Sunday, July 26, 2020

Rambam's Zealous Heresy-Hunting


Does Judaism believe that rabbis who issue certain problematic statements are wicked heretics who should be executed?

Rabbi Yaron Reuven and Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi have been broadcasting that view to their thousands of followers. And they have been issuing the label of heretic to a "Blacklist" of figures as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, myself, and others, including people who challenge their lectures. In a previous post, "Laughable Lunatics or Dangerous Inciters?" I harshly criticized them for this. While I'm not at familiar with many of the rabbis on the list, the ones that I do know are certainly not heretics! But even from Mizrachi/ Reuven's perspective on the opinions shared by these rabbis, it's completely unacceptable to brand them as wicked heretics who deserve to be executed. And it's effectively incitement to murder (and it is naive to think otherwise, when you never know who is watching YouTube videos).

On the other hand, with regarding to the claim of Reuven and Mizrachi that they are merely accurately presenting the authentic Jewish approach to heretics, several people claimed in the comments that they are actually correct. Some have written to me with grave concern about this possibility. And, when you look at certain statements in the classical sources, there is indeed reason to be troubled.

We tend to associate Rambam with the concept of freedom of thought. This is due to both Rambam's liberal/ radical approach to many topics, and the efforts to ban Rambam's rationalist approach (both 800 years ago and in our own generation). But the truth is that Rambam himself was not only opposed to freedom of thought - he was actually a harsh zealot against it. Just take a look at these shocking paragraphs from Rambam:
"...The apikorsim - and those are the ones who deny the Torah and the prophecy from Israel - it is a mitzvah to kill them. If one has the power to kill them with the sword in public, one kills them; and if not, one should approach them surreptitiously to bring about their death. For example, if he sees one of them that fell into a well, and there is a ladder in the well, he should rush to remove the ladder, and say that he needs it to take his son down from the roof and will return it, and suchlike." (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Rotze'ach, 4:10)
"Someone who does not acknowledge the Oral Torah... is a heretic, and his death is at the hands of anyone... he is lowered into a pit, and not raised out... there is no need for witnesses (to his deeds) or for warnings or for judges. Rather, whoever kills such a person has done a great mitzvah, and removed a stumbling block." (Hilchot Mamrim 3:1-2)
There you have it! Rambam states that heretics are liable for the death penalty, and moreover that this is to be executed outside of the judicial system!

Well, the good news is that there are a number of responses to be made to this, which I will now provide. (An excellent thorough treatment of this topic can be found in Gerald J. Blidstein, "The 'Other' in Maimonidean Law," Jewish History 18:2/3 (2004), pp. 173-195.) This post will conclude with a very appropriate lesson for the week of Tisha B'Av.

I. Rambam's Novel Approach to Intellectual Beliefs


This website is an exploration into the rationalist approach to Judaism, most prominently advocated by Rambam. Most of us strongly identify with his approach to many topics - the non-literal approach to Tanach, the willingness to accept the truth from whatever the source, the respect for science, and so on. Many aspects of Rambam's approach are grounded in earlier writings of the Geonim (and Chazal), and are supported by other Rishonim.

On the other hand, there are some aspects of Rambam's worldview which are a novelty and completely at odds with the rest of rabbinic thought. As the Vilna Gaon pointed out, this is because Rambam was strongly influenced by his Greco-Islamic environment. The Vilna Gaon saw this as solely negative; while others of us might see aspects of it as positive, there are also aspects that we might indeed agree to be negative. But, whatever one's opinion of these views, the Vilna Gaon is certainly correct that they were influenced by  Grego-Islamic philosophy and are not part of traditional Judaism.

