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May a Jew Rent a Property From a Church?

Rabbi Yosef Kushner

Question: If a church owns a property that is not located on the church grounds, which they rent out for income, is it permitted for a Jew to rent this property? 

 

Answer:  There is a prohibition on providing money that will be used to fund idol worship. 

The Gemara speaks about a house of avodah zara that owns a bathhouse, stating that if admission is charged to enter the bathhouse, and that money is used to fund the house of avodah zara, a Jew may not make use of it. Another Gemara discusses a marketplace where a tithe of all money earned is given to fund a house of avodah zara, it says that a Jew may not shop there. As he is not allowed to have his money provide revenue for avodah zara. We see from these Gemaras that one should generally not be renting from a house of avodah zara and, thereby, providing them with revenue. 

There is a Mordechai that seems to differentiate between the case of the bathhouse and a case of a property rental. He explains that a bathhouse is a source of potentially unlimited income. If a few people use it, the house of avodah zara makes a small amount of income. If a lot of people use it, they make a lot of income. The more people use it, the more revenue they make; therefore, when a Jew uses the bathhouse, he is providing the house of avodah zara with a benefit. In the case of a property rental, however, only one tenant can rent the premises. Accordingly, if a Jew wouldn’t rent it, they could just go and find a non-Jewish tenant. This means that the Jew is not really providing them with any benefit, [provided he isn’t paying an above-market rate].  

When people have such a shailoh, I would advise them to stay away from having any connection to a house of avodah zara and say that it is better not to take this rental; however, in pressing circumstances, it may be possible to follow the Mordechai’s leniency. 

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