Today is April 12, 2024 / /

The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Dogma and Jewish Status

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on August 30, 2016)
Topics: Belief & Observance, Halakha & Modernity

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 A.    Becoming A Jew

Notice that the process focuses entirely on acceptance of mitzvot and not of ikrei emunah.  While certain beliefs are assumed – i.e., the existence of an olam habah – the purpose of the process is to ensure that the ger accepts not only the obligation of the mitzvot but the yoke of the mitzvot – the full gravity of the obligation.  There is no indication that the prospective ger must affirm or accept any beliefs.

  1. Bavli, Yebamot, 47a-b  |   (:תלמוד בבלי, יבמות (מז. – מז
תנו רבנן: גר שבא להתגייר בזמן הזה, אומרים לו: מה ראית שבאת להתגייר? אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים, דחופים, סחופים ומטורפין, ויסורין באין עליהם? אם אומר: יודע אני ואיני כדאי, מקבלין אותו מיד. ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות, ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני. ומודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, אומרים לו: הוי יודע, שעד שלא באת למדה זו, אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת, חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה, ועכשיו, אכלת חלב ענוש כרת, חללת שבת ענוש סקילה. וכשם שמודיעין אותו ענשן של מצות, כך מודיעין אותו מתן שכרן, אומרים לו: הוי יודע, שהעולם הבא אינו עשוי אלא לצדיקים, וישראל בזמן הזה ־ אינם יכולים לקבל ־ לא רוב טובה ולא רוב פורענות. ואין מרבין עליו, ואין מדקדקין עליו. קיבל, מלין אותו מיד.Our Rabbis taught: If at the present time a man desires to become a proselyte, he is to be addressed as follows: ‘What reason have you for desiring to become a proselyte; do you not know that Israel at the present time are persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed and overcome by afflictions’? If he replies, ‘I know and yet am unworthy’, he is accepted immediately, and is given instruction in some of the minor and some of the major commandments. He is informed of the sin [of the neglect of the commandments of] Gleanings, the Forgotten Sheaf, the Corner and the Poor Man’s Tithe. He is also told of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments. Furthermore, he is addressed thus: ‘Be it known to you that before you came to this condition, if you had eaten fat you would not have been punishable with kareth, if you had profaned the Sabbath you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat fat you would be punished with kareth; were you to profane the Sabbath you would be punished with stoning’. And as he is informed of the punishment for the transgression of the commandments, so is he informed of the reward granted for their fulfillment. He is told, ‘Be it known to you that the world to come was made only for the righteous, and that Israel at the present time are unable to bear either too much prosperity or too much suffering’. He is not, however, to be persuaded or dissuaded too much. If he accepted, he is circumcised forthwith.

Notice in contrast how Rambam inserts the requirement to educate the prospective ger in ikrei hadat, and makes this the primary emphasis of the conversion process – ma’arikhin bidavar zeh.  There is no basis in the gemara for this shift in emphasis.

2. Maimonides, Forbidden Sexual Relations, 14:1-2  |   רמב”ם, הלכות איסורי ביאה, יד:א-ב

כיצד מקבלין גירי הצדק כשיבוא אחד להתגייר מן העכו”ם ויבדקו אחריו ולא ימצאו עילה, אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר, אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים ודחופים ומסוחפין ומטורפין ויסורין באין עליהן, אם אמר אני יודע ואיני כדאי מקבלין אותו מיד.

ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עכו”ם, ומאריכין בדבר הזה ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואין מאריכין בדבר זה, ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופיאה ומעשר שני, ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצות…

How do we accept proselytes?  When he comes to convert from idolatry, and we investigate him and do not find an ulterior motive, we say to him, “What did you see that you came to convert?  Do you not know that Israel at this time is anguished and discarded and beaten and afflictions beset them?”  If he says, “I know and yet I am unworthy” – we accept him immediately.

            And we inform him of the fundamentals of the faith, which are the Unity of God and the prohibition of idolatry, and we discuss these matters at great length.  And we inform him of a portion of the light mitzvot and a portion of the severe mitzvot and we do not discuss these at great length, and we inform him of the sin of gleanings, and the forgotten sheaf and the corner and the second tithe, and we apprise him of the punishment for [failure to perform] the mitzvot. .

