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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 24a

at a profit of six hundred thousand [denarii] (R. Kahana's version is eight hundred thousand); but the keys were lying under his father's head-pillow, so he would not disturb him!1  — The words 'onyx stones'2  are detached from the preceding words.3  But are they not followed by and stones to be set4  which again connects them? Moreover, the sequel to the report is:5  In a subsequent year a 'red heifer' was born in his herd, and some of the Sages of Israel called on him.6  Said he to them: From what I know of you [I am aware] that if I were to demand of you all the money in the world, you would give it to me, but all I ask of you now is that money that I had lost because of my father!7  — In that case it was purchased through [the agency of] Israelite merchants.8

Does R. Eliezer then hold that immoral use is not to be suspected?9  Has it not been taught: When the incident was mentioned to R. Eliezer of [a Red Heifer] having been bought of a heathen named Dama — or, as some say, named Ramaz — R. Eliezer replied: What does that prove, seeing that Israelites watched the heifer from the hour of its birth?10  — R. Eliezer indeed admits both reasons, that of its having to be brought [by an Israelite] as well as the suspicion of immoral use.

The Master said: 'Israelites watched the heifer from the hour of its birth.' But is there not the suspicion that its mother may have been ill-used when she bore her, seeing that Raba said: The young of a goring cow is unfit11  for it was both the cow and her young that did the goring. Likewise the young of an ill-used animal is unfit, since the animal and the young were ill-used together? — What is evidently meant is that it was watched by Israelites from the time it was first formed. Still, is there not the suspicion of the mother having been ill-used previously, for we have learnt: As to all those which are forbidden to be offered on the altar — their young12  are permitted.13  And thereon it was learnt that R. Eliezer forbade. Now, this is all right according to [the exposition of] Raba, for Raba said in the name of R. Nahman: The dispute only applies to a case of an animal being ill-used when already dedicated as a sacrifice; but if when still in an ordinary state, all agree that [the young] is permitted. But how will you explain it according to R. Huna b. Hinena who said in the name of R. Nahman that the dispute applies only to a case of an animal being ill-used while still undedicated, but if when already dedicated all agree that [the young] is forbidden?14  — Then we must say that the mother, too, was watched by Israelites since the time it was first formed. And why not raise the suspicion of the mother's mother having been ill-used? — We should not let suspicion go so far as all that.

The Master said: 'It was watched by Israelites from the time it was first formed.' How did they know it?15  — Said R. Kahana: A red cup is being passed before [the mother] when the male is mating with her.16  If that is so, why should [a red heifer] be so costly? — Because even two hairs [of another colour] render her unfit. Then why [use this means] on their [animals]?17  — Said R. Kahana: Only with specified breeds [is it effective].

R. Ammi and R. Isaac Nappaha were sitting in the tent of R. Isaac Nappaha when one of them began to cite: Thus R. Eliezer forbade [cattle bought of a heathen] for all sacrifices. Thereupon the other stated that, in refutation of R. Eliezer's opinion, there was cited by his colleagues [the verse], All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto Thee … they shall come up with acceptance on my altar;18  to which R. Eliezer replied: All these will become self-made proselytes in the time to come.19  Said R. Joseph: What is the scriptural authority for this? For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord.20  Abaye asked: perhaps this merely means that they will turn away from idolatry?21  And R. Joseph answered him: The verse continues, and to serve Him with one consent.22  This is how R. Papa reported it; but R. Zebid reported thus: Both [R. Ammi and R. Isaac Nappaha] said: Thus, R. Eliezer forbade [cattle bought of a heathen] for all sacrifices, and both of them said: What was cited as a refutation to R. Eliezer by his colleagues is, All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered etc., and R. Eliezer said: They will all become self-made proselytes in the time to come, [and it was he who cited] the scriptural authority, For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord [and when] R. Joseph objected: Does this not say merely that they will turn away from idolatry? [it was] Abaye [who] answered him that the verse continues, to serve Him with one consent.

