I have observed that Orthodox Jews seem to withdraw from those who were once "frum" (observant) but are now secular. Are they obligated to do so?

How are we to understand the parable in which God admonished Abraham for throwing an old man out of his tent for being an idol worshiper?

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    Where in the world did that parable come from?
    – Heshy
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 0:17
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    Where is this story found and who actually says it? Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 0:18
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    It is a story from the medrash that I learnt in Yeshiva a long time ago and it made an impression on me. Although I do not have it's source.
    – D. Levi
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 0:57
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    As I remember it, Abraham found an old man wandering near his tent and invited him in providing him with a meal. He thanked Abraham after he ate and Abraham said, "Do not thank me, thank the Creator". The old man answered that he worshiped fire, not the Creator. Abraham grew angry and threw him out. God asked Abraham where his guest was and he told Him, "I threw him out because he did not worship You". God said, "I tolerated him for 100 years, and you could not tolerate him for a meal?"
    – D. Levi
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 1:04
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    I think you should refine the question title as it doesn't quite match the content. A secular Jew is not someone who has rejected Judaism, IMO. There are numerous "secular" Jews (and that has a huge spectrum of definition in that word "secular") who still identify themselves as Jewish. Perhaps a Jew who consistently practices Catholic rites such as going to Church Mass consistently would fit the definition of rejecting Judaism.
    – DanF
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 16:29

2 Answers 2


Far from it.

There is a commandment to love your fellow as yourself (Vayikra 19:18). There is also a concept of responsibility for another Jew ("kol Israel areivim zelaze", see Shevuot 39a and here on MY for more sources on the mitzva of kiruv). From there every Jew has to respect and love other Jews, no matter how close or far from observance they are. (as Chaim noted in the comments, this does not apply to an apikores, see here)

I don't doubt you have observed some Jews who distanced themselves from those who rejected Judaism. This might come from a worry this might negatively influence their children. But there are many examples of the opposite, actually there are entire organizations dedicated to bring those who are far from observance, whether from birth or because they distanced themselves over time. Chabad has 4000+ emissaries dedicated to this mission, and so do organizations such Aish HaTorah, Ohr Somayach, Arachim, and many others.

Regarding the parable you cite, it is a variation (with significant differences) of the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 43:7 and 49:4) where Avraham provided food to strangers in exchange for blessings to God. I don't believe there is an authentic source for it (it is recounted here but see update below). If the person Avraham threw out was an idolater, Avraham was only following what the Rambam would later codify as halacha (Mishne Torah Hilchot Avoda Zara 2:5)

[...] A convert to idolatry, behold him, he is rebellious against the whole scope of the Torah. Likewise are infidels of among Israel not to be judged in aught as Israelites, nor should they ever be received as penitents, for it is said: "None that go unto her return, neither do they attain unto the paths of life" (Prov. 2.19) [...] It is forbidden to converse with them, and to answer any argument concerning them, as it is said: "And come not nigh the door of her house" (Ibid. 5.8)

The way the tale is recounted above feels very odd (especially its conclusion). I checked with talmidei chachamim and none to date could trace this parable.

UPDATE: I have now received a response from R David Hartley Mark who claimed on his site to recount "an old midrashic tale". He told me he didn't remember where he read it and referred me to here and there. He explicitly wrote "sorry it is not Bereshit Raba or some other lofty tome". I think we can now conclude this "midrashic tale" is nothing but a human invention and is no more midrashic than any other fable.

  • Thank you for this response. It is very helpful. Given the halacha, as stated by the Rambam, couldn't the fact the someone who was once observant and is now not observant and secular be viewed as an idolater? Or at least an apikoros, which I believe it is mandated that Jews withdraw from that person?
    – D. Levi
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:07
  • I quoted the Rambam re Avraham - not for a previously observant Jew. I am not aware of any halacha staying one has to distance oneself from them
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:24
  • I'm pretty sure the link you provide is the source: "David Hartley Mark I teach: Judaism and English & American Literature and Composition. I lead services and discussion groups. I write fiction, both Jewish and secular, but mainly with a Jewish angle." The Jewish angle is mostly that the character's name is Abe but the view expressed is not particularly traditional at all and is instead, typical American Jewish Liberalism.
    – Loewian
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:41
  • "And praying to that wooden doll wasn’t hurting anyone." - either this person made the whole thing up as @Loewian says or he made up that line. There's no way "idolatry doesn't hurt anyone" comes from a real source.
    – Heshy
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 14:48
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    @mbloch great mentschluchkeit answer 👍
    – alicht
    Commented May 26, 2019 at 17:23

Judaism holds a fine balance between altruism and self-preservation. We are obligated to help others as long as it does not hurt or harm ourselves.

  • When dealing with (excuse me) "spiritually sick" people (Rambam's definition), one should weight the Mitzvah of reaching out and helping and bringing them closer vs. the prohibition of harming oneself. Imagine meeting someone infected with a virus. If you have the skills and knowledge of how to handle the disease you can help and connect with such person, but if you're not trained and have little knowledge of the situation you can harm yourself and, therefore, prohibited from contacting such person.

  • Most Orthodox Jews are "not trained" and can not handle proper communication with a person that left religion, risking either harm the person or harm himself, by letting doubts in, just like contacting an infected person.

  • This is the reason, that most Ultra Orthodox communities ban on contacting such people (army recruits in Israel, for example), as even talking about the possibility of the army service can seriously damage the whole community.

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    most Ultra Orthodox communities ban on contacting such people (army recruits in Israel, Could you demonstrate that this is the case?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 0:22
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    the question was on people having left Judaism, then you mention spiritually sick, then virus, then army recruits in Israel - not sure how the last one fits with the other 3 ...
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 4:47
  • Just Google: "חרדי חוזר בשאלה התאבד", like news.walla.co.il/item/2886990
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 16:28
  • @mbloch mako.co.il/mako-vod-keshet/iron-dome-s1 is a nice TV series that demonstrates pretty unbiasedly a very hard choice that Haredi families with such members face. As they are not prepared to deal with "Yoytzim BeSheelah" the only way is to completely ban them. Absolutely 100% of them testify they were cut out off the family and the community. Currently more and more Haredi communities start to prepare suitable frameworks with highly trained personal to handle those kids within the communities.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 16:36
  • @AlBerko that, yes I heard of this series, I personally don't watch TV but heard very good things. I personally know of haredi kids in this situation, who weren't interested/able to do full-time yeshiva and started dropping out/living in the streets. They understand the army would give them a framework to redeem their lives and enrolled - only to find themselves rejected by their families. Sad situation. Indeed there are more and more programs to bridge the gap so there is hope for the future
    – mbloch
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 17:18

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