In particular, Rambam's position that intellectual perfection is the ultimate purpose of existence is at odds with normative Judaism. Traditional Judaism, both before and after Rambam, places far greater weight on what a person does than on what a person thinks. The Torah, Mishnah and Talmud are very concerned with all kinds of details regarding a person's actions, but nowhere is there a list of required and/or forbidden beliefs. We might speak about the "kosherness test" of people adhering to Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith, but that's really just out of convenience; the real criteria are whether people are loyal to the halachic community and do not publicly undermine its treasured beliefs. (See part two of my review/critique of Menachem Kellner's Must A Jew Believe Anything? and my article in Hakirah, "They Could Say It, We Cannot: Defining the Charge of Heresy.")

II. Rambam's Placement of Punishment in Human rather than Divine Hands


The Mishneh Torah may appear to be simply a codification of the laws found in the Talmud, but this is far from the case. For example, Marc Shapiro's fascinating Studies in Maimonides and his Interpreters documents the many cases in which Rambam modified and adapted Talmudic rulings in order to remove superstitious aspects. Heresy is another striking example. When the Mishnah condemns certain specific heretical statements, it states that those who espouse them have lost their share in the World-to-Come. There is no mention of any consequences or punishment by Beit Din, let alone authorizing retribution outside of Beit Din.

Now, it might appear that Rambam is simply following the ruling in the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 26b) about certain people who are to be "lowered into a pit." However, first of all, this is a strange rule, which is not found in the Yerushalmi, nor mentioned anywhere else in the Talmud's many rulings about dealing with problematic people. Second, the Gemara states this rule with regard to sectarians, informers (note - this does not mean people going to the FBI about child molesters or whistle-blowers on Ponzi schemes), and mumarim (ideologically committed sinners), not to people with deviant beliefs.

As Blidstein points out, Biblical and Talmudic law punished unacceptable behavior but not intolerable ideology. Rambam was making an innovation which deviated strongly from classical Judaism (and which may have been influenced by Islamic philosophy, which advocated force to compel belief). Contrary to Yaron Reuven's claim, the Sanhedrin would not put people to death for heretical beliefs.

III. Rambam's Moderation of his Harsh Stance


Rambam's harsh approach to heretics was primarily targeted towards Karaites, the heretical sect of his day who rejected the authority of the Oral Law. And yet, as Rambam grew older, he dramatically softened his approach and re-wrote parts of his works. He redefined the ruling about killing heretics to make it effectively both prohibited and inappropriate; scholars have shown that these are later changes to his works. Rambam's way of nullifying his ruling was to argue that descendants of the Karaites are not accountable for their false beliefs, since they are equivalent to the tinok shenishbah, the child captured by idolaters, who has been raised to believe false doctrines and is rated as anus (sinning under duress).

Fascinatingly, Blidstein observes that this is flawed as legal comparison, since in the actual case of a tinok shenishbah, Rambam does not rule him to be an anus but rather a shogeg (inadvertent sinner). Furthermore, the leniency for a tinok shenishbah is usually not applicable once the person has been freed and re-educated, whereas Rambam is willing to extend this leniency to Karaites who are exposed to rabbinic thought. However, since Rambam's initial harsh approach to Karaites was not founded in Talmudic law, it's easier for him to walk it back!

IV. Seeing Heresy Everywhere


There is another major problem with Mizrachi and Reuven championing their heresy-hunting as merely continuing the tradition from Rambam. While Rambam himself applied the status of heretic to new areas of philosophical beliefs, Mizrachi and Reuven go much further, attempting to disqualify as many people as they can.

Every belief with which Mizrachi and Reuven disagree, every action by a rabbi that they object to, turns the rabbi into a rasha and a heretic! The rabbi invited a Christian or Muslim as a guest speaker to a panel discussion? He's a rasha and a heretic! The rabbi has views on Biblical figures that you disagree with? He's a rasha and a heretic! Now, obviously from the perspective of many of us, there's nothing at all wrong with such things; but even from the perspective that something is indeed incorrect, even if it is wrong, this does not necessarily mean that is actually heretical, that it renders one disqualified from the Jewish community.

