Friday, March 17, 2023

Inadverdant heresy

 Rav Elchonon Wasserman (Explanations of Agados #2): The view of the Rambam is that a person who believes G d is physical is a heretic. The Raavad commented: “There are greater and better people than the Rambam who erred in this issue because of mistakenly accepting the literal meaning of verses and agada.” I heard in the name of Rav Chaim Brisker that the Rambam views that there is no such thing as inadvertent heresy. Irrespective of how a person arrives at a mistaken belief, the fact is that he believes something which is heretical. Furthermore, it is impossible to be a member of the Jewish people without proper faith. Rav Chaim used to say that “a nebach apikorus (mistaken heretic) is also a heretic.” It would appear that he must be correct since all heretic and idol worshippers are mistaken. Obviously there is no one more mistaken than one who sacrifices his son for idol worship and yet he is subject to capital punishment. However, this approach is problematic since a baby also doesn’t have proper faith and yet he is part of the Jewish people. Furthermore, a person who was denied proper education (tinok shenishbah) is allowed to bring a sacrifice to atone  -  without being labeled as a heretic. Thus from these two cases it would seem that the Torah exempts an unwitting error also in the realm of beliefs? This can be answered by what we mentioned previously  -  the foundation principles of faith are obvious and no intelligent person could accept heretical beliefs. It is only because a person wants to reject his obligations to G d that he rationalizes that religious beliefs are not correct. Therefore, there is no such thing as an inadvertent heretical belief. On the other hand, if a person doesn’t intend to rebel against religion but mistakenly thinks something sinful is permitted by the Torah  -  then this is truly inadvertent. Perhaps this is what the Raavad meant that the person erred “because of misunderstanding verses and agada.” In other words, the person erred not because he wanted to reject religion but because he mistakenly accepted the literal meaning of religious texts. Thus, the Raavad would classify him as someone who mistakenly says a sin is permitted according to the Torah and therefore inadvertent heresy does exist… The Rambam on the other hand seems to feel that one could not err in thinking that G d has a body and that if he was serious about his religion it would be obvious to him that the texts cannot be taken literally…

1 comment :

  1. The problem today is not inadvertent heresy, it's the total perversion of heretical ideas into virtue and "Holy " matters.


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