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Can a Jew deny being Jewish or pretend to be a gentile?


I remember hearing people say that there is a halachah (or at least an “inyan”) that a Jew is not allowed to deny his Judaism. It had supposedly to do with the story of Mosheh Rabenu a”h, when he was introduced to Yitro. When his daughters called him an ‘Egyptian man’ he remained quit and didn’t object that he was a Jew. Contrary to Yosef haSadiq a”h. He was consequently punished for this.

Is this true? If so, what are the parameters of this halachah? Can one do this if he believes it could save his life (which sadly can be very relevant)?

Thank you.




We should never have to deal with such situations, but what you heard is correct. I am not capable of deciding the halacha in such cases, however I can just show you where it is written. There is a halacha (Yora Deah 157-2, the siman on yehorak Val Yaavor) that one is not allowed to say that he is a Christian, or any other religion that is considered idol worship. The reason is because he is essentially saying that he denies Judaism, which is a form of avoda zara. If one is in such a difficult situation, he may say something to fool the gentile into thinking that he isn’t Jewish. A suggestion of this might be to say, “Are you crazy? Do you really think I am Jewish?!” A long as he doesn’t say it specifically, if the gentile was fooled into thinking he isn’t Jewish, he didn’t say that he isn’t.

May Hashem save us from such nisyonos.


רא”ש מסכת עבודה זרה פרק ב סימן ד, “לישראל לומר עובד כוכבים הוא כדי שלא יהרגוהו. דודאי כופר בעיקר הוא. דכיון שרוצין להורגו אם לא יהפוך לדתם ויהיה עובד כוכבים כמותם. ודאי כשאומר עובד כוכבים הוא הודה לדתם וקבל עליו אלוה שלהן”. שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות עבודת כוכבים סימן קנז סעיף ב “אסור לאדם לומר שהוא עובד כוכבים כדי שלא יהרגוהו. אבל אם כדי שלא יכירוהו שהוא יהודי משנה מלבושו בשעת הגזרה, מותר כיון שאינו אומר שהוא עובד כוכבים”.


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