I've heard that there are halachik issues with interfaith debates.

  • Is there any validity to this?
  • When would it be problematic?
  • Who says it would be problematic?
  • What about the Rabbonim who debated?
  • What would be the laws governing learning about their ideology in order to debate?
  • There is going to be a divide amongst Sephardic and Ashkenazi viewpoints on this.
    – Aaron
    May 14, 2016 at 21:20
  • 1
  • 2
    Don't forget that in many cases "debates" were forced. May 15, 2016 at 14:30
  • 1
    @sabbahillel probably with the majority, but then there are a few who weren't forced. I'm not sure about any one of great stature or rishonim who did it voluntarily, though it's likely there were a few, but you have people in modern times like Immanuel Shokhet.
    – user613
    May 15, 2016 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


Your question is very broad. Let me address one aspect of it, namely interfaith dialogue with Christianity.

R Avraham Gordiner writes here

R. Moshe Feinstein, in a set of halakhic letters penned in 1967 to R. Yosef B. Soloveitchik of Boston and to Dr. Bernard Lander (Igr. Moshe YD 3:43-44), unequivocally forbade Jewish participation in ecumenical dialogue with the Church, citing both concern for apostasy as well as inherent prohibitions of such dialogue. R. Feinstein was firm as steel that participation of any sort constituted grave infractions of Halakha.


In a series of halakhic and binding policy correspondence between 1962 and 1967 (published in Community, Covenant and Commitment), R. Soloveitchik articulated his unyielding position that Jewish delegations should not and may not take part in religious discussion with the Church. R. Soloveitchik expressed concern for apostasy and wrote that the Jewish and Christian religious differences and world outlooks are irreconcilable, such that discussion thereof would be wholly unfruitful and would be wrong.

Although, unlike R. Feinstein, R. Soloveitchik maintained that in theory, dialogue with the Church about “humanitarian and cultural endeavors” - universal, practical issues that do not touch upon personal religious beliefs and practices - would be acceptable and even positive (ibid. p. 260), the context of such dialogue in the situations addressed by R. Soloveitchik caused him to prohibit Jewish participation therein. R. Soloveitchik was adamant and unapologetic in his refusal to allow any form of personal religious discourse between Judaism and Christianity, and the circumstances and impressions conveyed by even otherwise permissible interchange compelled him to comprehensively ban such interchange in his correspondence.

See here for a foundational article by R Soloveitchik.

Specifically, as cited here R Soloveitchik writes

…We are, therefore, opposed to any public debate, dialogue or symposium concerning the doctrinal, dogmatic or ritual aspects of our faith vis a vis “similar” aspects of another faith community. We believe in and are committed to our Maker in a specific manner and we will not question, defend, offer apologies, analyze or rationalize our faith in dialogues centered about these “private” topics which express our personal relationship to the God of Israel. We assume that members of other faith communities will feel similarly about their individual religious commitment.

We would deem it improper to enter into dialogues on such topics as:

  1. Judaic monotheism and the Christian idea of Trinity
  2. The Messianic idea in Judaism and Christianity.
  3. Jewish attitude on Jesus
  4. The concept of the Covenant in Judaism and Christianity
  5. The Eucharist mass and Jewish prayer service
  6. The Holy Ghost and prophetic inspiration
  7. Isaiah and Christianity
  8. The Priest and The Rabbi
  9. Sacrifice and the Eucharist
  10. The Church and the Synagogue – their sanctity and metaphysical nature, etc.

There cannot be mutual understanding concerning these topics, for Jews and Christians will employ different categories and move within incommensurate frames of reference and evaluation.

In May 2006, the Rabbinical Council of America restated these guidelines as applying regarding interfaith dialogue.

See also here for more sources.

  • A length topic. very complex. Can you explain the 2 sides and the argumentation. I do not know how to deal with this in Gemara
    – kouty
    May 15, 2016 at 8:32

My rav specifically permitted me to learn and debate, as long as it helps me to help jews trapped into sects. The problem could be with the fact that debates can be treated as teaching of Torah, especially for those, who can and will pervert it for their needs.

  • 1
    Would you mind naming the rabbi?
    – mevaqesh
    May 15, 2016 at 1:48
  • Are you a specialist of "sect deprogrammation"? I understand it is a science
    – mbloch
    May 15, 2016 at 8:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .