One should realize that even if a phrase’s source is the sacred books of a certain religion, if its use as a phrase or idiom freely crosses religious lines, it does not represent that religion. One can prove this from our own religious texts, l’havdil elef havdalot. One should not write three words from the Torah without underlining the scroll. Yet, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 284:2) allows doing so if the words are used as an idiom, not as a reference to the ideas as found in the Torah. Also, one can recite phrases from the Torah in a non-Torah context before reciting birkat hatorah (Mishna Berura 47:4). Similarly, phrases that emanate from other religions should be able to be removed from their context and status.
Let us summarize. One can be respected for avoiding non-Jewish cultural associations in strict adherence to the spirit of the laws of chukot hagoyim. Yet, many of us legitimately value the advantages of integration, to the extent permitted by halacha, in the general society of our origin, which has strong roots in other religions. At least when using society’s standard phrases does not conjure up thoughts of the tenets and texts of other religions, it is permitted. We purposely left out examples. Why should we cause the power of suggestion to make people self-conscious about common phrases that good Jews use without giving a second thought to their origin?
Thursday, May 31, 2007
6:37 AM Gil Student