Tinok shenishba

Last updated

Tinok shenishba (Hebrew: תינוק שנשבה, literally, "captured infant") is a term that refers to a Jew who sins as a result of having been raised without sufficient knowledge and understanding of Judaism. [1] [2] The term originates from a theoretical discussion in the Talmud regarding a Jew who was kidnapped by Gentiles as an infant and therefore sins inadvertently, for lack of halakhic knowledge. In contemporary Orthodox Judaism, its status is widely applied to unaffiliated Jews or Jews who were educated in modern Jewish denominations.

Contents

Terminology

Tinok shenishba is short for Tinok shenishba bein hanochrim, which translates as, "An infant captured [and consequently raised] among gentiles." This is a case where the individual in question is not responsible for his actions and sins due to his being raised in a place or situation where the Jewish law is unknown to him. An individual doesn't literally have to have been "captured" as an infant to fall within the definition of a tinok shenishba but rather, even if the child were raised without religious guidance it would be considered tinok shenishba.

Application in Jewish law

Because a tinok shenishba was not raised with proper guidance towards appreciation of Jewish life, law, and ritual, they are not accountable for not living in accordance with the Torah. [3] If this Jew would encounter and re-find his Jewish brothers and their Torah, he must be welcomed back and taught the correct way to live life as a Jew.[ citation needed ]

Codification in the Talmud

The concept of tinok shenishba is first mentioned in the Talmud. In Shevu'ot 5a, the Gemara states that responsibility for inadvertent transgression is only placed upon an individual who knew the correct law at two points in time (before the transgression and the remembrance after the transgression) and forgot the law sometime in between. If that individual knew the law and subsequently forgot the law, and never again remembered or received a reminder, they would be an unwitting transgressor. Similarly, if an individual never knew the law in the first place, and subsequently learned the law, they would also be an unwitting transgressor. This latter example would fall under the category of a tinok shenishba.

In Shabbat 68b, there is a dispute between Abba Arikha and Samuel of Nehardea on one side, and Yochanan bar Nafcha and Shimon ben Lakish on the other, regarding in what type of situations a tinok shenishba (or a convert who was similarly raised among gentiles) is responsible for punishment and/or repentance along with the offering of animal sacrifices in the Holy Temple upon transgression of the laws of Shabbat and their subsequent return to Judaism. The halacha follows that a tinok shenishba would only be required to do one act of repentance for their multiple violations of the law, because all the violations stemmed from a single instance of not knowing the proper laws to obey.

Practical relevance in the modern era

Maimonides speaks out strongly against those who deny the validity of the Oral Torah, including the Mishnah and the Talmud, labeling them as heretics. [4] However, he expresses concern for the offspring of such individuals, and excludes them from those who deserve such punishment because they participated unwittingly in their denial of the Oral Law. While they are indeed sinners, he declares them unintentional participants in their lack of adherence to Jewish law and belief, similar to the case of a tinok shenishba. [5] Rather than be pushed away, such individuals are to be drawn into the Jewish community and taught the proper way so they can become observant Jews.

The notion that unaffiliated and unobservant Jews are unwitting sinners who should be taught the Jewish laws and customs and welcomed into the Torah community is the basis for the many Orthodox Jewish outreach organizations (Kiruv) that exist in the modern era, including Chabad, Aish Hatorah, Ohr Somayach and Gateways.

Hasidic mysticism

The Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), founder of the revivalist Hasidic movement, brought a mystical soul-dimension to the traditional Talmudic notions of the tinok shenishba, and the am ha'aretz (uneducated-boorish-rustic Jews). While the former terms derive from the pre-eminent status of Torah study in Rabbinic Jewish culture, their downside was that in the 17–18th century Eastern Europe in which Hasidism emerged, their elitist notions contributed to the physical and spiritual hardship and disenfranchisement of the common Jewish folk from deeper Jewish affiliation.[ citation needed ]

