Royal Wedding and the Chief Rabbi

I loved the wedding. I got up early and watched, and got a little (a lot) misty eyed. But while I was thrilled to see us represented by Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Plancey and Rabbi Bayfield, I wondered how they were able to be there.

I have always been taught that as a Jew I am not to enter a church, not even to look around. Here they were present during hymns and a religious church service. I was uncomfortable with that.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this matter?

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70 Comments

  1. g6 says:

    Thanks Hadassah, for having the courage to post this.
    While I don’t want to seem presumptuous and question Rabbis that I respect, I felt uncomfortable as well, and wonder if there isn’t something I can learn from this.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    Perhaps out of respect for the royal family they were able to attend..

  3. Shoshana says:

    I was also surprised to see men with Arab headdresses on. I would have thought they also would have been forbidden to be there.

    I suspect the rabbis were there in their “ambassadorial” roles from the Jewish community. But I also would have been uncomfortable with what was a religious service. A Jewish wedding seems much less a service.

  4. This is not something I was ever taught. I’ve been in plenty of churches – they’re gorgeous. And frankly, if royalty invited me, I’d go just about anyplace out of respect. I am, of course, not an Orthodox not rabbi.

  5. Alma Klindera says:

    I am a reform Jew who has many non- Jewish friends. I have attended weddings and funerals in churches of all denominations over the years. I have never heard that I should not do so. Some Christians are told that Jews might not participate in a wedding service if it involves being at the alter.

  6. fncmullin says:

    I’m with SuburbanSweetheart this isn’t something that ever came up in any of my Jewish education. I’ve been in plenty of churches just to look around- St. Peter’s in Rome is pretty amazing- and I’ve attended services for weddings, funerals, etc. Whether or not I’m worshipping is immaterial. I can attend and be respectful without ascribing to the belief systems. Also, I’m pretty sure you don’t tell the Queen no.

  7. Justine says:

    I had exactly the same thought. I wonder what the rabbinical response to this issue might be?

  8. N says:

    I find it very disturbing!

    Orthodox Jews are told not to enter a church, let alone attend a service. The Abbey contains ‘physical’ idols. Christianity worships idols. And the service was full to the brim with idol-worshipping language.

    I felt very uncomfortable watching on TV and strictly speaking I don’t think I should have watched. And I come from a mixed-faith background, have studied (Christian) theology at university, and am quite liberal in many of my observances. Every time the trinity or ‘Jesus’ was mentioned I felt very uncomfortable. I found myself desperately trying to repel the words that were sinking into the consciousness and subconscious.

    I think there is very good reason not to attend or hear a Christian service!

    The invitation of the Chief Rabbi was not a personal one but a representative one, as a faith representative. The message the Chief Rabbi has sent to the Jewish community by representing us in Westminster Abbey is very troubling. And I haven’t seen him justify what he has done. I don’t believe the invitation would have been made official and sent without first consulting the Chief Rabbi, in order not to offend or embarrass either party. That would be why his predecessor was not invited to Charles and Diana’s wedding. I question the personal wisdom, the communal wisdom, and the setting of such a precedent.

    I beg the Chief Rabbi to explain simply why his attendance should not trouble me.

  9. shorty says:

    I am guessing they were probably there, like others have said, out of respect for the royal couple.
    I have heard that Jews shouldn’t be in churches, I assume for fear of being influenced. In the past however, when Rabbis were forced to debate the church, they would have been inside such buildings no?

  10. le7 says:

    I heard that there is a separate Jewish viewing platform for all official weddings and funerals at Westminster Abbey. If this is true, and that’s where he was then there isn’t even a problem.

    • N says:

      There is no “separate Jewish viewing platform”. Think about it; even if there were such a thing, how would such extricate any Jew from the problems? Seating plans are devised for each occasion. In the case of William and Kate’s wedding, the “other faith” representatives were seated pretty close to the ‘action’.

      • le7 says:

        Platform is the incorrect word. Area. Separate seating area outside of the chapel. Anyways. I read it a few years ago and can’t corroborate it anywhere.

        • N says:

          I think you are probably thinking about the overflow room at St Pauls, where Charles and Diana were married. This wedding was at Westminster Abbey.

      • le7 says:

        It would separate a Jew from any problems because they wouldn’t be in the actual chapel.

        • N says:

          1) If you can hear the service, there would still be problems.

          2) The seating plan for William and Kate’s wedding is available to view on-line. The “other faith” reps, incl. R. Sacks, were seated in a prime location inside the Abbey and would have had a decent view of the altar.

  11. loveheals says:

    I understand that there is a law or rule that Jews cannot enter a church (never heard that before,though). Why? What harm come can come of it. So you hear ideas that you do not believe in or ascribe to. If your faith is strong, how can this harm you? I have attended church services and feel my own faith strengthened, not diminished or threatened by the experience.

