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Saying a bracha on a destroyed Non-Jewish house of worship

Category: // By Rabbi: הרב עופר עוזרי // Answer date: 06.01.2021

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Question:

I am visiting Paris for a week and I am taking a tour. The tour will pass by Notre Dame as one of the stops. From what I understand Notre Dame was burnt and gutted a few years ago. I know that when Notre Dame was new it was the place of the great debate between R’ Yechiel of Paris and the priests. He won the debate but sadly 24 wagonfuls of Shas and other Sefarim were burnt as the Ashkenazim read about on Tisha Bav. It will give me great simcha to see the building burnt. I know there is bracha Chazal instituted or seeing a destroyed Avoda Zara, could I make this bracha?

Answer:

If you do pass by Notre Dame and see it burnt ruins , at least large parts of the building which were destroyed, you should say the bracha but without Hashem’s name or Malchut “Baruch SheAkar Avoda Zara MeHamakom Hazeh” (Blessed is the one who uprooted Avoda Zara from this place).
The Gemara in Brachot 54a writes: One who sees a pale where an Avoda Zara was destroyed say Baruch She’akar Avoda Zara MeArtzo (Blessed is he who uprooted Avoda Zara from his land). The wording of the Mishna implies that one only makes the bracha on destroyed Avoda Zara in Eretz Yisrael. The Rosh though quotes the Yerushalmi which explain the Mishna . It explains that the Mishnah did not mean to exclude Avoda Zara in Chutz La’Aretz rather in Eretz Yisrael it would say Artzeinu, but in other places one says Baruch She’akar Avoda Zara Memekom Hazeh.
Later the Gemara says (57b) :Tannu Rabanan one who sees a place where Avoda Zara was uprooted says Baruch SheAkar Avoda Zara MeArtzeinu, Ukeshaim SheAkra Mehamakom Zeh TeAkar Mkol Mekomot Yisrael Vhashev Lev Ovdeihem LeAvdecha. (And just as You have uprooted it from this place make you uproot from all places of Yisrael and return the hearts of those who worship them back to your service.) In Chutz La’Aretz one need not say VeHashev Lev Ovdeihem Lavdecha. R’ Shimon ben Elazar said even in Chutz La’Aretz one must say it since they will convert in the future as the passuk in Tzefania says (3:9) “I will change the nations into a clear tongue.
The Tur understood the Machloket to be about whether we make the bracha in Chutz La’Aretz. That the Rabbanan held we only make a bracha on the destruction of Avoda Zara in Eretz Yisrael and R’ Shimon ben Elazar says anywhere. The Tur then questions how the Rambam ruled like R’ Shimon ben Elazar against the Chachamim. The Bet Yosef answered that everyone agrees that we say the bracha in Chutz La’Aretz, the Machloket is only about the conclusion of the bracha, whether we say V’Hashev … He explains the Tur understood you only say the bracha in Chutz La’Aretz in a Jewish community, but in a regular area no.
The Teshuvot Divrei Yatziv says there is a different version of the Gemara in the Ein Yaakov which says the Chachamim argue, “And in Chutz La’Aretz you do don’t need to say this,” meaning the bracha. Not only that but the Ra’ah also ruled like the Tur that you do not say the bracha at all in Chutz La’Aretz, so rules the Ritva and Ra’avan.
Therefore, in that area of Paris it is mostly Non-Jews everyone would agree you say the bracha. So rules the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 224:2.
The one doubt that we must deal with is whether Natzrut is actually Avoda Zara to the extent that you would say bracha. The Rema in Yoreh Deah 141:1 writes the images they bow down to do have the halacha of Avoda Zara. The Levush say even the Cross they bow to has a halacha of Avoda Zara. The Divrei Yatziv even says mosques also have a halacha of Avoda Zara but his is unclear because the Rambam say clearly Islam is not Avoda Zara. The Mahari Asad rules that Natzrut is not exactly Avoda Zara though.
Another issue is does that Avoda Zara have to be completely destroyed. There are those who understand the Rambam that it only if the Avoda Zara is completely destroyed. The Kol Bo says even if it was not completely destroyed you ma say bracha. Therefore because of all the doubt you should say the bracha but without saying Hashem’s name.

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