Question:

Kavod Harabanim,

I have an unusual hobby – I am fond of collecting and flying the flags of sovereign countries! I am also an observant Jew that tries to abide by halacha.

Many flags contain symbols of belief systems that we would consider idolatrous – as well, of course, as Islam (to give an obvious example, the flag of Turkey which contains a red crescent; others, like India, are less immediately obvious, but some summary research quickly reveals their symbolism).

Thus far, I have refrained from purchasing any flag containing such a symbol. Besides asking “is this proper or may I complete my collection and needn’t pay attention to such matters?”, there is the broader question of whether it is mutar to possess non-religious items which contain symbols of non-Jewish religions. I hope you understand that it is with this latter, more common instance in mind that I frame this question.

Thank you in advance!

Answer:

It is permitted for you to complete your collection. There is a halacha that one may not keep expensive items that have avoda zara symbols on them, because it appears like the person is respecting or that the person worships that avoda zara. That is not the situation here. You are collecting flags, and the design on the flag is meant merely to be decorative and permitted.

Best Wishes

Sources:

Tractate Avoda Zara 40a, Yora Deah 141-1, Igros Moshe Y:D 1 69.

Tags: avoda zara

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