Interactions with Non-Religious Jews

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Tinok Shenishba

  1. The Rambam writes that the children and grandchildren of the Karaites were considered like tinokot shenishbau since he was brought up by a mistaken ideology. It is as though they were forced to accept heretical beliefs and even if they are exposed to Orthodox Jews they are still a tinok shenishba because they were brought up with those ideas.[1] Even though many rishonim disagree,[2] theoretically they agree for someone completely brought up with a secular upbringing but they consider that the Karaites were too exposed to Jews to say they were forced to believe their beliefs.[3]
  2. Most poskim applied the Rambam's approach to Karaites to secular and non-religious Jews today.[4] However, not all poskim agree to this assertion,[5] especially where a non-religious Jew was raised in a non-religious home but was in the presence of an Orthodox community.[6]
    1. Rav Elyashiv's opinion was that there is a doubt whether they are a tinok shenishba or not and we're strict for both possibilities.[7]
    2. Rav Moshe Feinstein held that we can't apply tinok shenishba status to someone who lived near an Orthodox community and was aware of religious Jews. However, Jews who didn't know of religious Jews can be considered tinokot shenishbau.[8]
    3. Rav Ovadia Yosef held similarly that it depends on whether they were familiar with a Torah community. In practice that could mean non-religious Israelis and "in town" Americans are not considered tinokot shenishbau.[9]
    4. Rav Asher Weiss held that non-religious Israelis are tinokot shenishbau since they have developed a disdain for Orthodoxy because of the media.[10]
    5. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach held that non-regiligous Israelis are not considered tinokot shenishbau.[11]
    6. It is impossible to make a general statement for everyone and it really depends on a case by case judgement of a bet din.[12]
  3. Concerning someone who strayed from Torah factors that are important to consider in order not to consider him a mumar are: was he abused physically or sexually by a parent or teacher and was he exposed to a critical amount of Torah learning he was exposed to.[13]
  4. A non-religious Jew who doesn't believe in Hashem even if he is a tinok shenishba can't get an aliyah.[14]
  5. A non-religious Jew even if is a tinok shenishba is culpable for not believing in the primary tenants of our faith.[15] Others contend with this assertion.[16]
  6. It is forbidden to hate any Jew today even if they are a mumar and not a tinok shenishba.[17]


  1. It is obligatory to save a Jew's life on Shabbat even if that means breaking Shabbat.[18]


  1. The rule that someone who is an apikores, min, or kofer is someone that a person should be morid does not apply nowadays.[19]


  1. We mourn over the loss of a Jew who wasn’t religious nowadays.[20] See Shiva#Who and For Whom Does One "Sit Shiva" for details.
  2. Many of those who aren’t religious today are considered a tinok she’nishba because they were raised with faulty beliefs.[21] Other poskim are hesitant to apply tinok shenishba to many irreligious Jews today.[22]

Kibbud Av Vem

  1. There is a mitzvah of Kibbud Av Vem even if one's parents aren't religious.[23]


  1. One may not lend a non-religious Jew who is raised as a non-religious Jew with interest (Ribbit).[24] This applies to conservative and reform Jews today.[25]

Conservative Synagogues and Reform Temples

  1. It is forbidden to daven in a room or temple that is used for conservative or reform prayers.[26]
  2. Regarding having inter-denominational events, interactions, dialogues or the like communal rabbis should be consulted and they should seek advise from great Torah authorities.[27]



