Worship of foreign deities, one of the three cardinal sins.

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Is Christianity Avodah Zara?

It is commonly accepted that Islam is not Avodah Zarah (idolatry) since Islam has a clear monotheistic theology with a belief in Allah that parallels our view of "kail" or Hashem. It is even ...
25
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3answers
866 views

While playing a computer game, may I “worship” one of the game's “gods” to help me win?

I sometimes play a certain computer role-playing game (RPG). In this game, my character (whom I might name after myself but who does not otherwise resemble me) fights mythological creatures and ...
21
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4answers
2k views

Is practicing Yoga against Torah?

What does Halacha and Halachic Authorities have to say about the permissibility of a Jew practicing Yoga? Is it Avodah Zarah? If it is problematic, are there methods of doing it where it would be ...
19
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9answers
3k views

If Christianity is avodah zarah and Islam is not, why has the Christian world triumphed over the non-Christian, and why do Jews prefer to live among Christians and not Muslims?

The Rambam quite clearly considered Christianity to be avodah zarah. He did not feel the same way about Islam, however, going so far as to condone praying within a mosque, and many Orthodox Jewish ...
19
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3answers
995 views

Why do we bow down in the direction of the ark?

This is a question I've had for many years, to which I've never received a satisfactory answer: In Hebrew school, we were taught that idolaters bowed to a idol of their god. They would claim that ...
16
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4answers
1k views

Why isn't the Kabbalistic doctrine of Sefirot considered Shittuf if the Christian Trinity is?

From the answers to this question it seems that most if not all Jewish sources treat Trinitarian Christianity (in particular, their doctrine of the Trinity) as either Shittuf or outright Avoda Zara, ...
16
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2answers
225 views

Calling a Jew a “guru”?

Is it appropriate to use the term "guru" to refer to an expert in matters of Judaism or Jewish law on the assumption that it will be understood as the second definition here, or is it inappropriate no ...
15
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1answer
447 views

Is kneeling and bowing down in Kung Fu an idolatry (Avoda Zarah)?

I am exercising at Kung Fu's dojo and wonder whether kneeling and bowing down is an idolatry (Avodah Zarah)? The floor has soft mats. The reason explained to me is that it's done as a form of greeting ...
15
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2answers
824 views

Is a Jew allowed to be knighted? Problem with kneeling?

Is there any halachik problem with going through the knighting (or Damehood for women) process of kneeling etc? The current ceremony does not contain many of the Christian or pagan overtones of the ...
14
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3answers
583 views

Is it permitted for a Ben-Noach be an atheist?

Avoda zarah is one of the things prohibited by the Seven Noachide Laws. But what about atheism? I know that the 7 Laws are often taken to include a larger number of halachot from the Torah, so would ...
14
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4answers
763 views

Did the Rambam believe in magic?

If you read through Chapter 11 of the Rambam's laws on Idol Worship, you'll see what seems to be the Rambam forbidding anything that even resembles magic, all while calling such practices foolish and ...
14
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1answer
661 views

Can a Christian “Grace” invalidate food?

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, ...
13
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3answers
697 views

May a Jew be a Freemason?

According to what I've been told by several people who have inquired of "practicing" (is that the right word?) Freemasons, and supported by Wikipedia, "Freemasonry explicitly and openly states that it ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the red string all about?

Where did the concept of wearing a red string come from? I have heard different opinions ranging from "you should definitely wear it" to "its forbidden like idol worship" - who is right?
12
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4answers
503 views

Why is the idea of sefirot not shituf?

Why are the sefirot not considered a problem of Shituf? Is there anything wrong with believing in sefirot?
11
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1answer
218 views

is it permitted to make a snowman?

Is it permitted to make a snowman? Or is it considered constructing a graven image? Prompted by this: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/saudi-arabia-issues-fatwa---4967400
11
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2answers
322 views

Did all of Bnei Israel worship the golden calf?

