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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
The question was asked: Does THREE DAYS mean inclusive of the FESTIVALS or apart from the FESTIVALS? Come and hear: R. Ishmael says: On the three preceding and the three following [days] it is forbidden.5 Now if it should enter your mind that the numbers given are inclusive of the Festival itself, R. Ishmael must be taken to include the day of the Festival both in the preceding and following days!6 — [Not at all!] It is only because he uses the words 'three preceding' that he also speaks of the 'three following'.7
Come then and hear the comment of R. Tahlifa b. Abdimi in the name of Samuel: According to R. Ishmael, it should always be forbidden [to transact business with idolaters because of] Sunday!8 Now, were we to take it that the festival is to be included, there would still remain Wednesday and Thursday on which dealing would be permitted! — According to R. Ishmael, there is no question but that the period does not include the festivals themselves. It is only according to the Rabbis' opinion9 that I ask what [is the law],
Said Rabina: Come and hear [the following Mishnah]: These are the festivals of idolaters, Kalenda, Saturnalia and Kratesis,10 now R. Hanin b. Raba explained that Kalenda [lasts for] eight days after the [Winter] Equinox, and Saturnalia [is kept on the] eight days preceding the Equinox; as a mnemonic take the verse, Thou hast beset me behind and before. Now, were you inclined to think that the periods are inclusive of the Festivals, then there are [at times] ten days:11 The Tanna may regard the whole Kalenda as one day.
Said R. Ashi: Come and hear: [Our Mishnah says] ON THE THREE DAYS PRECEDING THE FESTIVITIES OF THE IDOLATERS. Now were it to mean that the period is to include the festival itself, it might have said, 'At the Festivals of the idolaters for three days;'12 or, even if you contend that the words PRECEDING THE FESTIVAL are necessary to avoid [their being applied to] those after the festival, it might still have said, 'At the festivals of the idolaters for three days preceding them';13 but [from the words actually used]14 you can only deduce that the period is exclusive of the festival. This is conclusive.
The question was asked: Is it [forbidden] because of the profit, or perhaps because Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind?15 The difference would affect a case where an idolater has an animal of his own. If you say [one must not sell him one] because of profit, here, too, the profit is derived; if however you say it is because of placing a stumbling block before the blind, here, then, he has [a sacrifice] of his own.16
And if he has one of his own does the placing of a stumbling block before the blind not apply? Have we not learnt17 that R. Nathan said:
‘Abodah Zarah 6bHow do we know that one should not hold out a cup of wine to a Nazirite1 or a limb from a living animal to a Noachide?2 From Scripture, which says, Thou shalt not put a stumbling block before the blind.3 Now here, too, were it not held out to him he could take it himself, yet the one [who hands it] is guilty of placing a stumbling block before the blind!4 Here we may be dealing with a case of two persons on opposite sides of a river.5 You can prove it, indeed, by the use of the words 'one should not hold out': it does not say, 'one should not hand'. This proves it.
The question was asked: What if one did transact business?6 — R. Johanan says: [The proceeds of] the transaction are forbidden. R. Simeon b. Lakish says [the proceeds of] the transaction are permitted. R. Johanan cited [the following as] an argument against Resh Lakish: As to the festivals of idolaters, if one transacts any business [the proceeds] are forbidden. Does not this refer to [the period] preceding the festivals? — No, [it refers to] the festival exclusively.
Some report it was R. Simeon b. Lakish who cited [this passage] as an argument against R. Johanan: 'As to the festivals of idolaters, if one transacts any business [the proceeds] are forbidden'. During their festivals only it is forbidden, but before their festival it is not?7 — No, by 'their festivals' the Tanna means the one as well as the other.
