What is the status of divrei Torah written by someone who does not believe in the oral Torah? Does it retain any sanctity? Should it be burned or buried?

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    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/14492/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 0:37
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    You refer to someone that does believe in G-d and the Written Torah, just not the Oral Torah?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 1:57
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    physically written by him (as in if you find his Ksav Yad of a Pilpul) or written by him (as in he wrote something and it was physically printed by someone else). Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 19:24
  • @ShmuelBrin is there a difference?
    – MTL
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:02
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/59921/…
    – wfb
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 15:47

3 Answers 3


Nechama Leibowitz, in this letter, outlines her approach to this question. I think a basic level of intellectual honesty demands that if someone says a good pshat, that we use it. If they got it right, they got it right. To the sources regarding kisvei hakodesh written by an apikores, I think one must distinguish between the ideas and the physical books. The alternative is nonsensical. I'm supposed to ignore what I think is a correct idea simply because of who said it? Furthermore, on a practical level, I don't think the label of apikores can be so simply applied to all the "non-frum" sources. If someone did not grow up frum, its arguable their status is a tinok she'nishba, not an apikores. Additionally, it's debatable exactly what constitutes apikorsus. One man's Rebbe is another man's apikores. There's a lot of rishonim who did not conform to all 13 of Rambam's Ikkarim, yet they are accepted halachic authorities. The question of who and what is considered out of religious tradition is a much more complicated sugya than how it is presented in other answers to this question.

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    We still say over things from Elisha ben Abuyah Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 18:12
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    True. As Rabbi Meir put it, "I found a pomegranate, I discarded the peel and ate the fruit" Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:14
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    In Berachos 59a there is a story about R. Katina and a necromancer. The necromancer said what an earthquake is and R. Katina said that he's a liar and his words are false. A little later the Gemara says that this wasn't really true but that R. Katina said this so people wouldn't go after his words. As for R. Meir - my question is are other people (Ie us) able to properly distinguish between the peel and the fruit. In generally if something comes from a questionable source, it should not be used.
    – Yehosef
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 0:18
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    a mashal - few pills of rat poison fall into a jar of medicine. The pills happen to look the same to the untrained eye. Only a fool would rely on his judgement to take a pill from there - the risk is too great. But a trained pharmacist can tell the difference and is able to distinguish between the poison and the medicine.
    – Yehosef
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 0:24


Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 3:3): One who does not admit to oral Torah is an Apikores


Shulchan Aruch (334:21): If Kisvei ha'Kodesh were written by an Apikores, i.e. a devout idolater, or a Mumar to idolatry, we do not save it. Even on a weekday, we burn it with the Azkaros (mentions of Hash-m's name).

There is a story I verified about Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam (Second Bobover Rabbi) in Bobov prior to WW2. Once a shipment of Seforim written by an Apikores arrived at the Yeshiva. He took them outside and burnt them all. At that time he composed the song B'ni Al Teileich B'Derech Itom.

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    would that only apply to kisvei hakodesh or anything written that is torah related?
    – none
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 2:26
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    If we burn the most holy of items, then why would we not burn just a book or Divrei Torah written by such a person? Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 2:34
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    @GershonGold We may do that to make a very public and frightening statement, not necessarily out of a need to eradicate the material itself.
    – none
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 2:42
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    Also, I assume the question is not just discussing something he physically wrote.
    – Ariel K
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 3:32
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    If you burn it with Hashem's name then why would you hesitate to burn it without Hashem's name? Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 19:29

The Gemara in Avoda Zara 17a relates how Rebbe Eliezer was mistaken for a Christian and he attributed this denigration to the fact that he once accepted a Torah idea from an heretic. The Gemara in Shabbos 75 likewise tells us that one who learns anything from a Magush (either a sorcerer or an heretic) is deserving of death.

Although we find that Rebbe Meir learned from Acher, it is made very clear that Rebbe Meir was different in that he was great enough, and knew enough to pick out right from wrong. For the rest of us, we have Rebbi Yochanan's statement that one should only learn from someone who is like an angel. It should also be pointed out that Rebbe Meir wasn't learning Chidushim from Acher but rather he was gleaning from him what was taught by the earlier Rabbeim.

This is also somewhat evident in the Sugya in Brachos 59, mentioned by Yehosef, where Rav Ketina laughed off the explanation of the necromancer although, as explained in the Gemara, his retort wasn't really true. However, the Gemara goes on to explain the approach of Rav Ketina, Rav Nassan, the Rabbanan, and Rav Acha bar Yaakov on that matter. None of them agree to the explanation given by the necromancer although Rav Ketina's rebuttal did not truly knock it down.

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