An objection was raised: And Moses said: Thou must also give into our hand sacrifices and burnt-offerings.23  It was different before the giving of the Torah. Then come and hear [this]: And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God.24  In the case of Jethro, too, it was before the giving of the Torah. This is very well according to the one who says that Jethro's [visit to Moses] preceded the giving of the Torah,25  but how will you explain it according to the one who says

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Thus R. Eliezer himself assumes that the onyx stone of a heathen was considered fit for the purpose enacted in the scriptural passage which opens with the very words quoted above, Speak unto the Children of Israel that they take for me an offering. (Ex. XXV, 2 and 7.)
  2. [Without the waw copulativum which is prefixed to the other enumerated offerings.]
  3. So that the words, … the Children of Israel shall take, do not apply to them.
  4. [R. Han. deletes 'to be set', and the reference is to Ex. XXXV, 9; v. Tosaf. s.v. [H].]
  5. V. Kid. 31a.
  6. With a view to purchasing it for the ritual purpose.
  7. Thus a red heifer bought of a heathen was considered fit for the ritual purpose!
  8. So that when acquired for the ritual purpose it was the property of an Israelite.
  9. According to Shila, who gives as the reason for R. Eliezer's prohibition of a heathen's heifer the wording, the Children of Israel shall bring.
  10. Tosef. Par. I. R. Eliezer thus implies that were it not watched, it would not have been fit on account of suspected ill-use.
  11. For use as a sacrifice if her mother bore her whilst goring a person fatally.
  12. Which are born subsequently.
  13. Infra 46b.
  14. [And thus the suspicion of the mother having been ill-used previously should have disqualified the heifer.]
  15. That the cow would give birth to a potential 'red heifer'.
  16. Which has the effect of producing a red calf.
  17. Of the family of Dama b. Nethina.
  18. Isa. LX, 7.
  19. The Messianic era, v. supra p. 8, n. 8.
  20. Zeph. III, 9.
  21. [But not from immoral practice.]
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ex. X, 25; so that Pharaoh's cattle were considered fit for sacrifices. This refutes R. Eliezer.
  24. Ibid. XVIII, 12.
  25. V. Zeb. 116a.

‘Abodah Zarah 24b

that Jethro's [call] was after the giving of the Torah? — In that case [it must be assumed that] Jethro bought it from an Israelite.

Come and hear: And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God!1  — What is meant by the best is the price of the best.2  Then why bring the best? — So that they find eager buyers.

Come and hear: And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the King take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold the oxen for the burnt offering and morigim [the threshing instruments] and the furniture of the oxen for the wood.3  — Said R. Nahman: Araunah was a resident alien.4  What are morigim? — Said 'Ulla: It is a 'turbil bed'.5  And what is a 'turbil bed'? — A 'goat with hooks' wherewith one threshes.6  Said R. Joseph: What is the scriptural [evidence]? — Behold I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument [Heb. morag] having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.7  A [further] objection was raised: And the kine they offered as burnt offering unto the Lord!8  — This was a special ruling for that occasion.9  Common sense, indeed, proves it; for had not that been the case, how could a female be used as a burnt offering?10  What difficulty does this present? We could say that it referred to a private 'high place,'11  in accordance with the opinion of R. Adda b. Ahaba; for R. Adda b. Ahaba said: Whence can it be deduced that a female is fit as a burnt offering on a private high-place? From what is said in Scripture, And Samuel took one sucking lamb and offered it for a burnt offering.12  [But is not] the wording, and offered him, that is to say a male! — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: It is written, and offered her.13

R. Johanan said:14  There are limits.15  Under the age of three years [an animal] becomes mutilated,16  but from the age of three years it does not become mutilated. When all the above verses were cited to him in refutation, he replied that they referred to animals under the age of three years. Come then and hear: And the kine they offered as a burnt offering unto the Lord!17  — This, too, refers to those under the age of three years. To this R. Huna the son of R. Nathan strongly objected. In that case the words, and their calves they shut up at home,18  [refer to those of kine] under three years; but does a cow under three years bear at all? Have we not learnt: In the case of a cow or of an ass which is three years old [the one born] certainly belongs to the priest; from that age upward this is doubtful?19  — The answers given previously are therefore best.

