Avoda Zara

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One of the pillars of the entire Torah is to run away from any form of service to any other God. It is a capital sin and extremely crucial to the observance of Torah. A Jew who violates this sin willingly is like he violated all of the Torah and he loses many of his halachic privileges as a Jew.

Background

  • The Rambam (Avoda Zara 9:4) considers Christianity to be avoda zara. There is a large discussion within the opinion of Tosfot (Sanhedrin 63b s.v. asur) whether Christianity is considered avoda zara for non-Jews considering that they believe in the Trinity, which is a slight deviation from narrow monotheism. The opinion of Tosfot is cited by Rama OC 156. Pitchei Teshuva Y.D. 147:2 cites the Nodeh BeYehuda YD 148 who writes that the opinion of Tosfot is that Christianity is avoda zara just not for the purposes of swearing by the name of a pagan God. Rav Soloveitchik (Nefesh HaRav p. 230) quoted Rav Chaim as supporting the approach of the Nodeh BeYehuda.
  • The Rambam (Maachalot Asurot 11:7) considers Islam not to be avoda zara. Ritva Pesachim 25b s.v. vktav od disagrees and holds Islam is avoda zara. Radvaz 4:92 holds that even according to the Rambam one still would need to give up one's life before submitting to the beliefs of Islam and following all of their ways.

Entering a Church

  1. Some hold that despite entering a church nowadays being a serious prohibition, entering a mosque is permitted.[1]
  2. One may enter Maarat Hamachpelah since it was originally a Jewish structure and the Arabs can't halachically convert it into a mosque.[2]
  3. It is permitted to enter a church in order to save someone's life such as if one is a paramedic or a firefighter.[3]
  4. If a person who does maintenance on air conditioning units and is asked to fix one in a church and if he doesn't do so would lose a significant amount of money should not enter a church. He can hire a non-Jew to hire another non-Jew to enter in order to fix it.[4]
  5. It is permitted to enter a church to save one's life.[5]
  6. Some say that it is permitted to pray in a non-denominational prayer room.[6]
  7. It is permitted to sit or walk in the shade of a church.[7]

Benefitting from Avoda Zara

  1. It is forbidden to look at a beautiful Avoda Zara or even artwork or decorations of Avoda Zara.[8] Religious artwork which is not meant to decorate an avoda zara and is not served is not forbidden from benefit and can be looked at.[9]
  2. It is forbidden to listen to musical instruments that are used to play for religious Avoda Zara services[10] or even people singing songs in honors of avoda zara.[11]
  3. It is permitted to walk in a place that one might see artwork for the avoda zara or hear songs for the avoda zara as long as one doesn't intend to benefit.[12]
  4. It is forbidden to play music in front of avoda zara even if one is hired and paid for it.[13]
  5. It is forbidden to sit in the shade of avoda zara. If one is walking without intending to benefit from the shade it is permissible to pass by in the shade.[14]
  6. It is forbidden to look at icons of avoda zara.[15]
  7. It is forbidden to look at and benefit from anything artistic or decorative that is meant to beatify avoda zara. If a person is passing by such art or decorations and one does not intend to look to benefit from it he may pass that way.[16] Some say that he needs to actually close his eyes while walking there.[17]

To Save Your Life

  1. It is forbidden to worship another religion even to save your life.[18]
  2. It is permitted to hide in a Church or house of worship of another religion in order to save your life.[19]

See further Violating_Torah_to_Save_Your_Life#The_Big_Three.

Owning Symbols of Other Religions

See Drawing_or_Sculpting_Forbidden_Images

Related Links

Sources

  1. Yabia Omer YD 2:11 and YD 7:12 holds that entering a church is forbidden but entering a mosque is permitted since Islam is monotheistic. Igrot Moshe YD 3:129:6 agrees that entering a church is forbidden even if one is just going to look at the artwork. Tzitz Eliezer 14:91 holds that entering a church or a mosque is forbidden. Rav Hershel Schachter ("Traveling to Israel" min 43) agreed with the Tzitz Eliezer that one may not enter a mosque.
  2. Rav Hershel Schachter ("Traveling to Israel" min 43)
  3. Rav Mordechai Halpern on yeshiva.org.il explained that it is a concern of ayvah not to save someone's life in a church building and that concern of pikuach nefesh allows one to enter.
  4. halachayomit.co.il. Rav Ovadia's footnotes printed in the new edition of Yabia Omer YD 2:11 makes this same point as well.
  5. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 157:3 following the Rosh as opposed to the Rashba.
  6. http://din.org.il/2017/08/22/%D7%91%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%9B%D7%A0%D7%A1%D7%AA-%D7%94%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%93-%D7%9C%D7%91%D7%A0%D7%99-%D7%9B%D7%9C-%D7%94%D7%93%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%AA/ argues that just like it is forbidden to enter a church it is forbidden to enter a non-denominational prayer room and the entire concept of having such a room is against the first two dibrot that religions are exclusive. Rav Moshe Feinstein in Mesoret Moshe v. 1 p. 46 is quoted by Rav Elimelech Bluth that it is permitted to pray in a non-denominational prayer room since it isn't designated for Christians specifically.
  7. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 142:10 writes that it is permitted to walk in the shade of a building of avoda zara but not inside or near the entrance. The Shach 142:22 explains that the building wasn't made for shade on the outside of the building so it is permitted. Shach adds that even sitting in the shade of a church is permitted.
  8. Rabbenu Yerucham 17:5, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 142:15
  9. Shach 142:33
  10. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 142:15
  11. Bet Hillel 142:2 based on Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 142:15
  12. Pesachim 25b, Rama Y.D. 142:15. Shach 142:34 adds that if it is a pesik reisha and inevitable that he will benefit from the sights or songs it is forbidden to go. Since it is possible to close one's eyes and ears it is not a pesik reisha. This is the opinion of Tosfot and Rosh, however, Ran Chullin 32a s.v. abaye that there is no concept of pesik reisha when discussing benefitting from something forbidden. If one intends to benefit it is forbidden, and if not it is permitted.
  13. Darkei Teshuva 142:29 citing Chaim Byad 28
  14. Ran Avoda Zara 21a cited by Bet Yosef, Rama Y.D. 142:9
  15. Rivevot Efraim 3:497 based on Zohar 3:84 and Vayikra 19:4. He ponders whether it is permitted even to look at a picture of an icon of avoda zara found in a history book or encyclopedia.
  16. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 142:15, Shach 142:34
  17. Chachmat Adam 84:16 understands the Rosh Pesachim 2:2 to mean that indeed the person needs to actually close his eyes from seeing the decorations of avoda zara since otherwise it is a pesik reisha that he'll benefit from it. Halichot Shlomo (Nissan 14:12 p. 80) favors this approach rather than that of the Chafetz Chaim (Lashon Hara 6:14) who permits leaving one's eyes open. Moadim Uzmanim 7:204 questions the Chafetz Chaim but has another approach to be lenient for other prohibitions besides avoda zara. See Shalmei Chayim Pesachim ch. 9 who explains this Chafetz Chaim. See Ritva Yoma 39a s.v. vim and Tosfot Yeshanim Yoma 39a s.v. hanashim who quote a dispute that seems to be relevant to this question.
  18. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 157:1
  19. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 157:3