I started my "taalich" jazara be’tshuva 10 years ago, however my father, dough he is Jewish, knows nothing about religion and declares he doesn’t believe in HaShem. I brought him to Israel after my mother died, he is 88 years old. Now we have a problem, can we count him as a third Jew sitting at the table for zimun knowing he understands no Hebrew nor has any knowledge about our religion? We have different views about this question, can you help us? Thanks. Daniel
Dear Daniel, First I wish you success in all your religious and Torah endeavors. Your question was basically answered in the Hebrew counterpart of this website by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed Shlit"a. I will answer you based on what he said. Since I don't know your father,may he live and be well, I will give you the guidelines and you will decide what is appropriate. In principle many Rabbis allow having someone non-religious to answer zimun. However, this is correct as long as the person shows interest in performing the mitzvah, has basic belief in Hashem and does not desecrate Shabbat in a deliberate and offensive manner.(Based on the psak of Rav Shlomo Zalman Oirbach zt"l and Rav Pinchas Sheinberg Shlit"a) If you feel your father,doesn’t meet these requirements, he can't join the zimun, although he may not be held responsible since he was brought up that way and was never taught better. If on the other hand, your father meets the above criteria, he may participate in the zimun just by listening even if he doesn't answer. And may this mitzvah be a stepping stool for many mitzvoth to come. May we all receive the torah with joy and gladness of the heart on the forthcoming Shavuot.