What is to be done with a Sefer Torah written by an apikoreis, or by a soffer of unknown apikoreis-status (whether it be a question of the status of the soffer who wrote it, or if it is unknown who the soffer actually was)?

To elaborate: Is there an issue with burying it and if so what is / might be the issue? Also, in cases of doubt, is there any argument to allow the Sefer to be used for anything (e.g., to be lained from, to dance with on Simchas Torah)?

  • As one of the answers has demonstrated the rambam is clear about what to do if he is an apikores. Establishing someone as an apikores is not as simple and not a great idea to label someone as such
    – Dude
    Commented Jan 19 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Rambam Laws of Tefilin, Mezuzah, and Sefer Torah 1:13:

יג ספר תורה תפילין ומזוזות שכתבן מין, יישרפו. כתבן גוי, או ישראל משומד, או מוסר, או עבד, או אישה, או קטן--הרי אלו פסולין וייגנזו: שנאמר "וקשרתם . . . וכתבתם" (דברים ו,ח-ט; דברים יא,יח-כ)--כל שמוזהר על הקשירה ומאמין בה, הוא שכותב. נמצאו ביד מין ואין ידוע מי כתבן, ייגנזו; נמצאו ביד גוי, כשרים. ואין לוקחין ספרים תפילין ומזוזות מן הגויים ביתר על דמיהן, שלא להרגיל אותם לגונבם ולגוזלם.‏

A Torah scroll, Tefillin, or Mezuzah written by a heretic -- burn it!... If you find one in the possession of a heretic and don't know who wrote it, bury it; if in the possession of a non-Jew, assume it's kosher.

The question comes up with missionary Bibles -- there's a recent Rabbi Hershel Schachter mp3 where he says you can throw the whole thing out.

If you don't know whether the author was a heretic (he got a "D" in Heresy 101?) ... eh, ask a rabbi in each situation. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein addressed the question of how to approach music written by a man who had many vices -- Rav Moshe clarified he was still not deemed a "heretic."

Rabbi Shneur Lyman (in Tradition 2008) has a great piece concerning a letter from Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer to someone cleaning out some old books -- he says "the one written by that fellow Frenkel who left the faith? Burn it, whatever!" Someone had mistaken this for Rabbi Zechariah Frankel , who had some ideas that would today be seen as on the borderline between Orthodox and Conservative. It turns out the letter concerned a fellow named Frenkel who had actually converted to Christianity and encouraged others to do the same.

  • 1
    Just reading about the author of shmiras shabbos k'hilchoso who has recently died. His father, Rabbi Neuwirth in Germany was at a sefer torah completion where they invited the local reform rabbi to also write one of the last letters. He called out, that that, would make the sefer torah posul.
    – user2800
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 1:05
  • @Annex not surprising. RMF has a discussion about calling someone for an aliyah if they ascribe no sanctity to the text being read.
    – Shalom
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 4:44

There was an incident that was recently taking place in Ukraine which The Beis Din of Crown Heights issued a letter on how to proceed in that situation.

  • Questionable yiras shomayim is not the same as a heretic. I don't think anyone would say you should burn his stam.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jan 19 at 15:20
  • @Heshy I edited my answer for clarity
    – The Targum
    Commented Jan 19 at 15:28
  • I don't think they said he was a heretic. They said he was a mumar. It's two different things (see Shalom's answer).
    – Heshy
    Commented Jan 19 at 15:38

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