on Jews, where an Apikores is concerned, the contrary is true. We are not melamed zechus at all. On the contrary, someone who refuses to curse the Apikorsim, is halachicly suspect to be an Apikores himself.
Slifkin, in SOT pp.105-106 is not aware of this Halachah. He did not realize there is a difference between a heretic and someone that professes heresy. He writes that no belief is heretical unless is violates the 13 Ikarim. (Even though he himself admits that interpreting certain parts of the Torah as allegorical is indeed heretical, even though he does not explain why this would be so - why would interpreting only certain parts of the Torah as allegorical violate the 13 Ikarim and not others? He also does not explain, according to him, which parts of the Torah you can allegorize and which you can’t. The reader is left to determine what is heresy and what is not according to his own imagination.)


According to the Rambam, “Apikores” comes from the root “hefker” meaning to devalue or unbind. The Apikores devalues the Torah and its scholars. Another interpretation: the apikores acts unbound to the Torah (Bartenura).

The classic Apikores is someone who denies the concept of prophecy in general, or the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu specifically, or who claims that Hashem does not know everything that happens on earth (Rambam Teshuva 3:8). Other various types of heretics are included in Apikores according to other Rishonim. Examples include someone who denies the coming of Moshiach, someone who purposely twists the meaning of the Torah, someone who interprets the mitzvos figuratively, someone who blatantly violates the Torah, someone who does not respect the Yomim Tovim, and other assorted types of anti-Torah behaviors. See the meforshim on the Mishna Sanhedrim 90a for details.

But there are others who are considered as bad as an Apikores, and we call those Apikorsim too. Those are people who deny the truth of the Torah, including the Oral Torah (i.e. the Mishna, Gemora, etc.), people who commit sins not for any worldly gain but rather they don’t care about the fact that it is a sin or don’t consider it a sin. (see Rambam Commentary on Mishna Chulin 1:2 and Avodah Zarah 2:5, Laws of Murderers 4:10, and meforshim ad loc).

Apikorsim are considered worse than idol worshipers, and although they are still obligated in all Mitzvos, they lose all privileges and qualifications that Jews have, and are considered Halachicly like non-Jews regarding all Halachos, such as shechitah, returning lost items, etc. They have no share in Olam Habah (Mishna Sanhedrim 90a) and when they die their relatives do not mourn for them (Rambam Laws of Mourning 1:10). We are actually allowed to indirectly cause their death (Avodah Zarah 26a).

Rav Chaim Soloveichik ZT”L (quoted in Kovetz Maamarim by R. Elchonon Wasserman) said the reason for an Apikores losing his share in the World to Come is not a punishment, but rather it is not possible to be resurrected without the merit of belief (emunah). Therefore, even if someone was never taught Torah (tonik shnishbah) he still does not merit the world to come, because although he is not punished for his not being a believer, he also cannot get credit for believing.

According to the Chazon Ish, the level of Apikores in the Gemora, where the Halachah allows us to cause his death, does not apply nowadays, since today we do not see open miracles on the same level that we used to, a denier of the Torah is not guilty to the extent that one may kill him. On the contrary, we should try to be mekarev them and cause them to do teshuva (YD 13).

The Satmar Rav ZT”L writes that an Apikores sins because he does not believe, but if someone convinces himself that he does not believe because he will otherwise feel guilty about sinning, “perhaps” he is not what Chazal meant by Apikores (Divrei Yoel Sukkah).

If a person disagrees with any of the Torah’s opinions at all (Daas Torah) he is guilty of Apikursus (Sefer Hachinuch, lo sasuru acharei levavcham, Mishna Brura Biur Halachah 1), and violates a prohibition of lo sasuru acharei levavchem. Though one would not consider him a full fledged Apikores regarding all of the above unless he either purposely disagreed with the Torah, meaning he knows the Torah believes one way and disagrees, or denies one of the Fundamentals of Judaism, even unwittingly (see Kovetz Maamarim above). The Chazon Ish once wrote about a statement in the Sefer Binah L’Itim that he considered Apikursus, “Even though the author was a Yorei Shamayim, he worshipped Apikursus unwittingly (b’shogeg)”.

The Sefer HaIkarrim (I) writes that if a person, through Torah scholarship and honest and objective Torah reasoning, concludes something different than the truth, he would not be considered an Apikores, such as Rabbi Hillel in the Gemora, who holds that Moshiach is not coming (we don’t rule like him, obviously). An honest mistake on the level of honesty and Torah objectivity of Rabbi Hillel would not qualify one as Apikores, even if badly mistaken.

So the status of Apikores depends on: (a) what you deny and (b) why you deny it.

There were rabbis who, because of their Hashkafos, were not accepted in various circles, as their beliefs were considered by others to be full fledged Apikorsus.


In general, if Al Tischaber L'Rosho afilu l'torah applies to a Tonik Shenishbah, which it might, because the issue is the influence it may have on you, in which case being a Tinok Shenishbah would not make a difference - the influence is the same - can you associate with an apikores or tinok shenishbah to influence them for the better?

I asked a number of Poskim about this and got different answers: Rav Elyashev told me that al tischaber does not mean because of the influence but rather because the Rasha will not listen to you, which would not apply to a tinok shenishba.

(Note: Many meforshim say that al tischaber indeed is because of the influence, so one would imagine that Rav Elyashev reasoning would not apply).

Rav Shlomo Zalman ZTL told me is indeed does apply; Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher told me it does not, because if so, then we would prohibit Bishul Akum of a tinok shenishba as well.