B.    Losing Jewish Status

Some gemarot of many that relates to a person who has been disqualified to some degree – either to be able to perform certain mitzvot (write a get, be a shochet, etc.) or to be treated as an equal Jew (hashavat aveida, etc.).  All of these gemarot disqualify people only of the basis of action (although some actions are worse because of the beliefs that they reflect) – achicha bimitzvot, min, and mumar, and never on the basis of belief alone.  (There are some local exceptions, e.g., ketivat Sefer Torah, which have to do with kavanat haShem.  One may similarly include tefillah for someone who does not believe in G-d.  However, there are no categorical disqualifications for such people.)

  1. Bavli, Avoda Zara, 26b   |   (:תלמוד בבלי, עבודה זרה (כו
איתמר: מומר – פליגי רב אחא ורבינא, חד אמר: לתיאבון – מומר, להכעיס – מין הוי; וחד אמר: אפילו להכעיס נמי מומר, אלא איזהו מין? זה העובד אלילי כוכבים.It has been stated: [In regard to the term] mumar there is a divergence of opinion between R. Aha and Rabina; one says that [he who eats forbidden food] to satisfy his appetite, is a mumar, but [he who does it] to provoke is a ‘min’; while the other says that even [one who does it] to provoke is merely an mumar. — And who is a ‘min’? — One who actually worships idols

2. Bavli, Eiruvin 69a   |   (.תלמוד בבלי, עירובין (סט

אמר רב הונא: איזהו ישראל מומר ־ זה המחלל שבתות בפרהסיא.R. Huna stated: Who is regarded as an Israelite mumar? He who desecrates the Sabbath in public. 

The case of Samaritans is a wonderful illustration of the gemara’s lack of concern –in terms of halakhic disqualification – for belief per se.  Samaritans certainly did not accept Torah SheB’al Peh.  Even their Torah Shebiktav was different from Hazal’s.  Nonetheless, the entire question of their qualification for shechita (and other mitzvot) revolves around their shmirat mitzvot, not their beliefs.

3. Bavli, Hullin, 3b   |   (:תלמוד בבלי מסכת חולין (ג

תנו רבנן: שחיטת כותי מותרת, במה דברים אמורים – כשישראל עומד על גביו…Our rabbis taught: Slaughter performed by a Samaritan is valid.  When is this true?  When a Jew is standing over him…

Even the famous halakha of “moridim vilo ma’alim” which is widely assumed to refer to apikorsim is stated in the gemara only in regards to minim, mumrim, and mosrim – people defined by their actions, as the gemara there explains.   Once again, Rambam extends this to apikorsim, see below C5.

4. Bavli, Avoda Zara, 26a-b   |   (:בבלי, עבודה זרה  (כו.-כו

תני רבי אבהו קמיה דר’ יוחנן: העובדי כוכבים ורועי בהמה דקה ־ לא מעלין ולא מורידין, אבל המינין והמסורות והמומרים ־ היו מורידין ולא מעלין… איתמר: מומר ־ פליגי רב אחא ורבינא, חד אמר: לתיאבון ־ מומר, להכעיס ־ מין הויֹ וחד אמר: אפילו להכעיס נמי מומר, אלא איזהו מין? זה העובד אלילי כוכבים.Abbahu recited to R. Johanan: ‘Idolaters and [Jewish] shepherds of small cattle need not be brought up though they must not be cast in, but minim, informers, and mumrim may be cast in, and need not be brought up.’

            …  It has been stated: ‘mumar,’  there is a divergence of opinion between R. Aha and Rabina; one says that [he who eats forbidden food] to satisfy his appetite, is a mumar, but [he who does it] to provoke is a min; while the other says that even [one who does it] to provoke is merely a mumar. — And who is a min? — One who actually worships idols.

C.    Apikorsim and Shitat HaRambam

The clearest “disqualifying” statement in the gemara as regards people with false beliefs is the mishna in Sanhedrin regarding “ha’omer ein techiat hameitim min haTorah and ein Torah min haShamayim” and their portion in the world to come.  First, this does not refer to all rejecters, as the gemara clarifies that apikores has a limited meaning.  Second,, the person referred to here is not one who merely does not believe in his heart of hearts, but one who openly and perhaps antagonistically rejects these beliefs – ha’omer.   Third, and most importantly, this source never states any halakhic disqualification.  Olam HaBah is a reality for G-d to be concerned about.  There is no indication in this source that we as a halakhic community treat this person any differently.  Finally, it should be noted that many people fall into the category of no chelek li’olam haba – hamalbin penei chaveiro birabim, hakore biseforim chitzoniyim, etc.  Would anyone ever suggest that these people are pasul l’eidut or shichita or the like?

