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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
There are still others who apply [the statement of R. Hillel] to this teaching: R. Simeon b. Menasya says: An idol belonging to an Israelite can never be annulled. What means 'never'? — R. Hillel the son of R. Wallas said: No, it was necessary [to have the word 'never'] for the circumstance where a heathen has part-ownership.1 He thereby informs us that the Israelite worships the idol on his own account.2
MISHNAH. HOW DOES HE ANNUL IT? IF HE CUT OFF THE TIP OF ITS EAR, THE TIP OF ITS NOSE, OR THE TIP OF ITS FINGER; OR IF HE DEFACED IT,3 ALTHOUGH THERE WAS NO REDUCTION IN THE MASS OF THE MATERIAL,4 HE HAS ANNULLED IT. IF HE SPAT BEFORE IT, URINATED BEFORE IT, DRAGGED IT [IN THE DUST] OR HURLED EXCREMENT AT IT, BEHOLD IT IS NOT ANNULLED. IF HE SOLD OR GAVE IT AS A PLEDGE, RABBI SAYS THAT HE HAS ANNULLED IT, BUT THE SAGES SAY THAT HE HAS NOT ANNULLED IT.
IF HE SPAT BEFORE IT, URINATED BEFORE IT. Whence is this? — Hezekiah said: Because Scripture stated, And it shall come to pass that, when they shall be angry, they shall fret themselves and curse their king and their god and turn their faces upward,7 and it continues, And they shall look unto the earth, and behold, distress and darkness etc.8 Thus, although [the heathen] curse his king and his god and turn upward [to the true God], he still looks unto the earth.9
IF HE SOLD OR GAVE IT AS A PLEDGE, RABBI SAYS THAT HE HAS ANNULLED IT etc. Zei'ri in the name of R. Johanan and R. Jeremiah b. Abba in the name of Rab [are at variance].10 One said that the difference is over a heathen smelter,11 but if it was [sold to] an Israelite smelter all agree that he annulled it.12 The other said that the difference is over an Israelite smelter.13 The question was asked: Is the difference over an Israelite smelter but with a heathen smelter all agree that he has not annulled it, or perhaps in either case there is the difference?14 — Come and hear: For Rabbi said: My view15 is the more probable when he sold it to be broken up,16 and my colleagues' view is the more probable when he sold it to be worshipped.17 What means 'to be broken up' and 'to be worshipped'? Am I to say that these terms are to be understood in their literal sense? [If that were so,] what is the reason of him who says that he had annulled it,18 and the reason of him who says that he had not annulled it?19 Must not, then, 'to be broken up' mean [that he sold it] to someone who would break it up, viz., an Israelite smelter,20 and 'to be worshipped' means [that he sold it] to someone who would worship it, viz., a heathen smelter;21 and are we not to conclude that in either case there is a difference of opinion?22 — No; this is the meaning — Rabbi said: My view is acceptable to my colleagues when he sold it to be broken up, i.e., to an Israelite smelter, because even my colleagues do not differ from me except in the case where he sold it to be worshipped, but when it is sold to be broken up they agree with me [that it had been annulled].
Against the above the following is quoted: If one brought scrap metal from a heathen and found an idol amongst it, should he have drawn it [into his possession] before paying over the purchase price he can return the idol;23 but should he have drawn it [into his possession] after paying over the purchase money, he casts it into the Salt Sea.24 This is quite right if you say that the above difference is over an Israelite smelter; then whose is this teaching? It is the Rabbis'.25 But if you say that the difference is over a heathen smelter and all agree that with an Israelite smelter he has annulled it, whose is this teaching?26 — It is otherwise in the present illustration because his intention was to sell scrap metal and not an idol.27
‘Abodah Zarah 53bif with the intention of returning [to claim it] as happened during the war waged by Joshua,1 it is not annulled. It was necessary [to cite all these circumstances]. For if there had only been taught the case where he borrowed money on it, from the fact that he had not sold it [it follows that] he had not annulled it; but if ruins fell upon it, since he does not clear them away [to recover it], conclude that he had annulled it! Therefore it was necessary [to mention that in the latter circumstance the idol is not annulled]. If there had only been taught the case where ruins fell upon it, because he thought that [the idol] is lying there and whenever I want it I can take it [he did not annul it]; but in the case where robbers stole it, from the fact that he does not go searching for it [it might be assumed] that he had annulled it! Therefore it was necessary [to mention that in the latter circumstance the idol is not annulled]. If there had only been taught the case where robbers stole it, because he thought that if a heathen took it he would doubtless worship it and if an Israelite took it, it being an article of value, he would sell it to a heathen who would worship it [therefore it is not annulled]; but in the case where the owners left it behind and journeyed to a distant land, since they did not take it with them [it might be assumed] that they had annulled it! Therefore it was necessary [to mention that in the latter circumstance the idol is not annulled].
