We Permit Ourselves to Pray with Sinners? Inclusion in the Orthodox Community TORAT CHOVEVEI A YCT Community Learning Project Study Guide: Yamim Noraim This study guide was made possible by funds granted by the Covenant Foundation. The statements made and the views expressed, however, are solely the responsibility of the author.

טור אורח חיים סי' תרי"ט

ערבית נכנסין לבית הכנסת ונוהגין באשכנז שקודם שיתפלל מתירין לכל העבריינין כדי להתפלל עמהן ואפי' אם לא יבקשו שיתירו להם...ואומרין בזה הלשון בישיבה של מעלה ובישיבה של מטה על דעת המקום ועל דעת הקהל אנו מתירין להתפלל עם העבריינין

Tur, Orach Chayim, ch. 619

In the evening, they enter the synagogue and it is the custom in Ashkenaz that before they pray, the permit all of the sinners in order to pray with them, and even if they do not ask to be permitted...And we say the following phrase: in the yeshiva above and the yeshiva below. With the agreement of God and the agreement of the congregation, we permit to pray with the sinners.

א"ר חנא בר בזנא א"ר שמעון חסידא כל תענית שאין בה מפושעי ישראל אינה תענית שהרי חלבנה ריחה רע ומנאה הכתוב עם סממני קטרת אביי אמר מהכא (עמוס ט, ו) ואגודתו על ארץ יסדה:

Rabbi Chana bar Bizna said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Chasida, Any fast that doesn't include the sinners of Israel is not a true fast. For behold galbanum has a foul smell and yet the Scripture counts it among the ingredients of incense. Abaye said it from here, "...And founded his consortium on the earth..."(Amos 9:6)

ואגודתו - משמע שכולן ביחד אז על ארץ יסדה:

And His consortium - We learn from this that everyone was created together on earth.

  1. Based on the language of "With the agreement of God and the agreement of the congregation..." what seems to the relationship between the sinners and the community? Who is doing a favor for whom?
  2. How does this relationship shift in the second text? What do we learn about fasting here? What makes a fast effective?

(א) קל. דין עבריין

(ב) עבריין שעבר על גזרת צבור אם לא נדוהו נמנה למנין עשרה וחייב בכל המצות שכן נאמר בעכן חטא ישראל שאף על פי שחטא ישראל הוא אלמא בקדושתיה קאי ולא יצא מכלל ישראל שלא נחשד על השבועה אבל אם נדוהו מאחר שיבדל מקהל הגולה אם יצרפוהו עמהם היכן היא קללתן ומה הועילו בתקנתם אינו ראוי לצרוף כלל שכבר הבדילוהו מאגודתן.

(1) 130. The Law of the Sinner

(2) A sinner who violated the decrees of the community, if they were not excommunicated, they are counted in a quorum of ten and they are obligated in all of the mitzvot. For thus it is said of Achan, "Israel has sinned"(Joshua 7:11) even though he sinned, he is still Israel. Therefore, they still maintain their holiness and they are not removed from the generality of Israel who are not suspected for their oaths. However, if they have been excommunicated, since they must separate themselves from the community of the diaspora, if they were to include them, what would be left of their curse what good was their decree? It is not appropriate to include them at all for they have already separated them from their community.

  1. How does the Kol Bo define the "sinner" we've been talking about? Is it a sinner against mitzvot of the Torah or of the Rabbis? What does this mean about our relationship with sinners of the other sort?
  2. What is the importance of excommunication here? How is this to be contrasted with the statement that a Jew, even though they sinned is still "Israel"? What does this suggest about people who have violated social norms (stolen from the community, violated a public trust) while still ostensibly keeping the halakha?