Incredibly, Mizrachi and Reuven even apply the status of heresy to beliefs held by Rambam himself! Their accusations against Rabbi Sacks and myself are based on the charge that it is heretical to read portions of the Creation account allegorically, or to say that Chazal erred on statements about the natural world. And yet both of these positions are, of course, advocated by none other than Rambam himself!

V. The Living Tradition vs. the Book Tradition


Finally, there is a more fundamental problem with Mizrachi and Reuven seeking out people to identify as heretics and labeling them as deserving of execution, and claiming this to be nothing other than presenting a truthful picture of traditional Judaism. As Haym Soloveitchik famously explained in Rupture And Reconstruction, there is a world of difference between the Book Tradition and the Living Tradition.

To be sure, if you search the writings of Chazal and the Rishonim, you can find various extreme statements. But these are not part of the Living Tradition. With the rare exception of the occasional zealot, the general rabbinic community did not (and does not) go around trying to find ways to disqualify popular and accepted rabbis as heretics who should be killed. They didn't issue "Blacklists of 14 Heretics." Perhaps Mizrachi and Reuven's mistake is due to their being late and recent returnees to observant Judaism who are not sufficiently grounded in tradition.

The normative approach is perhaps best illustrated by considering the case of the Chazon Ish. He himself was certainly towards the zealous end of the spectrum, and had highly conservative views on theology. Nevertheless, when it came to discussing Rambam's rule of "lowering heretics into the pit," the Chazon Ish says that it simply isn't applicable. He writes that when there is no open proof of God's presence, those who deny the Divine cannot be held accountable. Attempts to destroy such people, says the Chazon Ish, do not solve any problems, but rather are themselves a serious problem. Instead, he writes, one is simply to reach out to heretics with love, and attempt to influence them positively.

Note that the Chazon Ish is not presenting a legal argument to nullify a legal position. Instead, he's presenting a common-sense approach to nullify something that was never a legal position or a historical practice in the first place. It is wrong and makes no sense to be hostile to people who have beliefs that you consider incorrect, since these beliefs were innocently reached. Contrast this with Mizrachi and Reuven labeling rabbis with beliefs they consider unacceptable as "wicked resha'im"!

Let us conclude with the words of the Netziv, in his introduction to Sefer Bereishit, where he explains why it is also referred to as Sefer Ha-Yashar, "The Book of the Just":
During the Second Temple, there were tzaddikim and chasidim, as well as those who toiled in the words of Torah; however, they were not yesharim in their dealings with others. Due to the baseless hatred in their hearts towards each other, they suspected that those who disagreed with them on religious matters were Sadducees or heretics. This brought them to bloodshed under false pretenses and many other evils until the Temple was destroyed... And this was the praise of the Patriarchs, that besides their being chasidim and lovers of God in the most perfect way, they were also yesharim; that is, they conducted themselves towards others, even towards despicable idol worshippers, with love; they cared about providing for their benefit, as that keeps the world in existence.
It's fine to disagree with others' opinions, even strongly. But we should not be rushing to disqualify people as resha'im, as heretics, and certainly not as worthy of execution. It's wrong; it's dangerous; and it's not traditional Judaism.

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65 comments:

  1. This blog is so virulently twisted. Unbelieveable.

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  2. OH, baby. You are seriously saying that the Chazon Ish, the Imperial Grandwizard of the modern Charedi World, would BE ON YOUR SIDE in all of the fights you've had with the charedi world?

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    1. Not in the least! But he wouldn't agree with what Yaron Reuven is doing.

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    2. Who cares about the would be stance of the the Chazon Ish had he been presented with this dichotomy? Its a neutral statement that was made without any pressure of partisanship.
      This reminds me of the approval Slifkin had on his books from Charedi Rabonim which was only later rescinded. It wasn't changed because of further review, it was changed because they caved to societal pressure. I genuinely believe that their original Haskamos still hold weight despite their later retractions. The Chazon Ish might take Mizrachi's side but he already given up ship by demonstrating that he agrees with Slifkin's thought - Nothing can change that.

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    3. NS brought up the CI. JJR didn't.

