Volume 59 Number 51 
      Produced: Tue, 12 Oct 2010 02:08:29 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Prohibition of entering a church 
    [Chana Luntz]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 11,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Prohibition of entering a church

Mark Steiner (MJ 59#41) writes:
> Let's ask the question: is the Christian mass an act of avoda zara for the
> Gentile as well as for the Jew? 

I agree, that is indeed the key question.

> This is not the direct question posed by the Tosafot in Sanhedrin, which
> is in the first instance discussing entering into a business deal with a
> Gentile, when we know that the Jew might force the Gentile to swear in a
> court of law on his, i.e. the Gentile's, saints or whatever -- and Tosafot
> there says that such an oath is permitted for the Gentile, and that,
> therefore a Jew need not refrain from entering into a partnership with a
> Gentile.  The Christian mass itself is not there in question.

Agree again.

> But there are sources which raise and answer this question about actual
> Christian worship.  I will now review a number of sources, already quoted,
> which prove that participating in a Christian worship service is forbidden
> to a Gentile.

This is where I think we disagree, because my reading of most of the sources
you refer to, starting with the Tosphos on Avodah Zara 50a-b, to my mind
either show that a Christian worship service is not a problem or is (and
this is the other alternative) just not talking about Christianity.

For the benefit of those following this conversation, I will just go over
some basics in the laws of Avodah Zara [idol worship].  Things associated
with idol worship can be divided into various categories:

(a) the idol itself;

(b) items of "noy" - things that are used to beautify the idol;

(c) tikroves - items that are offered to the idol as a form of worship;

(d) the vessels that are used in the service of the idol (eg the bowls used to
offer up the tikroves).

Now you also need to know about the concept of "bitul" [nullification],
which is how an object of idol worship can become permitted for benefit (of
course, all this assumes a knowledge that in general idols or items used for
idol worship are forbidden to benefit from [assur b'hana'ah].  Bitul can only be
done by an idol worshipper [not necessarily one who worships this particular
idol - MOD], not by a Jew, and simplistically, it done in a way that shows that
the idol worshipper is demonstrating disrespect to the object in question, so as
to take it out of the category of something that is being worshipped.
Obviously the most straightforward example of bitul is for an idol
worshipper to smash the idol (or part of it), showing that it is not
something that he worships anymore.

Now items that fall into category (a), ie the idols themselves, or into
category (b), items of noy, are subject to bitul.  But items that fall into
category (c), tikroves, are a bit different.  It is agreed that certain items
that fall within this category can never be nullified, and are ones that are
similar to [although note this is a rather loose term] to the way offerings are
made in the Beis HaMikdash [Temple].  Thus anything that falls within a category
corresponding to an offering that we offer in the Beis HaMikdash [k'ain panim]
is forbidden forever, and cannot be nullified.  However
there is a machlokus [disagreement] in the gemora as to whether other forms of
tikroves are also forbidden forever.   

That gets us to our Tosphos on daf 50a-b which is the starting point of much
of Mark Steiner's sources.  In that Tosphos they raise an interesting
question - what about candles?  Do they fall within the category of tikroves
or noy?  Tosphos rules that either way there is no problem using the
leftovers of candles that have been lit in front of an idol.  Because if
they are tikroves, since they are not like the offerings we bring in the
Temple, they do not even need nullification [ie Tosphos is deciding one way
in the machlokus referred to above].  And if they are noy, then once they
are extinguished by the priests and sold on or used for other things bitul
has occurred and hence they are permitted.

Now all this discussion is about what is the situation of candles, and
Tosphos has determined that they can be used even if we are dealing with
candles used for real definite 'industrial strength' idol worship.  In such a
case, there is no need to go into any question as to whether or not the
Christians of their day were or were not idol worshippers, as used candles
are permitted regardless.

But then they go on to say something even more interesting as indeed Mark
Steiner brings: - they then discuss the kikaros [waifers] that "they" bring
today as presents (and while Tosphos uses the term kikaros, the Ramban, for
example, uses lechem oni [ie matza]) "because behold they do not bring them for
idol worship and takroves for idol worship [since] it is not their way to feed
them to the idols like the earlier generations [and so it seems to the Ri] and
thus they are permitted to Jews to eat."  

