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Are the ignorant/uneducated (Jews) exempt from following halacha? Do they have a share in the world to come even if they break Jewish law or are apikores?

I am led to believe that the answer is, more or less, "yes." Please tell me which sources support this, and to what extent.

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Can you provide the sources which you know of which lead you to this understanding? It might help create a more complete answer. – avi Feb 10 '12 at 11:04
Direct sources aren't needed exactly, (ie links), but if you could give over the general concepts and things you heard which make you believe the premise of your question, it would be helpful. – avi Feb 10 '12 at 11:26
I was advised by a frum friend that you aren't held responsible for what you don't know, as far as halacha is concerned. He went so far as to advise me not to learn it for that reason. Other frum friends have echoed the first sentiment. – SAH Feb 10 '12 at 21:21
Intentional ignorance doesn't sound like a very good strategy to me. At the very least, you know that there's stuff you don't know, so won't you be held responsible for not putting in your due diligence? (Especially now that you're a J.SE user, there really is no excuse... :-) A much better plan would be to study the laws and begin doing whatever you're able, slowly building up your commitment. I think God would be much happier with that than just pretending that the laws don't exist. – Dave Feb 12 '12 at 17:25
@Dave I agree that it is a bit disingenuous, but as the one making the decision, I (ironically?) want to know what halacha says about it. Furthermore, it's not just willful ignorance: I also very much doubt that I believe in the mesorah. Cf. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/14144/… – SAH Feb 13 '12 at 19:20
up vote 9 down vote accepted

No one is exempt from Halacha. However one that was raised without knowledge is considered a Tinuk Shenishba and is not punished for what he did not know.

Regarding Olam Haba - the Mishna says Kol Yisroel Yesh Lohem Chelek L'Olam Haba - although the commentaries do limit it somewhat - even an educated Jew that breaks Jewish laws - in most instances will eventually get Olam Haba.

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Short and to the point. +1 – Hacham Gabriel Feb 10 '12 at 15:39
+1 for (AFAIK) accuracy, but as always a source would be valuable. – msh210 Feb 10 '12 at 15:41

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