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    4. Oh the irony! You dismiss your opponents because they rely on a rationalist daas yachid (Rambam) in matters of hashkofa

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    5. I don't understand this discussion. The point is that the even the very conservative Chareidi icon Chazon Ish took the view that today one doesn't try to punish unbelievers and his position is generally accepted. Of course, the more left you go will find even more liberal views.

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    6. Honored sirs and fellow co-religionists,
      As a Jew concerned about what is the Halacha l’maaseh, I must remind you that all agree that if a murderer comes to kill you, you are obliged to kill it first. Am I being naive if I say that in the USA there is a legal remedy called “a restraining order” that orders the one who threatens you harm from coming close to you in word or deed. In the USA you do not have to argue with them in posts, you can shut their mouths by order of the court.

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    7. In the US, almost all speech is protected. There is a "true threats" exception, but the bar is high. I don't know the law in Israel. https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1025/true-threats

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  3. "No, I'm not really a Karaite! You don't have to kill me!" - a willing defence argument.

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  4. I have always thought that the Rambam's (and Ralbag's) dim view of women resulted from excessive philosophical influence as well. Plato and Aristotle had very similar views . . .

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    1. You should read Kellner's book on the subject.

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    2. I think Aristotle and Rambam were products of their time. They would not disparage women were they alive today.

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    3. Even today there are notices released by the frum world that regard women as stupid or intellectually "less" than men, and these are certainly not people whose interests lie in secular ancient philosophy.

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    4. If you really believe this is the case, why do you revere them as great revolutionary thinkers? Maybe all their great thinking were merely products of their time?
      It seems you are picking and choosing to suit your personal sensibilities--not exactly intellectually honest.

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    5. "I think Aristotle and Rambam were products of their time. They would not disparage women were they alive today."

      The philosophically oriented person tends to put abstract thought over everything else. Women tend not to operate this way, either because of innate talent or natural interest.
      That fact that, according to Eicha Rabba there were "one million prophets - and an equal number of women prophets" (not to mention the Matriarchs) would seem to prove that abstract theorizing is indeed not a prerequisite for spiritual advancement . . .

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    6. To Jewish Observer: "Maybe all their great thinking were merely products of their time?"

      Possible. But scholars have noted the brilliance of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Among them were the Muslim philosopher, Al-Farabi, Maimonides, and Thomas Aquinas, just to name a few. It seems self-evident that Aristotle was a very deep thinker. So why then did he disparage women? It is possible that he was unfortunately persuaded by the masses that women were inferior. He also was limited to the primitive science of his day and philosophical presuppositions. The same could be said for Maimonides and the sages’ negative statements about women.

      Neither Aristotle nor Maimonides advocated the inferior status of women. Both were deep thinkers with new ideas, and were they alive today they would probably change their minds. Maimonides was very sensitive and wrote extensively about the correct treatment of animals and the rights of all men, including non-Jews. He was not a particularist but a universalist. Indeed, his favorite philosopher was the non-Jewish Greek pagan, Aristotle.

      To Weaver: "[This] would seem to prove that abstract theorizing is indeed not a prerequisite for spiritual advancement."

      Maimonides would disagree. According to the Rambam, all of the prophets of the Torah were philosophers. In fact, prophecy, according to Rambam, was a prerequisite for reaching intellectual perfection. Although he seemed to have held a negative view about women, he did say that women can and should philosophize. Additionally, I like to paraphrase the Athenian Stoic, Chrysippus, who said that "both slaves and women must be philosophers."

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    7. My apologies. I meant to say that intellectual perfection is a prerequisite for prophecy.

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  5. the Gemara states this rule with regard to sectarians, informers..., and mumarim (ideologically committed sinners), not to people with deviant beliefs.

    How are you differentiating "mumarim" (who the Talmud says to leave in a pit) from heretics?

    The blacklist was of rabbis that Reuven and Mizrachi are alleging actively advocated and publicly spread their allegedly heretical views. It wasn't merely private beliefs, as this write-up is focusing on.