And similarly the Tur brings Yoreh Deah siman 139 (after earlier bringing
the general pretty undisputed rule that "all kinds of food like meat and
wine and fat and water and salt, if they make from it takroves and they place
it before it [the idol] in the name of takroves, are forbidden immediately
[and forever]) but the waifers that they give to the priests even though
they bring them before them are permitted because they do not offer them to
the idol but rather it is a law [chok] for the priests".  And the Beis Yosef
on this portion of the Tur brings that, even though if they really were
takrovos, they would be forbidden because they are like the minchas haefer
but because they do not offer them to idol worship but rather it is a chok
for the priests it is OK (and this heter is written in Tosphos and the Rosh)
and the Mordechai writes that the bread which is a chok for the priests is
not a takrovos to idol worship despite the fact that in earlier days they
gave them to the idols to eat themselves, but not so today. And so the Ran
and the Rambam, the Ra'avid has some doubts and on the other hand the
Rabbanu Yerucham holds it is assur.

So we have two possibilities, either they are not discussing Christians at
all and some other group or this discussion is about Christians and the
Catholic mass.  But you don't need to know an awful lot about Christianity
to know that the central point of the Catholic mass is the bringing of wine
and bread in a procedure that:

(i) is then considered by them to turn the wine and bread into the body and
blood of Jesus;

(ii) is offered on the altar (and is considered a re-enactment of Jesus'
supposed original sacrifice in sacrificing his life analogous to the lamb
offered as korbanos in the Beis HaMikdash);

(iii) the use of matzah and wine being something that was supposedly
instituted by Jesus at the last supper; 

(iv) it is then eaten by those participating in the service as analogous to
the way the priests in our temple ate from the sacrifices.

So in the light of this theology, and in the light of the halachic analysis,
how on earth can one possibly say that this bread is permitted? If one says
that Jesus is considered by them a god, then clearly this bread and wine
has according to them been turned into an idol. Why is this not a problem?
Why does nobody discuss the inherently idolatrous nature of this bread?  And
even if you ignore this, here you have a case where there is a deliberate
attempt to mimic the korbanos that we used to offer in the Beis Hamikdash,
k'ein panim.  How on earth can this not be assur? How much more on point can
you get??

Now one option is that we are not talking about Christianity and the
Catholic mass at all, but about some idol worshippers around the time of
Tosphos who just gave their priests presents of bread for the priest's own

And the other option is that somehow this whole discussion is indeed talking
about the Catholic mass but for some reason it is considered OK, but the
only way one can possibly see for it to be OK would be that if one held that
really they are offering this sacrifice (and they call it and acknowledge it
as a sacrifice) to the Maker of the Heaven and the Earth, and therefore we
can, at least vis a vis them, ignore all this nonsense about what it is
supposed to turn into. Because non-Jews are clearly allowed to offer
sacrifices to Hashem on bamahs [high places] and are not restricted to the
Beis Hamikdash like us.

That is why as I originally said in response to Mark Steiner, I don't think
the chain of discussion centred around the use of candles afterwards or the
use of the waifers by Jews helped make his point that Christianity was
definitely avodah zara. 

On the other hand, I did agree that the Tosphos on Avodah Zara 14b is more
supportive of his position - which is why I originally discussed it in the
context of what do we do when we have a tosphos that seems difficult to fit
with other tosphosim (noting that Tosphos is a compilation, and especially
where one citation in in the name of the Ri, another in the name of Rabbeinu
Tam and another in the name of Rabbeinu Baruch, we do not necessarily expect
them to agree.)

> I had originally pointed out that Tosafot in Avoda Zara 14b states that
> it is forbidden to sell wax to an idolator on his holy day because of
> creating a stumbling block (lifnei iver), namely the Jew facilitates a
> forbidden act of avoda zara worship.  The Tosafot is obviously talking
> (among others) about Christians -- for example, the same Tosafot makes
> reference to "seforim pesulim," i.e. Christian liturgical manuscripts,
> which are also forbidden to sell where there is a problem of lifnei iver.
> The fact that the Christians may have adopted the votive candles from the
> pagans is irrelevant to the question: whom is Tosfat in AZ 14b talking
> about?  The answer to anyone who reads this text is clear: Tosafot is
> talking about their contemporaries, they are deciding a contemporary shayle
> (query).  The conclusion is, that Tosafot holds that the Christians
> themselves are in violation of a cardinal prohibition of idol worship.  
> In her reply to me, Chana I believe overlooked one of my sources,
> Piskei Harosh 1:15.  There the Rosh rules that TODAY (i.e. the Middle
> STUMBLING BLOCK BEFORE THE BLIND.  Thus the Tosafot Avoda Zara 14b reflects
> a widespread consensus which is codifed by the Rosh in his code of law.