    • Claire says:

      Yes I agree with you! Just because you see an idol or hear a different sort of prayer, are you to assume that you or your own faith is so weak that it would be overcome and immediately adopt that faith. Having many close non Jewish friends I have been to church to celebrate and mourn with them and each time have been grateful for my own faith. It’s like seeing a shop selling bacon sandwiches. You can walk past it and even think you might want one. But our faith comes from the fact that we overcome the desire

  12. lady lock and load says:

    Excuse my ignorance but why do we have to respect the royal couple? I heard that you only make the blessing upon seeing a king if the king has the power to put someone to death or grant them life. In this case, I don’t think we would say a blessing upon seeing the Queen of England or her grandson William and Kate.
    I respect people for the deeds and the kindness they have done. NOT if they are rich and good looking.
    I think it is wrong for an Orthodox Rabbi to go into a church as it is not our custom to do so. But maybe they thought it was a chillul Hashem if they did not attend?

  13. Mark says:

    I recall that 30 years ago, at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana, then Chief Rabbi Jacobowitz was not only present at the wedding at St. Paul’s, but that he, along with other religious leaders, said a few words to the royal couple.

    Chief Rabbi Sacks has a particularly strong record of fostering positive interfaith relations and has participated in conferences with clergy of other religions. He has made public statements and has written in books about recognizing the important roles played by world religions in building a better world, sometimes sadly earning the opprobrium of rabbis to his right. I would not be surprised if he had been in churches prior to the wedding. What does disturb me is the very fact that such a question has to be raised in the first place.

    • N says:

      Mark said: “Chief Rabbi Sacks has a particularly strong record of fostering positive interfaith relations [...]”

      Yes, and also a particularly ‘strong’ record of alienating and disrespecting non-orthodox Jews and rabbis, which he has openly stated have another faith! His blind prejudice against non-orthodox Jews has also seriously damaged British Jewry as a whole, most recently exemplified by the JFS admissions saga, which more than backfired on those he represents, by involving the secular courts in the Who is a Jew? debate, and failing to successfully articulate Jewish ethnoreligiosity, despite him being widely considered an intellectual giant.

      This latest act of attending a Christian wedding would seem to further polarize British Orthodoxy. So, is it more important to appease other faiths, often bringing great spiritual danger, not least to himself, or respecting non-orthodox Jews and Orthodox Jews alike, respecting all those he specifically represents, not least the ever-growing proportion that are strictly orthodox?

      Furthermore, if he has problems attending non-orthodox Jewish services, weddings, and funerals for non-orthodox leaders, how can he rightly justify attending any nature of Christian service?!

  14. S says:

    Mark -
    Do you have a substantiating source?
    It is my recollection that Rabbi Jacobowitz, did NOT attend the ceremony in Westminster Abbey – only the reception following.
    So as not to embarrass the monarchy by turning down the invitation, (these things are carefully worked out ahead of time) an invitation was therefore not even extended – leading some news sources to call it a “snub” :
    http://blogs.jta.org/telegraph/article/2011/04/28/3087231/jewish-snub-list-from-the-royal-wedding-of-charles-and-diana
    (This of course, was incorrect, but was preferable to all parties, rather than hashing out the truth in a mixed public forum).
    While it is far from my place to question a Rabbi, the questions does remain valid)

  15. kisarita says:

    If it’s not ok for them to observe a christian service, why is it ok for you? You were watching, weren’t you?

  16. enchanted says:

    I do know for a fact that a jew is allowed to enter a church for an AA or any other type of fellowship meeting. They are usually held in church rooms.
    Rabbi Dr. Twerski as well as many other ultra orthodox Rabbis allow this.
    You may be in a room in the church where they do not pray, meaning any room that is the actual alter etc.
    That being said, perhaps Rabbi Sacks was seated where they have that division in the Abbey, where most of the guests were seated.

    How about a little ‘don lecaf zechus’ in this instance…

  17. Devorah says:

    BS”D

    Christianity is “avoda zara” (idol worship), and Judaism explicitly forbids idol worship in any form (Avraham Avinu, anyone??); in fact, Jews must choose to death (“al kiddush Hashem”/as a sanctification of G-d’s name) if given the option of idol worship or death!

    I’m also personally very concerned why Sir Chief Rabbi Yonason Sacks was there, or why any Jew would enter a church–ever!

    Interfaith relations or not, no Jew has any business going into a place of idol worship!

    I’d also like to note that, as far as I know, Islam also explicitly forbids idol worship, so a Jew may permissibly enter a Mosque.

    In any and all cases, personal considerations must be discussed with a competent LOR.

    • N says:

      Devorah: I also think entering a mosque is likely acceptable, in and of itself. However, there would still be problems attending an actual service, such as the authority of the Koran and acknowledging Mohammed as a legitimate prophet.

      Unless close biological family members of another faith are getting married or have died, I really can’t accept that it is particularly difficult to completely avoid entering an other faith setting of any kind. I have studied other faiths without entering one of their buildings or praying one of their prayers. But, even studying another religion’s texts is arguably problematic, because one can, and many people have, come under undue influence, especially those without a good understanding of their own religion. Missionaries are most successful among those ill-equipped to repel them.