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    1. Maybe we can stop throwing stones and realize that we're only talking about a marketing issue. In the free market of ideas, if one is presenting so-called kefira, the rest of the population will have individuals who will speak out about it.

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    2. I agree with Moe.
      If these rabbis are publishing and lecturing their heretical views (and many of them are--present company included), it seems they would qualify under everyone's definition of mumar which the Talmud condemns in very concrete terms.

      Moridin velo maalin is not some obscure area of halacha! It has been discussed in rabbinic literature throughout the ages.

      Rabbi Slifkin cannot be relied upon to discuss this topic objectively when he is trying to save his own skin!

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  6. very nice (and thank you for fighting these crazies), but how do you deal with Devarim 13:7-12 - if someone tries to get you to change your beliefs and worship other gods (which can be read as non-ortho worship, no?) u gotta kill him... https://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0513.htm

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    1. It is referring to idol worship and which is an action (not merely a belief) that involves a severe "Lo Taaseh" - a negative commandment. And Rambam opines on which religions are considered idol worship from a biblical perspective (and no, it's not non-ortho worship).

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    2. Really? Did Rambam speak of Karaites or similar?

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  7. A friend once told me me:
    The effort to combat psychotic prejudice with reasonable counterarguments is an act not only of folly, but of capitulation.
    — David Mamet

    I see his point but sometimes you have to stand your ground and fight this craziness.

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    1. Maybe, but the problem is the other side thinks they're the ones standing their ground, and you're the crazy one.

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    2. Rule of thumb: The one who is threatening to kill the other one for impure thoughts is the crazy one.

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    3. Or perhaps the crazy side is the one threatening to take away the other one’s children bc their gender studies program isn’t sufficiently robust.

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  8. He who is zealous to remove all strange worship, he builds up an idol in the name of god. (After Rav Kook, למלחמת הדעות והאמונות, Orot 129)

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  9. With all due respect, I think you're skirting with a straw man fallacy.

    The Rambam, quoting a Bavli, points out the Halachos of Moridin- heretics' deaths are to be arranged. Normative halacha treats a single Bavli, quoted by the Rambam (and Shulchan Aruch et al.) to be binding. Do you disagree?
    The second question, which is your straw man, is what a heretic is. The Rambam, quite reasonably (rationally, you might even say), has a short list of "forbidden heresies". Expanding this in the way your straw man did (anyone who thinks a secular Jew can end up in a good Olam Haba) is against all forms of traditional thought.
    But not expanding it is reasonable. Does it make sense to say about a formerly-frum advocate of greater Biblical criticism "if it were legal, I'd kill him"? I think so. Would you disagree? How? (And if you quibble about greater criticism, someone who denies corporeal Tchiayas Hameisim, free will, pick your favorite Ikkar.) Just because a straw man extends "heretic" to mean "someone I disagree with about anything" doesn't mean the basic halacha is wrong.

    So why isn't history full of fatwas against heretics? Because we didn't produce many heretics of note, who weren't protected by the Church. The one major medieval claim of heresy ended with the Rambam's books being burned, remember? How many major heretics (by any traditional definition) did we have between the Karaites and Spinoza?

    Rationalist Judaism isn't a license to paper over things that make you uncomfortable. You skirt the boundaries of what's acceptable to believe (and I think you stay on the right side of it), but that just means you have to be more cognizant of the big red line you can't cross.

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    1. RNS is whitewashing the dark underbelly of Torah and Halacha. ACJA

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    2. Would you consider the "dark underbelly of Torah and Halacha" the prime reason for your atheism? What exactly is the "dark underbelly of Torah and Halacha?"

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    3. Seems more like he's shining a spotlight on it. Sometimes enhancing the imagery when it doesn't look bad enough.

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  10. Could you supply sources from the Rishonim that disagree with the Rambam's ruling about heretics?