I have not overlooked it, but I confess I have struggled to find it.  The
version of Piskei HaRosh I have says at 1:15 "that now there is no
prohibition to sell except incense [levona] to a priest and wax to all idol
worshippers on their festival".  

And the matter gets even more complicated, because as you know the Tur was
the son of the Rosh and is generally regarded as codifying his father's
halacha.  And indeed the Tur brings this halacha (in Yoreh Deah Siman 151)
that one cannot sell incense to a priest but to another non-Jew it is
permitted and so it is prohibited to sell wax to a non-Jew on their festival
but on other days it is permitted.  And the Machon Yerushalayim version, which
is regarded these days as the most authoritative version of the Tur has an
additional critical word in this section not found in the more standard
printings.  This additional word means that the section translates as not just
"wax on their festival", but "wax on their festival of Kandlar".

Now what is this festival of Kandlar, that the Tur is so concerned about?  I
could be wrong, but I would hazard a guess that it is "Candlemas" (February
2nd).  Now the official Christian description of the festival of Candlemas
is "The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple".  Wikipedia's
description of it is as follows:  

"The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22-40). According to
the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem
forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after
childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to
the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.). Luke explicitly says
that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who
could not afford a lamb) in Leviticus 12:8, sacrificing "a pair of
turtledoves, or two young pigeons".

But if that is what it is about, then what has that got to do with Candles
and why is it called Candlemas?  Well Wikipedia further explains:

"Traditionally the Western term "Candlemas" (or Candle Mass) referred to the
practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles for use
throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use
in the home. In Poland the feast is called Matka Boska Gromniczna (Matka
Boska, "Mother of God" + Gromnica, "Thunder"). This name refers to the
candles that are blessed on this day and called gromnicy, since these
candles are lit during (thunder) storms and placed in windows to ward off
the storm."

And Wikipedia further explains:

"However, it is probable that some features of Pagan  observances were
incorporated into Christian rites of Candlemas when the celebration of
Candlemas spread to the north and west of Europe, where 2 February was
sacred to the goddess Brigid.

Modern Pagans believe that Candlemas is a Christianization of the Gaelic
festival of Imbolc, which was celebrated in pre-Christian Europe (and
especially the Celtic Nations) at about the same time of year; Imbolc is
called "St. Brigid's Day" or "Brigid" in Ireland. Both Brigids are
associated with sacred flames, holy wells and springs, healing and
smithcraft. Brigid is a virgin, yet also the patron of midwives. However, a
connection with Roman (rather than Celtic or Germanic) polytheism is more
plausible, since the feast was celebrated before any serious attempt to
expand Christianity into non-Roman countries."

So here we have a festival, which albeit a Christian festival, is all about
offering and blessing candles, a practice with no real linkage to Christian
theology but which points straight back to paganism.  Are you surprised that
the Tur (and other Rishonim) would not much like it and might have a problem
with Jews providing the means by which this throwback to paganism is
performed?  That there might be serious questions to be asked vis a vis
candles even if one were to hold that Christians were pure monotheists (much
as serious questions are asked vis a vis Muslims and throwing stones at
Satan, a practice which is understood to be derived from the pagan ritual of
Markolus, even though nobody questions that the Muslim faith is purely

That is why the discussion about what takes place in the mass is much closer
to the real question about Christianity, as it is discussing something that
is a fundamental part of Christian theology, and not acts that are clearly
(and were known to be, just as Christmas trees today are known to be) pagan
drag alongs.

> For those who want to read further, I will comment on Chana's
> references from Tosafot 2a.  The Mishnah says that a Jew is not permitted
> to do business with idolators at least ON their holy days.  The Talmud states
> that the reason is that we are fearful that the idolator will run to the
> temple and thank his god.  Is that lifnei iver?  No.  Thanking a foreign
> god is not in itself an act of official worship,

It is if he gives thanks by bringing the equivalent of a korban todah
[thanksgiving offering].  White roosters seemed to be regarded as the idol
worshippers animal of choice for this purpose according to the gemora.

> so this is not lifnei iver, as the Talmud later makes clear.

How can you say that the Talmud later makes clear? My version of the Talmud
on Avodah Zara 6a asks the question as to whether the reason for the
prohibition is because of "revacha" [profit] or lifnei iver and poses a
nafka mina [distinction] between the two.  It does not, however, appear to
me to resolve the matter, and Tosphos there on 2a says explicitly that
"whether according to the language of d'azel v'modeh [he will go and
acknowledge] or the language of "lifnei iver", thus quite clearly keeping
this machlokus open (and suggesting we need to worry about both issues).