  1. Talmud, Sanhedrin, 90a, 99b   |   (:תלמוד בבלי, סנהדרין (צ., צט
משנה. כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא, שנאמר (ישעיהו ס) ועמך כלם צדיקים לעולם יירשו ארץ נצר מטעי מעשה ידי להתפאר. ואלו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא: האומר אין תחיית המתים מן התורה ואין תורה מן השמים, ואפיקורוס. רבי עקיבא אומר: אף הקורא בספרים החיצונים, והלוחש על המכה ואומר כל המחלה אשר שמתי במצרים לא אשים עליך כי אני ה’ רפאך. אבא שאול אומר: אף ההוגה את השם באותיותיו. שלשה מלכים וארבעה הדיוטות אין להן חלק לעולם הבא. שלשה מלכים: ירבעם, אחאב, ומנשה.

 גמ’  אפיקורוס. רבי ורבי חנינא אמרי תרוייהו: זה המבזה תלמיד חכם. רבי יוחנן ורבי יהושע בן לוי אמרי: זה המבזה חבירו בפני תלמיד חכם.

Mishna.  All Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it says, “And your nation is entirely righteous, for all eternity they will inherit the land.” (Isa. 60:21).  And the following have no share in the World to Come:  One who says that there is no resurrection of the dead, and [one who says] that the Torah is not from heaven, and an apikoros. R. Akiba added: one who reads uncanonical books.  And also one who whispers [a charm] over a wound and says, “I will bring none of these diseases upon thee which I brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”  Abba Saul says: also one who pronounces the divine name as it is spelled.

            Three kings and four commoners have no portion in the world to come: the three kings are Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manasseh.

Gemara. “An apikoros”. Rab and R. Hanina both taught that this means one who insults a scholar. R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi maintained that it is one who insults his neighbor in the presence of a scholar.

Rambam first broadens the meaning of apikores to include all heretics.  Then, he assumes that if all Israel has a portion and a heretic does not have a portion, the only logical conclusion is that a heretic is not part of Israel.  From this he concludes that none of the inter-faith obligations apply to the heretic and that he is yatza miklal yisrael.  This is the textual basis for Rambam’s rulings that an apikores is invalidated.  Rambam goes so far to say that this more invalidates a person than does action.  Again recall that none of the gemarot that deal with disqualification ever mentioned belief.

3.  Maimonides, Commentary to Mishna, Sanhedrin, Chapter 10

The word apikoros is an Aramaic word, and its sense is the treating lightly and the degrading of the Torah or the sages of the Torah, and therefore this term is used in a general sense to refer to anyone who does not believe in the fundamental beliefs of the Torah, or degrades sages, or Torah scholars, or his teacher-rabbi….

            And what is appropriate to mention here – and this is the most appropriate place to mention it – is that the fundamental beliefs of our pure Torah and its foundations are thirteen foundations…

            [Here Maimonides gives his list of the 13 Principles of Faith.] …

            When all these principles of faith are in the safe keeping of man, and his conviction of them is well established, he then enters into the general body of Israel, and it is incumbent upon us to love him, to care for him, and to do for him all that God commanded us to do for one another in the way of affection and brotherly sympathy.  And this, even though he be guilty of every transgression possible, by reason of the power of desire or the mastery of the base natural passions.  He will receive punishment according to the measure of his perversity, but he will have a portion in the World to Come, even though he be of the transgressors of Israel.

            When, however, a man breaks away from any one of these fundamental principles of belief, then of him it is said that he has “gone out of the general body of Israel” and “rejected the fundamental [truths of Judaism].”  And he is termed a min and an apikoros and a kotzetz binitiyot, and it is obligatory upon us to hate him and cause him to perish.  And it is concerning him that the scriptural verse says – Shall I not hate those who hate thee, O Lord?

Is Rambam’s logic compelling?  First of all, we are all familiar with many examples of “kol x kasher” followed by exceptions.  This does not mean that the exceptions do not fall in the category of x.  Second, as Chakmat Shlomo reports, Rashi notes that the line “kol yisrael yesh lahem chelek” is not originally of the mishna.  This is also noted by the shinuei nuschaot in the yachin uboaz mishnayot.  It should be noted that many sources indicate that not all Israel have a chelek, but only the tzadikim.   See end of A1, above.

