MUTAR OR ASUR: The Photo Of The Priest And The Tefillin – A Halachic Analysis

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for It was a strange sight to behold – a picture of a priest who was wearing Tefillin. The story behind the picture? It was at the burial site of Dovid HaMelech located on Har Tzion in the Old City of Jerusalem. Christians visit often because it is adjacent to the alleged site of what Christians call, “the Last Supper.” The priest had come with what appears to be about ten nuns. A Rabbi, Rabbi Shraga Brand, asked the priest whether he was Jewish or not.  The priest responded that he was. The Rabbi then proceeded to put Tefillin on him. The picture prompted somewhat of a firestorm. Was the Rabbi correct? Do we apply the dictum of Chata – yisroel hu – a Jew who sinned is still a Jew? Or do we say, “Sorry, this man has gone so far beyond the pale that we no longer look at him as a Jew regarding encouraging him to put on Tefillin!”? CHATA YISROEL The Gemorah in Sanhedrin (44a) takes the verse in Yehoshua (7:11) – where Hashem tells Yehoshua that Achan had sinned by saying Chata Yisroel.  The Talmud understands this to imply another lesson as well.  Even though Yisroel sinned – he is still considered a Jew.  But does this refer to Klal Yisroel collectively as a people?  Or can this dictum be applied to individuals as well? EVOLUTION OF MEANING IN THE TERM We must also realize that in Talmudic times the term “mumar” did not necessarily mean what it means now.  It meants someone who did away with the observance of a Mitzvah or two. By the times of the Gaonim – the term “mumar” applied to someone who gave up his religion for another. By the times of the Gaonim (Otzar HaGaonim Kiddushin 78) it was established that a Mumar – one who left the religion does not inherit his father.  Many Rishonim also subscribe to this view (Rashba Vol. VII #292, see Ohr Zaruah BB #103).  They view it as an exchange of nationhood (see language of the Rashba). Rav Amram Gaon even writes “ho’il venafka mitoras Yisroel v’ayalah betoras goyah – since she left being considered a Jew and chose to live as a non-Jew. What about for marriage purposes?  Rashi Yevamos 47b rules that a mumar is considered as a Jew for all matters of Kiddushin.  The Baal HaIttur (#`32) writes that if a woman had a brother in law who was a mumar and her husband died – she requires neither yibum (the Levirite marriage where the brother of a deceased brother must marry his widowed sister in law) nor chalitzah (the special divorce like procedure wherein the brother refuses to marry his widowed sister in law).  This would seem to disagree with the aforementioned Rashi.  The Ohr Zaruah Hakotton even writes that if he was an apikores when his brother had died – she goes out without chalitzah even if the brother subsequently repented and did Teshuvah. The Radbaz Vol. VII #251 writes that from a Torah perspective an Apikores’s marriage is not considered a marriage.  It is just that Rabbinically we are concerned that perhaps he did Teshuvah. The Targum Unkeles on Shmos 12:43 when discussing the Korban Pesach and the term Ben Naychar … Continue reading MUTAR OR ASUR: The Photo Of The Priest And The Tefillin – A Halachic Analysis