Adjusting the former hierarchy of values, the Baal Shem Tov taught that the simple, sincere common Jewish folk could be closer to God than the scholars, for whom pride may affect their scholarly achievements, and the elite scholars could envy and learn lessons in devotion from the uneducated community. The Baal Shem Tov and later Hasidic masters made deveikut the central principle in Jewish spirituality, teaching that the sincere divine soul essence of the artless Jew reflects the essential divine simplicity. In contemporary Hasidic views of outreach to unobservant Jews, this mystical emphasis implies that the value of a small deed of observance by unaffiliated Jews would be able to set aside one's own spiritual development, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, "a soul may come into the World for 70 years in order to do a single deed of kindness to another person". [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Halakha, also transliterated as halacha, halakhah, and halocho, is the collective body of Jewish religious laws that are derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical commandments (mitzvot), subsequent Talmudic and rabbinic laws, and the customs and traditions which were compiled in the many books such as the Shulchan Aruch. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish law", although a more literal translation of it might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word is derived from the root which means "to behave". Halakha not only guides religious practices and beliefs, it also guides numerous aspects of day-to-day life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seven Laws of Noah</span> Seven moral laws incumbent upon mankind, according to the Jewish tradition

In Judaism, the Seven Laws of Noah, otherwise referred to as the Noahide Laws or the Noachian Laws, are a set of universal moral laws which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a covenant with Noah and with the "sons of Noah"—that is, all of humanity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rabbinic literature</span> Jewish literature attributed to rabbis

Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term Sifrut Chazal. This more specific sense of "Rabbinic literature"—referring to the Talmudim, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts—is how the term is generally intended when used in contemporary academic writing. The terms mefareshim and parshanim (commentaries/commentators) almost always refer to later, post-Talmudic writers of rabbinic glosses on Biblical and Talmudic texts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rebbe</span> Orthodox rabbinic title, especially in Hasidism

A Rebbe or Admor is the spiritual leader in the Hasidic movement, and the personalities of its dynasties. The titles of Rebbe and Admor, which used to be a general honor title even before the beginning of the movement, became, over time, almost exclusively identified with its Tzaddikim.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dov Ber of Mezeritch</span>

Dov Ber ben Avraham of Mezeritch, also known as the Maggid of Mezeritch, was a disciple of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, and was chosen as his successor to lead the early movement. Dov Ber is regarded as the first systematic exponent of the mystical philosophy underlying the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and through his teaching and leadership, the main architect of the movement. He established his base in Mezhirichi, which moved the centre of Hasidism from Medzhybizh, where he focused his attention on raising a close circle of disciples to spread the movement. After his death the third generation of leadership took their different interpretations and disseminated across appointed regions of Eastern Europe, rapidly spreading Hasidism beyond Ukraine, to Poland, Galicia and Russia.

<i>Tanya</i> (Judaism) Main work of the Chabad philosophy

The Tanya is an early work of Hasidic philosophy, by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Hasidism, first published in 1796. Its formal title is Likkutei Amarim, but is more commonly known by its first Hebrew word tanya, which means "it has been taught", where he refers to a baraita section in "Niddah", at the end of chapter 3, 30b. Tanya is composed of five sections that define Hasidic mystical psychology and theology as a handbook for daily spiritual life in Jewish observance.

<i>Misnagdim</i> Jewish school of thought

Misnagdim was a religious movement among the Jews of Eastern Europe which resisted the rise of Hasidism in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Misnagdim were particularly concentrated in Lithuania, where Vilnius served as the bastion of the movement, but anti-Hasidic activity was undertaken by the establishment in many locales. The most severe clashes between the factions took place in the latter third of the 18th century; the failure to contain Hasidism led the Misnagdim to develop distinct religious philosophies and communal institutions, which were not merely a perpetuation of the old status quo but often innovative. The most notable results of these efforts, pioneered by Chaim of Volozhin and continued by his disciples, were the modern, independent yeshiva and the Musar movement. Since the late 19th century, tensions with the Hasidim largely subsided, and the heirs of Misnagdim adopted the epithet Litvishe or Litvaks.

<i>Mishneh Torah</i> Code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides

The Mishneh Torah, also known as Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka, is a code of Rabbinic Jewish religious law (halakha) authored by Maimonides. The Mishneh Torah was compiled between 1170 and 1180 CE, while Maimonides was living in Egypt, and is regarded as Maimonides' magnum opus. Accordingly, later sources simply refer to the work as "Maimon", "Maimonides", or "RaMBaM", although Maimonides composed other works.

