"Shituf" is the heretical idea of some sort of co-mingling of something with G-d (Has VeShalom). According to many rabbinic opinions, Christianity is Shituf (cf., Is Christianity Avodah Zara?), and there are differences of opinion as to whether or not this is permitted for non-Jews.

Is Shituf:

  1. a belief that something else has the powers of G-d along with G-d;
  2. a belief that something else is worthy of worship along with G-d, although G-d is the Almighty;
  3. a belief that something else IS (Has VeShalom) G-d, but G-d is G-d as we believe;
  4. something else other than I've mentioned above; or
  5. some combination of the above?
  • I'm not understanding 3. I read it as "something else (e.g. the Nile) = God (the real one), but God (the real one) = God (the real one)". That makes no sense, so I must be misreading it.
    – msh210
    Jul 22, 2011 at 18:08
  • Could you please add some contextual information about where this term comes up?
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 22, 2011 at 18:08
  • @msh210 You got it exactly right. It makes no sense to me, but others seem to think along these lines with the Christian deity. The question was sparked by the following quote: "We're moving along here, brother! With God and the Virgin!" by Hugo Chavez on Twitter, referring to his cancer treatment in Cuba. I'm assuming he is referring to the Christian deity, but he is using the G word. Most Poskim hold that Christianity is Shituf, but many are of the belief characterized in #3 (and Chavez seems to be among them). How is this different from the 'Eigel HaZahav?
    – Seth J
    Jul 22, 2011 at 19:18
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    Seth, my point is - Where does this term come up? Why do you care what it means? Incorporating the answers to those questions, to the best of your knowledge, in the question, makes the question more complete and reader-friendly.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 22, 2011 at 20:07
  • 1

4 Answers 4


Literally, Shituf, שתף, means sharing, and one who shares ownership is called a Shotef, שותף , partner.

The rules defining Shituf-Hashem could be the same ones that define a business-Shotef.

Sanhedrin 63b, Tosfot's comment on the type Shituf that a Jew is allowed to let a non-Jew make, is a comment directly on the prohibition of forming a business-partnership (shotef) with a non-Jew. Here, the term "Shituf" is used interchangeably for the business-parntership (שותף) and the oath a non-Jew makes to a partner of Hashem (משותף):

Sanhedrin 63b,

"One must not form a Shotef [business partnership] [with a non-Jew]"

... "Even though they associate (shituf) God's name with "something else", we do not find that it is forbidden to cause others to associate (shituf)" wikipedia's translation

So, if we want to know what amount of co-mingling is considered "Shituf" or "sharing" when we apply it to Hashem, then I think we can accurately define Shituf by looking how the Talmud identifies what percentage of sharing-ownership (Shotef) of a first-born-calf with a non-Jew is enough of a percentage to render the first-born-calf unnecessary to be redeem.

Bechoros 2b and Sanhedrin 63b use the same quote from "The Father of Samuel". So Bechoros 2b is definitely discussing the same exact business-partnership and oaths as Sanhedrin 63b

bechoros 2b:

"The Father of Samuel" said: One must not form a partnership (שותף) with a non-Jew lest he will be bound to take an oath to him and he will swear in the name of his idol. ...

But the Sages say, so long as a gentile has a share in it (lit. has a hand in the middle - any amount), it is exempt from the law of first-born.

Based on this, I think Shituf would include all of your examples and more.

It is any concept where Hashem shares any percent of his power with another entity/partner. Whether Hashem is 99.99% God and another entity shares .01%, or if Hashem has .01% and the other entity is 99.99% God, or anything between there (has a hand in the middle). (ie. anything that violates "Hashem is one")

Avodah Zarah, on the other hand takes the next step of either making a physical representation to worship and emparting powers on something physical (eg. image, stone, wood, nature, bones), or saying Hashem isn't God at all, something else is (spiritually or physically). (ie. anything that violates "Hashem is God")

(or any of these practices of people who worship Avodah Zarah)

EDIT: Anything above on Sanhedrin 63b.

