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Is one a heretic if he does not believe in Kabbalah? Not necessarily that the Rashbi authored the Zohar, but in the general tenets of kabbalah including but not limited to: tzimtzum, sefirot, partzufim etc.

If a person believes that the ideas found in seforim such as the zohar, kitvei arizal, sefer yetzirah and others are not Jewish (meaning they stem from outside Judaism) are they halachically considered a heretic?

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I'm not exactly sure what that means, but either way you might want to edit it into the question so no one answers you according to people you don't want to hear from. –  Double AA Jan 3 '13 at 20:33
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@yoel, What you're trying to do is flawed. Everyone would agree that accepting kabbalah today is mainstream. If any rav were to reject it, they would be by definition not mainstream. That does not mean they are heretics. Also, what does "part of our mesorah" mentioned above by the OP mean? Does it mean that heresy is time dependent? If we say that rejection of the concept of gilgul neshamot is heresy, does it follow that Saadya Gaon was a heretic, or is it only heresy now that it has become a "mainstream" concept? –  jake Jan 3 '13 at 21:21
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Incidentally, @yoel I challenge your assertion that heresy is "effectively limited in our days to gaonim and gedolim". I don't think you have to be such a world renowned gadol. Perhaps having Semicha or a little more than that would do it. –  Double AA Jan 3 '13 at 21:47
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@yoel, I challenge anyone to successfully define "legitimate mesorah" and "gedolim". My point is merely that you seem to be defining "heresy" as "non-mainstream". Then so long as any concept is accepted by the majority of leaders and scholars, it becomes acceptable, and if it is not, then it is heretical. This is a ridiculous approach in my humble opinion, and is just an extension of the unjustified worship of monolithism in ideas that has become popular recently among Jews. –  jake Jan 3 '13 at 23:48
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5 Answers 5

In Shu"t Mei'ein Omer pg 274 (not sure what volume, but it isn't volume 6, 7 or 8), a close student of Rav Ovadiah Yosef reports that a man once asked him if he needs to destroy a building he bought because it used to contain a synagogue of Dor De'im, a sect of Temani Jews who stick to strict Maimonidian philosophy and practice, and reject most if not all of Kabbalah. Rav Ovadiah Yosef responded that אי אפשר לדונם ככופרים it is not possible to judge them as heretics.

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Worth noting as well that R Ovadiah Yosef sat on a Beit Din for many years with R Yosef Kappach of Dor De'im. –  Double AA Jan 3 '13 at 23:07
    
See rationalistjudaism.com/2010/10/rav-ovadiah-yosef-on-zohar.html - it does appear that Rav Ovadiah does not consent to their understanding of the Zohar as problematic –  not-allowed to change my name Jan 4 '13 at 2:56
    
I have now confirmed that the teshuva is not in Volumes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 or 11 so process of elimination says it's in Volume 1. That said, I will wait to confirm before editing the answer. –  Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 4:42
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@DoubleAA - Amazing how fast you can read volumes of responsa. –  Fred Jan 4 '13 at 4:54
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@DoubleAA, In the introduction, the author explains the name as an acronym for "מו"ר עובדיה יוסף נר"ו" or the name of the author himself "מאת ע"ה יהודה נקי". That said, the educated guess would be "Ma'ayan Omer", judging from R' Ovadia's approbations on the front page: "נר ישראל מעין המתגבר עמוד העולם". –  jake Jan 4 '13 at 7:36
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Harav Meir Eliyahu says that one who doesn't believe in the Kabala would be considered a Kofer.

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Who is he? Does he say why? –  Double AA Aug 11 '13 at 9:03
    
@DoubleAA a huge Talmid Hacham but he doesn't say why. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 11 '13 at 13:59
    
@HachamGabriel He doesn't say why or you don't know what his reasoning is? What makes him a "huge Talmud Chacham" –  Yehoshua Dec 28 '13 at 19:46
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The better question to ask is if one is a heretic if they "believe" in Kabbalah. See T'shuvos HaRivash #157 who says (in the name of a Philosopher) that the Christians believe in 3 (trinity) while the Mekubalim believe in 10 (Sefiros). See the same T'shuvah where he says that the RaN told him in private that the Ramban forced himself too much to believe in Kabbalah. He end the T'shuvah saying not to accept Kabbalah unless its from an accepted Chacham... and then only MAYBE (Adyan Ulay). See the T'shuvah from the Nodeh B'Yehudah and from the T'shvas MeAhava (his Talmid) on L'Shem Yichud to name just a few...

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TorahTruth You are welcome to ask that as a separate question, but for this question I think this is more of a comment. –  Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 18:49
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Actually, maybe it's an answer if you are saying the the Rivash thinks that you are not a heretic if you don't believe in Kabbalah. –  Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 18:50
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@DoubleAA, I think that implication is clear, although this answer could probably be rephrased to more directly address the question at hand. –  Isaac Moses Jan 4 '13 at 19:00
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That was the answer... unless the person asking believes that the Rivash, RaN and Nodeah Beyehuda are heretics. –  TorahTruth Jan 4 '13 at 19:17
    
@HodofHod How do you define a god? (It's harder to do properly than you'd expect.) If you think God's hand is separate in some way from Him, then that too might be problematic (seemingly as Shittuf). For the record, this poster never said the 10 sefiros were 10 gods. Have you read the Rivash inside? I don't know to what extent you have studied Kabbalah (though it is probably more than I have) but I assume a Gadol and Baal Hamesora like the Rivash wouldn't condemn a certain belief unless he had looked into it first. Others may, of course, disagree with him. –  Double AA Jan 4 '13 at 21:20
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A few points in answer to the question.

