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Suppose there's a communal meal in a secular workplace, at which some of the food is reliably kosher. Now suppose that right before anyone takes any food, one of the participants, to general assent, says grace, including a line like "We consecrate this food to Jesus Christ." Is there any problem with consuming any of the food after that?

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Did they really say that? I have never heard of such a grace. The standard text I believe is: "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord." Or do you think that is the same thing? –  Jeremy Dec 16 '10 at 13:49
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in any case even if the food itself is casher I don't you can participate in such kind of meal with goim and even worse if the event is clearly avoda zara –  Avraham Dec 16 '10 at 15:01
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Jeremy, I framed the question as a hypothetical, darn it! I don't remember the exact formula I heard, but it was definitely longer (perhaps 3X) than the one you quote, it definitely mentioned Jesus at least twice, and I'm pretty sure that there was a consecration of the food to him. –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '10 at 16:43
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I don't think consecration of food is a common Christian practise. The usual purpose of a Christian grace (in my experience and reading, anyway) is to thank God for the food, not to dedicate it to him. I suspect this question is purely hypothetical as phrased. (I, as an atheist materialist who doesn't believe in any kind of spellcasting, would still be uncomfortable eating food dedicated to any god. It just wouldn't feel right.) –  TRiG Nov 21 '11 at 2:34
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I've heard of thanking Jesus Christ, but not consecrating the food to Him, although, it is possible some far-right Christian religions might do this. –  DataGirl Jan 13 '12 at 18:17
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's a rule that "you can't prohibit that which does not belong to you." A pagan can go deify my cow and bow down to it all he wants; he can even slaughter it to his idol; if it's my cow, he did nothing and you can derive benefit from the cow. So the first and major question is, who owned the food in this situation, and who consecrated it? Moreover, what does "consecration" mean? Is that the act of sacrifice, or merely designating it for sacrifice? (The latter wouldn't prohibit it.)

From Rambam's Laws of Foreign Worship and Heathen Practices, Chapter 8:

לפיכך הגויים העובדים את ההרים, ואת הגבעות, ואת האילנות הנטועין מתחילתן לפירות, ואת המעיינות הנובעים לרבים, ואת הבהמה--הרי אלו מותרין בהנאה; ומותר לאכול אותן הפירות שנעבדו במקום גדילתן, ואותה הבהמה. ואין צריך לומר, בהמה שהוקצת לעבודה זרה, שהיא מותרת באכילה: בין שהקצוה לעובדה, בין שהקצוה להקריבה--הרי זו מותרת.

ב במה דברים אמורים שאין הבהמה נאסרת, בשלא עשה בה מעשה לשם עבודה זרה; אבל אם עשה בה מעשה כל שהוא, אסרה. כיצד, כגון ששחט בה סימן לעבודה זרה. עשה אותה חליפין לעבודה זרה, אסרה; וכן חליפי חליפין: מפני שנעשת כדמי עבודה זרה.

ג במה דברים אמורים, בבהמת עצמו; אבל אם שחט בהמת חברו לעבודה זרה או החליפה--לא נאסרה, שאין אדם אוסר דבר שאינו שלו.

The next question would be how to approach Christianity vis-a-vis the prohibitions related to the accoutrements of idolatry, which is addressed elsewhere.

The third question is whether a declaration of consecration alone (even by an absolute pagan on his own food) is enough to prohibit it. If I recall correctly from the whole mess about wig hair coming from Hindu temples, there are different opinions in Tosfos whether any item used in pagan worship becomes prohibited, or does it have to be specifically the object of pagan libations, bowing, incense, or animal sacrifice. I don't see a verbal consecration in any of those.

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But can't somebody make an animal prohibited as a korban, even if it doesn't belong to him? What about if he uses it for bestiality? –  Jeremy Dec 16 '10 at 13:46
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Actually, the end halachah seems to be that the animal doesn't have to be killed in that case (even if it was his own, much less if it was someone else's). See Rambam, Hil. Melachim 9:6. –  Alex Dec 16 '10 at 16:07
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And @Jeremy, more about your first question: the rules for korbanos are indeed stricter than for ordinary use, because it's מאוס לגבוה - disgusting to use an object of idolatry as an offering to Hashem. But it's still permitted for ordinary use. (In fact, if he just bowed to the animal and didn't actually perform any other action on it, it would be permissible for use even if it didn't belong to him, since there was no תפיסת ידי אדם (human-caused creative or transformative act). –  Alex Dec 16 '10 at 16:12
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It seems to me that in this case, the third question is probably enough to permit. The question of ownership is tricky at a potluck meal, but my first guess would be that once people put the food out on the tables, it's acquired by the collective. An interesting twist in this case that made me feel better was that I had already filled my plate with the food I'd brought, assuming that it'd be un-Koshered by shared serving utensils, drips from other plates, basar shenit'alem, etc. So, I considered the food on my plate to unambiguously belong to me and not be subject to "consecration." –  Isaac Moses Dec 16 '10 at 16:48
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@msh210, I don't think it would be hefker. If someone were to walk in off the street and take some of the food, you'd probably object. So it's not "available for all," which is part of the halachic definition of hefker (Beis Hillel in Peah 6:1, and codified in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 273:5). So the only other choice is probably to assume that it is collectively owned by the group. –  Alex Dec 17 '10 at 13:30
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