The Way of the Gentiles

The prohibition against non-Jewish practices, might relate to the practices of ancient Egypt, Canaan or the social and philosophical ways of non-Jews today.

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On the other hand, the contemporary halakhic authority, Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin, has reacted against this extended reading of the law. Rav Henkin has opposed this argument against women's prayer groups, stating that the Torah only prohibits non-Jewish actions, not non-Jewish motivations or movements (Shut Bnei Banim II:10, 1992). 

The prohibition against imitating non-Jews was intended as a way to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. It is a great irony of modern  Judaism that this law now functions in a way that also distinguishes Jews from other Jews.

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Jeffrey Spitzer is Chair of the Department of Talmud and Rabbinics at Gann Academy, The New Jewish High School, Waltham, Mass., and a member of the Institute's Tichon Fellows Program.