4

Can a Jew act in a play / movie where he / she has the role of an idol worshiper? He would perform the acts of idol worship without believing in the idols at all.

3

If it involves bowing to an idol or like, I'm pretty sure the answer is still no.

The subject of doing it "just as an act" appears in the Bible: II Kings 5:17--20:

כי לוא-יעשה עוד עבדך עלה וזבח, לאלהים אחרים--כי, אם-ליהוה. ב ה,יח לדבר הזה, יסלח יהוה לעבדך--בבוא אדני בית-רמון להשתחות שמה והוא נשען על-ידי, והשתחויתי בית רמן, בהשתחויתי בית רמן, יסלח-נא ( ) יהוה לעבדך בדבר הזה. ב ה,יט ויאמר לו, לך לשלום

[The non-Jewish general, Naaman, said to the prophet]: "Your servant will no longer sacrifice to foreign gods, only God. But will God please forgive your servant for this one thing? When my boss [the king of Aram] arrives at Beth Rimon to bow there, and he is leaning on me, I wind up bowing down as well to Beth Rimon. So when I bow to Beth Rimon, would God please forgive your servant for that matter?" [The prophet] replied: "go in peace!"

For a Jew, however, that would still be prohibited. Rambam, Laws of Idol Worship 3:10-11:

העובד עבודה זרה כדרכה, ואפילו עשה דרך ביזיון--חייב. כיצד: הפוער עצמו לפעור כדי לבזותו, או זרק אבן למרקוליס כדי לבזותו--הואיל ועבודתו בכך--חייב, ומביא קרבן על שגגתו.

ג,יא [ו] העובד עבודה זרה מאהבה, כגון שחשק בצורה זו מפני מלאכתה שהייתה נאה ביותר, או שעבדה מיראתו לה, שמא תריע לו כמו שהן מדמין עובדיה שהיא מטיבה ומריעה--אם קיבלה עליו באלוה, חייב סקילה; ואם עבדה כדרך עבודתה או באחת מארבע עבודות מאהבה או מיראה, פטור.

One who worships an idol in the way it is normally worshipped, even if intended to disgrace the idol, is guilty of idol worship. For instance, one who defecates before Pe'or, thinking that would be a disgrace, or throws a rock at a statue of Mercury, intending to degrade it: because in fact that is how those idols are worshipped by their followers, one is guilty of idol worship. One should bring a mistaken-sin offering in this case. [As he did something prohibited thinking it was permitted.]

One who "worships" an idol as an act of love, for instance he loves this statue because it's an incredibly beautiful piece of art ... if he deified it, he deserves the death penalty. [Otherwise], if he did an act of worship to it in the way this idol is normally worshipped, or in one of the four standard acts of worship [bowing, slaughtering, burning incense, pouring wine], he is exempted from the death penalty.

So if I'm prohibited from bowing down to an idol while thinking "I'm trying to show the world this idol is stupid", it follows pretty clearly I can't bow down to the idol while thinking, "I know this idol is stupid but I have to put on a show for the people watching."

  • bowing, blood, incense, is for all idels – hazoriz Dec 25 '15 at 17:20
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    This answer seems to assume the idols on stage are real, right? – msh210 Dec 25 '15 at 17:50

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