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  11. "Perhaps Mizrachi and Reuven's mistake is due to their being late and recent returnees to observant Judaism who are not sufficiently grounded in tradition."
    There is probably a strong psychological element as well, as they seem to not accept themselves and need to delegitimize others so they feel legitimate.

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  12. R' Slifkin, I am critical of some of your posts and a big fan of others. This is your finest post to date. Well sourced, reasonable, And most importantly, non-apologetic.

    Oh, and it's not petty. That's important in the frum blogosphere.

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  13. This wish to label people as "heretics" -- and to kill them -- is echoed in the current battle in Islam.

    There are those (let's call them "takfiris") who think that all kinds of "deviant behavior and belief" qualifies a person (especially a Muslim) as an "apostate" (a Muslim who has renounced Islam):

    . . . and "apostasy" is a crime that demands the death penalty.

    To their minds, there is no problem in bombing a hotel, or market, full of Muslims -- because those people aren't _real_ Muslims, and killing them is a duty, not a crime.

    So perhaps we should label the two rabbis "Takfiris".

    There is no limit to the ways men find, to do evil.

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    1. I would add that in any Muslim country, save modern Turkey, if you leave Islam you are killed by the sword.

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    2. Not exactly true. Much more complicated, Saudi Arabia has just about the same number of atheists as anywhere else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Saudi_Arabia

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    3. Right! And if you can't trust numbers on such things coming from Saudi, what can you trust? By the way, what's on CNN tonight?

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  14. Micah Goodman’s book “Maimonides” seems to agree with much of what RNS wrote. For example, he wrote that Rambam changed much of his opinions as he aged. I also agree with the rabbi that Traditional Judaism was more concerned with deeds than thoughts. Although Traditional Judaism did require belief in G-d and His Torah, there never was a list of required set of beliefs for the general public.

    I liked your stance on Rambam's views of Karaites, too. I would add that Menachem Kellner posits that Rambam did not require all Karaites to accept all of the 13 Principles of Fatih. For example, Karaites should at least accept the first five principles about G-d. The rest were "necessary beliefs." At least for Karaites.

    Thank you for this excellent essay.

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  15. don't be an Am Ha'aretzJuly 26, 2020 at 9:43 PM

    One of the worst posts. There are two points.
    There is the personal issue whi h I will avoid.
    Then there is the issue of attempting to alter the opinions of the Jewish greats to suit your outlook.
    Perhaps RMBM changed his mind (no conclusive proof). Perhaps his sources aren't good enough...
    None of that changes the reality that it is RMBMs view as written in Mishnah Torah.

    But the biggest proof is that Shulchan Aruch follows RMBM! He follows RMBM that while we do NOT kill heretics nowadays, they did in the time of the second temple!

    As I said wrote time, learn to not attack someone based on a stated opinion that is sourced.
    Shulchan Aruch:
    והאפיקורסים והם שכופרים בתורה ובנבוא' מישראל היו נוהגין בזמן הבית להרגם אם יש בידו כח להרגם בסייף בפרהסיא היה הורג ואם לאו היה בא בעלילות עד שיסבב הריגתו

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  16. All of this is nauseating in the extreme. The incessant chattering is annoying...the people on the hit list have a viable alternative. That is a law suit. So quit chattering and file the damn thing. This has also convinced me that there is no messiah coming or it will a long time down the road when we are long gone. I cannot stand this from these two clowns or others like them. They should embrace Islam as it is more fitting for them and others.

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    1. I agree that they probably can and should sue them. I disagree with you view that there will be no messiah. I think it could take a few thousand years for the arrival of the messianic age, but the messiah will come eventually, as mandated in the Torah.

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    2. If and when he arrives, it will be long after my time. Human nature has to changed and we need to be good people and to each other. But human history from the beginning to now proves otherwise. Technology changes, we do not much. I used to believe in a messiah, not anymore. I better barricade my door because Mizrachi, rueven and their ilk will come gunning for me.

