If a well-meaning person were to say he'd cross his fingers for you, what would be the correct response to be both halachically and socially correct? Would a non-response be sufficient (i.e. not saying thanks or acknowledging the statement in any other way)? How would you recommend responding politely and halachically in this situation?

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    שלום@ thanks! And it would be a rather difficult argument to claim that the average American in 2023 who says "I'll cross my fingers and toes for you" is more devoutly non-monotheistic than that of Krakow in 1560.
    – Shalom
    Jun 9 at 20:46
  • Is crossing your fingers forbidden? What about doing it ironically/as a joke? Jun 9 at 20:53
  • @שלום the context there is whether one may form a business partnership with a gentile, lest on the off-chance the gentile partner be called to court and be compelled to swear in the name of a co-deity... not exactly the same thing. Jun 11 at 12:10
  • @ShaineLeah great to have you here with us. As a new contributor, you may not be aware that this forum discourages requests for personalized/professional advice. I would suggest editing your question in order to bring it in line with standing policy. You can learn more about it here. Jun 11 at 12:13
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1 Answer 1


Most likely you've been told (time and again) to not do X because it's somehow connected to Avodah Zarah. Those rules are for you, not for them.

Just say thanks and move on. The typical American saying "cross their fingers and toes" is not intending directly to worship idols. (Does this colleague regularly attend a non-monotheistic house of worship?)

A city mayor wanted to make a statue of the recently-assassinated President Kennedy, and asked the local rabbi to be on the planning board. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein noted (Igros YD2:54) that non-idolatrous statues are still prohibited for Jews, but allowed for non-Jews. He then pointed out that if the non-Jew first got it in his head to do something allowed for him, but not for us, we are allowed to encourage it. (The example is seeing your non-Jewish neighbor plowing on Shabbos; you can say "happy plowing!") He thus allowed it.

The crux here: there are all all sorts of things that we avoid because they have idolatrous origins or distant connections to idolatry, but they are not prohibited to the non-Jews as idolatry per se, in which case it's really not your problem what they do. "Cross my fingers and toes for you" seems like a good example of that.

In your case, if the non-Jewish colleague says "I'll pray for you", well ... they haven't said to whom ... it would have to be something where they say they will pray to a non-God ... even then, I'd go with "oh that's really not necessary, but thank you for the kind wishes." At which point what they choose to do is their business, not yours.

  • I'd go with "oh that's really not necessary, but thank you for the kind wishes." Oof, that's a slap in the face.
    – shmosel
    Jun 9 at 20:50
  • "Oh, that's really not necessary, but thank you for the kind wishes." Love it. I hope to remember it, if I'm ever in such a situation. Jun 9 at 21:21
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    The "crux"? If we're worried about finger crossing, perhaps a different term would be more appropriate ;( Jun 10 at 18:02

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