3.   Chakmat Shlomo, Sanhedrin 90a   |   (.חכמת שלמה, סנהדרין (צ

רש”י בס”א כצ”ל כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא הך בבא אינו מזו המשנה אלא אגדה בעלמא וכתובה כאן כדי להתחיל הפרק בדבר טוב אבל רישא דפירקין הכי ואילו שאין להם חלק לעולם הבא…In other editions of Rashi, we read the following: ‘All Israel has a portion in the World to Come’ – this passage is not from the mishnah, but it is a mere aggada and was written here in order to start the chapter on a good note.  But the actual beginning of the chapter is: ‘And the following do not have a portion in the World to Come.’

In the next two sources, Rambam repeats and elaborates his position that heretical belief is worse than heretical action, even idolatry!

4. Maimonides, Guide of Perplexed, I:36

… What then should be the state of him whose infidelity bears upon His essence, may He be exalted, and consists in believing Him to be different from what He really is?  I mean to say that he does not believe that He exists; or believes that there are two gods, or that He is a body, or that he is subject to affections; or again that he ascribes to God some deficiency or other.  Such a man is indubitably more blameworthy than a worshipper of idols who regards the latter as intermediaries or as having the power to do good or ill. 

Know accordingly, you who are that man, that when you believe in the doctrine of the corporeality of God or believe that one of the states of the body belongs to Him, you provoke His jealousy and anger, kindle the fire of His wrath, and are a hater, an enemy, and an adversary of God, much more so than an idolater.  If, however, it should occur to you that one who  believes in the corporeality of God should be excused because of his having been brought up in this doctrine or because of his ignorance and the shortcomings of His apprehension, you ought to hold a similar  belief with regard to an idolater; for he only worships idols because of his ignorance or because of his upbringing: They continue in the custom of their fathers.  If, however, you should say that the external sense of the biblical text causes men to fall into this doubt, you ought to know that an idolater is similarly impelled to his idolatry by imaginings and defective representations.  Accordingly there is no excuse for one who does not accept  the authority of men who inquire into the truth and are engaged in speculation if he himself is incapable of engaging in such speculation.  I do not consider as an infidel one who cannot demonstrate that the corporeality of  God should be negated.  But I do consider as an infidel one who does not believe in its negation.

5. Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry, 10:1   |   רמב”ם הלכות עבודת כוכבים פרק י:א

במה דברים אמורים בגוי אבל מוסרי ישראל והמינים והאפיקורסין מצוה לאבדן ביד ולהורידן עד באר שחת מפני שהן מצירים לישראל ומסירין את העם מאחרי ה’ כישוע הנצרי ותלמידיו וכצדוק וביתוס ותלמידיהם שם רשעים ירקבWhen is this true [that we do not seek out the death of idolators]?  By non-Jews.  But as regards informers and minim and apikorsim, it is a duty to destroy them and to cast them into the pit of destruction because they persecute Israelites and turn the nation away from God, like Jesus of Nazareth and his followers, and Tzadok and Baitos and their follower, let the name of the wicked rot.

In Hilkhot Eidut, Rambam again extends invalidity to apikorsim, although the Talmud only deals with those who sin through action.  Rambam here defends how he can make this claim given the silence of the sources.  The Talmud never mentions heretical belief as a disqualifier because it is so obvious.

6. Maimonides, Laws of Testimony, 11:10   |   רמב”ם הלכות עדות פרק יא

המוסרין והאפיקורוסין והמינים והמשומדים לא הצריכו חכמים למנותן בכלל פסולי עדות שלא מנו אלא רשעי ישראל, אבל אלו המורדין הכופרין פחותין הן מן הגוים, שהגוים לא מעלין ולא מורידין ויש לחסידיהן חלק לעולם הבא, ואלו מורידין ולא מעלין ואין להן חלק לעולם הבא.The informers and the apikorsim and the minim and the apostates – the Rabbis did not have to list these among those that are invalid as witnesses, for they only listed the wicked Israelites.  But these people who rebel and reject faith are worse than non-Jews.  For a non-Jew one does not save him from death, but does not bring about his death either, and the righteous among them have a share in the World to Come.  But as for these – we are to destroy them and not save them, and they have no share in the World to Come [and hence it is obvious that they are invalid as witnesses.]

The only gemarot – to my knowledge – that are concerned with heretical beliefs from a halakhic standpoint are the two that follow (and parallels).  But, it should be noted, these are only concerned with the danger that these beliefs pose and the distance that it is necessary to keep from them.  They do not disqualify those who profess them.

