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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 23a

Rabina said:1  There is really no contradiction; the one teaching [prohibits it] in the first instance; the other [permits it] after it happened.2  And whence do we know that a difference is to be made in a case between the first instance and where it had happened? — From the following: We have learnt: A WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE ALONE WITH THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE SUSPECTED OF LEWDNESS; now this seems to be contradicted by the following: A woman who had been imprisoned by heathens in connection with money matters, is permissible to her husband,3  but if on a capital charge, she is forbidden to her husband.4  Does this not go to prove that we make a difference in a case between the first instance and where it had happened?5  — Not at all! It may indeed be that the prohibition applies even after it happened, but here the reason is that the heathen will be afraid to forfeit his money! You can indeed prove it by what is stated in the second clause: 'If on a capital charge, she is forbidden to her husband.' So there is no more [to be said about this].

R. Pedath said: There is no contradiction;6  the one is [according to] R. Eliezer, the other is [according to] the Rabbis. For we have learnt in connection with the Red Heifer:7  R. Eliezer says: It must not be bought of a heathen, but the Sages permit it.8  Is not [the point] on which they differ this: that R. Eliezer holds that we suspect immoral practice whilst the Rabbis hold that we do not suspect immoral practice?9  — Whence [do you know this]? It may well be said that all agree that immoral practice is not to be suspected, the reason for R. Eliezer's opinion being this: he holds the view presented by Rab Judah in the name of Rab. For Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: [In the case of the Red Heifer]10  even if a bundle of sacks has been laid on her she becomes ritually unfit, but in the case of the calf,11  only if she had been made to draw a burden. [It may thus be that] one master12  is of the opinion that we should suspect,13  and the other that we should not suspect it! — Do not let this enter your mind; for the sake of a small benefit one would not risk a big loss.14  Let us then say likewise that for the sake of a little enjoyment15  one would not risk so big a loss! — In that instance his passion impels him.

But [still] it may be that all agree that immoral practice is not to be suspected, but that the reason for R. Eliezer's ruling is the one given in the teaching of Shila? For Shila learned: 'What is the reason for R. Eliezer's ruling? [It is the scriptural words:] Speak unto the Children of Israel that they bring unto thee,16  [which imply that] Israelites shall bring, but it should not be brought by heathens'!17  — Do not let this enter your mind; for it is stated in the second clause: 'R. Eliezer applied this disqualification to all other kinds of sacrifices.' Now were you to adduce the reason as taught by Shila, it would hold good in the case of the [red] heifer, in connection with which Scripture mentions 'bringing', but does Scripture ever mention 'bringing' in connection with other sacrifices? But [still] might we not say, then, that the Rabbis differ from R. Eliezer

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. In reference to the contradiction between our Mishnah and the Baraitha cited above, p. 113.
  2. The Mishnah forbids the deliberate placing of an animal with a heathen, while the Baraitha permits the use of such an animal when it had already been so placed.
  3. The heathen who has charge of her will not ill-use her for fear of losing the money involved.
  4. Keth. 26b.
  5. The former being forbidden according to the first teaching, while the latter is permitted according to the second.
  6. Between our Mishnah and the Baraitha.
  7. [H], Num. XIX, 1 seq.
  8. Par. II, 1.
  9. Their opinions are thus represented respectively by our Mishnah and Baraitha.
  10. Concerning which it is said, upon which never came yoke (Num. XIX, 2).
  11. [H], To be brought by the elders of the place in the vicinity of which a murdered person is found (Deut. XXI, 1 seq.), concerning which it is said, which hath not drawn in the yoke.
  12. R. Eliezer.
  13. The owner, of having placed a bundle on her, and not because of immoral practice.
  14. The price paid for a perfectly red heifer being very high.
  15. Of committing an immoral act.
  16. With reference to the red heifer, Num. XIX, 2.
  17. [And since R. Eliezer extends the disqualification to all sacrifices, his reason must be that he suspects immoral practice, and our Mishnah thus represents his view.]

