Why isn’t Albert Einstein a heretic? He said: “I believe in Spinoza’s G-d who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a G-d who concerns Himself with fates and actions of human beings.” Spinoza was a Jew who held radically different views about G-d. He was excommunicated and banned as a result. Einstein even described belief in G-d as "childish superstition" and said the Jews were not the chosen people:

"The word G-d is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change this for me… The Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstition and the Jewish people, I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

If a Spinozistic Jew, like Einstein, held the same heretical views as Spinoza, why wasn’t he excommunicated? Should e=mc2 be put in cherem? Or can we say we agree with Maimonides’ teaching about taking truths from all sources even if the scientists do not accept the Torah?

  • Is the premise of this question that any Jew who expresses heretical views would be excommunicated?
    – Alex
    Apr 12, 2021 at 23:25
  • @Alex I think so.
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 12, 2021 at 23:26
  • 2
    Surely there have been hundreds if not thousands of Jews since Spinoza who have expressed heretical views. How many of them have been excommunicated such that this would be a reasonable premise?
    – Alex
    Apr 12, 2021 at 23:27
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Alex
    Apr 13, 2021 at 0:06

1 Answer 1



The Rambam in hilchos mamrim chapter 3 defined the basic idea of what a heritic is, but (more relevant here) what a heretic isn't, and it's very clear that someone who grew up in an environment where he/she did not know about what the Torah is etc., even if he later sees other Jews observing it, is not considered a heretic at all, since his views came to him in a way that is totally out of his control.


1 A person who does not acknowledge validity of the Oral Law is not the rebellious elder mentioned in the Torah. Instead, he is one of the heretics and he should be put to death by any person.

א מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מוֹדֶה בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה אֵינוֹ זָקֵן מַמְרֵא הָאָמוּר בַּתּוֹרָה. אֶלָּא הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל הָאֶפִּיקוֹרוֹסִין [וּמִיתָתוֹ בְּכָל אָדָם]:

2 Since it has become known that such a person denies the Oral Law, he may be pushed into a pit and may not be helped out. He is like all the rest of the heretics who say that the Torah is not Divine in origin, those who inform on their fellow Jews, and the apostates. All of these are not considered as members of the Jewish people. There is no need for witnesses, a warning, or judges for them to be executed. Instead, whoever kills them performs a great mitzvah and removes an obstacle from people at large.

ב מֵאַחַר שֶׁנִּתְפַּרְסֵם שֶׁהוּא כּוֹפֵר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה [מוֹרִידִין אוֹתוֹ] וְלֹא מַעֲלִין וַהֲרֵי הוּא כִּשְׁאָר כָּל הָאֶפִּיקוֹרוֹסִין וְהָאוֹמְרִין אֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהַמּוֹסְרִין וְהַמּוּמָרִין. שֶׁכָּל אֵלּוּ אֵינָם בִּכְלַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לֹא לְעֵדִים וְלֹא הַתְרָאָה וְלֹא דַּיָּנִים [אֶלָּא כָּל הַהוֹרֵג אֶחָד מֵהֶן עָשָׂה מִצְוָה גְּדוֹלָה וְהֵסִיר הַמִּכְשׁוֹל]:

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 a 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.

ג בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּאִישׁ שֶׁכָּפַר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ וּבִדְבָרִים שֶׁנִּרְאוּ לוֹ. וְהָלַךְ אַחַר דַּעְתּוֹ הַקַּלָּה וְאַחַר שְׁרִירוּת לִבּוֹ וְכוֹפֵר בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה תְּחִלָּה כְּצָדוֹק וּבַיְתּוֹס וְכֵן כָּל הַתּוֹעִים אַחֲרָיו. אֲבָל בְּנֵי הַתּוֹעִים הָאֵלֶּה וּבְנֵי בְּנֵיהֶם שֶׁהִדִּיחוּ אוֹתָם אֲבוֹתָם וְנוֹלְדוּ בֵּין הַקָּרָאִים וְגִדְּלוּ אוֹתָם עַל דַּעְתָּם. הֲרֵי הוּא כְּתִינוֹק שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה בֵּינֵיהֶם וְגִדְּלוּהוּ וְאֵינוֹ זָרִיז לֶאֱחֹז בְּדַרְכֵי הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא כְּאָנוּס וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁשָּׁמַע אַחַר כָּךְ [שֶׁהוּא יְהוּדִי וְרָאָה הַיְהוּדִים וְדָתָם הֲרֵי הוּא כְּאָנוּס שֶׁהֲרֵי גִּדְּלוּהוּ עַל טָעוּתָם] כָּךְ אֵלּוּ שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ הָאוֹחֲזִים בְּדַרְכֵי אֲבוֹתָם הַקָּרָאִים שֶׁטָּעוּ. לְפִיכָךְ רָאוּי לְהַחְזִירָן בִּתְשׁוּבָה וּלְמָשְׁכָם בְּדִבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם עַד שֶׁיַּחְזְרוּ לְאֵיתָן הַתּוֹרָה:


  • Thank you for your answer. In addition, we might add that Maimonides said “Listen the truth from the one who speaks it."So if Einstein says a truth, accept it. If he speaks a falsehood, reject it.
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 13, 2021 at 3:58
  • I don't think it is necessary to bring the first two sources of the Rambam.
    – user6781
    Apr 13, 2021 at 4:15
  • @user6771 it's just for context, without them it wouldn't make sense the beginning of 3 "to whom does the above apply?" Apr 13, 2021 at 7:31
  • 1
    I agree with @JohnGoshen It's for context. Context is important in a question or answer.
    – Turk Hill
    Apr 13, 2021 at 19:26
  • See Rambam Hilchos tshuvah Perek 3
    – TwoOs
    Jun 4, 2021 at 17:16

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