Let us assume there is at least one conventional way to serve any given false deity.

Let us also assume that there is a prohibition against serving false deities in the manner that they are conventionally served.

Let us imagine a case of a false deity whose conventionally accepted service involved the same objects, actions, rules and procedures that are carried out in service of Hashem (such as karbanos).

How does this affect the proper carrying out of avodas Hashem? Would there be any added conditions for its permissibility?

  • 1
    Since you didn't accept neither Shalom's and Debbie1's answer, I suspect they didn't understand your question. Did you mean "May one serve Hashem in the presence of a false deity that has identical worship?" or maybe "May one serve Hashem in the presence of a false deity that requires one to serve Hashem with that practice?"
    – Adám
    Dec 26, 2013 at 20:39

2 Answers 2


Not sure I quite understand your question, but here goes:

1.) The traditional Jewish forms of Temple worship (bowing, incense, animal sacrifice, wine libation) are prohibited vis-a-vis an idol, regardless of whether that's the normal way of worshiping it. "Serving deities in the manner they are conventionally served" prohibits other forms of worship.

2.) An item sacrificed to an idol ("takrovet avoda zara") becomes prohibited from all benefit, e.g. if a cow was slaughtered to Baal, not only is the meat not kosher, but a Jew can't even sell it. There's a discussion in the medieval commentaries whether this also applies to objects used in deity-specific forms of worship, or only the traditional Jewish forms.

3.) Generally, if the Torah says "do worship in the form ABC", that means it's allowable -- and obligatory -- to do so, regardless of other considerations. Do you have an example to the contrary?

4.) Setting up a "matzeiva" -- a tall, single stone on which libations are offered -- was done by the Patriarchs, but when the Torah was given, it was prohibited. (See Sforno Deut. 16:22) But we work with Halacha as we know it from when the Torah was given.

5.) I assumed your question was one of Jewish law, "does that change our practice?"; and not a question of philosophy, "if Judaism is so different from idolatry, how could it share so many practices"?



Idol worship sort of came from Avodat Hashem (worship of Hashem -- G-d). It's not that there is something innately wrong with the worship directed at false deities, it's that it's directed at the false god. What happened is that people decided not to "bother G-d" with their small problems, so they started praying to "small gods".

As a matter of fact, the Rabbis say that Temple sacrifice services grew from G-d wanting to give people a familiar way of worshiping Him/Her.

Obviously, there are parts of other worships that are antithetical to Tora worship, for example, self-flagellation and human sacrifice. But prayer and animal sacrifices can be part of a Tora worship service just as they can be part of a false deity service. The "trick", so to speak, is who you direct that sort of worship to.


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