‘Abodah Zarah 23b

only in the case of the [red] heifer which commands a high price,1  but that in the case of other sacrifices they agree with him? — In that case, whose opinion would the [Baraitha] taught [above, viz.]: 'We may purchase from heathen cattle for [ordinary] sacrifices' represent? Neither that of R. Eliezer nor that of the Rabbis! Moreover, it is distinctly taught as follows:2  What was cited as a refutation to R. Eliezer by his colleagues is, All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee … they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar.3

The difference of opinions4  is only in regard to suspicion, so that where the immoral use is certain, the heifer is unfit. From here then you can deduce that the degree of sanctity of the red heifer is that of animals sacrificed on the altar; for if it had only the sanctity of those [dedicated] to repairs of the temple,5  immoral use should not render it unfit! — The red heifer may be different [in this respect alone], because it is designated by Divine law as a sin-offering.6  If that be so, it ought to be unfit if it be a Yoze Dofan:7  and were you to say that it is so indeed, why then are we taught: If one dedicates a Yoze Dofan as a red heifer, it is unfit, but R. Simeon declares it as fit?8  Again, were you to say that R. Simeon follows here the opinion he expressed elsewhere that a Yoze Dofan is to be regarded as a properly born child,9  has not R. Johanan said that R. Simeon admitted, in regard to sacred things, that it is not valid for such sanctity?10  — But the case of the red heifer is different; since a blemish renders it unfit, immoral use or idolatrous worship also render it unfit;11  for Scripture says, for their corruption is in them, there is a blemish in them; they shall not be accepted,12  and the School of R. Ishmael taught:13  Wherever 'corruption' is mentioned it only means lewdness and idolatry: 'lewdness', as it is said, for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth;14  and 'idolatry', for Scripture says, lest ye deal corruptly, to make ye a graven image,15  and since a blemish renders the red heifer unfit, immoral use and idolatrous worship also render it unfit.

The above text stated: 'Shila learned, What is the reason for R. Eliezer's ruling? [It is the scriptural words,] Speak unto the Children of Israel that they bring unto thee, [which imply that] Israelites shall bring, but it should not be brought by heathens.' According to this, Speak unto the Children of Israel that they take for me an offering16  should also mean that Israelites should take and that it should not be taken of idolaters! And were you to say that it does indeed mean so, surely Rab Judah reported in the name of Samuel:17  R. Eliezer [himself] was asked: To what extent is honouring one's father and mother to be practised? He answered: Go forth and see how a certain idolater of Ashkelon, Dama the son of Nathina by name, acted towards his father. He was once approached about selling precious stones for the ephod18

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. So that the owner would not tamper with her for fear of monetary loss.
  2. Infra 24a.
  3. Isa. LX, 7. This proves that the discussion between the Rabbis and R. Eliezer applies to all sacrifices. [The Rabbis will permit in every case, whereas R. Eliezer will forbid in all cases; the Mishnah thus represents the view of R. Eliezer, and the Baraitha that of the Rabbis, even as is explained by R. Pedath.]
  4. Between R. Eliezer and the Rabbis.
  5. V. Shebu. 11b.
  6. Num. XIX, 9.
  7. ipus tmuh 'A fetus extracted by means of the cesarean section' (Jast.) which is, according to Bek. 12a, unfit as sacrifice, of which it is said (Lev. XXII, 27), When a bullock or a sheep or a goat is born … it may be accepted for an offering.
  8. Tosef. Par. I.
  9. So that the period of uncleanliness and subsequent purification and sacrifice (Lev. XII) are to be observed by the woman (Nid. 40a).
  10. Why then should a Yoze Dofan be valid as a red heifer?
  11. Though in other respects it does not possess the sanctity of sacrifices brought on the altar.
  12. Lev. XXII, 25.
  13. Sanh. 27a.
  14. Gen. VI, 12, where immorality is meant.
  15. Deut. IV, 16.
  16. Ex. XXV, 2.
  17. Kid. 31.
  18. The vestment worn by the high priest, the shoulder piece of which had two onyx stones on which the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved. (Ex. XXVIII, 9.)