7. Bavli, Avoda Zara, 17a   |   (.בבלי עבודה זרה (יז

ואיכא דאמרי: הרחק מעליה דרכך ־ זו מינות והרשות, ואל תקרב אל פתח ביתה ־ זו זונה. וכמה? אמר רב חסדא: ארבע אמות.There are some who apply, ‘Remove thy way from her’ to minuth as well as to the ruling power, and, ‘and come not nigh to the door of her house’ to a harlot. And how far is one to keep away? Said R. Hisda: Four cubits.

8.   Bavli, Avoda Zara, 27b

מיתיבי: לא ישא ויתן אדם עם המינין, ואין מתרפאין מהן אפילו לחיי שעהֹAn objection was raised: ‘No man should have any dealings with Minim, nor is it allowed to be healed by them even [in risking] an hour’s life.


D. Was Rambam Consistent?

Although Rambam clearly identifies Tzedukim and Beitusim as apikorsim, in regards to them he seems to step back from the categorical disqualification that he applies to apikorsim in other realms.

Maimonides, Laws of Repentance, 3:6-8    |     רמב”ם הלכות תשובה פרק ג:ו-ח

ואלו הן שאין להן חלק לעולם הבא אלא נכרתים ואובדין ונידונין על גודל רשעם וחטאתם לעולם ולעולמי עולמים: המינים והאפיקורוסין והכופרים בתורה…

חמשה הן הנקראים מינים: האומר שאין שם א-לוה…

שלשה הן הנקראים אפיקורסין: האומר שאין שם נבואה כלל…

שלשה הן הכופרים בתורה: האומר שאין התורה מעם ה’ אפילו פסוק אחד אפילו תיבה אחת אם אמר משה אמרו מפי עצמו הרי זה כופר בתורה, וכן הכופר בפרושה והוא תורה שבעל פה והמכחיש מגידיה כגון צדוק ובייתוס, והאומר שהבורא החליף מצוה זו במצוה אחרת וכבר בטלה תורה זו אע”פ שהיא היתה מעם ה’ כגון ההגרים כל אחד משלשה אלו כופר בתורה.

And the following have not share in the World to Come, but are rather cut off and waste away and are judged according to the greatness of their evil and iniquity for ever and all eternity:  The minim, and the apikorsim, and those who reject Torah…

Five are called minim: One who says that there is no God…

Three are called apikorsim: One who says that there is no prophecy…

There are those who reject Torah: One who says that there is no Torah from God, even if he claims that Moshe wrote one verse or one word on his own; One who denies the Torah’s interpretation, and that is the Oral Torah, or denies its transmitters, like Tzadok and Baitos; and One who says that the Creator has replaced a mitzvah with another one…

2.  Maimonides, Laws of Animal Slaughter, 4:14, 16 (see Lechem Mishna, ad. loc.)   |   רמב”ם הלכות שחיטה פרק ד:יד, טז

… ואם היה מומר לעבודה זרה או מחלל שבת בפרהסיא או אפיקורוס והוא הכופר בתורה ובמשה רבינו כמו שביארנו בהלכות תשובה הרי הוא כעכו”ם ושחיטתו נבלה.

אלו הצדוקין והבייתוסין ותלמידיהן וכל הטועים אחריהן שאינן מאמינים בתורה שבעל פה שחיטתן אסורה, ואם שחטו בפנינו הרי זו מותרת, שאין איסור שחיטתן אלא שמא יקלקלו והם אינן מאמינין בתורת השחיטה לפיכך אינן נאמנין לומר לא קלקלנו.

And if the slaughterer was an apostate to idolatry, or one who publicly desecrates the Sabbath, or an apikores, i.e., one who rejects belief in the Torah and Moses our teacher, as we have explained in the Laws of Repentance, this person is like a non-Jew and it is forbidden to eat from his slaughtered animals.

            And these Tzadukim and Baytusim and their students and all who err after them who do not believe in the Oral Torah, their slaughtered animals are forbidden.  And if they slaughtered in our presence, their slaughtering is permissible,  For the prohibition of their slaughtering is only lest they ruin it by performing it incorrectly, seeing that they don’t believe in the laws of slaughtering, therefore they are not believed to say that they did it correctly

