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The Ashkenazi nusach of V'lamalshinim omits explicit mention of heretics. Therefore, recitation or omission of this blessing by the prayer leader seems to no longer serve as a signal for whether he is a heretic (or does it? If so, please explain).

Further, it seems likely that a large class of modern heretics would even be willing to recite variants of the blessing that explicitly refer to heretics.

So why do modern poskim still rule that a prayer leader must be removed for omitting the blessing of V'lamalshinim in the amida?

(Note: I'm not married to any assumptions made in this post. Answers that sufficiently rebut any such assumptions are therefore welcome).

The Talmud (B'rachos 29a) teaches:

Rav Y'huda said in the name of Rav: If [a prayer leader] erred in any of the blessings [of the amida], we do not remove him. [The exception to this is] if he erred in the blessing of the Sadducees (alternatively, the blessing of the heretics). We remove him because we suspect he may be a heretic.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 126:1) codifies as halacha that we remove a prayer leader who entirely omitted the blessing of V'lamalshinim. The L'vush explains that we are concerned that the reason he omitted V'lamalshinim is that he is actually a heretic and "he does not want to curse himself" (ibid.). This is based on the commentary of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah on the Rif (B'rachos, 19b):

טעה בברכת המינין מעלין אותו דחיישי' שמא מין הוא ומה שלא אמרו שאם טעה ולא הזכיר תחיית המתים שמעלין אותו ג"כ מפני שברכת המינין יש בה קללה למינין וכשאינו אומר אותה אנו חוששין שמפני שהוא מין אינו רוצה לקלל את עצמו אבל בברכת תחיית המתים כיון שאין בה קללה אין בזה היכר אם הוא מין או לא שאפשר שאפי' שלא יאמין הוא בתחיית המתים עכ"ז יאמר הברכה דמאי איכפת ליה אם יאמר מחיה המתים כיון שאינו מקלל עצמו הלכך כיון שאיפשר שיאמר אותה ויהיה מין ולא נוכל להכיר אותו אפי' כשלא אמר אותה אין מעלין אותו

עוד נוכל לומר שבתחיית המתים כשטעה אין מעלין אותו מפני שאפשר שהוא מין ומאמין בתחיית המתים

The above commentary suggests that a heretic does not want to curse himself, but he is willing to recite other blessings that are at odds with his beliefs.


  • According to nusach Ashkenaz, which doesn't mention heretics explicitly in the blessing, why would a heretic avoid reciting this blessing?

  • Even the other variants of the prayer that mention minim (heretics) do not specify particular beliefs or groups (e.g. Sadducees, Boethusians, or Therapeutae). A particular heretic might therefore not read V'lamalshinim as being applicable to him; he might not consider himself a heretic. Why, then, would he balk at using the generic term for heretic in the prayer? Is it possible that the term "minim" was so well understood to mean sects other than the P'rushim that even a Sadducee would consider himself a min?

  • Conversely, if a heretic would not avoid reciting this blessing, why would we rule that a prayer leader must be removed for omitting it?


In light of Josh Waxman's answer, I would like to expand on my above questions.

Ashkenazi poskim such as the Mishna B'rura (136:4) seem to apply this halacha of removing a sh'liach tzibbur even in light of the current predominant Ashkenazi nusach that does not explicitly mention heretics. Some poskim, such as the K'nesses HaG'dola, have decried the practice of omitting mention of heretics, and the Mishpat Tzedek (Vol. 2, §9; early 17th century) discusses whether a chazzan should be removed for mentioning only lamalshinim and not lam'shumadim. The Magein Avraham (136:1) echoes this and then mentions that the nusach of Romania includes only v'lamalshinim.

The Magein Giborim (ad loc.) expresses surprise that the M"A didn't mention that this is our nusach, too. The Magein Giborim concludes (if I'm reading it right - the print quality is mediocre) that it is forbidden to deviate from our nusach of v'lamalshinim. The Aderet, however, comments that this is a mistaken nusach, and advised that people switch back to another version in their silent amida (presumably with either lam'shumadim or lakofrim; I don't have access to the Aderet's full comments in T'fillas David, ch. 13). Even the Aderet, though, says that a prayer leader should adhere to the accepted nusach.

In any case, by the standard described in the above commentary of the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah who reject the notion quoted by the Tur (136) in the name of the Y'rushalmi (B'rachos 5:3, לכל אין מחזירין אותו חוץ ממי שלא אמר מחיה המתים ומכניע זדים ובונה ירושלים אני אומר מין הוא) that someone omitting תחיית המתים should also be removed, it would seem that modern Ashkenazim should no longer remove prayer leaders who skip the entire blessing of V'lamalshinim, since its recitation would not indicate that the prayer leader is a believer.