מלמד שלא ענש על הנסתרות עד שעברו ישראל את הירדן דברי ר' יהודה א"ל ר' נחמיה וכי ענש על הנסתרות לעולם והלא כבר נאמר עד עולם אלא כשם שלא ענש על הנסתרות כך לא ענש על עונשין שבגלוי עד שעברו ישראל את הירדן אלא עכן מאי טעמא איענוש משום דהוו ידעי ביה אשתו ובניו (יהושע ז, יא) חטא ישראל אמר רבי אבא בר זבדא אע"פ שחטא ישראל הוא אמר ר' אבא היינו דאמרי אינשי אסא דקאי ביני חילפי אסא שמיה ואסא קרו ליה (יהושע ז, יא) וגם עברו את בריתי אשר צויתי אותם גם לקחו מן החרם גם גנבו גם כחשו גם שמו בכליהם אמר ר' אילעא משום ר' יהודה בר מספרתא מלמד שעבר עכן על חמשה חומשי תורה שנאמר חמשה גם ואמר רבי אילעא משום רבי יהודה בר מספרתא עכן מושך בערלתו היה כתיב הכא וגם עברו את בריתי וכתיב התם (בראשית יז, יד) את בריתי הפר פשיטא מהו דתימא במצוה גופיה לא פקר קמ"ל (יהושע ז, טו) וכי עשה נבלה בישראל א"ר אבא בר זבדא מלמד שבעל עכן נערה המאורסה כתיב הכא וכי עשה נבלה וכתיב התם (דברים כב, כא) כי עשתה נבלה בישראל

This teaches that God did not punish on hidden sins until Israel crossed the Jordan. These are the words of Rabbi Judah. Rabbi Nehemiah said to him, "Does God ever punish hidden sins? Behold it says, "forever"! Rather, just as God didn't punish for hidden sins, thus he didn't punish for revealed sins until Israel crossed the Jordan." If this is so, why was Achan punished? Because his wife and children knew about him. "Israel sinned..."(Joshua 7:11) Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said, "Even though he sinned, he is still Israel." Rabbi Abba said, "This is why people say that a myrtle that stands among willows is still a myrtle and you still call it a myrtle." "...and they also violated my covenant that I commanded them, they also took from the forbidden spoils, they also stole, they also denied me, they also put it in their vessels."(Joshua 7:11) Rabbi Il'ah said in the name of Rabbi Judah bar Masparta, "This teaches that Achan violated all five books of the Torah as it says five times 'also'." And Rabbi Il'ah said in the name of Rabbi Judah bar Masparta, "Achan pulled at his forskin. It says here, "And they also violated my covenant,"(Joshua 7:11) and it says over there, "He violated my covenant"(Bereshit 17:14)." This is obvious! What would I have thought? He wouldn't have been free with an express mitzvah, thus this teaches us. "for he committed an outrage in Israel."(Joshua 7:15) Rabbi Abba bar Zavda said, "This teaches that Achan had sex with an engaged woman. It says here "for he committed an outrage..."(Joshua 7:15) and it says over there, "for she committed an outrage in Israel."(Devarim 22:21).

  1. What is the severity of Achan's sin, according to the Gemara? What seems to be the attitude of the Rabbi Abba bar Zavda (and the halakha that follows in his wake) despite this severity?
  2. What according to this source should be our attitude towards members of our community who violate the halakha in one way or another? Is this the attitude we take in practice?
  3. How important is it that non-observant people in our communities, are committed to changing and eventually reaching full observance in order to be embraced in our communities? How does this relate to people who can't or won't change like people who live too far or are too infirm to walk to shul or members of the LGBTQ community?

אגרות הראי"ה ח"ב סי' תקמ"א, עמ' קע"ב

אסור לנו להפריד ולפרר. אסור לנו לומר: זה שלנו ואנו דואגים עליו, וזהו לא שלנו. כשנעסוק לפעמים בפרטים בודאי נַפְלֶה בין איש לאיש ובין סיעה לסיעה לפי ערכם, אבל כשאנו מתרוממים אל התוכן היסודי הכולל הכל, אין אנו רשאים להבדיל בו בין טובים לרעים. ועל דעת המקום ועל דעת הקהל אנו מוכרחים להתפלל עם העבריינים. "להתפלל עם העברינים" אני אומר, אך לא לא להתחשב עם דעותיהם העבריניות, לא להזמינם במחיצותינו בתור פועלים ומנהיגים, אבל להתפלל כלומר: לדרוש בלב ונפש את שלום הכלל כולו וישועתו, במובן היותר רחב, והכלל כולל את הכל...

Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, Igrot HaRe'iyah, pt. 2, ch. 541, p.172

It is forbidden to us to separate and cause dissolution. It is forbidden to us to say, "This is ours and we will take care of it, and this is not ours." When we deal with details, we shall certainly distinguish between people and factions according to their value. However, when we rise above to the fundamental content that includes all, we are not permitted to distinguish between good and bad. And with the agreement of God and the agreement of the congregation we are required to pray with the sinners. "To pray," I say, but not to consider their sinful beliefs. Not to invite them inside our walls as workers or leaders. But to pray meaning: to seek in heart and soul, the peace of the entire community and its salvation in the widest meaning, and the community includes everyone...