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    3. Some think that the Messiah will not come. This seems to be the Reform position. But I do not think one needs to doubt the arrival of mesheach. Indeed, it is a fundamental principle of Judaism and Maimonides' 13 principles of faith, that the messiah will come. Yes, the messianic age will be a gradual evolutionary process. And the Torah never says the messiah will miraculously change society. Rather, it describes people fixing society. This endeavor could take hundreds, if not thousands of years to complete. But he will come, eventually.

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  17. What concerns me in this discussion is that in none of the comments were there any suggestion to consider what is HaShem's position on any of these problematic issues. It's all about Rambam, Chazal, Rishonim, etc. Are we following HaShem solely by the guidance of our teachers or are we supposed to consider His take on and requirements for me and my actions and decisions also? And this applies also to the statement in Devarim 13:7-12 which was mentioned here. That particular section is a sanction for hot-headed individuals to kill at their discretion - and where is the Judges (Beth Din) involvement here? What would HaShem's take on this be? So, are we really sanctioned to take the Law at our own discretion in our own hands and go out and kill all the Jesus proselytizers in Israel? This will make us no better than terrorist Muslims - like ISIS decapitators except tat we would do it 'to the right sinners'??? (in our estimation!)

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    1. Good question. What is G-d's opinion? What does G-d think about all this? For starters, the Torah is not in heaven. It is in the position of the Jewish people. There is a Talmudic story where G-d tells the angels that His children have defeated Him, meaning, that Jew do not live by the Bible. Jews are not really the people of the book. Jews live by the interpretation of the rabbis of the Bible.

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  18. In particular, Rambam's position that intellectual perfection is the ultimate purpose of existence is at odds with normative Judaism.
    ==================================
    I got the sense that his position is that Imitato Dei is the ultimate purpose of existence.
    She-nir'eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,

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    1. Imitatio Dei is intellectual perfection, for thinking is to be like G-d. We're made in the image of G-d, meaning intellect. Aristotle said that everything has a purpose. For example, a chair's purpose is to be comfortable when seated. Similarly, since humans are rational, their purpose is to be rational beings. Aristotle said that what made us “virtuous” (ie intellectual perfection) was the use of our reason to discover the natural laws designed by G-d. This was our purpose. This was how we fulfilled our telos. To seek Him everywhere. G-d wants man to do this. Maimonides agreed.

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    2. I suppose if you include deot in your definition (which I think the Rambam probably did) you are correct however I don’t think most readers would
      Kt

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    3. Yes if you include deot (which I think Rambam did) but I don't think most people today see that as part of intellectual perfection
      She-nir'eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,

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  19. Shifting to a more modern historical precedent: I remember followers of Sabbatai Zevi being subjected to bans and excommunication, but don't remember any claims they were worthy of death.

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  20. Being decades removed from my days in yeshivah, and from my s'michah and dogmatic beliefs, I find it astonishing how some otherwise intelligent, even otherwise often decent, people can justify those who incite to murder or speak longingly of it.

    The problem with being stuck in a dogmatic belief system is that one is forced to have it backwards: Instead of following what one knows is decent and civilized and constructive--and then writing one's best books and poems and prayers accordingly, one first looks in the old books and old commentaries, and then, against all common sense and common decency, declares whatever is written therein to be good and wonderful and noble--even if it as vile and barbaric as encouraging murder over difference of opinion.

    You have heard it said, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Today I teach you, "One man's terrorist-sympathizer is another man's talmud chochom."

    Giving over your mind to books from the past--to such an extreme that you will argue for murder over differences of opinion--makes you an enemy of every civilized human. And, no doubt, you consider those from other religions who would kill you (or who have killed many of your ancestors) for similar barbaric reasons (that you don't believe in their dogmas) to be the very worst people in history. How, with such hypocrisy, can you look yourselves in the mirror? Wake up from this poisonous swoon of blind self-righteousness unto blood-lust!

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  21. Dear Rabi Slifkin,
    Usually I completely or almost completely agree with that you are saying, but this time is an exception. Not sure what happened.