Additionally, per Dave's answer and Shmuel Brin's comment, it's possible that this problem would apply nowadays even to nuscha'os that explicitly mention heretics (unless offense rather than fear would still motivate modern heretics to omit this blessing).

So why is the halacha to remove a prayer leader who omits the blessing of V'lamalshinim still applicable?

share|improve this question
I can't tell from the passage you quoted: is he concerned about cursing himself, or being the means by which he is cursed? That is, is he worried about the words he says, or about the words the congregation will say (or say "amen" to) having a bad effect on him? –  Monica Cellio Sep 10 '13 at 2:49
@MonicaCellio It seems to be the former. If the latter, it probably would have said אינו רוצה שיקללו אותו. –  Fred Sep 10 '13 at 3:08
what do you mean about MB 136:4, that he seems to apply this halacha? which halacha? –  josh waxman Sep 10 '13 at 4:20
@joshwaxman The halacha of removing a sh'liach tzibbur who skips the entire blessing (but at the same time not removing one who skips mention of heresy). –  Fred Sep 10 '13 at 4:23
and what do you mean "even in light of the current predominant Ashkenazi nusach". which is predominant? if you mean the present predominant one (to omit), then it is rather because of that nusach, I think, that one does not remove him, "mipnei" -- ד) אבל אם דילג - דוקא בשדילג כולה אבל אם דילג ראש הברכה וסיים חתימתה לא מצינו שמסלקים אותו וכן אם לא רצה לומר לכופרים אלא ולמלשינים אין מסלקין אותו מפני שיש מקומות שאומרים לכתחילה ולמלשינים –  josh waxman Sep 10 '13 at 4:29

2 Answers 2

The question is based on an anachronistic assumption about the nature of heresy, specifically that heresy makes you less likely to consider curses potent and harmful.

That's probably true of a cross-section of today's heretics, who tend toward atheism. And if you exclude religion, modern rationalism allows no other means by which curses could work.

In the past, however, heretics (and certainly the minim addressed by the beracha) were religious, just not in a way we approve of. And even if a heretic was irreligious, he'd still be subject to garden-variety superstition.

share|improve this answer
This answers the question in the title. However, that's not really the question in the body of the post (the mismatch is my fault, sorry). I think I'll clarify the title to something like "Does the Ashkenazi nusach of V'lamalshinim imply a curse against heretics?" +1, though, for technically answering the question in the title at the time. –  Fred Sep 11 '13 at 15:21

1) Even though nusach Ashkenaz does not mention heretics explicitly, this is because of modification due to censors. At the time of the gemara, certainly the bracha had laminim as part of it.

See here:

”Velamalshinim”= We should have in mind the historical significance of the prayer. Originally the word “velamalshinim” read “velaminim,” but the Christain censors, who were originally “targeted” by the Bracha, actually changed. It’s important to realize that our prayer has historical significance. (Artscroll Mesorah)

2) Your question has the answer as part of it. Yes, since the audience would know what minim were, and the text of the blessing was composed with Sadducees in mind, a Sadducee (or an early Jewish Christian, e.g.) would understand this as the meaning of the prayer, and would balk at reciting this blessing.

share|improve this answer
See my edit above. –  Fred Sep 10 '13 at 3:42
modified question now seems parallel to, though different from, this question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/30981/… –  josh waxman Sep 10 '13 at 4:10
@Fred, this modification greatly expands the scope of the question, and indeed seems like an entirely different topic. would this perhaps better be presented as a new and separate question? –  josh waxman Sep 10 '13 at 4:13
Did Sadducees consider themselves Minim? They knew that "Orthodox" considered them so, but wouldn't this be like if, say, in the 16th century the Rabbis would put in a blessing against "heretics who follow a false Moshiach." Followers of Shabtai Tzvi wouldn't have a problem saying this blessing, as they consider themselves following "the true Moshiach" and not "a false Moshiach". –  Shmuel Brin Sep 10 '13 at 4:19
@joshwaxman Perhaps, but the edit is also a follow up that is dependent on the premise of your answer that a heretic would not be afraid of reciting the modern Ashkenazi formulation of the blessing. I'm not yet convinced of this premise due to the new question it raises as described in my above edit. –  Fred Sep 10 '13 at 4:20

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