If a secular society criminalizes discriminating against a ceremony (e.g., a wedding between arayot [forbidden sexual unions, e.g., incest, bestiality, or homosexuality] or an idolatrous ritual), is a Jewish business allowed to provide a service, such as acting as an officiating Rabbi for the service, baking a cake (custom or neutral), catering the ceremony or designing it? If not, would a kashrut agency be allowed to certify a caterer that, under duress, did? Do we distinguish between Jew and Gentile regarding this halacha?

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    Why do you think this might be prohibited? Why do you think this would be different than any other prohibited marriage (eg. Jew marrying non-Jew)?
    – Double AA
    May 6, 2015 at 5:01
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    I strongly suspect that there are significantly different Halachic considerations for an officiating rabbi than there are for pretty much any other service provider.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 6, 2015 at 19:03
  • As currently formulated, this question appears to be asking only about an environment in which the service providers are compelled by society to participate. Was this your intention? Interestingly, the current answer appears to apply whether they are compelled to participate or not.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 6, 2015 at 19:06
  • For baseline reference: judaism.stackexchange.com/help/editing
    – Isaac Moses
    May 6, 2015 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


There are two concerns here: chanufa, which means telling a sinner that you approve of their sinful action; and mesayea / lifnei iver, being involved in (or enabling) someone else's sin.

For a rabbi to officiate at a wedding prohibited by halacha would be an issue of chanufa, as he's declaring okay that which the Torah says is not.

For the caterer, florist, or the like, we go back to the Gemara (Avoda Zara 13b) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 151:1). We don't approve of pagans burning frankincense to their idols. But you are allowed to be a frankincense wholesaler, even if you know that a lot of that frankincense will in turn be sold for pagan worship. Similarly the Shulchan Aruch says that as long as you're not the only frankincense store in town, you're not "enabling" as they could have bought from someone else, so you can (if necessary, though not ideal) sell retail directly to someone saying "I want to buy frankincense to sacrifice it to my idol." (And none of the commentaries there seem concerned that your sale of the frankincense implies official endorsement of his idolatry. You're just the shopkeeper.)

The subject of kosher certification where other parts of an event are objectionable (e.g. the food is fine, but the entertainment is problematic) has been addressed at length by Israeli poskim, with R' Ovadiah Yosef zt'l in favor of having a certification saying "at least the food is kosher."

So the kosher certification can simply say "we're certifying the food, not commenting on anything else"; and the florist and caterer simply put a notice on their paperwork: "Shmerel's Catering [or better yet, Rabbi Michael Broyde suggests you call it "Stanley's Catering"] offers no theological validation", and you've done your part.

The same goes for the wedding hall. Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked (Igros Moshe YD1:72) about a wedding hall in London hosting a wedding between a Jewish man and Jewish woman, in which there would be mixed dancing, or the wedding would be during the Nine Days. He allows it in cases of significant need. Nowhere is he concerned with questions of approval/validation/chanufa; the only concern is involvement. At the heart of the heter is the reality that in a big city, if you turn them down, they will find some other hall, so you're not truly enabling. Rav Moshe suggests several other heterim in his situation that wouldn't necessarily apply here (e.g. there's a net gain in mitzva observance because everyone's eating kosher who otherwise wouldn't be), but the key heter remains.

Note that "I'm just facilitating the sin, not enabling it, as there are other providers in town" is a valid dispensation on the books, but a simple reading of Shulchan Aruch would indicate it's not super-preferable unless necessary. (E.g. the Talmud (Nedarim 62b) totally allows selling firewood to a pagan temple, but employs the argument of "eh it's probably to heat the building, not for a pagan sacrifice" rather than fall back on the "someone else in town sells firewood" excuse.) Traditionally the case of "necessity" would be a significant loss of business, but it stands to reason that another case of necessity -- allowing the other-providers-in-town fallback -- would be "I'd get more than enough business selling incense exclusively to monotheists, but I would get sued if I discriminated against pagans."

