Religion & Beliefs

Jewish Heretics

This story at American Jewish Life about Jacob Frank, the "greatest Jewish heretic of all time" (part of a regular feature on Jewish heretics!)is really worth a read.  I don't know anything about Frank myself, but he sounds fascinating: He … Read More

By / May 3, 2007

This story at American Jewish Life about Jacob Frank, the "greatest Jewish heretic of all time" (part of a regular feature on Jewish heretics!)is really worth a read.  I don't know anything about Frank myself, but he sounds fascinating:

He rejected the Torah (once threatening to defecate on it if angry rabbis didn’t leave him alone). He converted to both Islam and Catholicism. He slept with his followers — and maybe even his daughter. He preached a nihilistic doctrine that saw this world as intrinsically corrupt, and believed that the best way to imitate God was to cross every boundary, transgress every taboo, and mix the sacred with the profane.

Now, I'm not advocating you sleep with your followers (I surely don't), but I'm always curious about true heretics… not to mention boundary-crossers, limit-pushers.  Anyone who pisses a lot of people off.

What the story has me thinking about today is Jewish heresy in general. I want to know what it takes to be a Jewish heretic! 

And it's pretty complicated. Because while Judaism recognizes that heretics have no place in the world to come, and will have to spend eternity in Gehinnom, deciding exactly WHO is a heretic seems to be left up to independent communities.  Which is how Maimonides, something of an expert in what makes a good Jew a  good Jew (and what makes a heretic a heretic) was also condemned as a heretic himself.

Despite that fact, a good rule of thumb is that if you're following the 13 principles (remember, from yesterday) you are probably NOT a heretic, though you might still be naughty.    Because one of the nice things about Judaism is that you don't have to be a GOOD Jew to be a Jew.

Though again, sleeping with your followers is a bad idea.