1

Definition of heresy might differ from definition of truth. Can one be a heretic for denying a false belief? I think so. Muslims would deem a heretic one who denies Muhammed as a true prophet, and a person might be correctly deemed a heretic under these rules. Similarly, perhaps a person can be deemed a heretic in Judaism for denying kabbalah, even if kabbalah was made up. If so, a person should be brave enough to be a technical heretic yet intellectually honest.

2

A person might have a wrong-headed belief that is not shared by any major Gadol, but that might make him a misguided soul or a fool, rather than a heretic. I might believe in UFOs or that the government is controlling me via microwave radiation, but that doesn't make me a heretic.

3

The purported shalshelet hakabbalah, establishing the masorah, seems to be messed up or fictionalized. See here. Disallowing someone who has the methodology to realize this from concluding this under heresy, because major Gedolim would not have similar methodology to reach the same conclusion, is an effective way of bolstering a problematic masorah. This may not be the intent, but it is an effect.

4

Masechet Horayot addresses the possibility of all Israelites following a mistaken ruling by the Sanhedrin. One is forbidden from following a ruling he knows to be wrong, under an incorrect application of lo tasur.

5

The Rambam did not include kabbalah in his list of required beliefs. However, R’ Tzadok haKohen writes in his Sefer Zichronos, citing a tshuvah of the Bach:

תה שנתפרסמה חכמת האמת בעולם מוסכם בפי חכמי ישראל האמיתים וכל הכופר בה הוא מכלל האפיקורסים ...דהמלעיג על דברי חכמים ומדבר דופי על דברי הקבלה שהיא מקור התורה ועיקרה וכולה יראת שמים פשיטא שאין לך מזלזל בדברי חכמים גדול מזה

6

Adding to Ikarei Emunah is not something new. The Divrei Chaim made the belief, that the Ohr HaChaim commentary on Chumash was written with ruach hakodesh, mandatory. As well as following Shulchan Aruch, since it was written with Ruach Hakodesh. The משנה הלכות in 7:160 extended this to Mishna Berura:

It is obvious that someone who lacks ruach hakodesh is not able to composes a holy work such as the Mishne Berura. If he doesn’t believe that the Mishne Berura was written with ruach hakodesh then he is an apikorus and denier of God’s Torah.

But that does not mean that everyone agrees to this position, that there is an extension of ikkarei emunah.

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Re. #1, you are muddling being a heretic and being "deemed a heretic." If you are in fact suggesting that being a halachic heretic is good under some circumstances, how is your answer suitable for this site? –  Fred Jan 4 '13 at 4:59
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@Fred For such a question as this, to answer honestly and comprehensively might indeed dance on the edge of suitable. which then touches on point #3, in which no fair conversation is possible. But I am not muddling, I think it possible that halachically, based on the way people might pasken, a true belief can be deemed heresy and thus be heresy. That was the point I was making. Yet people usually assume that a belief must first be false and then, in addition, be heresy. I was pointing out this alternate possibility. –  josh waxman Jan 4 '13 at 5:07
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tl;dr - so basically you're saying "yes if you don't believe in Kabbalah you are a halachic heretic (at least according to some) but no, that does not mean that Kabbalah is necessarily right/true" - did I get that right? –  user2110 Jan 4 '13 at 14:26
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joshwaxman, whatever your views on his piske halacha, an author (generally) chooses the title of his book, and this author chose Mishne Halachos. If not for the nice compromise edit by @MonicaCellio, I'd re-revert your edit to Meshaneh as both technically incorrect and insulting. (And that's despite my usual preference for keeping to an OP's reversion even if it's somewhat lower-quality.) As it is, though, I hope we can agree on the Hebrew-character version. –  msh210 Jan 6 '13 at 7:13
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@msh210 i'm going to leave it, though it strips out meaning from my answer, which (in this case) was that i did not think to highly of the idea that one can add the Mishna Brurah's ruach hakodesh as an ikkar emunah. –  josh waxman Jan 6 '13 at 17:27
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from Rabbi Zev Leff's website

Question No. 1106 Category Halacha (General Jewish Law) Date Posted 26 Oct 2005 The Question Is a person who does not believe that the zohar was revealed to shomon bar yochai counted as a heretic? —David, Bet Shemesh

ANSWER: http://www.rabbileff.net/shiurim/answers/1000-1249/1106.mp3

(basically if one does not believe the tenets of kabala as brought down in the zohar is yes a heretic. this is because it has been accepted by the vast majority of the gedolei hador as authentic)

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yes, that would match point 5 in my answer -- עתה שנתפרסמה חכמת האמת בעולם מוסכם בפי חכמי ישראל האמיתים. an interesting follow-up question to this is whether the Chasam Sofer is now a heretic. see here that he holds the Zohar is a forgery. parsha.blogspot.com/2011/06/… and whether rabbi leff holds one can learn the Chasam Sofer. –  josh waxman Mar 11 '13 at 10:40
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I have heard that Rabbi Leff retracted or modified this statement –  user2110 Mar 11 '13 at 13:33
    
Interesting that minority opinions can't ever exist by this logic. –  Double AA Mar 11 '13 at 13:40
    
@user2110 rabbileff.net/shiurim/answers/1750-1999/1776.mp3 IAE I've never heard of this Rabbi Leff outside of this context, and while he may be a Talmid Chacham, I don't think his rulings are necessarily conclusive for everyone. –  Double AA Mar 20 '13 at 16:25
    
Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin quotes extensively from the zohar in the nefesh hachaim. the vilna gaon wrote extensive commentaries on the zohar as did the arizal and the ramchal. come on. how do you explain that? –  ray May 20 '13 at 21:29
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