  1. Rambam Mamrim 3:3
  2. Ramban b"m 71b, Nemukei Yosef cited by Bet Yosef 159, Shibolei Haleket 2:46, Tashbetz 1:139, Radvaz 2:797, Shach YD 159:6
  3. Chazon Ish YD 1:6
  4. The Laws of Outreach p. 87 and ch. 4 fnt. 10 based on Binyan Tzion Chadashot 2:23, Rav SR Hirsch (Collected Writings), Bet Yitzchak YD 2:23 kuntres acharon, EH 2:65, Melamed Lhoil 29, Achiezer 3:25, Maharsham 1:121, Zakan Aharon 1:55, Igrot Reyia 1:138, Shoel Vnishal 3:116, Chazon Ish 1:6, Rav Henkin in Teshuvot Ivra 8:2, Minchat Yitzchak 6:34, Rav Sheinberg (Tzorar v. 2 p. 59-60), Shevet Halevi 8:165:1, 2:172, Yabia Omer OC 7:15, YD 1:11:16, Chut Shani (Shabbat v. 2 p. 286), Teshuvot Vehanhagot 2:460, Minchat Asher 1:10:5
  5. Minchat Elazar 1:74 outright rejects the Binyan Tzion
  6. The Laws of Outreach p. 98 fnt. 10 writes that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's opinion on this matter changed over time originally assuming like the Melamed Lhoil and later holding that secular Israelis are like mumarim. Rav Moshe Feinstein distinguished between a Jew who was raised in a non-religious home and community without knowing about Orthodox Jews who is like a tinok shenishba and one who was raised in the presence of an Orthodox community. Rav Elyashiv's opinion remained unclear and he was strict for both sides.
  7. Rav Elyashiv: Laws of Outreach p. 102 quotes a dispute as to the opinion of Rav Elyashiv. From many sources he concludes that it was a doubt. Ashrei Harish v. 2 p. 14, 2:18:2, Birchat Avraham R"H 17a n. 15, Birur Hatahara ch. 9 fnt. 34, Bshivilei Haparsha p. 498, Hilchot Shabbat Bshabato v. 3 p. 460 quote Rav Elyashiv as holding modern non-religious Jews aren't tinok shenishba since they're aware of Orthodox Jews. Sh"t Divrei Chachamim p. 282, Kuntres Aliba Dhilchata v. 61 p. 34 quote Rav Elyashiv as holding that non-religious Jews who were raised in non-religious homes are tinokot shenishbau. Ashrei Harish YD 70:7 he adds the approach that they are a tinok shenishba as a factor. Laws of Outreach p. 103 fnt. 28 quotes Rav Moshe Elyashiv in the name of his father that it depends on several factors: how much interaction did this person have with Orthodox Jews and what is the halacha that this affects. Kovetz Ateret Shlomo v. p. 82 quotes Rav Elyashiv as holding that for all intents and purposes we need to be strict as though they aren't a tinok shenishba and as though they are a tinok shenishba. Aliba Dhilchata 67:23 and Peninei Tefilah p. 129 agree.
  8. Rav Moshe Feinstein: Igrot Moshe OC 5:28 implies that if they're aware of a Orthodox Jewish communities and its rabbis he isn't a tinok shenishba. This is strongly emphasized as well in Igrot Moshe EH 1:82:11 that Jews who were raise to be non-religious but lived in places were there were Orthodox Jews are mumarim and invalid for testimony (in order to invalidate a wedding). These ideas are echoed in many places such as: Igrot Moshe EH 2:20 and OC 1:33. Specifically he writes that someone who desecrates Shabbat publicly is a mumar even today. He disagrees with the Binyan Tzion since the non-religious Jews knows that a Jew can't violate Shabbat. However, Igrot Moshe OC 4:91:6 writes that conservative and reform Jews are tinokot shenishbau. Igrot Moshe OC 3:12 also implies that someone who is a kofer because of his upbringing is a tinok shenishba. Similarly, Jewish Observer June 1973, Rav Dovid Feinstein Vdibarta Bam 265:2 quote Rav Moshe as holding that non-religious Jews are tinokot shenishbau. Laws of Outreach p. 107 quotes Rav Reuven Feinstein, Rav Avraham Feinstein, and students of Rav Chanoch Lubavitch quote Rav Moshe as distinguishing between Jews who lived near an Orthodox community as being mumarim and Jews who lived "out of town" as being tinokot shenishbau.
  9. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 10:55) and Rav Binyamin Zilber (Az Nidbaru 9:55): It depends on whether they are familiar with Torah observant communities or not.
  10. Minchat Asher 1:10 applies tinok shenishbau to Israelis unlike what some quote from Rav Elyashiv since they have developed a disdain for Orthodoxy because of the media.
  11. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichot Shlomo Pesach pp. 326-7 and Madenei Shlomo p. 27) generally held that Jews who were ever exposed to a religious Jews such as non-religious Israelis are mumarim. But in particular cases he allowed certain things such as counting them for a minyan (Rivevot Efraim 6:402).
  12. Chazon Ish 1:6. The Laws of Outreach p. 108-110 elaborates that making a sweeping statement for all non-religious Jews isn't really possible. Additionally, there are many factors that are necessary to consider: did the person grow up in a place that he was exposed to Torah and today majority of Jews had no expose to Torah.
  13. Laws of Outreach p. 109 based on Rav Dovid Cohen
  14. Igrot Moshe OC 3:12
  15. Rav Elchanan Wasserman (Kovetz Maamarim ch. 1), Rav Elchanan Biur Agadot 12:8 from Rav Chaim, and Rosh Emana ch. 12. This position could be based on Rambam Yesodei Hatorah 4:9, Teshuva 3:7, 3:14, and 8:2.
  16. See treatment of this topic by Rabbi Wiederblank 1 2 and in his book Illuminating Jewish Thought v. 1 based on Radvaz 4:187, Sefer HaIkarim 1:2, and Mamari Rayah 55-57.
  17. Chazon Ish YD 2:28