> It is not a cardinal violation of the mitzvot of Bnei Noach.

>From where do you get this? The Taz certainly does not agree with you (see
Yoreh Deah siman 148:3).  The reason he sees lifnei iver as not applying
when a Ben Noach goes and acknowledges on his festival is because he able to
go and acknowledge even without your help, so it is like the same side of
the river, and hence the biblical definition of lifnei iver does not apply.
But that does not mean that going and giving acknowledgement to an idol is
not a violation of the prohibition on avodah zara of the Bnei Noach, nor
that it is not a capital offence for Jews.

> What is it?  Another violation: a JEW is not allowed to
> cause anyone to mention the name of an avoda zara, "lo yishama al pikha."
> The Jew is not allowed to cause the spread the name of avoda zara, even if
> the Gentile who does this is not in violation.

That's right, that would seem to be one half of the maklokus. Ie we have
potentially two problems here, as brought by the gemora, firstly he will go away
and give verbal thanks, and this will lead to the Jew being in violation of
"lo yishama al picha" (even if he could and would have given verbal thanks
without the Jew's help) and secondly he will go away and do an act of actual
idol worship (eg sacrifice his white rooster), which would mean that there
would be a problem of lifnei iver (at least if he couldn't get another
rooster or whatever he needs to perform his act of idol worship from
anywhere else).

If the Catholic mass involves an act of idol worship, then there is a
problem eg selling him flour (unless he can get the flour from somewhere
else), selling him wine and/or grapes (unless he can get these for himself
elsewhere) and anything else he needs for these acts.  Therefore the
rabbinic ban to do business with non-Jews on the day of their festival and
with items needed for their festival makes sense, because one might come to
lifnei iver (it might come to a circumstance where he does not have any
other source).  In addition, a more general ban on business that might leave
him with a good feeling on his festival and cause him to articulate that to
his idol also makes sense, because of "lo yishama al picha", despite this
being something he is able to do without the Jew's help.

> In a famous Tosafot there, 2a, in fact the first Tosafot in the Tractate,
> Tosafot says that this prohibition does not apply to today's Gentiles,
> because we know that they don't worship avoda zara.  What this means is
> not that the Christian mass is not avoda zara, but that the medieval
> Christian is not so "frum" as to run to the cathedral and light a candle
> on the holy day, or participate in the Eucharist ceremony, or even thank
> the Son, just because he made a business deal with a Jew.

But we are not discussing him just running to the cathedral on any given
day, that was never the question even in the time of the gemora.  We are
discussing him going to his cathedral on the day of his festival.  Now I
agree, in modern day England, where church attendance has dwindled so much
that a significant number of the people billed at Christians don't even
bother to show in church for Christmas Day or Easter Friday/Sunday, you can
say what you have said, they are really not so frum.  But then?  Everybody
was in church on the major festivals (and on Sundays). And whether they
believed it or not they were going through the motions of saying what is
traditionally said and doing what is traditionally done.  And the point as
made by the Taz and others was that even if they would or could go to their
place of avodah zarah anyway and give thanks anyway on such days, if one of
the motivations causing those thanks was caused by the Jew, the Jew has
problems with lo yishama al picha.  But there are no problems with lifnei
iver unless without the Jew's help the non Jew would have been prevented
from giving thanks or performing the act of idol worship.  The ban on doing
business before or during an idol worshipper's festival was a rabbinic fence
instituted to prevent either of the two (or both) occurring.  To justify
ignoring a rabbinic ban, one has to say that the causes of that ban have
gone away (and even then, it gets tricky as we know from other
circumstances).  Thus the statement that Tosphos is making on 2a is a very
strong statement (akin to the kinds of statements Tosphos makes elsewhere
when overturning other rabbinical bans, such as in relation to uncovered
water, or mayim achronim [the washing of hands after the meal] or dancing
and clapping on shabbas or the like - where they state there are no snakes,
no Sodom salt, no experts in fixing musical instruments etc).  Here, we
appear to have no idol worshippers, or no real idol worshippers, no
articulation of the names of idols in services (that would cause a problem
even if the Jew was not a necessary cause) and no prohibited acts of idol
worship which might be facilitated by a Jew, risking lifne iver.  And the
risk has diminished to such an extent that it allows for the shlugging off
of a rabbinic enactment


End of Volume 59 Issue 51