      And indifference/ignorance to all these issues being discussed is the root of assimilation and the destruction of the Jewish people. Those of us with our eyes open are witnessing the nations marching on Jerusalem before our very eyes, and many Jews forgetting Jerusalem and even making a mockery of Judaism. In my humble opinion, the Chief Rabbi’s actions are progressively aiding these processes.

      If the Chief Rabbi can do something, why shouldn’t any other Jew?! I haven’t even seen him make a case, which could at least present a limited context for his actions, so that other Jews don’t readily follow his leading example. Even though, I seriously doubt a legitimate case can be made.

      The Chief Rabbi forbids non-orthodox Jews and those he deems apostate from receiving aliyot in his organization’s synagogues, etc, but it’s okay for an Orthodox Jew to attend Christian services without becoming an apostate?

      I wonder how LOR’s under the authority of the Chief Rabbi will handle this overt precedent? How will they explain away it being okay for the Chief Rabbi but not for anyone else?

  18. N says:

    The non-orthodox had their own rabbinical representatives at the wedding. The Chief Rabbi attended as a representative of his community, which includes the full spectrum of orthodoxy, and I know the strictly orthodox, especially, are not happy with everything the Chief Rabbi does, and he knows they are not happy. And if not already, they are quickly becoming, the majority of those he represents.

    My understanding is that there is the concept of the duty to honour the sovereign. Dispensation to attend state events/occasions/ceremonies in churches can be granted by a beth din. Such is most likely given for funerals and memorials, such as for the Queen Mother. Such is also given for those men who receive honours from the Queen and wish to receive their honours in person from her and therefore require to shake her bare hand, which is arguably otherwise forbidden. Of course, the issue as to whether it is permitted for a man to shake a woman’s hand is a far less weighty issue, but it is one that affects a growing proportion of the Chief Rabbis organization, and dispensation is sought under the same concept of the duty to honour the sovereign.

    William and Kate’s wedding was not a state occasion. Believe it or not it was a private event! So, the concept of the duty to honour the sovereign clearly does not apply. However, as Mark stated, the Chief Rabbi “has participated in conferences with clergy of other religions”, which are regularly held in churches, but not without controversy.

    Considering that the Chief Rabbi has problems attending non-orthodox Jewish services, weddings, and funerals for non-orthodox leaders, etc, how can he rightly justify attending any nature of Christian event, let alone a service?!

    Protocols should be in place, and have apparently been so in the past, so as not to cause offence/embarrassment to either party, and would surely come under the umbrella of interfaith understandings/sensitivities – if interfaith dialogue has any meaning whatsoever.

  19. N says:

    enchanted:

    Being present in a separate room in a church building complex that does not have the idols and is not set aside for worship (and no worship takes place in your presence!) is another matter, for which leniency is routinely extended.

    For the wedding of William and Kate, the Chief Rabbi sat in a prime location of the Abbey, along with the other “other faith” representatives.

    In this instance, there is no ‘save’ to be argued based on where he was located.

  20. N says:

    Several people have said that they don’t understand the problem. As I see it, there are two main issues:

    The first is being in the presence of idols and implicitly worshipping them by attending a service in their presence. Church premises are to be avoided, especially if the idols/icons/symbols remain uncovered. If the church is no longer used for worship, and you are viewing out of historical interest then that *might* be different. At least you aren’t attending a worship service, or an interfaith gathering where Christian prayers are often offered. Interfaith conferences are wholly problematic anyway, but that’s another matter, and arguably subjective.

    Secondly, and more importantly, by attending a church service, it is difficult to separate attendance from participation. For starters, the words being said and the prayers being offered in the name of ‘Jesus’ or the ‘Trinity’ break the Ten Commandments. Even non-orthodox rabbis understand this. I am surprised those claiming not to understand the problem do not appear to understand the very real and grave problems that would seem glaringly obvious. It is all too easy to find yourself at least passively participating, repeating the words in your head and/or saying Amen along with other attendees/participants/congregants.

    Although, I guess you could wear earplugs to guard against your passive participation, or even more gravely, active participation, acknowledging such a need would surely be an acknowledgement that you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    The sovereign certainly does not demand/require one’s attendance (least of all at a private function), and unlike a funeral or memorial for a senior member of the royal family (irrespective of whether it’s deemed a state occasion or not), where there is a far clearer duty to honour and show respect, a wedding does not invoke the same level of duty to honour the sovereign!

    There is of course an alternative to the Chief Rabbi attending himself: a non-Jewish representative in his stead.

    • TRS says:

      Most poskim do not consider Christianity (especially not Catholicism) (or Islam) to be avodah zarah. There are not many forms of avodah zarah in the strictest definition of the term – as in that which requires death before commiting it – around in the world today.
      Accusing R. Jonathan Sacks (who is not the same person as R. Yonasan Sacks of YU) of one of the gravest of sins in a public forum is something that I would research extensively before doing. I do not consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that some allow entry into churches, even during service. R. Sacks’ role is official. Just because this wedding was not a state function does not mean that he attended it because he wanted to praise Jesus. I would like to think that R. Sacks is able to stand in a room in which a Christian rite is taking place and have the chizuk lev and emunah beshamaim to stand firm in his beliefs.

