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A learned friend of mine is of the opinion that it is forbidden to learn from a Rabbi (or anyone else) who is known to have sinned. He used the example of a particular Rabbi caught in a scandal so malodorous he was forced to leave his community and indeed the country. After a number of years overseas he has quietly returned and has begun giving a shiur to a small audience who are obviously able to overlook his past. My friend rails against what is happening and compares it to 'drinking from a sewage pipe'.

This attitude seems far too stringent to me. I have asked him for sources for his opinion, which he is preparing.

I expect the halacha is far more nuanced than what he says. I am looking for sources for and against learning from such a person. For example,

  • forbidding learning from such a person
  • the danger of learning from such a person
  • judging someone to have done teshuvah
  • learning from any available source
  • etc.
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Rabbi Meir en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbi_Meir#Talmudic_references and Acher en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_ben_Abuyah could be a good place to look, at east for an anecdotal example. – Baby Seal Feb 24 '14 at 14:33
he.wikisource.org/wiki/… might be a good place to look also. – msh210 Feb 24 '14 at 14:55
At some point it has to be possible to do Teshuva. – Yishai Feb 24 '14 at 19:58
Also related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/34314 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/66168. – Fred Dec 21 '15 at 11:14
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Talmud Chagiga 15b http://dafyomi.co.il/chagigah/points/cg-ps-015.htm

(a) Question: How could R. Meir learn Torah from Acher?

  1. The verse (Malachi 2:7) teaches that one should only learn Torah from a Rav who is similar to a Malach of Hash-m! (angel of God)

(b) Answer: R. Meir relied on another verse (Mishlei 22:17, or Tehilim (45:11) which teaches that one may learn Torah from a Rasha, as long as one follows Hashem's laws and not the deeds of the Rasha.

(c) Question: If so, the verses (in (a) and (b)) contradict!

(d) Answer: One verse refers to a Gadol (one who knows how to be careful not to learn from the deeds of the Rasha may learn Torah from him), and one verse refers to a Katan (one who does not know how to avoid being influenced by the deeds of the Rasha may not learn Torah from him).

This is not meant to be halacha, just a source.

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