I was reading the Rashi to Dev. 16:22, in which he says that setting up pillars is forbidden "now" since the Canaanites introduced them into their idolatrous worship.

I was looking for the source of this statement and ended up in the Tosafot of Avodah Zarah 11a (ד"ה ואי חוקה חיא) in which they create two categories of non-Jewish customs: for Avodah Zarah and the rest for vain and foolish reasons.

My question is, nowadays, just as we changed setting stone pillars because Canaanites were doing it, why haven't we today changed many other things like praying in general just as non-Jews pray too, and mostly everything!?

Could you help me? Thanks a lot!!


  • Hello Andres. Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Your middle sentences about Tosafos don't seem relevant, and can probably be removed.
    – robev
    Aug 24, 2022 at 14:10
  • You think so? I mentioned them because that Tosafot uses that exact example. Aug 24, 2022 at 14:20
  • I'm not familiar with the Tosafos. Can you quote the relevant part in your question? Thanks!
    – robev
    Aug 24, 2022 at 14:24
  • Here it is is: הוא חק לעבודת כוכבים דומיא דמצבה כשהיו מקריבין עליה אבות היתה אהובה לפניו משעשאוה האמוריים חק לעבודת כוכבים שנאה והזהיר עליה דכתיב (דברים ט״ז:כ״ב) לא תקים לך מצבה Aug 24, 2022 at 14:28
  • Related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/535/…
    – Chatzkel
    Aug 24, 2022 at 15:22

2 Answers 2


The commentaries on that Rashi ask a similar question: If we cannot use a single-stone altar because the non-Jews use it, why aren't we forbidden from using a many stone altar, as the non-Jews also do?

The Ramban and Mizrachi answer that while they did use altars occasionally, they always used pillars, in every temple. Thus, pillars were strongly identified with idol worship in temples, but altars were not.

The Maharal says that altars were standard and universal, but pillars were specifically associated with idol worship. Something universal does not become forbidden because idol-worshippers use it, because it does not become identified with them. Pillars were more unusual, and thus became identified with idol worship.

So this would answer your question too. Things like kneeling and lifting up of hands which are associated with churches were discontinued, as the previous answer pointed out. Praying in general is universal and not just done in churches or as part of idol worship, so it is ok.


Excellent question! We have changed many things about prayer for this reason. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai encouraged his students to "raise their hands in prayer", exactly the way evangelicals do now. When idol worshippers began to pray using the same gesture, Chazal had the Jews stop (as an interesting side note, the Ethopian Jews were not in contact with the rest of Am Yisrael by that time and continue praying with their hands raised to this day).

In the Beit HaMikdash and even in reglar synagogues we prayed kneeling on the floor. Once idol worshippers adopted this practice, it, too became prohibited, though as @robev pointed out, since this was the derech tefillah in the Beit HaMikdash it will be permitted there when possible (may it be soon!).

These were our two main forms of prayer for centuries, and now such practices are forbidden.

  • Kneeling is still permitted in the Temple, and I thought prostration on stone floor was its own prohibition, not the prohibition of chukas hagoyim (you're correct it became forbidden due to idolatrous prayer)
    – robev
    Aug 24, 2022 at 17:43
  • You are correct, @robev, I conflated the two prohibitions. Thanks for pointing that out! Aug 24, 2022 at 18:35

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