Say that we have a Jew. A very pious and loving man who honors the laws and attends Shul and does his best to honor Hashem.

The problem. He hears his Rabbis talk about things like the Mashiach and the Messianic age and he begins to have doubts about certain things.

  • The idea that the dead will rise from the grave.

  • The idea that animals which were predatory would now live peacefully with their prey. (an aspect of the Messianic age)

  • The idea that a world filled with atheists would suddenly honor a deity they had just recently rejected. (an aspect of the Messianic age)

  • Religions like Christianity and Islam and others would suddenly throw aside their old idols and honor the one true being Hashem. (an aspect of the Messianic age)

Is this man lesser in the eyes of Hashem for having doubts? Is he lesser in the eyes of God because even though he honors all of the day to day laws of Hashem, he has doubts about this topic?

Would a Jew who believes completely in all 13 Principles of Jewish faith be more pious in the eyes of Hashem than a Jew who does everything right while having doubts?

How does this work Halachically?

  • Very related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/35082/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:49
  • Regarding the predatory animals, Rambam himself explains this metaphorically (Hilkhot Melakhim 12:1).
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 4:01
  • "Would a Jew who believes completely in all 13 Principles of Jewish faith be more pious in the eyes of Hashem than a Jew who does everything right while having doubts?" Seems to not be a halakhic question, but a question of God's judgement. | "How does this work Halachically" Seems to be a halakhic question? Which one exactly are you asking?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 4:03
  • Pious, according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, means marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship. Doing everything right is a mark of piety. Doubt, ספק in Hebrew, relates to one of those things that needs to be dealt with or 'done right'. ספק has the same gematria as Amalek, עמלק. Amalek is the enemy of G-d and someone/something we, as Jews, are supposed to wipe out/erase. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 5:17
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/77976/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 23:13

3 Answers 3


I'll try to give this question a go:

Would a Jew who believes completely in all 13 Principles of Jewish faith be more pious in the eyes of Hashem than a Jew who does everything right while having doubts?

Not necessarily. Yes, it's true that the Rambam in the introduction to his commentary on Perek Chelek writes:

וּכְשֶׁנִּתְקַלְקֵל לאדם יסוד מאלה היסודות – הרי יָצָא מן הכלל וכפר בעיקר. ונקרא "מִין" וְ"אֶפִּיקוֹרוֹס" וְ"קוֹצֵץ בַּנְּטִיעוֹת". וּמִצְוָה לְשׂוֹנְאוֹ וּלְאַבְּדוֹ.

Translation: And when a Principle of these Principles is corrupted to a man, he has left the general community and has denied the fundamental. And he is called a heretic and an Apikoros and a chopper of shoots, and it is a mitzvah to hate him and destroy him.

However, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook wrote in Igrot Hara'ayah pt. 1 (Igeret 138, pg. 170-171) about the proper outlook we should have in regards to people who have doubts about their faith or have completely gone of the derech:

"...אם יחשוב...שראוי בזמן הזה לעזוב להפקר את אותן הבנים אשר סרו מדרכי התורה והאמונה על-ידי זרם הזמן הסוער...שלא זו הדרך אשר ה' חפץ בה. כשם שכתבו תוספות סנהדרין כ"ו ע"ב ד"ה החשוד, דיש סברא לומר דלא יפסל חשוד על העריות לעדות משום דחשיב כמו אונס, משום דיצרו תוקפו וכה"ג שכתבו כן תוספות גיטין מ"א ע"ב ד"ה כופין, שכיון שהשפחה משדלתם לזנות חשיבי כאונסין, כן היא ה"שפחה בישא" של זרם הזמן...שהיא משדלת בכל כשפיה הרבים את בנינו הצעירים לזנות אחריה. הם אנוסים גמורים..."

Translation: ...If he [a teacher or parent] would think...that it is behooved of us in this age to abandon those sons that have gone of the paths of the Torah and the Emunah by the surging flow of the time...that is not is not the way that Hashem is interested in. As the Tosafot in Sanhedrin 26b "Hachashud" wrote: that there's an argument to be made that someone suspected of immorality will not be disqualified as a witness because he is thought be like a man who is coerced, because his Yetzer attacked him, and similarly wrote the Tosafot in Gittin 41b "Kofin", that because the [female] slave seduced them to immorality they are considered to be under coercion, so is she the "bad [female] slave" of the flow of time, that she seduces many of our young sons to be seduced after her...they are completely coerced..."

