OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.


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.

Baha’i temple & gardens in Haifa

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.



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.

Blog: http://www.oztorah.com

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  1. Graham Coffey

    S.F. Don’t know anything about this subject…at all. Just a question…does this apply to entering a Christian Church as to attend a funeral service of friend who was a Christian? (Don’t go arcing up…just a mild mannered query)

    • I don’t see an issue at all with entering a church. I have a great many Christian friends and am frequently in a church for births, deaths and/or marriages. Never even thought about it.

      Rabbi Apple is a dear man who unfortunately is very old fashioned

  2. Shirlee, I agree. I have no problem going into a church for those things you mention. It’s a sign of support to go to a freinds’ wedding, chiristening etc.

    But I strongly query Rabbi Apple’s assertion that “the purer monotheism of Islam is theologically close to Judaism”
    There is absolutley NOTHING in Islam which is theologically close to Judaism. I respect the Rabbi’s knowledge of Judaism, but he obvioulsy knows little about Islam and should stick to his area of expertise.

    • Graham Coffey

      I read that myself Pam…as to ‘the pure monotheism of Islam being theologically close to Judaism’. Out of respect for another’s faith, I didn’t push the question…as to ask Shirlee to explain it to me. I wondered from what stance the good Rabbi actually perceives Islam.

  3. I wonder how the Rabbi feels about Islam entering a synagogue and uttering their call to prayer. That would be a very interesting topic for him to write an article on.

    • Why don’t you write to him and ask him about it.

      When I read and posted ” “the purer monotheism of Islam is theologically close to Judaism”” I wondered if he actually knows anything about Islam

  4. With respect, anyone with even an inkling of knowledge about Judaism and Islam can see immediate similarities. Sharia law bears many similarities to Talmudic law, halal to kashrut, the forms of prayer are in many respects similar, there are similarities in the calendar, and there are similarities in language. Standard history books discuss the influences of Judaism on Islam – Mohammed was strongly influenced by the Jews in Arabia and his teachings reflect this.

    By contrast, Christianity has little concept of religious law along the lines of sharia or halacha. Its focus is on dogma – salvation is achieved through the profession of belief in Jesus. Christian prayer patterns bear little similarity to Judaism or Islam (beyond the use of the Psalms during services).

    Furthermore, Islam is indeed a form of “pure” monotheism, as discussed in depth by the Rambam (Maimonides), as alluded to by Rav Apple. Christianity’s notion of the Trinity flies in the faith of Judaism’s teachings about the absolute one-ness of the Almighty. Christianity, unlike Islam, cannot therefore be said to share any similarities in belief to the faith that its unwitting founder followed.

    As for a Muslim entering a synagogue and uttering their call to prayer, this is entirely a different matter and I encourage you to ask Rav Apple his views. I am aware of the upset caused when this scenario occurred at TBI. I doubt that a traditional synagogue (i.e. orthodox) – even of the most “liberal” persuasion (with a small l) would ever permit this.