And the kine took the straight way [wa-yishsharnah] by the way to Beth-Shemesh etc.20  What is the meaning of the word 'wa-yishsharnah'? — Said R. Johanan in the name of R. Meir: They rendered song. R. Zutra b. Tobiah said in the name of Rab: They directed their faces towards the Ark and rendered song.21  And what did they sing? — It was stated in the name of R. Johanan on behalf of R. Meir: [The song beginning with] Then sang Moses and the Children of Israel.22  R. Johanan, however, gave it as his own opinion that they sang: And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His doings among the peoples etc.23  R. Simeon b. Lakish said: [They sang] the 'Orphaned' Psalm: A Psalm. O sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvellous things; His right hand, and His holy arm, hath wrought salvation for Him.24  R. Eliezer said: The Lord reigneth, let the peoples tremble.25  R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: The Lord reigneth; He is apparelled with majesty.26  R. Isaac Nappaha said: [They sang:]

Sing, O sing, acacia tree,27
Ascend in all thy gracefulness.
With golden weave they cover thee,
The sanctuary-palace hears thy eulogy,
With divers jewels art thou adorned.

R. Ashi connected this [song cited] by R. Isaac with the following: [Scripture says,] And it came to pass, when the Ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, O Lord etc.28  What did the Israelites say? — Said R. Isaac:

'Sing, O sing, acacia tree, etc.'

Said Rab:29  What analogy is there for the Persians calling a book 'Debir'?30  — This: Now the name of Debir before time was Kiriath-sepher.31  R. Ashi said: What analogy is there for the Persians calling a menstruous woman 'Dashtana'? This: For the manner of woman is upon me.32

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I Sam. XV, 15.
  2. The proceeds of the cattle, which were sold, were intended to be used as offerings.
  3. II Sam. XXIV, 22.
  4. [H] is a gentile who undertakes to observe the seven Noachide precepts, which include that of morality, v. supra p. 5, n. 7.
  5. [G], a threshing sledge consisting of a wooden platform studded with sharp pieces of flint or with iron teeth (Jast.).
  6. [H]. The phrase is obscure. Krauss, Talm. Arch. II, 57b, suggests tentatively, 'Circassian goats' with reference to the front teeth of the sledge shaped like goats' horns. The rendering adopted is Jastrow's.]
  7. Isa. XLI, 15.
  8. I Sam. VI, 14, so that the cattle of the Philistine were considered fit for sacrifice.
  9. [In celebration of the miracle performed through the cattle (Rashi).]
  10. If his sacrifice be a burnt offering of the herd, he shall offer a male. Lev. I, 3.
  11. A high place (bamah) used either by individuals or communities for offering sacrifices when the tabernacle was not in existence, as at the time in question, when the tabernacle at Shiloh had been destroyed.
  12. I Sam. VII, 9.
  13. In the Heb. text the word in question is written (Kethib) [H], which refers to a female, while it is to be read (Kere) [H], referring to a male.
  14. In reconciliation of our Mishnah and the Baraitha on p. 113.
  15. To the permission of using cattle of heathens for sacrificial purposes.
  16. By immoral use; it may therefore be assumed that its owner did not ill-use it.
  17. I Sam. VI, 14.
  18. Ibid. 10.
  19. Bek. 19b. Dealing with the young born of an animal bought of a heathen, so that it cannot be ascertained whether the young is a first born one which — either itself or its value — belongs to the priest (v. Num. XVIII, 15), the Mishnah states that if the mother is not more than three years old, the one born is to be taken as a first born; it is thus assumed that a cow does not bear under the age of three years.
  20. I Sam. VI, 12.
  21. [H] is connected with [H] song.
  22. Ex. XV, 1. The song of triumph and thanksgiving at the Red Sea was also rendered as the Ark was being returned from the land of the Philistines, on the downfall of Dagon their idol.
  23. Isa. XII, 4.
  24. Ps. XCVIII, called 'orphaned' because, apart from the absence of its author's name, its heading 'A Psalm' has no designation, such as is given to other anonymous psalms, e.g., A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath Day, XCII A Psalm of Thanksgiving, C.
  25. Ibid. XCIX.
  26. Ibid. XCIII.
  27. And they shall make an ark of acacia wood Ex. XXV, 10).
  28. Num. X, 35.
  29. Yalkut, Gen. has 'R. Safra.'
  30. [H] is the Heb. of 'sanctuary' in the above song, and this provides the connecting link of the statements that follow.
  31. Judg. I, 11. Kiriath-Sepher, lit. means, 'the City of the Book'.
  32. Gen. XXXI, 35. The Heb. words used [H] bear a similarity to [H].