Rabbi Raymond Apple
Rabbi Raymond Apple Larry Brandt


Ask the Rabbi

ENTERING A CHURCH OR A MOSQUE

Q. May a Jew enter a church or mosque?

A. Jewish sentiment is wary of entering a church or mosque. Our historical memory of being compelled to attend Christian sermons cannot be easily effaced.

But it’s not just a matter of history but of ideology.

Whilst great scholars such as the Me’iri in the 13th century rule that Christianity is not in the category of idolatry, and it is widely recognised that the purer monotheism of Islam is theologically close to Judaism, rabbinic authorities take a negative view of entering the houses of worship of other faiths.

Talmudic references to entering a church include AZ 20a/b and Arachin 14a. The Talmud does not refer to Islam, since Mohammed came on the scene later.

However, those who these days are prepared to enter a church or mosque without any intention of praying say they do so as a mark of good will and a commitment to good relations.

Rabbi Chayyim David Halevy, a chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, is reported as saying that the verse in Hallel about "those who fear the Lord" (Psalm 118:4) acclaiming God’s lovingkindness applies to present-day gentiles who seek friendship with Jews.


THE PURIM PRETENCE

Acting out the Purim story has a great history. The Si’ach Yitzchak (Yitzchak Weiss) thought that it echoes the evil Haman, who pretended to be genuinely concerned for the welfare of the king.

The Talmud (Meg. 12a) says that things often have hidden motives. Tosafot (RH 3a) says that Haman’s ancestors tried to defeat Israel by changing their voices and their clothing.

A piyyut for the Shabbat before Purim says "kesut v’lashon shinah" – "he changed his voice and his clothing". How can we let ourselves pretend to be our enemies, the Amalekites and the wicked Hamanites?

Simply because we are so accustomed to being victims and it is good to see our enemies brought low despite all their pretensions.

May the time soon come when all the antisemites turn into clowns without dignity or power.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple was for many years Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesman on Judaism. After serving congregations in London, Rabbi Apple was chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, for 32 years. He also held many public roles, particularly in the fields of chaplaincy, interfaith dialogue and Freemasonry, and is the recipient of several national and civic honours. Now retired, he lives in Jerusalem and blogs at http://www.oztorah.com