Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins: An exception to judging favorably

At Shabbat 116a, Rabbi Tarfon says that he would burn the books of heretics, even when they contain God’s name. Rambam, at Hil. Yesode Hatorah 6:8, holds that that applies to a sefer torah written by a Jewish apikoros, but that books written by Akum which contain Divine Names should be buried. Anything involving the burning of books is a fraught matter. The original reference may have been to the Gospels (Evangelion = aven gilyon), and, by many people’s standards, I would be considered an apikoros. In general, we should judge people l’khaf z’khut, but I would make an exception for Jews for Jesus. One can’t go wrong by burying their literature, but I wouldn’t be upset if it were destroyed in some other way.

REPLIES
Real name
William Berkson

William Berkson replied 1 week 4 days ago

For those not familiar with Talmudic terms, 'akum' is an acronym for the Hebrew meaning "worshipers of the stars and planets", i.e., pagans. But particularly with censorship to forestall Christian persecution, it was sometimes substituted for the original 'notzrim', Christians. So it often means 'believers in a non-Jewish religion', and that probably is the meaning in the passages Rabbi Elkins refers to. "Apicuros" is the Hebrew for "Epicurean." This Greek sect denied divine purpose in the world, and the term became a name for atheists.