  • A very nice homily -- but do you have a source that the criteria governing shituf in business partnerships are the same criteria for analysis of the particular avodah-zara type problem of shituf? Or is this your own chiddush?
    – Curiouser
    Jul 27, 2011 at 20:49
  • "Based on this, I think..." - Just throwing my thoughts out there. But it would make sense that there is a relationship between the two uses of the word.
    – zaq
    Jul 27, 2011 at 21:08
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    The answer is very Brisk
    – avi
    Jul 28, 2011 at 16:15
  • I edited my answer to include Sanhedrin 63b as a source for the direct relationship between Business-Partnership (Shituf) and Avodah-Zarah (Shituf)
    – zaq
    Jul 29, 2011 at 14:36
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    give this man a bounty, it doesn't answer the question today, but it definitely gives you the origin of the word, its original meaning and context. I imagine all current mechlochets stem from this answer.
    – avi
    Jul 31, 2011 at 8:36

Shituf is noted in the gemara in Sukah 45b and Sanhedrin 63a

כל המשתף שם שמים ודבר אחר נעקר מן העולם שנאמר בלתי לה' לבדו

In Sukah, it is referring to people addressing both God and the alter together. In Sanhedrin it refers to whether the Jews (in the case of the Golden Calf) believed that both the calf and God brought them up out of Egypt (due to a plural usage). Tosfos on Sanhedrin notes that there are other places where God and something that is not God are written together, but it is only problematic when the context is divinity.

So the Sukkah case would be #2 in your question and the Sanhedrin case would be #1 and #2 probably. So it would seem some mixture of 1 and 2 would align with the two cases of shituf I cited.


Views of Shituf is a machlochet (dissagreement) of the rishonim. I'm not sure what all the views are. However, I do know what the most extreme view on one side is the Rambam who basically argues that anything you say about G-d that is a possitive statement is shituf (known as negetive theology). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophatic_theology

In the Hakira journal the topic was tangentially touched upon with a debate regarding if Rashi held that Gd had a body. See R' Natan Slifkin's essay in Hakira here and a response by Levi Notik here.


The word shituf comes from the same root as the word shutaf, meaning partner and it denotes the mistaken practice of

  • believing in,
  • worshiping,
  • OR otherwise affirming the existence of

another entity (or entities) who act in partnership with or are worthy of being worshiped in addition to God.

To better illustrate what this means, I direct you to the Rambam, in Hichot Avodat Kochavim (1:1), where he outlines the way in which mankind descended from worshiping and knowing one God (Hashem) in the times of Adam to worshiping idols in the generations that followed:

  1. First people worshiped God.
  2. Next they perceived that God would want them to raise up other entities and then they began to worship them as an expression of worshiping God.
  3. They then began worshiping these entities in addition to God.
  4. Finally, they worshiped these entities instead of God.

This middle ground and any other type of worship which derives from it is shituf.

When any of these practices are carried out by a Jew it is considered to be a type of Avodah Zarah (idol worship).

For a gentile, however, there is a debate, based on Tosfot in Sanhedrin 63b (DH: Asur L'Adam) who is lenient regarding shituf for gentiles, as to whether the leniency applies only to believing in/taking actions to affirm the existence of other entities or if it applies to actually worshiping them as well (see Noda B'Yehuda, YD 148).

As such, if one considered Christianity to be shituf, it would be forbidden for a Jew to practice that religion, but it would be permissible for a gentile to believe in the trinity and perhaps even to worship Jesus or the 'holy spirit'.

Wikipedia does a fairly good job outlining the concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shituf although does focus primarily on the aspects relating to Christianity.

  • In the Wikipedia article, the quotes provided from Tosafoth and the RaM"A seem to indicate that Tosafoth defined Shituf along the lines of #s 1 and/or 2, but that the "Shituf" we discuss isn't actual Shituf, because nobody actually worships that way, they only swear that way; and the RaM"A sort of follows the same path, indicating that Shituf is #3, but that "Shituf" isn't really Shituf, because nobody actually believes in that kind of thing. It does seem like they were either out of touch with what Christians believed, or Christian belief has significantly changed since then.
    – Seth J
    Jul 28, 2011 at 16:53
  • Those two quotes outline some of the principles of shituf (particularly, ascribing divine power to an entity other than God), but the principles of shituf apply to gentiles differently than they do to Jews because, "...the Sons of Noah were not warned about it."
    – Adam Simon
    Jul 28, 2011 at 17:04
  • My question is about the definition of the term as relates to 'Avodah Zarah. Are you saying that the definition depends on the party to whom it is applicable (ie., Jew/non-Jew)?
    – Seth J
    Jul 28, 2011 at 17:28
  • I am not entirely sure I understand the qualification of the question, shituf is a category of Avodah Zara. Regarding the second part of your comment, yes, the definition does depend on the party to whom it is applicable.
    – Adam Simon
    Jul 28, 2011 at 17:30
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    I would appreciate it, if when someone downvotes my answer for them to leave a reason as to why, so I can improve the answer.
    – Adam Simon
    Jul 28, 2011 at 20:59

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