Bowing to Idols

Another day at the office, they say. Just received the following question from a student today. Read my answer below.

Dear Rabbi,
As you know, I am not currently Jewish, and am pursuing conversion. My family belong to a religion which worships idols, and they really want me to bow and pray to the idols in their home. They don’t know that I am beginning the process of becoming Jewish, and would be upset if they knew. Am I allowed to kneel and pray to the idol, if I first say an “apology” to G-d?

Dear _______,

As you are probably aware, idolatry is a grave sin for a Jew, and is one of the three cardinal sins, for which a Jew is obligated to give their life rather than transgress. According to the Seven Noahide Laws, a gentile is also forbidden to worship an idol, and must only worship the One Creator.

That being said, although it is preferable not to kneel and pray before one of your parent’s idols, you may do so if you first declare in your mind, “This action is empty and meaningless” or a similar thing. You are not obligated to verbalize this or tell your parents.

In sum, I am reminded of our ancestor Abraham, who actually smashed his father’s idols and then went on to live a life of spreading G-d consciousness. You will of course one day have to tell your parents about your life choices, and I wish you much success in doing so.

-Rabbi W.