There is a Baraitha8 which is in accordance with the view of Resh Lakish: The prohibition of transacting business with them [before their festivals] only applies to unperishable articles9 but not to perishable articles; and even in the case of unperishable articles, if the transaction is made, [the proceeds] are permitted. R. Zebid learned out of the Baraitha of R. Oshaia:10 An article that is perishable may be sold to them, but may not be bought from them.11
A certain Min once sent on his festival day a Caesarean denar12 to R. Judah Nesi'a,13 while Resh Lakish happened to sit before him. Said he, 'What shall I do? if I accept it, he will go and praise [the idols for it]; if I do not accept it, he will be displeased.' 'Take it,' answered Resh Lakish, 'and drop it into a well in the messenger's presence.' 'But this will displease him all the more!' 'I mean you should do it by sleight of hand.'
TO LEND ARTICLES TO THEM OR BORROW ANY FROM THEM. It is quite right to forbid lending to them, which benefits them; but surely borrowing from them can only mean deprivation to them! — Said Abaye: We forbid the borrowing from them as a safeguard against lending to them. But Raba said: It is all on account of their going to offer thanks.14
TO LEND THEM MONEY OR BORROW ANY FROM THEM.
It is quite right to forbid lending them money, which profits them, but why not borrow any from them? Abaye said: The borrowing is forbidden as a safeguard against lending. Raba, however, said: Both are [forbidden] because of their going to offer thanks.
TO REPAY A DEBT, OR RECEIVE REPAYMENT FROM THEM.
The [forbidding of] repayment is quite right, since it benefits them, but to recover from them, surely, means to deprive them! — Said Abaye: The recovery is forbidden as a safeguard against repayment. Raba said: It is all because of their going to offer thanks.
And all [the instances given in our Mishnah] are necessary; for if it only mentioned transacting business with them, I might have said [it is forbidden] because it profits them and they will go and offer thanksgiving for it, but to borrow from them, which means a deprivation to them, would be quite in order. If [on the other hand] it only mentioned borrowing articles from them, I might have thought it is because the importance that the idolater attaches15 to it [would induce him to] go and offer thanksgiving for it, but to borrow money from him might only cause him anxiety, as he might think, 'My money may not be returned again.' Were the case of lending money only mentioned, [it might be thought this is] because he might say, 'I can enforce payment,' and he would have good cause for thanksgiving, but to recover from them money which will never return to the lender we might regard as troublesome, so that he would not offer thanks for it — hence all the instances are necessary.
R. JUDAH SAYS: WE SHOULD RECEIVE REPAYMENT FROM THEM, [AS THIS CAN ONLY DEPRESS THEM; BUT THE RABBIS SAID TO HIM: EVEN THOUGH IT IS DEPRESSING AT THE TIME, THEY ARE GLAD OF IT SUBSEQUENTLY].
Does R. Judah, then, disregard the idea that though it is depressing at the time it is pleasing subsequently? Is it not taught: R. Judah says, A woman must not smear lime on her face on Mo'ed16 because it disfigures her; R, Judah, however, admits that if the lime can still be scraped off during Mo'ed, it may be applied on Mo'ed for though she is troubled by it for the while, it will eventually please her!17 — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: Leave alone the laws relating to [work permitted on] Mo'ed: they are all of the trouble now, pleasure later' kind.18 Rabina said: To an idolater, the matter of repayment is always irksome.
Our Mishnah is not in accord with [the opinion of] R. Joshua b. Karha. For it is taught: R. Joshua b. Karha says, A loan made against a document, should not be recovered from them,19 but a loan made against the word of mouth may be recovered from them, since it is, as it were, rescued from their hands.20
R. Joseph was sitting behind R. Abba while R. Abba was sitting facing R. Huna who, as he was sitting [and lecturing], stated: [In one instance] the halachah21 is to be decided according to R. Joshua b. Karha and [in another] the halachah is according to R. Judah. The law [decided] according to R. Joshua is the one about which we have just spoken; that according to R. Judah refers to what we learnt:22 If one gives wool to a dyer to be dyed red and he dyed it black, or to be dyed black and he dyed it red,
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