      • N says:

        “Just because this wedding was not a state function does not mean that he attended it because he wanted to praise Jesus.”

        Of course not!

  21. Lord Sax says:

    The Chief Rabbi is enamored of glamor, loves the role, relished the opportunity to play Archbishop of Canterbury.

    When he retires, another career awaits.

  22. ben says:

    The question posed also bothered me. Luckily for me my grandma’s very close friends are some of the Chief Rabbis closet friends. His answer to this bothering question is that He attended the Abbey because he had a direct command from the Queen of England to do so.
    As far as i know (although who am i to say) that this answer has halachic basis and seems a fair reason to attend the Abbey depite the problems.

    • batya from NJ says:

      Ben, I agree that it was only proper for him to have attended as a representative of the British Orthodox Jewish community & that it would have been a slap in the face for him to have refused the Royal invitation.

      • ben says:

        Not only was it ‘proper’ but perhaps i wasn’t so clear, the cheif Rabbi felt that he was halichally bound to attend the wedding due to his royal invitation, this seemingly overode the other halchic problem of stepping foot into the church.

        • N says:

          Ben: Such invitations are not extended in the first place without checking with the invitee first, so that neither the invitation or potential decline causes offence or embarrassment. That is why his predecessor was not invited to attend the wedding of Charles and Diana. It would seem clear that R. Sacks actually wanted to attend in person.

    • N says:

      “He attended the Abbey because he had a direct command from the Queen of England to do so.”

      I can assure you with 100% certainty that this was not the case!

  23. sheldan says:

    Interestingly enough, my wife commented on this. Obviously, this has generated at least 30 responses, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.

  24. Rev Trev says:

    I am very glad the Rovs were invited and indeed attended. More than Mr and Mrs Blair can say!

  25. great question. i, too, always heard about jews and churches. most will draw the line between visiting for architecture/beauty and a church service. however, it is clear that there are circumstances that ‘allow’ a jew to enter a church. one such was the royal wedding. (need to find out more, but it did happen). also, what about all the jewish tour guides in israel who take jews and non-jews to various christian holy spots, including churches?

    • N says:

      “most will draw the line between visiting for architecture/beauty and a church service.”

      Unfortunately, the Chief Rabbi didn’t just join a tour of the Abbey.

  26. As a not-Jew and a not-Christian, refusal to enter someone else’s religious building simply sounds prejudiced, intolerant and isolationist – and we all know where the roads of prejudice and intolerance and isolationism lead … If I heard someone saying that a Christian should chose death instead of entering a synagogue or visiting the Western Wall, I would assume anti-Jewish sentiments.

    As someone who doesn’t identify with any organized religion, I can attest that it is possible to even attend services without actually participating in foreign religious practice. It is possible, for example, to stand in a church when Christians are praying and simply *not pray* at all, or to pray silently *to the deity(s) one actually believes in.*

    I have friends of many, many religious traditions and it would never occur to me to NOT attend their wedding ceremonies, conversion ceremonies, bris ceremonies, bar/bat mitzvahs of their children, baptisms of children, funerals of their spouses or parents (assuming I’d been invited). These moments of celebration, transformation and memorial are simply to important to miss, when or if I am asked to attend. I don’t think my presence at such rituals is the same as participating in them, nor does it indicate my belief in or participation in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, Indigenous or other deities or their religious traditions.

    • Livia, it most definitely seems off-putting. Before I was Orthodox, much of traditional practice to me seemed alienating, but once I became more observant, I began to understand that rules such as these have their place and purpose.

      From my understanding of the not-entering-a-church thing, it’s not that a Jew’s presence in such rituals would indicate a belief in another faith, nor would it be considered participation. Rather, avoda zara, idol worship, is considered the most severe prohibition in the Torah. It’s the antithesis of Judaism’s primary belief – that there is one single deity. So we are instructed to stay far, far away from any places where idol worship is practiced.

      Partly, this is because there is a spiritual energy to these practices which could be detrimental to our spiritual healthy. Partly, this is because seeing a Jew enter a place where idolatry is practiced is confusing at best and condemning at worst. The responses to this post surely indicate that this is no small matter.

      In short, traditional Judaism is, to a certain degree, intolerant and isolationist, but this is partly why the Jewish people are still around after two millennium of exile. These seemingly negative attributes, when viewed through a different lens, that of appreciation of the traditions and beauty of the structure of Jewish law, can be understood to be healthy and understandable.

      Anyways, I don’t expect my answer to satisfy or change your mind about the matter, but I felt that I wanted to address your very well-put comment.

