Ask The Rabbi

Ask The Rabbi


Mocking other religions?

Are we allowed to mock other religions?

Mocking other religions?

Shalom and thank you for your question. You wish to know if we are allowed to mock other religions. In tractate Megillah 25:2 it states that “All mockery is forbidden except for mockery of idol worship.” According to the sages of the Talmud, we are allowed to mock ideas that come from idol worship or the concept of Trinity, which contradicts the belief in monotheism. However, when it comes to anything personal about another person, regardless of their religion or beliefs, we are not allowed to mock. On the contrary, we must respect their beliefs and practices, and acknowledge the contribution they make to the world.

A story is told about Rabbi Israel, the holy Baal Shem Tov who lived in the eighteenth century in an area which is now called Ukraine. He is said to have advised fellow Jews that when they had to choose non-Jewish wagon-drivers, they should prefer those who would cross themselves when they passed by a church. This gesture could show that the non-Jew believed in his religion and had an awareness of morality. This advice was imperative in a time and place where there were highway robbers hiding in forests, when wagon-drivers could turn into robbers when traveling deep in the forest, and not enough police were involved in keeping order. Thus it was preferable to choose a wagon-driver with a moral compass.

In general, civil law in the Western world is based on Biblical law, and although there are many changes in the world currently, for many centuries the Western world based its ideals (if not always practices) on what was known as the Judeo-Christian ethic. The Moslem Koran also is based on the Bible. When religion has not been distorted it has provided a basic moral structure to the world. Eastern religions and philosophies have also contributed moral structure for the people that follow those beliefs.

Mockery in general is not a desirable form of behavior, as it says in Psalm 1:1 “Fortunate is the person who did not go according to the advice of the wicked, nor did he stand in the manner of sinners or dwell in the company of mockers.” We can see from here how undesirable mockery is, but also how we must be careful where we get our ideas from, to what influences we expose ourselves. This may be the reason for the exception in the matter of mocking idol worship, so that we will not allow ourselves to be influenced negatively.

People are much like computers, in the sense that what we program into our brains is what remains in there, so we indeed need to choose our exposures wisely. I hope this has been helpful!

Here’s a postcript to the above answer regarding mockery. The world, since its creation, has been working towards bringing about a state of spiritual completion. The three major religions brought to the world, among other things, an awareness of the Messianic stage that we are striving for. This is a major contribution to society, the vision of a better world to come. Indeed when we follow the teachings of the Torah and respect ourselves and each other, we are hastening the advent of the true and complete Redemption!