שו"ת מלמד להועיל ח"א סי' כ"ט

...יהי' איך שיהי' המקיל לצרף אנשים כאלו למנין יש לו על מי שיסמוך, אך מי שיכול לילך לבהכ"נ אחר בלי להכלים איש, פשיטא דמהיות טוב שלא יסמוך על היתר זה, ויתפלל עם אנשים כשרים...

Rabbi David Tzvi Hoffmann, Melamed LeHo'il, pt. 1, ch. 29.

...In any case, one who is lenient to include men like this in the minyan has a solid basis on which to rely. However, one who is able to go to a different synagogue without embarrassing anyone, it is obvious that it is better not to rely on this leniency, and they should pray together with kosher people...

  1. What caveats do Rav Kook and Rada"tz Hoffmann make in their calls for inclusion of non-observant members of the community? In what areas should they be included, in what should they be shunned?
  2. Is this a reasonable standard to hold in our modern communities? How would it be applied? Is it a standard that we should hold to?

שו"ת בניין ציון החדשות סי' כ"ג

והנה עד כה דברנו מעיקר הדין איך לדון מחלל שבת בפרהסיא אבל לפושעי ישראל שבזמנינו לא ידענא מה אדון בהם ...ויש בהם שמתפללים תפילת שבת ומקדשיםקידוש היום ואח"כ מחללים שבת במלאכות דאורייתא ודרבנן והרי מחלל שבת נחשב כמומר בלבד מפני שהכופר בשבת כופר בבריאה ובבורא וזה מודה ע"י תפילה וקידוש...

Rabbi Ya'akov Ettlinger, Binyan Tzion HaChadashot, ch. 23.

Behold until this point we have discussed the basic ruling, insofar as whether a Shabbat violator makes wine forbidden. But regarding sinners nowadays, I do not know how to judge them...And there are those who pray the Shabbat prayers and make kiddush and then go and violate Shabbat with Biblical and rabbinic acts of labor. Now a Shabbat desecrator is only considered to be a rebel because he has denied Shabbat and [thus] denied the Creation and the Creator. But in our case, such a person recognizes [Shabbat and God as Creator] through prayer and kiddush...

  1. What is Rav Ettlinger saying in this piece about the meaning of violating halakha today? Given the complex and diverse nature of Jewish life can you think of a Mitzvah whose violation might cause you to view someone as outside the boundaries of our community?
  2. Based on the position of Rav Ettlinger and the Kol Bo above, where should we draw our boundaries today? What factors are important? For example, what if someone is committed to Jewish theology and halakhah but violates certain prohibitions (LGBTQ? Others?)?
  3. What would Rav Kook and Rada"tz Hoffmann have to say about this? Would they approve giving non-observant people aliyot in shul? Letting them lead prayers? What about becoming members of the shul? Becoming president of the shul?

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer, 1909


...“My name’s Leggatt.”

The voice was calm and resolute. A good voice. The self-possession of that man had somehow induced a corresponding state in myself. It was very quietly that I remarked:

“You must be a good swimmer.”

“Yes. I’ve been in the water practically since nine o’clock. The question for me now is whether I am to let go this ladder and go on swimming till I sink from exhaustion, or—to come on board here.”

I felt this was no mere formula of desperate speech, but a real alternative in the view of a strong soul. I should have gathered from this that he was young; indeed, it is only the young who are ever confronted by such clear issues. But at the time it was pure intuition on my part. A mysterious communication was established already between us two—in the face of that silent, darkened tropical sea. I was young, too; young enough to make no comment...

I got a sleeping suit out of my room and, coming back on deck, saw the naked man from the sea sitting on the main hatch, glimmering white in the darkness, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. In a moment he had concealed his damp body in a sleeping suit of the same gray-stripe pattern as the one I was wearing and followed me like my double...

He was not a bit like me, really; yet, as we stood... whispering side by side, with our dark heads together and our backs to the door, anybody bold enough to open it stealthily would have been treated to the uncanny sight of a double captain busy talking in whispers with his other self...