    • N says:

      What you maybe need to appreciate is that “[a]s a not-Jew and a not-Christian” and “someone who doesn’t identify with any organized religion”, your value system and worldview is inherently different to that of a Jew, especially a religious Jew, and people of religious persuasions other than your own, and if you should be able to expect tolerance, understanding and even an appreciation of your worldview from others, I think others should be able to expect the same from you.

      A Christian should be able to enter a synagogue and actively pray any Jewish prayer without significant conflict. Of course, some Jewish prayers said by a Christian would be pretty meaningless from an individual perspective. And anti-Zionists would have issues with prayers of restoration from exile. But anyway, essentially only Christians with problematic theologies (rooted in interpretation), including anti-Semites would have problems with Jewish worship.

      On the other hand, all Jews should have problems with entering any place where there are idols, such as Christian churches, and in attending services/participating in idol worship, such as Christian services. From a Jewish perspective, there is no doubt whatsoever that Trinitarian (mainstream) Christianity is most certainly idol worship. There are no ifs or buts!

      So, while a Christian should have no problems with synagogues or Jewish prayers, Jews should rightly have problems with churches, and Christian prayers in the name of ‘Jesus’ or the ‘Trinity’.

      If, for you, this can only be defined as prejudiced, intolerant and isolationist, then so be it, but such an opinion is based on a lack of understanding, and a lack of appreciation for Jews who take G-d’s commandments seriously, and that they apply to all Jews, irrespective of what they currently believe.

      Any problems I might have with any specific community in general would wholly come from the all-important context of that community’s persecution of Jews, especially if the persecution continues to this very day. And if justification for persecution comes from a religion, then I have a problem with such a religion. However, the problems I am speaking of in respect of *any* Jew attending a Christian service, have nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Christian prejudice/intolerance/etc, rather simply taking seriously Judaism for Jews.

      And if our foreparents had not taken such seriously, at least minimally, the Jewish people would likely not still exist. Today, the alarming numbers of Jews that don’t take Judaism seriously enough are assimilating into non-Jewish society, marrying non-Jews, and therefore, not having Jewish children, or children that do not know Judaism and further assimilate. Within two or three generations there are no halachically Jewish descendants. This can only serve the agendas of those who are still waiting for “the final solution to the Jewish question”. For the Jewish people, this is a very serious issue, indeed. We are a people set apart. A certain degree of isolation is what has preserved and indeed preserves the Jewish people. And if the Jewish people don’t take this seriously, no other people are going to. It’s a miracle that Jews have survived thousands of years of exile. But one only has to look at the level of intermarriage in the community as a whole, and among secular and Liberal/Reform Jews in particular, to know that the community faces existential threats. And that’s before we consider the existential threats that face the almost half of world Jewry that live in Israel. So, yes, for us, a certain degree of isolationism is requisite to our survival as a distinct people.

      Bringing this discussion back towards being on-topic:

      If a convert to Judaism attended a Christian service, there would be many many calls to annul the conversion! Jews, at least Orthodox Jews, are told not to enter churches, let alone attend Christian services. And I will also point out that despite what many people think, especially non-orthodox Jews, rabbis and cantors are not really clergy. There are no reserved rituals that only rabbis and cantors can do. The appearance of reserved status is only in response to the requirements of civil society, such as the civil requirement that marriages be conducted by a registered marriage celebrant or recognised ‘clergy’. What rabbinic ‘ordination’ brings is added responsibilities, such as, leading by example, not teaching falsely, and upholding traditions, customs, and high standards. Accepting a knighthood and/or peerage of the realm of the United Kingdom in no way lessens these responsibilities, which is why there is coordination/consultation/protocol with regard to the likes of royal invitations, so offence/embarrassment is avoided by all parties.

      Furthermore, I cannot reconcile the Chief Rabbi’s outreach to other faiths with the fact that he has problems with non-orthodox Jewish places of worship, non-orthodox Jewish prayers, and non-orthodox Jews, because he believes non-orthodox Judaism to be a different faith. (All on public record, by the way!) At least non-orthodox Jews worship the one G-d of Israel and Him alone. But that’s not good enough for the Chief Rabbi, and many others, too, I should add, but I don’t see any of those others attending Christian services. If there’s any appeasement of ‘the other’ to be done, let such first be in one’s own house.

      • Grace says:

        I’m confused, because I am Christian, and do not worship idols. In fact, I find it rather offensive for you to tell me that I do! I would tell a Jew that your religion hates women because you seat them separately from men, so how dare you announce that I worship idols therefore better death than attending my wedding?

        • le7 says:

          Grace – according to Torah definitions – Christianity is idol worship for a Jew. It’s not a personal thing. It is not considered idol worship for a non-Jew.

