5

To make the question easier, suppose that the recipient of the Christmas gift is a devout Christian who actually celebrates for religious reasons.

Potentially there are several issues with buying a Christmas gift for such a person:

  1. It is forbidden to benefit from anything related to idolatry, because of “Do not bring the abomination to your house” and “Let nothing from the Cherem cling to your hand.” (See Rambam, Avodah Zarah 7:2)
  2. One is prohibited to do business with idolaters near their festivals (AZ 2a). There are two reasons brought (ibid. 6a, as explained by Rashi):
    1. The non-Jew will thank his gods (a violation on the Jew’s part of “the name of other gods...may not be heard on your account”)
    2. The non-Jew will use the object for his idolatrous service (a violation on the Jew’s part of Lifnei Iveir, causing another to sin)

Christianity, according to some is considered Shituf, serving Hashem along with an idol, and is only prohibited for Jews, not non-Jews. I’d imagine that the Lifnei Iveir issue would therefore not apply, and I would imagine that “the name of other gods...may not be heard on your account” would apply.

Would there be an additional prohibition because of possession of idolatrous items? On the one hand, Christianity is idolatry for Jews, and so it might be prohibited. On the other hand, it’s not idolatry for its recipient, and since it’s intended for that Christian, perhaps it would be permitted.

  • 2
    This is an excellent question. When I learned Mas. Avodah Zarah (Incidentally, I hear bochrim learning Mas. Avodah Zarah say, "I'm doing avodah zarah" when you ask them what they're learning. Oy! the problems of "yeshivish"!) with my rav I asked him the same question. He said that today there is generally no problem b/c in U.S. most Catholics are not religious or idolators. There is still the debate of how shituf works in terms of a.z. so it' snot a simple answer, here. – DanF Jan 29 at 15:30
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    @DanF (When we learned AZ in Yeshiva we had the same joke going around. Not sure if it was better or worse when we did Gittin and Sotah.) I’d think your Rav’s ruling would be correct for an ordinary US non-Jew, which is why I specified in the OP that the potential recipient is a devout Catholic who celebrates for religious reasons. – DonielF Jan 29 at 15:33
  • See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 248:5, 8, & 12. – chacham Nisan Jan 29 at 20:06
  • @chachamNisan I think you’ve got the wrong citation. I’m seeing Hilchos Tzedakah there - §5 is about hiring a teacher without the father’s prior consent, §8 is about giving an overabundance of Tzedakah, and §12, uh, doesn’t exist. Did you mean YD 148, perhaps, which talks about idolatrous holidays? §5 there is essentially the basis of my question, and §8 is why I specified non-Jews who are actually religiously Catholic. §12 might be relevant to overturn my premise, though. – DonielF Jan 31 at 13:48
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    Ah, right...it's SA YD 148:5, 8, & 12. Shows you pay attention. Yeyasher kochacha! – chacham Nisan Jan 31 at 18:50

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