    For example. It's through that classic Judaism books speak mainly on deeds rather than on thoughts, but this does not mean that classic Judaism is not about thoughts. The reason for that is that our prophets and sages followed principle "what you do speaks louder than what you say". In Mishne Torah, too, discussion about thoughts takes a couple of pages only, so roughly speaking it is the same proportion as in Gemara.

    Gemara clearly speaks that "minim" and "mumarim" are considered as a part of Jewish people. (I think the word "outlaw" is good translation for that.) I can find you exact citation, if you need.

    Also it's clear that according to our sages the not-observant soliders don't share the World To Come, no matters why and for what they fallen. What Rabbi Auerbach said about that should be taken as a joke.

    This is the only beginning. I probably will extend the list when I will have more time.

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  22. I'm not sure the difference between book tradition and lived tradition is consistent with your campaign against saying kaddish for the dead specifically , or generally of denying the ritualistic elements of Judaism.

    You seem to believe in the power of a lived tradition, but not a living tradition, and it seems to me the cut off point is arbitrary.

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  23. Two questions: 1) Is this the same Rabbi Mizrachi whose lectures I have listened to for 11 years, hundreds of hours? 2) If a rabbi who you have effectively dis-enfranchised puts you on a banned list, why should it bother you to devote so much column space; it's not 'rational'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to be a fan of Mizrachi. Today I cannot imagine how some can call him "rabbi."

      Delete
    2. Here's good idea for you and all those who have made slandering Rabbi Mizrachi their main mission in life; don't listen to him! Most of his critics don't listen anyway.

      Delete
    3. Oh, I don't listen to him. But antisemites might.

      Delete
  24. RNS I have to point out to some inaccuracies in your essay:
    1)You quote the Rambam in Mamrim however he is merely quoting Chazal in Avoda zorah which includes MINIM in the 3 (as you mention yourself),
    Rambam explains in Hilchos Tshuva who the minim are.(3:6) and raavad agrees on all but one.I am not aware of any Posek who argues on this translation.
    2) You say its due to his Greek Islamic influence which is also inaccurate as he is clearly quoting the Talmud.
    3)You say that Rambam had the karaites in mind which is also doubtful as Rambam excludes the Karaites from this ruling (see Mamrim 3:3 where he excludes the ones which were born Minim and Radvaz there explains that Rambam specifically wanted to excludes Karaites).
    4) Chazon ish argues that doing this today would be counterproductive and the ruling was only in times of Chazal when it was helpful (essentially arguing on Rambam). Nowhere does he nullify the actual ruling of Chazal as you try to say.In fact it it was helpful in stopping people from becoming a kofer it would still apply today.
    5) I agree with you on Mizrachi and Reuven however I feel that the views of Manis Friedman are also very dangerous. There has been cases where individuals where excommunicated for Heresy like Spinoza etc.

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    Replies
    1. Minim are not heretics.

      (I don't know anything about Manis Friedman or several others on the list.)

      Delete
  25. RNS Have you checked the source I quoted in Hilchos Tshuva 3:7
    הלכה ז[עריכה]
    חמישה הן הנקראים מינים:

    האומר שאין שם אלוה ואין לעולם מנהיג,
    והאומר שיש שם מנהיג אבל הן שנים או יותר,
    והאומר שיש שם רבון אחד אבל שהוא גוף ובעל תמונה,
    וכן האומר שאינו לבדו הראשון וצור לכל,
    וכן העובד כוכב או מזל וזולתו כדי להיות מליץ בינו ובין רבון העולמים.
    כל אחד מחמשה אלו הוא מין
    You also havent addressed the other points

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  26. Of course the irony is that most of us would have to kill Reuven and Mizrachi (love the Ashkenazi spelling) because we know they are 100% kneged the tora. Everyone would kill ech other and there'd be nobody left standing. Which is probably what they want. All the more reason to kill them.

    ReplyDelete

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