I responded saying that the Minchas Elozor indeed prohibits bishul akum of a tinok shenishba for that very reason - because of the influence, to which Rav Fisher told me he doesn’t hold like that Minchas Elozor.

So we have a Machlokes.

There is also a question regarding bitul reshus by an eruv chatzeros by a tinok shnishba. Even though ain dino k'akum, but if the issue is influence, perhaps it makes no difference and in this regard we give the tinok shenishba a similar status as any non-tinok shnishba.

It is a machlokes between the Mishna Brura and the Chazon Ish.

But in any case, when I said what I said about hischabrus l'reshayin in the case of a rally, I was referring to the other-denominational rabbinate, who were recognized as such. It was presented by the non-frum Jewish camp not as merely an "open" rally where anyone could come, but a great show of unity in that the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations all got together - the rabbis worked together etc - for a multi-denominational rally.

In that sense, it clearly recognized multiple denominations of Judaism which is wrong.

In the Orthodox world it was not presented that way because it was against our policies, but that’s the way it was understood, and presented to and by the non-frum "clergy" and their congregations.

Of course, the above machlokes that I mentioned applies to a nebach Apikores. But someone who is aware of Judaism and has rejected it, we do not try to help. It's kind of like what you would tell you daughter if she asked, mommy, if I cant go into the car alone with that creepy child molester, how can I ever help him?

Sometimes people have to live with their decisions. When someone kills themselves, they are past help. And although there is always Teshuva even for apikorsim, that is like techyias hameisim, if you want an analogy, and they have to do it on their own.

Apikorsim like that are the subjects of our prayer Vlamalshinim that we pray 3x a day. Look at the translation and see. There is a fine line between our wounded, who we are willing to help even at great cost, versus our enemies, who we stay away from. The willing Apikores has crossed that line and joined the enemy. They can always come back, and change sides again, but until then, it is their choice.


While it is true that you get credit for a Mitzvah regardless of the motive for performing it, that is only if you believe it is a Mitzvah that you are doing.

So if I, let’s say, send away the mother bird before taking the eggs because I am on a class trip in the park and my Rebbe made me do so, I still get a Mitzvah. In this case, I know it is a Mitzvah of the Torah, I would just not be sufficiently motivated to perform it without my Rebbe bothering me.

Bit if I don’t believe in Judaism, but rather the Bird God, and I send away the mother bird not because it is a Mitzvah from Hashem but rather a command of the Bird People from Planet Bird that upon performance will usher in the Second Coming of the Bird God, then I do not get a Mitzvah. This is because I do not even think of the act of sending the bird away as a Mitzvah to begin with.

Same thing if I do a Mitzvah in my sleep. It’s the motions of a Mitzvah, but it’s not a Mitzvah.

Same thing if I am an atheist. If I don’t believe in a Commander then I do not believe that my act is a Mitzvah (commandment).

There are unacceptable deviations from proper Hashkafa, and if the deviation is sufficiently great, the person is no longer practicing Judaism but another religion. If someone believes that G-d is a pot-bellied gold statue, or He impregnated a married woman and had a child (c”v), then he not only has a Hashkafic error, but he is practicing another religion. And if he does a Mitzvah, he is not doing a Mitzvah because G-d said so, but rather because of some imaginary being who he thinks is G-d said so. His god is not G-d. And his Mitzvah is not a Mitzvah.


Apikorsim are a danger to Klall Yisroel; disabusing ourselves of their presence protects their victims. They are predators, and that is by their own choice. Nobody asked them to be Apikorsim.

(Incidentally, you can't just "kill" them directly - the halachah of moridim velo maalin means indirectly causing their demise).

The Chazon Ish writes that this halachah is not applicable nowadays since we don't really know how to present Judaism in a way that would make their choice to be apikorim a capital crime; it's our fault, partly, that the apikorsim are the way they are, so we can't kill them (they are never "after tochachah").


There is such a thing as an evil person, but so far I have not seen anyone on the boards that qualify.

These people are enemies of Hashem. They willingly and purposely deny G-d's existence, or His power, or His Torah. Basically, they argue with the Torah itself. It's not that they mistakenly believe something against the Torah, or they mistakenly think that the Torah believes something it doesn't. Rather, they know what the Torah says and they argue with it. Or, they have the ability to know what the Torah says and argue with it.

These people are called "apikorsim", or "minim". They are worse than "rishaim" - we pray for rishaim to do teshuva. These we pray simply to be gone (in the brachah of v'lamalshinim).

Can an Apikores do teshuva? Yes he can. It has happened. But if they were real apikorsim - evil incarnate - and they did real teshuva, their neshomos would not take the shock, and they would die. Their Teshuva works, and they give their life for it. The Gemara tells of people to whom this happened.

Qualifier: Some people who claim to deny the Torah don't really deny it at all. Their denial is just an excuse to be able to do the aveiros that they want to do without guilt. Their temptations mess with their head and they figure easier to fool myself into denying the Torah than to feel guilty. These may not be real "apikorsim", as their denial of the Torah is merely a result of psychological denial of their sins.

Certainly someone who out of anger, or simply a lack of Yiras Shamayim violates the Torah, is not an Apikores. He's certainly not a Tzadik, and he could be a rashah - it depends - but a rasha is still not an Apikores.

Important: The above is just a general explanation. The status of "apikores" is a halachic issue subject to myriad details and Halachos. Do not rely on the little, general knowledge contained here to determine real life status of people. For that, you have to consult a posek in real life.




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