Is it allowed to go to a hospital named after an idol with an idol on display in the lobby?

By giving them money, you support them to continue, and they are doing so called "good works" in the name of their idol, which is a known common way of worshipping their idol.

Thank you for your help.

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    I'm reminded of the mishna where Raban Gamliel uses a public bathhouse with a statue of Aphrodite on it -- "honestly, you guys didn't say let's build a bathhouse to glorify Aphrodite, you said let's build a bathhouse, and put up an Aphrodite to decorate it."
    – Shalom
    Jun 20 at 10:05
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    An interesting question would be if we'd differentiate between an icon of a Christian saint (you'd be jumping to a conclusion to call that an "idol") vs. something like a Hindu deity. Rabbi Feinstein was asked about a hospital that has a crucifix in every room ... I'll track it down later bli neder in the Mesoras Moshe.
    – Shalom
    Jun 20 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


It's easy to think "everything is idols, I can't go anywhere or do anything!" If you study tractate Avodah Zarah (especially with the commentaries that tried to square it with actual Jewish practice in Medieval France/Germany), you'll see there's a lot more nuance than that.

For example, the only bathhouse in the neighborhood had a statue of the goddess Aphrodite on it, yet Chief Rabbi Gamliel used the bathhouse. He explained to a surprised non-Jew: "Honestly, you guys didn't say let's build a bathhouse to glorify Aphrodite, you said let's build a bathhouse, and put up an Aphrodite to decorate it."

I can't speak for Eastern faiths or practices; but in the English-speaking world, let's assume we're talking about a typical Catholic hospital: "Saint Joseph's", "Good Samaritan", you get the idea. Yes there will be icons and/or crucifixes. On a good day I would bet that easily half of their patients, and staff, are not practicing Catholics.

In pages 192--193 of Mesoras Moshe Volume II, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's secretary mentions taking him to Saint Vincent's Hospital for a checkup, and Rabbi Feinstein saying it was okay to call it "Saint Vincent's." He also entered a hospital (same or different, not clear) with a big crucifix in the main lobby. He said it was better if reasonably possible to enter a different way, but ultimately it was allowed -- nobody in their right mind would think you're entering a church.

It seems it was just a matter-of-fact that the hospital was the hospital.

As for your supporting their practice ... sooner of later some of my money is going to wind up in the hands of someone who will do something I don't like. The Talmud makes the crucial differentiation between enabling and simply being involved. If I sell a pagan a half-pound of frankincense and am the only shop in town, I'm enabling him to go burn it to his deity. If I sell a hundred pounds of frankincense, wholesale, to a shop, I'm sufficiently removed from their customers. It's thus very hard to argue that me paying my hospital bill is THE thing that's enabling non-monotheistic worship.

As for "doing kindness" being their way of worshiping ... going to be very hard to avoid that. I think we'd also fall back on the involvement-vs.-enabling argument above.

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    Ok but can you use the restroom at Baal Peor Memorial Hospital in Moab? Jun 20 at 11:35
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    wikimapia.org/9688346/Princess-Salma-Hospital would be its modern-day location ... -- anyhow -- please ask THAT as a separate question. I imagined the new user asking here was talking about the typical American case of St Luke's Hospital.
    – Shalom
    Jun 20 at 12:05
  • Excellent answer. But I wouldn't think the question here was about "St. Whatever", but about possibly a different country with a stronger connection to real idol worship. AIUI (being Jewish, I probably don't!) there is only human who is treated as a deity in Catholicism. If a hospital is named after a Saint (who in turn worshipped that person) and not after that actual person (which I don't see in the US, though maybe I'm in the wrong neighborhood) then the question wouldn't match. Jun 20 at 14:16
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    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact fair enough -- but often the question as phrased was not really the one at hand.
    – Shalom
    Jun 20 at 15:32
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    There's likely a halachic distinction between a crucifix without an icon on it and a crucifix with an icon on it.
    – Fred
    Jun 26 at 22:11

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