'If with the intention of returning [to claim the idol] as happened during the war waged by Joshua, it is not annulled!' But in the instance of the war waged by Joshua did [the Amorites] return?2 — This is the meaning: If [the owners] have the intention of returning, it is analogous to the war waged by Joshua and there can be no annulment.3 Why, then, compare it to4 the war waged by Joshua? — He thereby informs us of something incidentally, and it is as Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: If an Israelite set up a brick to worship [but did not do so] and an idolater came and worshipped it, it is prohibited.5 Whence have we that it is prohibited?6 — R. Eleazar said: It is the same as happened at the beginning of the settlement in the land of Israel; for the Divine Law declared, And burn their Asherim with fire.7 Now it was an inheritance to [the Israelites] from their ancestors8 and a man cannot make prohibited what does not belong to him!9 If [it is assumed that the reason was] on account of those [Asherim] which existed there originally,10 then just an annulment would have sufficed!11 But inasmuch as the Israelites worshipped the Golden Calf, they revealed their proneness for idolatry, so12 when the idolaters came [and worshipped Asherim] they acted according to [the Israelites'] bidding.13 Similarly when an Israelite set up a brick, he revealed his proneness for idolatry; therefore when a heathen came and worshipped it he acted according to [the Israelite's] bidding. But perhaps the proneness was only for the Golden Calf and for nothing else!14 — No; Scripture states, These be thy gods, O Israel,15 which proves that they lusted for many gods. Conclude, then, that all [the Asherim] which existed at the same time as the Golden Calf are prohibited, but those planted subsequently16 are permitted!17 — Who is able to distinguish between them?
MISHNAH. AN IDOL WHICH ITS WORSHIPPERS ABANDONED IN TIME OF PEACE IS PERMITTED,18 IN TIME OF WAR IS PROHIBITED. PEDESTALS OF KINGS19 ARE PERMITTED BECAUSE [THE HEATHENS ONLY] SET THEM UP AT THE TIME THE KINGS PASS BY.
GEMARA. R. Jeremiah b. Abba said in the name of Rab: The Temple of Nimrod20 is to be regarded the same as an idol which its worshippers abandoned in time of peace and is permitted; for although, due to the fact that the All-merciful dispersed them, it was like a time of war, if they had wished to return [and claim the idols] they could have returned; but since they did not, they must have annulled them.
PEDESTALS OF KINGS ARE PERMITTED. Because [the heathens only] set them up at the time the kings pass by they are permitted! Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: The meaning is — because they only set them up at the time kings pass by and the kings may abandon that road and proceed by another road.21 When 'Ulla came22 he seated himself on a damaged pedestal. Rab Judah said to him: Behold both Rab and Samuel declared that a damaged pedestal is prohibited; and even according to him who said that [heathens] do not worship fragments [of idols], that applies only to an idol because it is an act of contempt to worship fragments but with this [pedestal] one does not care!23 — He replied to him: Who would give me some of the dust [from the bodies] of Rab and Samuel that I might fill my eyes with it!24 [Nevertheless] both R. Johanan and R. Simeon b. Lakish declared that a damaged pedestal is permitted; and even according to him who said that [heathens] do worship fragments, that applies only to an idol because from the fact that they worship it, they would regard it a desecration to annul it; but as for these [pedestals] they throw them aside [when damaged] and bring another.25 There is a teaching in agreement with R. Johanan and R. Simeon b. Lakish, viz.: A damaged pedestal is permitted — a damaged altar is prohibited until the greater part of it is demolished.26
What constitutes a pedestal and what an altar?27 — R. Jacob b. Idi said in the name of R. Johanan: A pedestal consists of a single stone, an altar of several stones.
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