        • grace -

          it is not a simple issue here. the definition of ‘idol’ varies from culture to culture and religion to religion. it is not a good translation of the hebrew concept.

          le7 writes that ‘according to Torah definitions’ – well, that is NOT true either. Christianity is NOT mentioned in the Torah (nor is Islam), since the Torah predates them by about 1500 and 2100 years, respectively.

          what is meant by Jewish law and tradition is that Jews are not allowed to do anything that might be construed as doing something not Jewish. going into a church might fit that definition (according to some).
          and, regarding having women sit separate from men: yes, there are those within Judaism who feel it is because of a lower-status, or ‘other status’ issue (not ‘hate’ as you say, but certainly not praiseworthy either).

          anyway, happy to discuss it with you more.

          • Grace says:

            Well, I’d certainly happily accept that Christianity is idol worship for a Jew, and that that definition does not imply that non-Jews are idol-worshipers. Thanks for explaining!

    • N says:

      “I can attest that it is possible to even attend services without actually participating in foreign religious practice” (Livia_Augusta)

      I think attendance involves participation to some degree, either actively or passively, unless you are somehow completely switched off from what’s happening around you. And if you are actively trying to fend off foreign practices, I would argue that those foreign practices are involving you. I believe our prohibitions recognize the very real and present dangers to one’s soul.

  27. shaigetz says:

    Halachically it is not prohibited to enter an anglican church, or the place of any monotheistic place of worship that is not Jewish for that matter, as someone above already stated. While attending a service where you are seen to be worshiping is more problematic, one would assume that Rabbi Sachs would be knowledgeable in making his decision.

    Interesting point about people being asked before they are invited. Maybe indeed Chief Rabbi Jacubovits declined his?

    • N says:

      Since when was Anglicanism, or any other *Trinitarian* (mainstream) Christian denomination, monotheistic?! From a Jewish perspective, Christianity is NOT monotheistic! My understanding is that Islam also does not consider Christianity to be monotheistic. There are also many Jews who don’t believe Muslims worship Israel’s G-d.

      • Grace says:

        One God- Three Forms. Monotheistic. Again, rude to tell others what they believe.

        • Micha says:

          The phrased used was “from a Jewish perspective”. One God in three forms is not a sufficiently unified vision of Deity for Judaism’s criteria for fellow believers. Whether it is far enough from our beliefs for us to consider it a violation of G-d’s covenant with Noah is still an open question, with many following the ruling that it does not.

          Why do Jews need a criterion for classifying others’ beliefs? One example — may a Jew sell a cross? To another Jew, no, since the cross represents a belief we consider insufficiently monotheistic. But to a non-Jew? That depends on whether it is far enough from monotheism for us to want Noah’s non-Jewish children to abandon it for something purer. Judaism doesn’t proselytize, but we don’t encourage others to violate G-d’s expectations of them (as we see them).

          I should point out that Judaism’s willingness to speak about G-d using anthropomorphic imagery is considered by Islam to be insufficiently monotheistic. They object to the Hebrew Bible’s “the ‘Finger’ of G-d”, “the Hand of G-d”, “the anger of His [Flared] Nose”, etc… and believe it’s one of the things Mohammed had to be sent to correct. They aren’t telling me what I believe, and yes, I know they are poetic metaphors. Rather, they are deciding how to relate to Judaism and Christianity based on how they classify my beliefs.

          -micha

  28. Anonymous says:

    What bothers me is why Jews would even watch the royal wedding to begin with. Why are we so fascinated by non Jews. We could be doing so many other much more useful things.

  29. Noah Roth says:

    I was bothered by the same question.
    I recall that Lord Rabbi Sacks attended Diana’s funeral at the Abbey as well (And walked in the rain, as it was held on a Shabbat). I believe he published a relevant responsum at the time, though I was unable to find it in the archives on his website. I have asked for a relevant link through the contact page on the Chief rabbi’s website, and will post here if I receive a response.

    • Frayda says:

      I know this is not facebook but I have to say “like”

    • The Nudnik says:

      Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – who declined to attend Diana’s semi-state funeral service because it occurred on Shabbat – instructed all members of the Orthodox United Synagogue, the country’s main synagogue body, to “join in the national mood of remembrance,” his office said. He also wrote a prayer for her, which began: “Almighty God, we come before you today, sharing in the grief of the British people and the world at the untimely and sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales.”

      Full article:
      http://www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/970912/rabbi.shtml

  30. Chana says:

    From the Jewish Chronicle ( http://www.thejc.com/news/the-diary/46682/the-chief-will-go-church ):

    ‘Normally, the Chief Rabbi will not set foot in a church for theological reasons, although he will be at the Abbey for next month’s royal wedding.

    That is because he has been invited by the Queen, explained Lord Sacks’s office, which is covered by the principle of kavod hamalchut, the honour due to a sovereign.’

  31. Nathaniel shabtai says:

    The answer is pretty simple actually. The chief rabbi is a representative of the of the Jewish people of england and in this case, world wide. What would the gentiles say at our refusal to go? “the jews think theyre better than us?” what if the media got whiff that of all the invites, the jews didnt go. I hope of all the guests present, no one would think the Rabbis attending where converting to a different faith. Thats the real reason behind not going into a church. That, and makom avodah zorah. There is a second reason as well. Kavod hamalchut, or honoring the royalty. This is something that Jews are commanded to follow, and since Will is certainly royalty, albeit less powerful than what royalty was at one point, the Chief Rabbi is still expected at the ceremony. Besides, did you see those arabs there? If they can stop blowing themselves up for one day and respect the faces of england and take joy in the celebration, can we do any less? especially as jews?

