Suppose there is a person who openly denies the divinity of the Torah, breaks the Sabbath and declares himself an atheist, but goes to synagogue for the sense of community or for cultural reasons. Can he be counted in the minyan, lead the prayers, or read from the Torah? I am asking of course from a traditional or Orthodox perspective.

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    Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the provocative question!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 0:44
  • Doesn't Rabbi Y. Salanter say that nowadays there are no more mumars leteiavon, only mumars lehachis? So the category of tinok shenishba shouldn't exist. Commented May 13, 2012 at 17:03
  • @AdamMosheh, please check your source on that. I'm inclined to believe that the opposite in fact was said. No one today who understands exactly what it means to violate the commandments to anger G-d in fact does so. On the other hand, our desires for forbidden things haven't decreased any.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented Aug 21, 2012 at 6:54
  • @Ze'evFelsen - Cf. Igeret Ha-Musar. Commented Aug 22, 2012 at 1:46
  • Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/100600/170
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 23:00

5 Answers 5


I haven't seen it inside, but:

"One may not count one who denies the truth of Torah Sh'baal Peh - aka The Oral Torah (and certainly one who denies The Written Torah received at Sinai via Moshe Rabbeinu) towards a minyan. [One may not count Conservative or Reform Jews towards a minyan.] Shulchan Aruch w/Mishnah Berurah 55:11, Piskei Tshuvos 55:21"

See here.

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    Yes, it's in Mishnah Berurah 55:47: וכל מי שהוא כופר בתורה שבע"פ אין מצטרף לכל דבר שבקדושה. Presumably, though, here's where the well-known distinction between knowing sinners and תינוקות שנשבו (made by the Rambam, Hil. Mamrim 3:3) would apply: if this person was raised in a non-religious home, he might not be considered a knowing כופר.
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 0:33
  • With regards to Tinuk Shenishbah in modern times, I haven't researched the sources yet, but check out this email, which brings some sources: ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v51/mj_v51i92.html#CYO see also here (Chapter 23): hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1122&pgnum=16
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 1:10
  • @Menachem Sefer Shulhan Aruch HaMidot holds that Hilonim in our times (except for those who purposely go against the Torah, and those who were once religious) are Tinok Shenishba. Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 3:19

No. In general, if the person is willing to violate the sabbath in public and even in front of a great rabbi, we assume he cannot count for a minyan. Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, (All Jews Are Responsible for One Another, from "Tradition and the Nontraditional Jew") based on the Rambam, says that chilul shabbos may not disqualify them if they are a tinok shenishba, but they have to accept the halachik requirements of a minyan to be counted for one. The Rambam said that the kaarites could not be counted for a Zimun because they rejected such halachos, so they cannot just be counted in for social reasons.

  • So according to Rav Rabinovitch, the answer is that if he is willing (i.e. agrees to participate in a minyan and not be passively counted), then it is okay?
    – AviD
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 7:34
  • I think he would have to recognize all the halachos of a minyan, such as who can be counted for one. It was based on a Rambam that discussed whether ka'arites could be counted for one.
    – Ariel K
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 14:19
  • "Recognize", i.e. accept, or know them? If it's the latter, it seems that most would be prevented from counting...
    – AviD
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 14:29
  • ____ accept _________
    – Ariel K
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 17:56
  • @Ariel, so if he agrees to participate, he is automatically eligible, simple by reason of agreeing? (This wouldnt include somebody that says "Sure count me if you want, I dont care, I'll just sit here and read my newspaper...")
    – AviD
    Commented Jun 18, 2011 at 19:35

The Rambam writes in his introduction to Perek Chelek that anyone who does not believe in his list of 13 fundamentals is not included in "Klal Yisrael." R' Yaakov Weinberg understood this to be true even if the person does not believe through no fault of his own, such as never having learned it. R' Weinberg explained that this is the case because these principles are necessary to having the correct relationship to Hashem, and if one is lacking in any of them, even by accident, they still will not have an accurate relationship with Hashem, and therefore cannot be called Yisrael.

Source: Recorded shiurim of R' Weinberg

That being the case, it would seem anyone who rejects one of these principles (one of which is the divinity of the Torah) does not have a relationship with Hashem, is not called "Yisrael," and could not be counted for a minyan.


one doesn't have to also be an apikores someone who simply does not keep shabbos is not to be counted as part of the minyan. this is the straightforward halacha

here are some things to consider though. there are no apikorsim today. in order to be an apekoris one has to have a great deal of Torah knowledge and understand everything that one is rejecting to begin with. This does not fit the description of many people and possible no one in our time.

The baalei teshuvah movement has grown and continues to grown over time. consider that many people who have reconnected with yiddishkeit would have never done so if they were thrown out of synagogue or even slighted by not being counted in the minyan. After all a yid is a yid and this person coming to the shul is there to learn about something completely new to them that they didn't even know existed or didn't really understand before.

makes me think of the case of which a husband and wife divorce and remarry and therefore and not allowed to remarry each other. however, a genuine teshuvah can bring them back together.

I'm sure you can find better written answers in halachic guidelines written specifically for this subject as it is most relevant in kiruv type shuls. as of right now I am unaware of a specific source for such a thing but perhaps if you go to the aish hatorah website or chabad.org they can help you find something


of course an apikores doesn't count for minian, but is not so simple to categorize someone as such, usually people are defined as a kidnapped baby

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    a little more details and some sources can turn this into a proper answer.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 5:46
  • what he is saying is simply in order to be considered an apikores one has to have a lot of Torah information and then reject all of that. This description fits very few if anyone today. One cannot truly reject the existence of G-d if one doesn't understand the existence of G-d
    – Dude
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 2:15

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