The Dardaim or Dor Daim, are adherents of the Dor Deah movement in Orthodox Judaism. That movement took its name in 1912 in Yemen under Rabbi Yiḥyah Qafiḥ, and had its own network of synagogues and schools, although, in actuality, the movement existed long before that name had been coined for it. According to ethnographer and historian, Shelomo Dov Goitein, author and historiographer, Hayyim Habshush had been a member of this movement before it had been given the name Dor Deah, writing, “...He and his friends, partly under European influence, but driven mainly by developments among the Yemenite Jews themselves, formed a group who ardently opposed all those forces of mysticism, superstition and fatalism which were then so prevalent in the country and strove for exact knowledge and independent thought, and the application of both to life.” It was only some years later, when Rabbi Yihya Qafih became the headmaster of the new Jewish school in Sana'a built by the Ottoman Turks and where he wanted to introduce a new curriculum in the school whereby boys would also learn arithmetic and the rudiments of the Arabic and Turkish languages that Rabbi Yihya Yitzhak Halevi gave to Rabbi Qafih's movement the name Daradʻah, a word which is an Arabic broken plural made-up of the Hebrew words Dör Deʻoh, and which means "Generation of Knowledge."

Gilgul is a concept of reincarnation or "transmigration of souls" in Kabbalistic esoteric mysticism. In Hebrew, the word gilgul means "cycle" or "wheel" and neshamot is the plural for "souls." Souls are seen to cycle through lives or incarnations, being attached to different human bodies over time. Which body they associate with depends on their particular task in the physical world, spiritual levels of the bodies of predecessors and so on. The concept relates to the wider processes of history in Kabbalah, involving cosmic Tikkun, and the historical dynamic of ascending Lights and descending Vessels from generation to generation.

Abraham ben David, also known by the abbreviation RABaDRavad or RABaD III, was a Provençal rabbi, an important commentator on the Talmud, Sefer Halachot of Rabbi Yitzhak Alfasi and Mishne Torah of Maimonides, and is regarded as a father of Kabbalah and one of the key links in the chain of Jewish mystics.

Devekut, debekuth, deveikuth or deveikus is a Jewish concept referring to closeness to God. It may refer to a deep, trance-like meditative state attained during Jewish prayer, Torah study, or when performing the 613 mitzvot. It is particularly associated with the Jewish mystical tradition.

Jewish heresy refers to those beliefs which contradict the traditional doctrines of Rabbinic Judaism, including theological beliefs and opinions about the practice of halakha. Jewish tradition contains a range of statements about heretics, including laws for how to deal with them in a communal context, and statements about the divine punishment they are expected to receive.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asceticism in Judaism</span> Ascetic lifestyles in a Jewish context

Asceticism is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from sensual pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Asceticism has not been a dominant theme within Judaism, but minor to significant ascetic traditions have been a part of Jewish spirituality.

Pesukei dezimra, or zemirot as they are called in the Spanish and Portuguese tradition, are a group of prayers that may be recited during Shacharit. They consist of various blessings, psalms, and sequences of other Biblical verses. Historically, reciting pesukei dezimra in morning prayer was a practice of only the especially pious. Over the course of Jewish history, their recitation has become widespread custom among all of the various rites of Jewish prayer.

Divine providence is discussed throughout rabbinic literature, by the classical Jewish philosophers, and by the tradition of Jewish mysticism.

<i>Baal Shem</i> Historical Jewish practitioner of Practical Kabbalah

A Baal Shem was a historical Jewish practitioner of Practical Kabbalah and supposed miracle worker. Employing the names of God, angels, Satan and other spirits, Baalei Shem are claimed to heal, enact miracles, perform exorcisms, treat various health issues, curb epidemics, protect people from disaster due to fire, robbery or the evil eye, foresee the future, decipher dreams, and bless those who sought his powers.

Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov or as the Besht, was a Jewish mystic and healer who is regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism. "Besht" is the acronym for Baal Shem Tov, which means "Master of the Good Name," a term for a magician who wields the secret name of God.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Happiness in Judaism</span> Religious requirement that Jews be happy

Happiness in Judaism and Jewish thought is considered an important value, especially in the context of the service of God. A number of Jewish teachings stress the importance of joy, and demonstrate methods of attaining happiness.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anger in Judaism</span>

Anger in Judaism is treated as a negative trait to be avoided whenever possible. The subject of anger is treated in a range of Jewish sources, from the Hebrew Bible and Talmud to the rabbinical law, Kabbalah, Hasidism, and contemporary Jewish sources.

References

  1. Talmud Shabbos 68b
  2. Talmud Shavuos 5a
  3. To Love A Fellow Jew: Our Generation: The Tinok Shenishbah
  4. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Mamrim 3:1
  5. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Mamrim 3:3
  6. Entry in Hayom Yom , Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Kehot pub.