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Mitzvah # 387 in the Sefer Hachinuch is not to go astray towards heresy and licentiousness. In that mitzvah, the Sefer Hachinuch writes the following line:

ענין לאו זה שנמנענו שלא ניחד מחשבותינו לחשוב בדעות שהם היפך הדעת שהתורה בנויה עליו לפי שאפשר לבוא מתוך כך למינות

The nature of this prohibition is that we are prevented from directing our thoughts to think about ideas that are contrary to the ideas that the Torah is built upon, because it is possible to come from this to heresy.

This seems to be saying that there is a prohibition of thinking about things that might lead to heresy, because they might lead to heresy. I.e. this mitzvah is designed to prevent one from reaching heresy. This implies that the intermediate step – thoughts about ideas contrary to the ideas the Torah is built upon – is not actual heresy. I.e. thinking things contrary to the Torah foundations may lead to heresy but is not itself heresy.

In the second Beiur Halacha (ד"ה הוא) R. Yisrael Meir Kagan quotes the Sefer Hachinuch about Six Constant Mitzvos, of which mitzvah # 387 is the sixth. In his quote for this mitzvah he writes:

ובכלל אפיקורסות הוא כל מחשבות זרות שהם היפך דעת התורה

And included in heresy are any foreign thoughts that are contrary to the view of the Torah.

This does not seem to be an accurate quote/paraphrase of the Sefer Hachinuch on two counts.

  1. The Beiur Halacha claims that these thoughts are themselves heretical, while the Sefer Hachinuch only says that they lead to heresy.
  2. The Beiur Halacha seems to include anything that goes against any Torah idea, whereas the Sefer Hachinuch only mentions things that go against the Torah's foundational ideas.

Did R. Yisrael Meir Kagan believe that the Sefer Hachinuch is in consonance with what he wrote? If yes, what is the explanation? If not, why does he claim that he is quoting/paraphrasing the Sefer Hachinuch when he is in fact expanding on the ideas mentioned in the Sefer Hachinuch?

As b a pointed out, the Chayei Adam (1:5) contains a similar formulation:

ובכלל מינות הוא כל מחשבות זרות שהם היפך דעת התורה

It is thus possible that the Beiur Halacha's interpretation was influenced by the Chayei Adam, or he remembered the Chayei Adam's formulation instead of the Sefer Hachinuch's formulation, or he was actually quoting the Chayei Adam (he does say to look at the Chayei Adam who speaks at length about this "ועיין בח"א כלל א' שהאריך ג"כ בהם"). This third option is perhaps less likely because he says at the end of the paragraph that he took everything from the Sefer Hachinuch "כ"ז לקטתי מלשונו הנחמד בקצרה", and, moreover, in Shemiras Halashon (2:2) R. Yisrael Meir Kagan discusses this idea again, and he explicitly attributes this very line to the Sefer Hachinuch:

וכתב החינוך שבכלל מינות הוא כל מחשבות שהם היפך דעת התורה

Regardless, the question still stands – where did either the Beiur Halacha/Shemiras Halashon or the Chayei Adam derive this expansion from?

Interestingly, in the Aruch Hashulchan that contains footnotes with the rulings of the Mishnah Berurah that diverge with those of the Aruch Hashulchan, this Beiur Halacha is cited as follows:

ובבה"ל (ד"ה הוא) כתב דבכלל מינות ואפיקורסות הוא כל מחשבות זרות שהם היפך דעת תורה

I don't know if this was deliberate or not but as you can see they left out the "ה" in התורה so that now it reads דעת תורה (instead of דעת התורה as it was in the Beiur Halacha), which in contemporary times can have an entirely different connotation. (I.e it can be read as saying that anything that goes against Da'as Torah is heretical.) This would be an even greater expansion of the Sefer Hachinuch.


I looked through approximately 50 sefarim that quote the Beiur Halacha, Shemiras Halashon, or Chayei Adam, and not one of them noted this issue. In fact, one of them actually said "these are the words of the Sefer Hachinuch in his introduction..." but then just cited the Beiur Halacha:

ז"ל החינוך בהקדמתו שלא נתור אחר מחשבת הלב וראיית העיניים ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם וגו' ואמרו חכמים אחרי לבבכם זו אפיקורסות עיניכם זו זנות ובכלל אפיקורסות הוא כל מחשבות זרות שהם היפך דעת התורה מובא בביאור הלכה סימן א

