"Shoot!" (Q & A)

The Ascent Question & Answer Forum

conducted by Yrachmiel Tilles, Editor of the Ascent Quarterly


"How should I behave when confronted by the seemingly ubiquitous gentile preachers and proselytizers? Are the admonitions such as [Deut. 13:4] "You should not listen to the words of that prophet," absolute.

Of course, no purpose is served by arguing or debating with them; that's precisely what they're trying to provoke. But must I immediately change the television channel if I see a preacher, or quickly walk by if one of those obnoxious street evangelists is in my path? Or is it permissible to listen to them and watch their histrionics for entertainment?...to learn what is on the minds of our non-Jewish neighbors?...to be prepared for the inquiries of confused and uneducated Jews?"

Don't give them so much credit! The "prophet" of Deut. 13 is someone who claims that G-d spoke directly to him and told him to spread this particular word. If he proselytizes based on what G-d "told" someone else, or on his own understanding of scripture, he already cannot be classified as "false prophet."

If he actually claims that "G-d" ordered him to tell Jews to go against the Torah, you should certainly turn aside quickly. But even if he doesn't you should probably walk away! To listen to them for curiosity or entertainment is to have "your gain swallowed up by your loss" [Avot 5:11]. These sorts of inanities and impurities have a tendency to linger in the mind. You don't need it.

Interacting with them in order "to be prepared for the inquiries of confused and uneducated Jews" might be reasonable if you have Jews asking you such questions. To do it because maybe you will be asked one day can only be called kidding yourself.

Yrachmiel Tilles

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