But I had no leisure to weigh the merits of the matter—footsteps in the saloon, a heavy knock. “There’s enough wind to get under way with, sir.” Here was the call of a new claim upon my thoughts and even upon my feelings.

“Turn the hands up,” I cried through the door. “I’ll be on deck directly.”...

This is not the place to enlarge upon the sensations of a man who feels for the first time a ship move under his feet to his own independent word. In my case they were not unalloyed. I was not wholly alone with my command; for there was that stranger in my cabin. Or rather, I was not completely and wholly with her. Part of me was absent. That mental feeling of being in two places at once affected me physically as if the mood of secrecy had penetrated my very soul... I had to make an effort of will to recall myself back (from the cabin) to the conditions of the moment...

I went slowly into my dark room, shut the door, lighted the lamp, and for a time dared not turn round. When at last I did I saw him standing bolt-upright in the narrow recessed part. It would not be true to say I had a shock, but an irresistible doubt of his bodily existence flitted through my mind. Can it be, I asked myself, that he is not visible to other eyes than mine? It was like being haunted. Motionless, with a grave face, he raised his hands slightly at me in a gesture which meant clearly, “Heavens! what a narrow escape!” Narrow indeed. I think I had come creeping quietly as near insanity as any man who has not actually gone over the border. That gesture restrained me, so to speak...

“You must maroon me as soon as ever you can get amongst these islands off the Cambodge shore,” he went on.

“Maroon you! We are not living in a boy’s adventure tale,” I protested. His scornful whispering took me up.

“We aren’t indeed! There’s nothing of a boy’s tale in this. But there’s nothing else for it. I want no more. You don’t suppose I am afraid of what can be done to me? Prison or gallows or whatever they may please. But you don’t see me coming back to explain such things to an old fellow in a wig and twelve respectable tradesmen, do you? What can they know whether I am guilty or not—or of what I am guilty, either? That’s my affair. What does the Bible say? ‘Driven off the face of the earth.’ Very well, I am off the face of the earth now. As I came at night so I shall go.”

“Impossible!” I murmured. “You can’t.”

“Can’t?... Not naked like a soul on the Day of Judgment. I shall freeze on to this sleeping suit. The Last Day is not yet—and... you have understood thoroughly. Didn’t you?”

I felt suddenly ashamed of myself. I may say truly that I understood—and my hesitation in letting that man swim away from my ship’s side had been a mere sham sentiment, a sort of cowardice.

“It can’t be done now till next night,” I breathed out. “The ship is on the off-shore tack and the wind may fail us.”

“As long as I know that you understand,” he whispered. “But of course you do. It’s a great satisfaction to have got somebody to understand. You seem to have been there on purpose.” And in the same whisper, as if we two whenever we talked had to say things to each other which were not fit for the world to hear, he added, “It’s very wonderful.”...

Our eyes met; several seconds elapsed, till, our glances still mingled, I extended my hand and turned the lamp out. Then I passed through the cuddy, leaving the door of my room wide open.... “Steward!”

He was still lingering in the pantry in the greatness of his zeal, giving a rub-up to a plated cruet stand the last thing before going to bed. Being careful not to wake up the mate, whose room was opposite, I spoke in an undertone.

He looked round anxiously. “Sir!”

“Can you get me a little hot water from the galley?”

“I am afraid, sir, the galley fire’s been out for some time now.”

“Go and see.”

He flew up the stairs.

“Now,” I whispered, loudly, into the saloon—too loudly, perhaps, but I was afraid I couldn’t make a sound. He was by my side in an instant—the double captain slipped past the stairs—through a tiny dark passage ... a sliding door. We were in the sail locker, scrambling on our knees over the sails. A sudden thought struck me. I saw myself wandering barefooted, bareheaded, the sun beating on my dark poll. I snatched off my floppy hat and tried hurriedly in the dark to ram it on my other self. He dodged and fended off silently. I wonder what he thought had come to me before he understood and suddenly desisted. Our hands met gropingly, lingered united in a steady, motionless clasp for a second. ... No word was breathed by either of us when they separated...

  1. What is the source of the captain's difficulties in commanding his ship? Why does he feel constantly split and conflicted?
  2. Why does the captain constantly refer to the stowaway as his "double" or his "other self"?
  3. What is the message of The Secret Sharer for the individual. What if we took the captain's experience as a metaphor for community?