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Halacha for doing business with non-Jews


Rabbi David Sperling

Cheshvan 12, 5779
Dear Rabbi Doing business with non-Jews on their religious holidays, although this is not in regards to their holiday, my Shaila could be related or have similar or the same Halachot in this situation and I really don’t know for sure what I should do. We have a neighbor that is of another religion and he knows that I am Jewish. I know that their religion sites the verse in Bereishit - Genesis- Chapter 12 that Hashem will bless those that bless us, our Jewish people. The other day he gave to a person in my household a gift and said that God told him to do so. The gift was an envelope with $100 bill inside and, although I’m not positive, I am almost sure that it was intended partly for me. So my Shaila is am I permitted to keep and use this gift? I already thought not because I know that this man, the neighbor seems strong in his belief system, other religion. I NEVER want to benefit from a false god or idolatry or have anything to do with some other diety, G-d forbid. Also he may think that by giving this gift he will benefit because I am Jewish. In any event, even though this money would help me now as there have been some extra expenses, I will not accept this gift if I am not permitted by Torah and Halacha. If I am unable to accept it, should I just give it to a homeless person or some other charity? If I should give it back it could cause eivah. Thank you so much, Rabbi, for your help and kindness. I always want to do the right thing by Torah and Mitzvot.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is very hard to give a clear ruling in your case as there are so many unknowns – what was the non Jewish neighbor thinking?; was the gift intended for you?; is the neighbor's belief system really idol worship? Etc Then main issue at hand is whether the neighbor is trying somehow to influence you away from Judaism. Many times we see that missionaries use all types of gifts in order to sway people towards their religion. If this is the case – then one must certainly do everything they can to remove themselves from such gifts. The second issue is that of taking charity from non Jews – a difficult and involved halacha (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 254). However, there are many situations when this is permitted. (Added to the fact that it is not so clear that your case is one of charity, or a mere gift). The third issue is whether there is any measure of idol worship involved – such as is the case when receiving gifts from an idol worshiper on their festivals [see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 148, 5]. Again, because of the doubts surrounding your case it is difficult to give a ruling. However, I would advice two things – firstly, making certain to be very polite, it is important that you express to the neighbor that you appreciate his kindness, but you feel very uncomfortable accepting gifts, and would rather he refrained from giving you gifts in the future. (If he wants to donate to good Jewish causes you can direct him to the IFCJ which distributes money from Christians to Jews in Israel, which has Rabbinic support from some Rabbis [even though others oppose these gifts, your neighbor can certainly hold by the lenient opinions and donate through such an organization]). You certainly don't want to be put in a position where you, or your household, would feel a sense of dept to this man and his religion – and further more the Rabbis praised those who refrain from accepting gifts in general. Secondly, as to the money he already gave you – if you can politely return it, without causing the neighbor any upset, then that would be a good idea. If this is not possible, then it would be advisable to donate the money to a good charitable cause (as you mentioned) Because of the doubts we mentioned above, it is not clear to me that you are obligated by the law to not benefit from the money – but in general it would seem that if there is a chance that the money is given to you with some intent of influencing you away from true Judaism, then you should take every precaution and remove yourself from any possible influence the miney might have over you. If though you are certain that the monies do not involve any efforts to sway you from your beliefs, and do not involve idol worship as such (- a belief that helping Jews will bring blessings does not sound like idol worship – rather it is something that we also believe in!) then it would seem to halachically permissible to use the money. Blessings.
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