When Prophet Moses went up to the mountain, did all the people end up worshiping the cow, or were there some who remained aloof? What happened to such people who did not become idolaters? Were they ...
11
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1answer
268 views

Nullifying Ancient Israelite Idols

Following up on a question raised on the Avodah list (see here & here under the subject “Destroying Idols”). Archaeologists often dig up idols whose worshipers have abandoned them over the ...
10
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3answers
191 views

What happened to Avraham's students?

We read how Avraham was going around convincing people to believe in one G-d and of his many students. Yet we don't hear of those students (or their descendants) ever again. What happened to them ...
10
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3answers
204 views

the tangled web of prophecy

The sages removed the inclination for idol worship (gemarah in Yoma) and subsequently prophecy ceased. It is postulated that the two are interconnected. Meaning that in order to maintain free will if ...
10
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3answers
519 views

Asking non-Jews to pray for someone

Is it appropriate to ask non-Jews to pray on behalf of someone in dire straits (sick, wrongfully imprisoned, trapped, etc.)? Edit: If it's appropriate, would it be inappropriate if the person being ...
10
votes
3answers
163 views

Does Maimonides Allow Prayer to Angels?

In his Mishna Commentary to Sanhedrin 10:1 Maimonides lists as his 5th principle the prohibition to pray to an angel even as an intermediary. He counts this in his enumeration of his 13 principles in ...
10
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1answer
397 views

Dipping fingers in Havdalah Wine

What is the source or origin of the custom to dip one's fingers in the wine poured over the candle to extinguish it at the conclusion of Havdalah? As a side note, and a reason I'm tagging it this ...
10
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2answers
228 views

Does “foreign religious obligation” = “Takruvas Avodah Zarah”?

Background: There is a verse in the Christian scriptures (Luke 6:30) that, when read out of context, implies that a follower of osso ha’ish should give anything anyone asks for. I had heard an urban ...
9
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3answers
320 views

Permissibility of images of celestial bodies

There is precedent in halachah that one may not create images of celestial bodies such as the moon and stars; see here for background. This is derived in the Gemara from the pasuk "Do not make [images ...
9
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5answers
1k views

Should the Christian cross be seen as an idol?

As Christianity is Avodah Zarah, is a Christian cross which people kiss, pay respect to, and face toward when praying, considered to be an idol? Here is a brief excerpt from a scholarly Christian ...
9
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3answers
185 views

Why did Moshe and Aaron need to use a staff in initiating the plagues?

Why did Moshe and Aaron need to use a staff in initiating the plagues? Such as in שמות פרק ז פסוק יט: יט. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה אֱמֹר אֶל אַהֲרֹן קַח מַטְּךָ וּנְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל מֵימֵי ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Why use Babylonian calendar instead of our own?

Why did the Hebrews not create their own calendar system instead of copying the pagan Babylonians'? I find it interesting that they use a pagan calendar which often honours pagan gods. Why is this ...
8
votes
2answers
398 views

Are Jews permitted to martyr themselves?

Are Jews permitted to martyr themselves? For example, if it is a question of converting or being killed, is the Jew permitted to sacrifice himself rather than convert? Separately: which would be ...
8
votes
4answers
676 views

What is the exact definition of Shituf (vis a vis 'Avodah Zarah)?

"Shituf" is the heretical idea of some sort of co-mingling of something with G-d (Has VeShalom). According to many rabbinic opinions, Christianity is Shituf (cf., Is Christianity Avodah Zara?), and ...
8
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1answer
84 views

Can a Jew drink wine of a ger toshav?

I've heard it said that a Jew cannot drink the wine of a non-Jew. Can a Jew drink the wine of a ger toshav? It appears to me that the reason a Jew cannot drink from a non-Jew's wine is that it is ...
8
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1answer
270 views

Are there any ill-effects for mis-directed prayers?

Inspired by the end of this answer: Just remember that all non-Jews don't follow the Sheva Mitzvot and could [even] be in Avodah Zarah and then would...a blessing [of theirs] matter? It might even ...
7
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3answers
652 views

Is there sufficient evidence to support the theory that ancient Israel practiced monolatry?

