T here are times when a column can be distinctly unpleasant to write, and this one is a case in point. When a columnist can offer perspective or facts that readers might not otherwise receive, he’s duty bound to provide them so that readers can make an informed judgment about people and events. I don’t relish having to publicly warn readers off from a specific book written by a particular person, but those feelings don’t govern — it’s my halachic obligation, as determined by rabbinic guidance, that does.

Dennis Prager is a well-known writer and speaker, whose nationally syndicated radio show and website reach millions of listeners and viewers each day. Those programs, together with the books and articles he’s written, have given him a well-deserved reputation as a leading voice in the contemporary conservative movement. But even more, they’ve established him as a cogent spokesman for moral values in American society and for the inseparability of religious belief and ethical living.

Prager is unabashed in declaring his allegiance to Judaism and in drawing upon the Jewish tradition, and the Bible in particular, as his and society’s source of moral guidance. Having had an Orthodox upbringing and early education, he speaks highly of Orthodoxy in general and has family and friends within the American Orthodox community.

Yet by his own admission, he’s not Orthodox. He regularly refers to himself as a “religious non-Orthodox Jew,” who says he even believes in the Divinity of the Torah, and wishes more non-Orthodox Jews were like him.

On numerous occasions, even as he goes about professing his high regard for Orthodoxy, he has written scathing critiques of Chazal and halachah, mocking them as irrational and immoral, and ridiculing Orthodox Jews for their fealty to them. In one article, he approvingly cites a theologian who called Orthodox Jews “Karaites of the Oral Law” for being “literalists regarding Torah law.” But, in fact, it is Prager who is a holdover from the actual Karaites of yore, who ostensibly accepted the Written Torah while rejecting the Oral Law and the chachmei hamesorah. For someone who’s known as a debater and logician of note, his denigrations of halachah are startling for both the impoverishment in Torah knowledge and badly flawed argumentation they evince.

Without doubt, a significant number of Orthodox Jews read his writings and tune in to his programs, finding his views on a large range of topics to be very compatible with those a Torah Jew would hold. Given the nature of how he comes across on the radio, I suspect there are many Orthodox Jews who, having heard a segment of his daily show or read a column or two of his, believe he, too, is Orthodox. It didn’t surprise me when, several years ago, I came across an ad for a Pesach hotel program that featured Mr. Prager as one of its speakers.

But I’ve never thought the matter especially relevant, since in the main, his shows and writing address politics, culture, and the like, albeit often from a religiously informed angle, but steer clear of explicit religious discussion. Furthermore, it’s highly unpleasant, and possibly even prohibited, to discuss publicly another Jew’s religious failings unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

But now there is one. Prager has been “teaching the Torah” verse by verse for many years to both Jews and Christians in a weekly class at the Conservative movement’s West Coast seminary. Last week, he published the first of five planned volumes of commentary based on those classes, this one on the book of Exodus, and it shot to number one on the best-seller lists.

Prager believes the very survival of America as a democratic republic depends on its citizens choosing to embrace the Bible and its values, and says his aim in publishing this commentary is to make the Bible America’s book once more. That is certainly a laudable goal — but not for frum Jews who might unwittingly buy his book.

Dennis Prager is a denier of the ikarei hadas, the fundamentals of Jewish belief, according to his own self-description. No amount of goodwill toward Orthodoxy or friendships with Orthodox Jews can wash that demonstrable fact away.

In one article of his, he poses the question: “Given that I believe that the Torah is from G-d and that the Jews are the Chosen People, and because I have values similar to Orthodox Jews, I am often asked why I am not Orthodox.”

But the truth is that his values are not ours, and neither is his book. It doesn’t belong in a Torah Jew’s home or hands.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 705. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com