Rambam says that one who does not believe even one of the 13 principles of faith does not get into Olam HaBa.

Here is my question: The same Rambam spoke about the concept of a Tinok shenishba bein hanachrim; supposedly this person is forgiven for not following the halacha. Supposing that person knows a lot of Jewish opinions (including Karaite and Christian opinions) and a lot about Torah, etc. and keeps studying them, but they continue to sin because it's convenient to remain as they are and they don't have enough evidence to change their whole lifestyle. Is there a chance they have stopped having the status of Tinok shenishba bein hanachrim and risk becoming an apikoros or kofer? Do they still get forgiven and admitted into Olam HaBa?


3 Answers 3


The Rambam apparently believes that the tinoq shenishba is defined by the attitude he/she was raised with toward Torah, not only their ignorance of it. And so even after learning Torah, as long as his motivation was at least founded on the initial bias against believing its truth or applicability, the tinoq shenishba is not held to account.

To quote the Rambam's Code, Hilkhos Mamrim 3:1-3 (emphasis mine, tr. R' Zvi Lampel):

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:

.... However, this is speaking solely of those who ... initiate such denial, such as Tzadoq and Boethus. But the children and grandchildren of these kinds of men, who were misled by their fathers, that is, those who were born into and bred by the Qaraites, are like people who while still young had been taken into captivity and raised in another religion. Such captives are not quick to take hold of the mitzvos, for their situation is prac­tically beyond their control: Even if they later hear that they are Jewish and are exposed to Jews and Judaism, they still are consi­dered people who practice another religion only by force, since they were raised and educated erroneously. The same is true with those who keep the ways of their erroneous Karaite fathers.

A tinoq shenishba is mentioned in the gemara (Shabbos 68a) as a kind of oneis (someone who sins through no fault of his own); someone who never knew is less culpable than a shogeig (someone who sins because of forgetting). And thus, "oneis Rachamana patreih -- the All-Merciful forgives the oneis". (BQ 28b, AZ 54a, Nedarim 27b) Which is only logical. Someone who forgot is culpable to the extent that they should have taken the matter more seriously, then they could have remembered. But a tinoq shenishba's attitude toward observance is a product of circumstance.

And so, a tinoq shenishba would presumably not suffer for it in the afterlife.

(In general, later sources describe one's fate in the afterlife in terms of one's progress in this world; not absolute accomplishment. While that's a broader topic, you question would fit as one example.)

I therefore don't think you have to worry about part of your question. The Rambam would say there is no "chance they have stopped having the status of Tinok shenishba bein hanachrim [nor] risk becoming an apikoros or kofer".

However, you close with, "Do they still get forgiven and admitted into Olam HaBa?"

This presumes the Rambam believes that admition into the World to Come depends on culpability. It can be argued either way. There are strong indications he sees one's place in the World to Come as having a cause-and-effect relationship to one's Knowledge.

For example, Hilkhos Teshuvah 8:1:

... וְזֶה שֶׁאָמְרוּ צַדִּיקִים יוֹשְׁבִין דֶּרֶךְ חִידָה אָמְרוּ. כְּלוֹמַר הַצַּדִּיקִים מְצוּיִין שָׁם בְּלֹא עָמָל וּבְלֹא יְגִיעָה. וְכֵן זֶה שֶׁאָמְרוּ עַטְרוֹתֵיהֶן בְּרָאשֵׁיהֶן כְּלוֹמַר דַּעַת שֶׁיָּדְעוּ שֶׁבִּגְלָלָהּ זָכוּ לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא מְצוּיָה עִמָּהֶן וְהִיא הָעֲטָרָה שֶׁלָּהֶן...

And that which [the Sages] said that the righteous sit [in the World to Come], they spoke in a metaphoric manner. As to say, the righteous are present there without work of effort. Similarly, that which they said "their crowns on their heads", so as to say, the knowledge which they knew because of which they merited to life of the World to Come is found with them and is their "crown"...

Or your quote from the opening of his list of 13 Iqarim [Articles of Faith].

(Similarly, the Guide 3:18 describes knowledge as the key to being a "person" in the sense of getting hashgachah peratis [individual Divine Providence], prophecy is defined as the overflow of Knowledge from the Active Intellect to the prophet's intellect, the closing chapter calls Knowledge the highest human perfection, and so on.)

If he means this causally, then someone who lacks the requisite Knowledge simply lacks what it takes to get a place in the World to Come. Whether it's their fault or not.

  • Totally different answer now. Thanks for the prod. More comments? Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 19:17
  • Not at the moment, rest assured, if any occur to me, I will post them :)
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 19:55

This question seems to assume that the status of tinok shenishba is relevant to whether or not one receives heavenly reward in general, and olam haba in particular.

However, this system, in which one does not lose his share in the world to come if his beliefs are innocent or excusable, seems to be more of a description of the view of his famous disputant Ra'avad (animadversion to Hilkhot Teshuva 3:7), and there is little indication that Rambam agrees, and much reason to assume that he disagrees. For example, in Moreh Nevukhim (1:36) he writes specifically that:

If you think that there is an excuse for those who believe in the corporeality of God their training, their ignorance or their defective comprehension, you must make the same concession to the worshipers of idols...You will perhaps say that the literal interpretation of the Bible causes men to fall into that doubt...There is no excuse whatsoever for these people...

The implication is that questions of fault are irrelevant; even an innocent mistake based on upbringing is nevertheless punished.

Accordingly, someone with heretical beliefs against the principles would most probably be held accountable even if they feel they lack the evidence.

It should also be noted that Rambam often emphasises that intellectual perfection and understanding are core components of entry to the world to come. (cf. Hilkhot Teshuva (9:4), (9:7), Moreh Nevukhim (3:27), (3:54)). He does not peg it on merit alone, but on the presence of certain traits. This is further understood in light of his description of the olam haba which is an intellectual bonding with God (Hilkhot Teshuva 4:16). One who lacks the basics of Jewish belief loses his share not just as a punishment, but as as an inevitable result of his inability to experience it.

So yes, there is a very real chance that according to Rambam, in spite of upbringing one could be held at fault for heretical beliefs in contradistinction to Ra'avad's view (although some claim that Rambam would agree to Ra'avad which I don't find compelling, for reasons beyond the scope of this post).


the Ramchal in the Path of the Just says (based on the talmud) that there is no remedy for the evil inclination besides torah study. without torah study, the evil inclination will rule over a person without his knowledge. based on that, it seems they are not blameworthy since they have not had a proper torah education.

  • The OP seemed focused on Rambam's view. Do you have evidence that Rambam agrees to your conclusion? He certainly doesn't seem to...In fact, I see no evidence that even Ramhal disagrees. He could agree that there are necessary prerequisites to inclusion in the World to Come, and the exclusion isn't a punishment; which the ignorant person would be exempt from, but the inevitable result of his lack of necessary perfection.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 7:39

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