I just came across this Wikipedia article on monolatrism that says some people believe ancient Israel practiced monolatry. The highest claim to be made for Moses is that he was, rather than a ...
7
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2answers
267 views

Reading books about Avodah Zarah

Is it permissible to read books about Avodah Zarah? Is it permissible to read Greek mythology for informational purposes, seeing as it's not particularly tempting to anyone nowadays? Is it ...
7
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2answers
156 views

Talking to objects and Avoda Zara

This question inspired by This question here at programmers.se There is a concept in some programing circles called "Rubber Ducking", where one expresses a problem to a rubber ducky and through that ...
7
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3answers
155 views

Issachar's Banner in Halacha

Inspired by this answer. Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7 describes the symbol on Issachar's banner as the sun and the moon. I have researched the topic of what it is permitted to draw, and it seems that ...
7
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2answers
1k views

What to do with the Cross on the Chess King?

Many (perhaps most) Chess sets come with a King piece that has a cross on the top of it. Is there any problem with owning or using such a chess set? Should one break off the cross?
7
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2answers
172 views

Poti-phera's Title/Job Description

Genesis 41:45 JPS And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. ...
7
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1answer
254 views

Davening in front of a picture of 'Avodah Zarah

This afternoon I found myself Davening in a classroom. It must have been a comparative cultures type of class, judging by the items that were hanging on the walls - posters and artwork and such. As I ...
7
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2answers
104 views

Their altars…and *his* asheirah?

Shemot 34:13: כִּי אֶת מִזְבְּחֹתָם תִּתֹּצוּן וְאֶת מַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּן וְאֶת אֲשֵׁרָיו תִּכְרֹתוּן For you shall dismantle their altars, break their monuments, and cut down his ...
7
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3answers
142 views

Depicting a constellation

Assuming the intention is at least partly for educational purposes, Is it mutar to arrange star stickers in the form of actual constellations (say, on a ceiling) or is that included in the prohibition ...
6
votes
2answers
559 views

Conversion to Islam

Although Islam is considered monotheistic I would imagine that in a case of 'oness' (coercion) one would still not be allowed to convert. Is conversion to Islam considered to be a case of יהרג ואל ...
6
votes
4answers
332 views

How can people who dress in “only” black lead tefillah, the Mishna warns us against those “machmir” about colors?

We learn in Mishnah Megillah 4:8 that if someone insists on wearing only one color when they pray we do not let them be the "shliach tzibor" (prayer leader). This is because we suspect he is involved ...
6
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2answers
308 views

Business with Christians during their holiday periods

According to those who hold that Christianity is avodah zarah, may Jews do business with Christians within three days of Sunday (or if you want, within 3 days of Dec. 25 or Easter) in light of the ...
6
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1answer
187 views

Depiction of the Menorah, the *Shulchan* and *Kadosh HaKadoshim* on ancient coins?

On some rare ancient coins of Matityah Antigonus, there are depictions of what seem to be the Menorah and the Shulchan (one obverse die even seems to show the Lechem HaPanim). This coin has an ...
6
votes
2answers
390 views

Is the cat figurine thing a problem at kosher Chinese restaurants?

It seems like all kosher Chinese restaurants have this cat-statue thingy in the front: Is there any Halachic problem with that? I assume not, if they're all kosher-certified; but why not?
6
votes
1answer
160 views

Why is mevushal wine good enough for kiddush, but not good enough for avoda zara?

So the reason why we use mevushal (cooked) wine is that it's seen as a wine inferior and incapable of being offered to an idol (Shulchan Aruch, YD 123). I understand why one can drink mevushal wine in ...
6
votes
2answers
239 views

No yetzer hora of idolatry, so no nevuah?

I remember learning in a shiur (sorry, can't think of the reference) that Chazal was able to essentially destroy the yetzer hora of avodah zora but with the side effect that there wouldn't be nevuah ...
6
votes
2answers
418 views

What was so good about Naamah the Ammonite?

In Bava Kamma 38b we are told that one reason God spared Lot was because of the two good birds who would issue from his daughters. Rus from Moav and Naamah from Ammon. Rus is well known, the only ...
6
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2answers
436 views

Avodah Zarah in other religions

Picking up on some of the discussions recently, which religions are Avodah Zarah and why? How does that translate into our relationships with them?