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Entering a church

Rabbi Jonathan Blass3 Adar II 5763
1625
Question
Rabbis- As an American Jew, I have no problem entering a church. Many of my friends are christian and have attended Jewish ceremonies of fellow Jewish friends as we have attended christian ceremonies of theirs (all out of mutual respect). My brother-in-law, however, is not very comfortable in churches. He is Israeli and has lived in the United States for a number of years. I don’t blame him too much, after all, the sight of a man nailed to a torture device (cross) is pretty harsh, however, I feel that this should not stop him from attending ceremonies such as catholic confirmations for friends of his who are catholic and whose children are being confirmed. Is there any religious teachings you can communicate to him that will help him to get over the feeling that he will melt if he steps inside a church. I try to tell him that I’m jewish and going into a church to me has about as much meaning as walking into a museum. But this has not helped. Thank you for whatever advice you can give me.
Answer
A Jew- American or otherwise- SHOULD have a halachic problem entering a church. It is prohibited by Maimonides (Peirush HaMishnayot Avoda Zara) and by all later halachic authorities (Shach Yoreh Deah 149,1; Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 14, 91 who cites numerous sources; Shu”t Iggrot Moshe Yoreh Deah III 129,6). The problem is not one of “melting”. A Jew should find morally offensive the elements of idolatry that remain preserved in Christianity and certain other religions (Hinduism etc.). Abraham, our first forefather began his “career” by destroying his father’s idols. We, his children, who have seen all the evil that idolatry and those who have inherited its traditions have brought the world, should not be tolerant of it.
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