  32. ok, so i asked a rav familiar with this issue. he wrote a very nice, clear piece as to why this happens. please take a moment to click and read it – it is well written and covers most of the issues raised: http://rabbisedley.blogspot.com/2011/05/royal-wedding-and-chief-rabbi.html

  33. micha says:

    A few of the Baalei Tosafos attended Richard the Lionhearted’s coronation, bringing gifts. Didn’t help — a pogrom broke out, the Jewish quarter of London was sacked, people killed, and they end up taking refuge in Clifford’s Tower in York. (Which ends in a suicide pact…)

    But still, if the Tosafists entered a church for a religious function that was also a state event., I have no question it’s permitted.

    • N says:

      Unlike Charles and Diana’s wedding, William and Kate’s wedding was NOT classified as a state event!

      • micha says:

        N, I fail to see how official classification is relevant. I would think what we’re looking at is when a public functionary charged with serving as Jewish liaison to the government can rely on leniency that normally are not sufficient. Not attending the wedding would have the same impact on Jewish relations with the British monarchy and its gov’t either way. Since you seem to be staying that classification does matter, you seem to be viewing things differently than I do. Please elaborate.

  34. kisarita says:

    Yall seem to believe that entering a church is a problem in itself. The building isn’t the problem; it’s the worship. And if you are so frum why are yall bringing the worship into your own homes via the TV’s? Clean out your own streimels first before dissing others.

    • Micha says:

      Actually, it is prohibited to enter a church.

      When Rabbi Lookstein did so for the Clinton wedding, he invoked Shulchan Arukh Yoreh Deah 178:2. The Shulchan Arukh states that many prohibitions are outranked by needing people close to the government in case of future emergency. Rabbi Michael J Broyde testifies to getting a similar answer from the Tzitz Eliezer.

      And the same would apply to the Chief Rabbi, may he live and be well.

      But it is, bottom line, actually prohibited for the rest of us. I think it’s Torahitic (deOraisa), even. What people visiting Italy and want to see the art often invoke is the notion of a church that is also a museum, and whether that has the same rule as a straight church. But many (most?) prohibit.

      -micha

      • kisarita says:

        Micha you missed the point. WHY is the church forbidden (if in fact you b elieve it is) Certainly attending the service from far is no better.

  35. Alexandra says:

    I was VERY GLAD to see rabbis at the Royal Wedding! Had they not been invited, it would have smacked of anti-Semitism and prejudice! Yes, the old Jewish Law says Jews can’t enter Churches — but why? If you are steadfast in YOUR faith, it’s interesting to see how other Human Beings worship the same God that you do! At the very least, entering a church or mosque is a TEST of one’s Jewish faith — will you be tempted by all the glamour around you or not? I once read in a synagoge newsletter that if you want to choose, it’s better to be non-kosher in your home, and kosher outside of it, rather than the reverse, because being kosher outside the home shows the world you are strong in Jewish faith. I think Rabbi Bayfield looked very uncomfortable amidst all that splendour — Judaism emphasises equality, so even the largest size of a town’s menorah is regulated. I didn’t notice the other rabbis — but I sure am glad all the rabbis were there. If they hadn’t come– it would have been as if English Jews didn’t exist and/or weren’t important enough to have a representative come to the Royal Wedding. (HOW I wish there was a monarchy in Israel….so Jewish girls could dream of marrying a Prince, too! AND then the Israeli King could meet with other Middle Eastern Monarchs on an EQUAL basis! Another fact that should be more widely known, at least amongst the Jewish community, is that Kate Middleton’s mother’s maiden name was Goldsmith — and that she had some Jewish ancestry! WHY else would she have to be baptised and confirmed, a SECOND time,recently, just before her marriage? The website “JewOrNotJew.com” gives Ms. Middleton — or the Ccoutess of Cambridge, as she is now known —
    “4″ (out of 15), and calls her “not Jewish” –but a “4″ is not a “0″! Yes, antiSemitism DOES remain in England, as it sadly does in the rest of the world — but, to be fair, one msut realize it isn’t quite as strong as in other countries, and not nearly as strong as it used to be. I mean, HOW many other countries have had a Jewish Prime Minister, (Disraeli), or a Prime Minister who was extremely interested int he Jewish people’s survival, (Churchill). In fact, when, far more recently, Rabbi Bayfield visited Buckingham Palace, he brought along his own kosher chef. The Queen understood, and allowed the Rabbi’s chef to prepare the meal — even though the regular palace chef was very upset! (Don’t forget — Queen Elizabeth II LIVED THROUGH WORLD WAR II — and if the Nazis had won, she and her family would not have had things easy, because the Duke of Windsor would probably have become King. Maybe they wouldn’t have been sent to a concentration camp — but exile? Poverty? Being turned into servants for the new king, (and queen?) These possibilities MUST have worried the intelligent, family-loving Princess Elizabeth. No, she’s not Jewish, (even though one of her ancestors WAS King Solomon!) — but I doubt that she’s much of an anti-Semite, either! (Jews have GOT to stop seeing “anti-Semites behind every tree.” One lady I met said, “Thank God for the anti-Semites — if it wasn’t for them, the Jewish people wouldn’t stick together!” For that, I have the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would trade freedom for security…..will wind up with neither!” If you want others to respect you, and give your viewpoint a break — respect them, as well, and give their viewpoints a break!

