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Say there is a person who is a tinok shenishba according to all opinions.

Is there any problem with teaching him Torah if it will cause him to cease being a tinok shinishba and it seems likely that he will not keep mitzvot even after being taught Torah?

  • 2
    being a tinok shenishba is not just about how much Torah you know. – Daniel Apr 30 at 19:47
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    Your question falls under what Gemmorah calls "it is preferable to let them err than sin on purpose" (מוטב שיהיו שוגגים מאשר מזידים). – Al Berko Apr 30 at 20:15
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Rambam Hilchos Mamrim 3:3

"To whom does the above apply? To a person who denied the Oral Law consciously, according to his perception of things. He follows after his frivolous thoughts and his capricious heart and denies the Oral Law first, as did Tzadok and Beitus and those who erred in following them.

The children of these errant people and their grandchildren whose parents led them away and they were born among these Karaities and raised according to their conception, they are considered as children captured and raised by them. Such a child may not be eager to follow the path of mitzvot, for it is as if he was compelled not to. Even if later, he hears that he is Jewish and saw Jews and their faith, he is still considered as one who was compelled against observance, for he was raised according to their mistaken path. This applies to those who we mentioned who follow the erroneous Karaite path of their ancestors. Therefore it is appropriate to motivate them to repent and draw them to the power of the Torah with words of peace."


Tinok shenishba - is the short term for : a Jewish child who was captured and raised by gentiles; therefore, they do not know anything about Torah, or even if they do, they are very estranged from it.

(See Talmud, Shavuos 5a.)

This term is usually and generally, extended to any Jew who is totally ignorant of Torah, or born into secular society estranged from Torah life. (Not just someone captured as a child. Although, modern Rabbis debate what exactly constitutes such status; ask your LOR.)

The above Rambam makes it clear that we should educate such people about Torah. The Rambam gives blanket direction to try and bring these souls back, despite any perceived risk of how they will eventually turn out if they take us up on the offer to return to the Jewish people in peace.

The Rambam does not specifically discuss "what if you think the person will fall back etc.", but he doesn't need to in order to be clear on the issue.

This is because it is obvious that many tinokos shenishbu will find it hard to return to Judaism by nature. Therefore if the Rambam declares a blanket rule to attract such people, without qualifications, it is tantamount to saying he is unconcerned with the potential of these people backsliding later. (In my humble opinion.)

I am not aware of any opposing opinion.

(This rule should not be confused with the famous rule brought in Talmud Beitzah 30, that we should not rebuke someone who we know will not listen, so that they should rather remain accidental sinners, rather than intentional sinners etc.

On this the Rema paskens in Shulchan Oruch Chaim 608:2, that such refrain from rebuke applies to Rabbinical decrees and Biblical decrees that are derived from deeper learning. However, if we see someone violating an explicit Torah law, written in plain language within the Torah text that is simple for all to know, we certainly must tell the sinner to stop even if we know they won't listen. However, it must be done tactfully. See the poskim there.

I believe there are more differences, however further discussion of comparing these two rules seems beyond the scope of this post.)

I hope this helps.

  • I liked "(In my humble opinion.)"! Indeed Rambam does not say it. – Al Berko May 1 at 10:39
  • Thanks, but do you agree with me? – David Kenner May 1 at 11:58
  • Practically yes, theoretically no. I'm a "theoretician" and I'm concerned with different considerations and views and aspects more than stating the final decision, which in my view is pretty arbitrary, hence my answer. While I tend to agree with you practically, that one can infer Halachicly in the way you did, I can't deny a possibility of another Rabbi proving that Rambam says "אַל תּוֹכַח לֵץ פֶּן יִשְׂנָאֶךָּ הוֹכַח לְחָכָם וְיֶאֱהָבֶךָּ" elsewhere and therefore if one is going to be Meizid it is forbidden to rebuke him. – Al Berko May 1 at 12:06
  • Rebuke is such a harsh word... i prefer "share guidance" :) – David Kenner May 1 at 15:09
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The Rema (OC 608) writes:

והוא הדין בכל דבר איסור אמרינן מוטב שיהיו שוגגין ולא יהיו מזידין ודוקא שאינו מפורש בתורה אע"פ שהוא דאורייתא אבל אם מפורש בתורה מוחין בידו (ר"ן פרק ד' דביצה והרא"ש בשם העיטור) .

Even when it comes to Biblical prohibitions, unless something is totally explicit in the Written Law (see Ran Nedarim 8a re parameters of 'totally explicit'), we would rather he remain an inadvertent sinner than turn him into an intentional sinner.

[The reason for the distinction between explicit and non explicit are twofold: 1) Because it is more likely he will listen about explicitly Biblical laws (Tashbatz 2, §47), and 2) He is considered less 'inadvertent' (Rashba, Darkei Moshe). Accordingly, there would be a difference of opinion in a case where even about something explicit he will definitely not listen (Shl"a, quoted by Mishne Beruro).]

See Mishne Bruro and Biur Halacha (ad loc) for further discussion about the obligation to rebuke a wrongdoer.

  • A Tinok Shenishba is certainly transgressing totally explicit concepts. – David Kenner May 1 at 11:59
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Interesting question. Can I generalize it into "should I do Mitzvah X if I'm pretty sure it will result in failure?"

The answer depends on the approach to the subject of reward and punishment you chose:

  1. Some say one is rewarded/punished based on the result, like in אדם מועד לעולם - one pays damages no matter if he broke something intentionally or unintentionally.

  2. However, some say (Avot 2.16):

    ... לא עליך המלאכה לגמור. ולא אתה בן חורין ליבטל ממנה. (It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.)

    We are judged by our effort, not [nessessarily] the results As the Gemmorah says (Avot 5.23) "לפום צערא אגרא" (According to the pain is the reward). There are numerous factors that are out of our control, such as a person's reaction or choice. Our Mitzvah is to educate and to enlighten those people, hoping they will get on the right path.

Back to the question. In addition, we are obligated to give good advises (under לפני עוור or ואהבת לרעך or ועשית הישר והטוב which are all Deoraysoh) and by doing that we're exempt from the responsibility if the person uses it in a wrong way or gets wrong results. If you advise a person not to swim in troubled waters but he does the opposite, you're not responsible in any way for his drowning.

Therefore, as other answers show the importance of teaching those people the ways of G-d, I only add that acc. to this approach this should be done without considering the person misbehavior

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    The question is not about whether it worth attempting something which is doomed to failure; it is about doing something positive which can cause more damage than good (in this case, by removing the 'oines' status of someone irreligious, creating a 'meizid') – chortkov2 Apr 30 at 23:07
  • I keep seeing answers by Al Berko getting downvotes even if they are pretty good answers (not necessarily gems, but surely not worthy of downvoting). What gives -- do some people have something persnal against him? – Mark Fischler May 1 at 8:03
  • @MarkFischler this was discussed before. Al Berko knows a lot but often doesn't provide sources for his answers. Sources are very important on this site since no one knows the credibility of the answerer (and no one cares for a random Internet user's opinion). In the case above, Al changed the question and doesn't answer the OP question. I didn't downvote but understand others who do. See here for more – mbloch May 1 at 10:26
  • @chortkov2 I elaborated on my answer, please see the edits. – Al Berko May 1 at 11:01

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