  18. Yabia Omer OC 10:54:16 writes that we should certainly save someone who isn't religious on Shabbat even violating Shabbat to do so. Even though the Pri Megadim M"Z 328:1 writes that there's one can't violate Shabbat in order to save someone who is a mumar or violates Shabbat, the poskim argue that mumar is still a Jew and it is pikuach nefesh to save them (Bet Meir 330). Additionally, not saving them would cause a terrible uproar and lead to pikuach nefesh (Yabia Omer 8:38). He also cites Rav Elyashiv (Yashiv Moshe p. 46) who allowed saving a non-religious Jew because is usually a tinok shenishba.
  19. Chazon Ish YD 2:16 writes that nowadays we do not allow another Jew to die even someone who is an apikores, min, or kofer. The law of moridin only applied at times when miracles were experienced and Hashem's presence was felt palpably by everyone. Therefore, a sinner needs to be removed since he would pose a spiritual danger to the entire community and consequently everyone would be endangered by punishments. However, when there is a major breach in faith among many Jews then punishing the sinners will not solidify the community's faith but rather it'll appear to people to be a cruel and destructive act. Ultimately we have an obligation to help them do teshuva. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (Avodot Vehanhagot Lbet Brisk v. 2 p. 266 citd by The Laws of Outreach p. 75) agreed.
  20. Chazon Ovadia Aveilut v. 1 p. 538. His three reasons are the perhaps he did teshuva (Yad Yitzchak 3:149), perhaps avoiding mourning would lead to ayvah (Maharshag YD 1:25:6), and perhaps he was a tinok she’nishba (Emet LYakov 345:218).
  21. Rambam Mamrim 3:3, Darkei Moshe 159:3, Chazon Ish YD 2:28, Shivat Tzion Chadashot 23, Chazon Ovadia Aveilut v. 1 p. 538, Emet LYakov 345:218, Melamed Lhoil 29
  22. See Igrot Moshe 2:50-51, 3:12. See at much greater length:
  23. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 240:18, Yabia Omer YD 8:21
  24. Shulchan Aruch and Rama 159:3 forbid lending with ribbit to someone who is a tinok shenishba. Gemara Shabbat 68b clarifies that a child who was captive among non-Jews (tinok shenishba) and didn't know about Shabbat is considered as though he sinned unintentionally. Rambam Mamrim 3:3 writes that the sons of the karaites who were brought up with the mistakes of their parents aren't considered minim but should be returned in teshuva. (Yet, see the manuscript editions which include another few words that alter the meaning of the Rambam.) Pirush Mishnayot Chullin 1:2 writes that someone who reject tenants of our faith are considered minim. However, someone who was born into a family and background with such thoughts aren't culpable and are similar to a tinok shenishba. Binyan Tzion Chadashot 23 posits that many of the non-religious Jews today are considered tinok shenishba since they're following the ways of their fathers.
    • Chazon Ish YD 1:6 writes that once we try to teach him about the Orthodox ways and he turns it down he is considered to be a mumar. The amount of effort necessary to spend in trying to teach him is subjective and is left up to the judgement of the rabbis of each generation. Additionally, once he is aware of the Orthodox Jews and practices even without trying to teach him he can be considered a mumar. However, that too depends on how aware he was of the Orthodox Jews and to what degree and with what intensity his parents taught his otherwise. This is the basis for the dispute whether Karaites are mumarim.
  25. Igrot Moshe 4:91:6, Chelkat Binyamin 159:22
  26. Igrot Moshe 4:91:6
  27. Rav Lichtenstein ("Reflections regarding Contemporary Relations with Non-Orthodox Jews") writes at length on this topic. A few short notes from that article include that he emphasizes that today we have a responsibility to teach and have relations with non-Orthodox Jews to help them but doing so needs a lot of consideration. He culls upon sources from tanach and the siddur which emphasize the importance of a joint effort of all Jews to serve Hashem such as: ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש, כל מעשיך יהיו לשלם שמים, לה' הארץ ומלאה, למען אחי ורעי אדברה נא שלום בך, מלוך על כל העולם, ויאמר כל אשר נשמה באפו ה’ א-לקי ישראל מלך ומלכותו בכל משלה, כי כל פה לך יודה וכל לשון לך תשבח, לתקן עולם במלכות ש-די וכל בני בשר יקראו בשמך, והלכו עמים רבים ואמרו לכו ונעלה אל הר ה’. Whether having communal relations with a non-Orthodox Jews is to be pursued depends on the content, motivation, the sociohistorical context, which camp is in dominance, what reponses are likely to be explicited, what are the social and national reprecussions, what is the prevailing culture of the commitment to Torah, are we authorized to pursue compromise directions. Ultimately, אין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות a rabbi can only judge according to what his eyes perceive. Sources such as Yoma 57a, Brachot 7a, Sanhedrin 111a, and Mordechai Yoma 725 all show that we daven and include in our davening even the non-religious. Kol Nidrei makes a point to do so. Rav Lichtenstein p. 207 recounts a story in which he thought that a joint denominational Yom Hashoah convocation could be considering that the Nazis didn't distinguish and neither should we. Further see Sifrei Devarim 6:4 and Sanhedrin 73a which motivate outreach.