In Rambam’s teshuvot (Blau Edition), he again does not categorically exclude Tzedukkim and Beitusim (although there can be local disqualifications, see teshuva 265).  It seems from teshuva 263 that even within ikrei emunah, there is a hierarchy, and that lack of belief in Torah sheBa’al Peh is not as disqualifying as lack of belief in Torah SheBiktav (see Lechem Mishna in Shechita 4:16).  However, another important motivation comes up in teshuva 449 – “it is appropriate to give them respect and to be close to them, to act towards them in an upright manner and in humility and in the way of truth and peace, as long as they also act towards us with integrity and remove from themselves evil speech to speak perverseness against the Rabbis of the generation.”  That is to say, a general desire to build bridges when a heretic camp respects Rabbinic Judaism.  Finally, and very significantly, it should be noted that in teshuva 351, Rambam rules that a Karite marriage is binding, and he does not invalidate it on the basis that Karites are pasul eidim.  This is in stark contrast to Rav Moshe’s rulings that a Conservative wedding is invalid because the witnesses are apikorsim, based on Rambam’s ruling in hilkhot eidut.

3. Responsa of Maimonides

Responsa 263

            And the Karites are not those that the Rabbis call minim, but they are those who are called Tzedukkim and Baytusim, not Samaritans.  And the minim are those that have lost the faith in the fundamentals of the Torah, and among them those that say that Torah is not from heaven.  And they [the Rabbis] have already explained that there is no difference between one who denies the entire Torah and one who denies one verse and states that Moses said it on his own accord.  And among the minim are those that believe that the only part of the Torah that is from heaven is the Ten Commandments, and that the rest of the Torah Moses wrote on his own…

Responsa 265

            Question:  Teach us, our Master, those people that are called Karites, if they come to … the synagogue and less than ten of the Rabbinites [non-Karites], who believe in the Written and Oral Torah, the thing that these Karites reject, as is well known that they do not believe in the Tradition but rather adopt the external meaning of the verses.  When less than ten Rabbinites are present and cannot comprise a minyan, can one of these Karites complete the minyan?… And also tell us if they can comprise part of a zimmun (group of three for Grace After Meals)….

            Response:  Regarding comprising a minyan, whether of ten or of three, they cannot because they do not accept it as an obligation… And in everything that they do not accept its obligation, they cannot participate in.

Responsa 351

            Question: A woman was married to a Karite according to their customs and afterwards was divorced from him according to their laws, and afterwards remarried him according to Rabbinic traditions…

            Response: This woman is still married to her husband and she has the full status of a married woman until he writes her a get according to Rabbinic law with Rabbinite witnesses… And one who marries a woman according to the customs of the Karites, she is a married woman and cannot be divorced except through a get.  But the divorce of the Karites is not a divorce at all according to our laws, because they do not believe in our customs in the laws of marriage and divorce.

Responsa 449

            Question: Regarding the Karites, how should the Rabbinites act with them when it comes to circumcising their sons and inquiring into their welfare and going to their homes and regarding their wine and other matters.

            Response: … And I will say that all those Karites that dwell here in Noamon (?) and in Egypt and Damascus and in other places of the Ishmaelites (i.e., Muslims) and other places – it is appropriate to give them respect and to be close to them, to act towards them in an upright manner and in humility and in the way of truth and peace, as long as they also act towards us with integrity and remove from themselves evil speech to speak perverseness against the Rabbis of the generation, and certainly when they watch their tongues from mocking and deriding the words of our holy Rabbis, peace be upon them, the Tannaim, the Sages of the Mishna and the Talmud, that we act based on their words and their customs which have been established for us from their mouths and the mouth of Moses from God’s mouth.  And with this condition it is appropriate for us to honor them and to inquire after their welfare and to go to their homes and to circumcise their children even on Shabbat and to bury their dead and to console their mourners…

            And if a person were to contend and to say that… we taught in Tractate Shabbat (116a) that R. Tarfon said… that even if a murderer is running after you to kill you and a snake to bite you, you shall not enter into the homes of the heretics.  And how much more should we not inquire after their welfare when there is no danger?!  This is not difficult – for those words of R. Tarfon are in regards to minim who deny the foundation (God)… but these here, as long as they do not mock and deride, we do not consider them as minim, and we give them respect and circumcise their children on Shabbat…

            And we taught that one provides sustenance for the poor non-Jews with the poor Jews for the sake of promoting peace, and one visits the sick of non-Jews together with the sick of Jews and one buries the dead non-Jews together with burying the dead Jews for the sake of promoting peace, certainly these who are from the seed of Jacob.  And their wine, according to my opinion, there is no aspect that is problematic, for behold wine of the Samaritans was valid wine before the Rabbis changed the status of Samaritans… But regarding the Karites there is no prohibition.