There are several commandments that contain the phrase "b'amecha" (or a variation thereof). The gemarah darshans "b'oseh ma'aseh amcha" that those commandments only apply to a Jew who is acting in a way that is in keeping with the Jewish nation. Would Conservative, Reform and formerly-Orthodox ("off the derech") Jews be considered "oseh ma'aseh amcha" and if not are they therefore precluded from all of those commandments eg. one may speak lashon hara about them etc?

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    Maybe some examples from the Torah and from the Gemara...
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2012 at 13:53
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    Mi.Yodeya_Fan, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this valuable question! You could make it even more valuable by editing in citations for the commandments and Talmudic ruling that you refer to. I've edited your username so that it won't be confusing to site users; feel free to edit it further per your preference, but keep it non-confusing. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 14, 2012 at 13:53
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    @IsaacMoses is being too nice here. The username you selected borders on identity theft, and misrepresents yourself. We're happy to have you here, but please be a mensch.
    – Dave
    May 14, 2012 at 14:06
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    also, @IsaacMoses probably worth drafting some guidelines re-user ids May 14, 2012 at 15:44
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    @Identitytheft-Dave, I'm not sure that's necessary; we seldom run into issues that require intervention. You can post a proposal on Meta if you want.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 14, 2012 at 15:47

2 Answers 2


Strictly speaking such a question would have to be addressed on a case by case basis, as the criteria are not straightforward and different areas of halacha don't always use the same criteria.

Assessing a Jew's halachic status within the Jewish community depends on a wide range of factors of which the objective fact of his observance (or lack thereof) is only the first step. Much depends on exactly what he fails to observe, how he fails to observe, and why he fails to observe. Moreover, the "why" question includes both the non-observant Jew's stated reasons and our (i.e. the religious community's) understanding of why he fails to observe, even if they are in conflict. Thus, the classic case of a "tinok sh'nishba" ("captured child"), referring to a Jew who was raised in a non-Jewish environment. Such a Jew may believe that his non-observance derives from a rejection of Judaism, but we may well conclude that his non-observance is simply the result of his environment.

In general, the general thrust of most modern poskim (going back at least to the Chazon Ish) is to be very hesitant to exclude a non-observant Jew from his full status within the community.

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    This excellent answer would be even more excellent with a little more in the way of source-citation, even if that is simply some indication of the source/level of your familiarity with the "general thrust of modern poskim."
    – Isaac Moses
    May 14, 2012 at 14:16
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    @Identitytheft-Dave, maybe because we are to judge favorably instead of jumping to the worst conclusion up front? May 14, 2012 at 14:51
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    @MonicaCellio but does that precept itself apply only to someone who is not already established as a sinner? are you obligated to judge a rasha favorably? May 14, 2012 at 14:53
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    @Identitytheft-Dave I agree that it is a hard topic to discuss without sources, however even with sources it is hard to discuss because there are too many different variables involved to make general statements. That is why I emphasize that these situations need to be handled case by case. As for "burden of proof", I'm not sure if that applies to questions of this sort in the first place. In any case, in the absence of a pre-existing psak invalidating a specific individual, that individual retains his chezkas kashrus and the "burden of proof" would be on disqualifying him.
    – LazerA
    May 14, 2012 at 15:10
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    @Identitytheft-Dave, by declaring him a rasha you're judging him unfavorably. You don't know he's a rasha; you just know that he isn't observant. You don't know why, how he came to be in that situation, anything. One of our LORs once summoned a car to his house on Shabbat and got in; is he a rasha? You don't know just from that that it was a medical emergency and this was the fastest way to the hospital. (Note: I'm not saying that all non-O Jews have such extenuating circumstances; I'm saying that you don't know and so can't jump to a conclusion.) May 14, 2012 at 15:32

Rav Ettlinger in the Binyan Tzion suggests two ways of being inclusive of those who are not observant. The first is to say that the children of the reformers are tinbokot she'nishbu (children who were taken captive and didnt know any better). The second is to put them into the category of Omrei Mutar (those who claim a certain action is permitted despite it being forbidden)

In both of these categories those who are not observant can be considered Shogegim or even anussim in certain cases (mistaken transgressors or transgressors who had no ability to avoid transgression)

Despite this a simple read of Rambam Hilkhot Teshuva would indicate that these people are not. What Rav Ettlinger does is explain why the modern Jew who is not frum does not fall into the categories which the Rambam describes.

See this article which is very well written on the subject

  • The discussion is in the Binyon Tzion, not the Aruch Laner. But moreover, he is talking about people who are still making kiddush (and professing God's creation of the world) and observing Shabbos partly, just they have to work for a living too. Do you think this applies to secular people today?
    – Curiouser
    May 14, 2012 at 14:25
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    I think that Conservative Jews are Omrei Mutar. Many know that there is an halakh and that melakha is assur on shabbat yet they believe it is mutar to drive on shabbos. Reform Jews are more complecated. I think that in essence they are tinokot shenishbu. They were raised in an environment that promoted an anti-halakhic life style. this is deeply troubling but seems to fit the category of tinok she'nishba according to R Ettlinger. (it is the binyan tzion I have corrected the answer) May 14, 2012 at 14:35
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    I think that what @LazerA has keyed up on on his answer above is that there is much to lose from excluding people and little to gain while if we include people then there is always hope that they may return to Derekh Hashem. May 14, 2012 at 14:37
  • @EytanYammer i'm not sure i follow that last line of reasoning lose and gain for whom? the drasha stands, do we not like its implications? May 14, 2012 at 14:43
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    what I meant was that the cost benefit equation goes gets weighed as part of the Halakhic reasoning when addressing any question. The fact that the risks are so high tilts the poskim in a particular direction. It is the same thing in cases of being matir mamzeirim. The risk for the mamzer is so high that poskim have always looked for any way to say that this particular person is not a mamzer. Of course all this has to be within Halakhic parameters and never God Forbid stray beyond them. May 14, 2012 at 16:41

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