If society compelled a rabbi to officiate a wedding prohibited by halacha, could he circumvent the prohibition of chanufa by proclaiming "while I personally believe this is prohibited by halacha, the state compels me to declare you married"? That would be a really tricky question.

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    +1 You don't happen to have any of the actual references?
    – Loewian
    May 20, 2015 at 14:17
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    My recollection is that if you are the only store in town, it is an aveira deoraisa of lo siten michsol, but if you are not the only one - it is a derabanan of mesayeya, in which case you need clever arguments. Like that heter in Igros Moshe uses the fact that they will eat kosher to allow it, cleverly thinking of the situation not as helping them act inappropriately but helping them eat kosher in a circumstance where they likely wouldn't.
    – gt6989b
    May 20, 2015 at 17:02
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    @loewian This answer addresses the technical halachos of lifnei iver, but I wonder whether, in a circumstance where the government declares that it is considered irrational discrimination to oppose aveirah X, it might be considered "she'as ha-shmad" and require a different approach, if not normatively then perhaps hashkafically
    – wfb
    May 20, 2015 at 17:33
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    @wfb I think normatively makes much more sense - it seems a lot more problematic than changing shoelace color.
    – Loewian
    May 20, 2015 at 20:28
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    @loewian On the other hand, Rashi says ערקתא דמסאנא - שרוך הנעל שאם דרך העובדי כוכבים לקשור כך ודרך ישראל בענין אחר כגון שיש צד יהדות בדבר ודרך ישראל להיות צנועים אפילו שנוי זה שאין כאן מצוה אלא מנהג בעלמא יקדש את השם
    – wfb
    May 21, 2015 at 19:00

To summarize the responses so far, in addition to the 2 potential issues (cited by @Shalom in his answer) of "...lo thitein michshol" (which might not apply if the sin would be committed regardless by other means), and chanufa (tolerance/approbation of sin), there is also a rabbinic prohibition of mesaye'ah (aiding and abetting a sinner which [as noted by @ gt6989b] is an issue even if there are alternative means available). However, the biggest issue (as noted by @wfb) is likely the problem of sha'ath hashmad, when a non-Torah government enacts laws with the purpose of negating Torah values, where the halacha actually demands martyrdom rather than catering the authorities (see, e.g., Maimonides' Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah 5:4).

  • So ... the state is demanding that the Jews violate halacha or a time-honored Jewish practice ... which was .... ????
    – Shalom
    May 21, 2015 at 0:16
  • Interestingly, the Lechem Mishneh holds that the rule of שעת השמד applies only where the decree is targeted only at the Jewish people hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?mfid=90470&rid=51 but the Ohr Gadol argues hebrewbooks.org/rambam.aspx?mfid=2156&rid=51
    – wfb
    May 21, 2015 at 18:33
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    @Shalom I am at a loss as to why the fact that until now, even the עכו"ם adhered to the minimal standard of אין כותבין כתובה לזכרים would make this less of a problem
    – wfb
    May 22, 2015 at 3:07
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    @Shalom Not clear we pasken like Rashi (Shach quotes both Rashi and Rif). Also Shulchan Aruch paskens that שעת השמד is only when gezeirah is exlusively on the Jewish people
    – wfb
    May 22, 2015 at 14:20
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    See also Nefesh Harav p. 233: הורה רבנו הלכה למעשה דאף דקיי"ל לדינא דאמירה לנכרי מותר אפילו באיסור דאורייתא במקום מצוה דרבים, ואשר עפ"י יסוד זה נהגו בקצת קהילות בשאר ארצות להתיר לנסוע לבית הכנסת בשבת באוטובוס המונהג ע"י נכרי, מ"מ במדינתנו א"א להתיר דבר שכזה, דכל דבר אשר בעצמותו מותר הוא, אלא שנהפך לסמל להריסת הדת, או בכולה או במקצתה, כנסיעה במכונית ובאוטובוס בשבת, אשר נהפך [ב]מדינתנו לסמל הריפורמים והקוסרביטיבים...פעולה זו הופכת להיות פעולה האסורה
    – wfb
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:10

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