When a man (in particular in our day and ever since the Enlightenment Period) is turned away from faith because he is compelled by the general thoughts of the society that's around him, he can't be held accountable in the same way that a regular sinner/heretic is.

And as it says in the Gemara (Brachot 10a):

Isaiah said to him: Why do you involve yourself with the secrets of the Holy One, Blessed be He?

We don't really understand "חשבונות שמיים", all the calculations of Hashem. Do we know how a person's thought process works? Do we know how he reached the conclusion that he has doubts in his faith? Do we know what he went through in life? We do not. And therefore cannot simply say that one person is more pious than the other. Only Hashem knows what is in our hearts.

How this translates in Halacha, though, I don't know.


1. The OP asks how this comparison would work Halachically?

The simple answer seems to be that the question is not a Halachic one. Halachah is the body of laws that tell a Jew how to behave in thought speech and deed. Halachah usually does not comment on comparing people in judgment in the eyes of Hashem. If it does, it would only be in passing as concerns a Halachah. For instance, one who violates the Sabbath publicly or worships idols would not be accepted to ritually slaughter kosher meat. Someone who wore a suit made of wool and linen, could still slaughter kosher meat. Doubting the resurrection of the dead, etc. does not seem to have such a Halachic effect.

Halachah would simply say that a Jew should both believe properly and act properly without sacrificing either goal. :)

This is more of a question on Hashkafah (Jewish moral outlook) and Kabbalah (The secret system of how Hashem runs the universe etc.).

2. The OP also asks if this man with doubts who performs mitzvos would be lesser or more pious in the eyes of Hashem than one who believes but lacks as much observance.

The answer is that no person could really be the spokesman for G-d on this one. Tehillim 33:15 is quoted by Chazal regarding the day of judgment. It says that Hashem is the one who fashions all hearts and understands all the deeds (of mankind).

Hashem takes everything into consideration when judging a man. This includes his upbringing, opportunities in life, conditions of life, his intelligence, ability etc. Therefore, even two people who equally doubted the resurrection of the dead but observed the laws, would be judged differently! It all depends on each person's abilities and challenges. One man eats pork while another man comes late to prayer. Who is better? The answer is that no one knows. It depends on each person's level. You may wish to read Rav Dessler's "Michtav M'Eliyahu", where he discusses each man's "Nekudas HaBechirah". That is a discussion on each man's level of free choice regarding different challenges.

So the answer is that we really do not know.

But, in general, Pirkei Avos ch. 1:17 (quoting Rabban Gamliel's son Shimon) does say that the main thing is the "deed" (not the "learning"). Man can certainly struggle with the whys and whats of Judaism intellectually. However, it is the disciplined man who acts properly that trumps knowledge by itself.

Finally, 3. it seems to me that the OP is implying that it wants to know what is "so bad" about doubting the resurrection from the dead and other Messianic age promises or; at least, we could intimate that the OP wants to know "how bad is it" to have doubts about this? (in Judaism)

Tehillim 92:7, "An unrefined man does not know, and a fool does not know this..."

Why does the pasuk repeat the example? Why does a boor simply "not know" but a fool doesn't know "this"??

Two men enter for a tour of the cockpit on a jetliner. Neither man has any background in aviation. One sees all the buttons and dials and says simply: "WOW"! The fool, sees the same thing, and notices a big fat green button on the ceiling. He asks: "Why is that green button there?" The pilot laughs. "..And the rest of the buttons and dials....you have no problem with? Is it just the green one overhead that looks out of place to you?"

The fool doesn't know "this". The truth is, he doesn't know anything. :) If he has no problem with the other buttons, then he should have no problem with the green one either.

So our pious Jew in the OP example understands and believes everything? The creation of the world, the 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, the fire descending on Mt. Carmel by Elijah, The Jews surviving Haman, Antiochus, and Hitler, then thriving as a nation today, and returning to the land of Israel etc. etc., ...these he has no question on. G-d can do anything. But G-d can't, or won't, return a pile of dust to life? He will not tame a lion so that it won't eat a lamb? He can't convince some people to believe in Him? "This" is the issue??

Talmud Sanhedrin, chapter Cheilek, 91a: A certain heretic once said to Geviah ben Pesissah (a Rabbi): "If even the living must die, then the dead should certainly remain dead!" Geviah answered: "If people who never existed can live, then people who once lived can certainly live again!"