  • This doesn't address the question, but R. Yitzchak Abuhav in Menoras Hamaor appears to take an even stronger stance: "כי כל מחשבה רעה שבעולם או כפירה נכללת במינות". – Alex Jul 3 '18 at 7:05
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    This could just be a precursor to the modern Haredi trend of indeed expanding the bounds of the label heresy to, roughly speaking, anything not Haredi-PC. Call it anti-reform reformation. Call it chumraization. Call it politics. Whatever. – Double AA Jul 3 '18 at 14:31
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Re: question 1. The Sefer Ha-Chinuch is addressing the prohibition of לא תתורו, which means (in a translated version of the Rambam's words) "We should not turn our minds to these matters, think about them, or be drawn after the thoughts of our hearts." Therefore, the Sefer Ha-Chinuch states that thinking about such ideas may lead to heresy--because even contemplation of these ideas, without accepting them, can lead to heresy. The Beiur Halachah, on the other hand, is defining what heresy is, not how one may come to it.

Re: question 2. The words הדעת שהתורה בנויה עליו mean "the opinion on which the Torah is based." This can also be stated as דעת התורה--the opinion of the Torah--without doing any damage to the meaning. Defining heresy as a rejection of the opinion of the Torah is not a controversial assertion (or "expansion" of heresy), since the eighth principle of the Rambam includes as heresy rejection of any part of the Torah. (Of course, this does not resolve the question of what the opinion of the Torah is. However, knowingly rejecting the Torah's opinion would constitute heresy according to all rabbinic views.) In fact, the Rashbetz suggests that believing that what the Torah says is true is perhaps the only principle of the Torah (copied from note 6 here):

העיקר הגדול בכל זה הוא להאמין מה שכללה אותו התורה...ולזה יצדק לומר כי עיקרי התורה הם כמספר אותיות שבתורה או כמספר תיבות...כי מי שאינו מודה באחת מהן הוא משומד ואינו בכלל ישראל. ויצדק לומר גם כן שאין בתורה כי אם עיקר אחד והוא והוא להאמין כי כל מה שכללה אותו התורה הוא האמת

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You open up a huge discussion about the Poskim carefully choosing their words. This is another "common belief" which turns out very untrue.

It turns out they don't, especially when the topic is very fuzzy or/and educational or/and emotionally loaded. The Mitzvah of לא תתורו is one of those. It is fuzzy (no definitions of what thought exactly - stop words?), educational and very emotional (depending on its relevancy).

THere's a famous Kesef Mishneh on Rambam that shows this point:

"כל המשים על לבו וכו'. רבינו ז''ל הרחיב פיו ולשונו בפירוש המשנה פ''ד דמסכת אבות"

My approach in such cases, backed by my rabbi, is not to judge a Posek by his exact words, but to get the general direction unless he explicitly says "X and not Y". The examples are countless, and they are all based on the Gemmorah (even Mishna) itself which is very imprecise:

  • using different words for the same concept: פר/פרה, בית כנסת /בית מדרש, אבא/סבא etc.

  • using different levels of obligations: מצווה / חייב / יש לו etc

  • [Mis]quoting the Tanach

  • intentional exaggerations, or סלקא דעתך?

  • And many more.


NB: You're very keen, as I followed a couple of your questions, you try to dig questions in places where they aren't. I learned that from my youngest son that always took me up on my words, like I said: "Let's go see a bike for you", the next days he asks "Dad, where's my bike, you promised me yesterday!".

  • Are you saying that even when they claim to be quoting someone they don't carefully choose their words to make sure they are actually quoting? – Alex Aug 1 '18 at 19:18
  • @Alex Sorry to lay it on you, Poskim are humans. let me rephrase it - Poskim are only humans. Don't you remember yourself in your childhood, looking up at your parents and teachers thinking "They say the words of absolute truth, they know it all!". And a couple of years later, you're so disappointed realizing they are just as human as you are. Same with Poskim, when you start learning, you think they are angels, and only utter the words of truth, but as you grow and become one of them, you realize - they're just as human as you. – Al Berko Aug 1 '18 at 19:37
  • I grant that poskim are human; being human, however, does not entail not caring about using proper language or not caring about accurately quoting things. An answer saying that he was human and made a mistake in this particular instance is one thing. But you seem to be answering that he didn't care enough to be accurate. – Alex Aug 1 '18 at 19:57
  • I mentioned once, when I read my own Chidushim I wonder how imprecise I was choosing words. Make a small experiment, write a Chidush stopping at every word and thinking about how you might write it differently. Unfortunately, very few Poskin are self-aware enough to reflect their awareness of that problem. Most just follow "דברה התורה בלשון בני אדם" - so if the Torah didn't choose the words, why should we? – Al Berko Aug 1 '18 at 20:04

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