    I have long thought that God created all these different religions just to see how well we all get along with each other — or don’t. A good philosophy, I think. AND IF YOU ARE STONG IN YOUR FAITH, YOU CAN VISIT A CHURCH, MOSQUE, OR SHINTO TEMPLE — LIKE THEM, ADMIRE THEM — AND STILL THINK THAT YOUR JUDAISM IS THE BEST RELIGION…..FOR YOU!

    So, I, personally, rejoice immensely that both rabbis were, indeed, invited, and they came, (and they did NOT convert because they went inside a church!).

    And i am also really glad that Kate Middleton has some Jewish ancestry, too!

  36. Alexandra says:

    P.S.: I called Halaka “The OLD Jewish Law” because I think it should be changed! For better or worse, I went to Public School, not religous schools, (except to Sunday School) — and in public school, I learnt about the “Council of Nicenea”, wherein early Christians codified their laws, so that some stuff should be taken out that they thought shouldnt be there, (such as some Jewish customs like a Saturday Sabbath, and that Christianity was for Jews only. Nope — Christianity allowed anyone to convert to it, easily.) I believe it is HIGH time that Judaism had it’s own “Council”, and outmoded things, (which, nonethess, anti-Semites just LOVE to point out and embarrass Judaism with), such as “Pilegesh”, (the allowing of Jewish men to have concubines), and the forbidding of Jews to enter other religions’ houses of worship, (What? Are jews SO insecure in their religious faith?), should be abolished….or at least, seriously looked into.

    Long live the NEW Jewish Law! (Hit the anti-Semites where it hurts them the most — with rational, modern thinking….and storng faith!)

  37. Alexandra says:

    Or is the arguemnt that Jews have to be SO pure and SO holy, that they can’t step insside another religuon’s house of worskhip — be it Church, Mosque, Shinto or B’Hai temple, etc.? I once heard a rabbi on the radio say that “Jews must be holy, Gentiles must be righteous.” My reaction: Why can’t both BE both? Are Jews supposed to be all HolyMen and HolyWomen, who cannot even “bespoil” themselves by entering another religion’s house of worship? HOW do you think that makes OTHER people FEEL? How would most Jews feel, if people of other religions wouldn’t go inside a synagogue — or even a Jewish delicatessen — because they felt, in the end, superiour to Jews and Judaism? This idea of “Jews MUST be Holy, and Gentiles must be righteous”, is the same thing! Aren’t we all HUMAN? I was taught in Hebrew School that God created only TWO people, Adam and Eve — though He obviously could have created billions — because HE WANTED EVERYONE TO REALIZE THEY WERE ALL DESCENDED FROM THE SAME TWO PEOPLE….AND SO NO-ONE IS SUPRERIOUR TO ANYONE! So, Jews are NOT different, and NOT superiour to ANYONE else! Besides, believing Jews are different can lead others to TREAT Jews differently — and not in better ways, either!

    The saying, “What goes around, comes around”, is true! Think you are different and/or superiour to others, and THEY will think themselves different and/or superiour to YOU! Yes, Jews WERE “The Chosen People”. They WERE chosen by God to help give the world The Ten Commandments. Because, at that time, Judaism was the most moral and fair religion around. Unlike other religions of the time, Judaism did not worship idols, or sacrifice small children to gods. BUT THAT WAS 5,000 YEARS AGO…..AND WHICH RELIGIONS WORSHIP IDOLS AND SACRIFICE CHILDREN TODAY? N O N E ! Jews and Judaism now are PART of the great religions of the world….Judaism, (thank God!), is now NOT the only righteous religion there is! I was taught that Jews are no better, (and no worse!), than anyone else! Jews WERE chosen — hopefully, they are no longer chosen. (Or, as some comedian once said: Jews have been chosen for so many terrible things — I wish God would choose somebody else for a change!)

    Jews not wanting to enter other religions’ houses of worship, because they are “unclean”, reminds me of ancient Egyptian nobles, who, also, didn’t’ want to touch anything “unclean”. I firmly believe that this “dirty” business of Jews being taught that they are chosen, and others are not chosen –which leads to bad feelings amongst the “unchosen” non-Jews…and who can blame them? — should stop!!!!!! I believe that NOone is inherently superiour to anyone — no-one, except God, that is!

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