Reuven Chaim (Rudolph) Klein deposited World Religions and the Noahide Prohibition of Idolatry in the group Religious Studies on Humanities Commons 1 month, 4 weeks ago
Although the prohibition of avodah zarah (literally, “strange/foreign worship,” but more loosely translated as “idolatry”) is included in both the Torah’s 613 mitzvos for Jews and in the seven Noahide laws, many authorities maintain that the exact parameters of the prohibition differ when applied to Jews versus when applied to non-Jews. There is ample reason to say that the laws by which Noahides are bound are quite distinct from the laws of the Torah given at Mount Sinai, and even when the same law exists in both codes, the practical applications of that law may differ. This essay explores the possibility that what constitutes idolatry for a Jew may not be the same as what constitutes idolatry for a non-Jew. This distinction may have wide-reaching consequences that may result from branding any world religion as idolatrous or non-idolatrous. These ramifications might include whether a Jew may donate money towards the construction of an “idolatrous” temple, repurpose a building used for “idolatry” as a synagogue, sell property in Israel to “idolaters,” make use of products used in “idolatrous” ritual offerings, permit a Jew to follow an “idolater’s” chukos (arational or irrational customs), and more. The first half of this essay explores the theoretical possible differences between a Jew’s prohibition of idolatry and a non-Jew’s, raising various proofs and counter-proofs to the notion that such differences even exist. The second half of this essay focuses on specific world religions and assesses whether halacha considers them idolatrous or not.