The mistake the example pious Jew in the OP is making is a lack of "emunah". The particular lack is that he never internalized the fact that Hashem created and runs the world from nothing to what we see here, today, constantly.

Hashem made a world from nothing. There is no reason to believe that anything created by Hashem should be able to be destroyed? Yet things die and break. That is a miracle and Hashem's guidance. So too, when He decides to resurrect the dead, it will be a miracle and His guidance. How did He make dirt live? The same way he made nothing into dirt, and dirt into Adam.

Lions decided to eat flesh instead of grass. Cows eat grass instead of flesh. Why? Hashem designed it so. If lions start eating grass instead? Hashem decided so.

People who worship idols or don't believe in any religion, now lack the knowledge or stimulus to change. G-d will increase knowledge and revelation to the world; then, more people will believe.

His bank account was at 1 million and now it is down to seventy five thousand. Now, it will go back up to ten million. Why? G-d runs his bank account.

This is what needs to be internalized as a first step in understanding "emunah" (trust and faith in Hashem). The person proposed in the OP lacks an understanding of simple "emunah". That is how bad the problem is. I think that once a person understands this and internalizes it, the problem is solved.

A chasid once had the following conversation with the Tzemach Tzedek (3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe).

Chasid: Rebbe, I have doubts in Faith.

Rebbe: So what, who cares.

Chasid: But Rebbe! I am a Jew!

Rebbe: Oh OK. If so, then there is no problem. :)

If the guy goes to shul and offers "honor" service to Hashem, but has doubts. Then there is a lack of real "emunah". If the Jew cries out that he believes Hashem controls his life and the world and wants to see Hashem in his life...then the doubts are already answered.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 19:37

Rabbi Marc B. Shapiro explains in his book The Limits of Orthodox Theology, that Jews can believe whatever they want so long as they observe the rabbinical enactments as the rabbis explained them.

thus, surprising as it may sound, such a person would be right to have doubts. The world functions according to the laws of nature. G-d does not interfere with these laws which the Bible calls "Very good."

It is not an exaggeration to say that Maimonides probably understood Judaism better than anyone. For example, he explains in his “Code of Jewish Laws, Laws of Kings 11:3,” that there is no such thing as miraculous messiah:

“Do not think that the messianic king must perform miracles and wonders, bring new things into being, revive the dead, or perform similar feats as foolish people believe.”

In 12:1, he continues,

“Do not think that in the messianic age, things will be different, or the laws of nature will change. Rather, the world will continue in familiar ways.”

Thus, Maimonides says that the messianic age will be a natural period.

A rational approach to the messiah and messianic age is to understand them as a gradual evolutionary process. When the biblical prophets spoke about the “end of days,” or “the messianic age,” they had this in mind. When Isaiah described lions lying with sheep and beating swords into plowshares, he was speaking figuratively and poetically about all countries working together to improve themselves and society.

The Bible does not speak about a messiah (mesheach) arriving miraculously to save the world. Instead, the Bible says that if you act well, all will be well. People should work to create such an age rather than rely on miracles.

  • 4
    That isn't what Shapiro explains in his book. Please stop writing it everywhere. It's incorrect.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 2:48
  • 4
    Rabbi Marc B. Shapiro explains in his book The Limits of Orthodox Theology, that Jews can believe whatever they want so long as they observe the rabbinical enactments as the rabbis explained them. He actually specifically rejects this possibility in his introduction, beginning on page 29 with: "There is no question that one of the great misinterpretations of Judaism, so frequently repeated that it is often assumed as a matter of course, is that Judaism does not have dogmas."
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 3:22
  • @Alex Dr. Marc Shapiro agrees that Judaism has dogmas. This does not distract from my earlier point that Jews can believe whatever they want. He proves this by showing how many well-respected rabbis did not all agree with Maimonides' 13 fundamentals and were still considered Jews within the framework of Judaism. Additionally, Menachem Kellner explains that Maimonides was the first Jew to bring dogma to Judaism.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 4:37
  • @DoubleAA I only write it when it's relevant to the answer. It is correct.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 4:37
  • 1
    @Jonathan He doesn't prove that you can believe whatever you want. He proves that not everyone accepted the specific principles formulated by Maimonides.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 4:39

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