Question. May a Jew enter a church or mosque?
Answer. 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 loving kindness applies to present-day gentiles who seek friendship with Jews.
ECCENTRICITIES IN THE TALMUD.
Question. I have stopped attending G’mara shiurim because I dislike the Talmud’s eccentricities. Do you think I am right?
Answer. Your mention of eccentricities recalls what Moses Mendelssohn said, that outsiders “made fun of the inanities and eccentricities” which they found in the Talmud. Mendelssohn said,
“On no account can I persuade myself that the best minds of a nation should have occupied themselves throughout so many centuries exclusively with a work consisting of insipid rubbish”.
I used to tell a critic who came to my shiurim that our task is not to judge the Talmud but to listen to it. The sages allowed their conversation to stray into side paths while never losing sight of the main road. Their two tenets were respect for the revealed teaching that came from God, and wise and careful use of words.
Question. Does it matter if children see their parents argue?
Answer. It unsettles the children and destabilises the home. If parents disagree, and there is no married couple who don’t from time to time, they should still try to present a united front to their children.
There is a Torah law about the stubborn and rebellious son. The parents declare,
“This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he does not hearken to our voice” (Deut. 21:10).
The use of the phrase “our voice” suggested to Rabbi Judah that if the father and mother do not speak with one voice, the law does not blame the child for being stubborn and rebellious (Sanh. 21a).
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.