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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
GEMARA. What is IZTROBLIN? — Pine-wood.1 But this is contradicted [by the following teaching]: 'To these2 have been added Alexandrian nuts, iztroblin, moxasin3 and bnoth-shuah.' Now were you to suggest that iztroblin is pine-wood, has pine-wood anything to do with the Sabbatical Year? Has it not been taught:4 This is the general rule: Everything which has a [perennial] root is subject to the laws of the Sabbatical Year5 but anything that has no such root is not subject to the law of the Sabbatical Year. R. Safra then said: It means fruit of the cedar. So also when Rabin came [from Palestine] he said in the name of R. Eleazar [It means] fruit of the cedar.6
BNOT-SHUAH. Said Raba b. Bar-Hana in the name of R. Johanan, White figs.7
STEMS. Said Raba b. Bar-Hana 'with their stems' is what the Mishnah intended to teach.8
FRANKINCENSE. Said R. Isaac in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish, that is clear-frankincense. A Tanna taught:9 But of any of these a parcel may be sold.10 And how much is a parcel? — R. Judah b. Bathyra explained, A parcel is no less than three manehs.11
But we surely ought to fear lest he goes and sells it to others who will burn it [before idols]? — Said Abaye; We should be particular not to [place a stumbling-block] before [the blind]12 but we need not be so particular as to avoid placing it before one who may place it before the blind.
AND A WHITE COCK. Said R. Jonah in the name of R. Zera who said in the name of R. Zebid [Some report, 'Said R. Jonah in the name of R. Zera'): [If an idolater asks,] Who has a cock? it is permitted to sell him [even] a white cock, but if he asks, Who has a white cock? it is forbidden to sell him a white cock.
Our Mishnah states: R. JUDAH SAID: 'ONE MAY SELL HIM A WHITE COCK AMONGST [OTHER] COCKS.13 Now what are the circumstances? Shall we say that he was enquiring: Who hath a white cock, who hath a white cock? In that case it must not be sold to him even among others! It can only mean that he was enquiring: Who hath a cock, who hath a cock? and even then according to R. Judah a white one may be sold him only among others but not by itself, while according to the first Tanna it may not be sold even among others!14 — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: The case dealt with in our Mishnah is of one asking for various kinds.15
It has been taught likewise:16 Said R. Judah: Only if he asks for 'this [white] cock' [it must not be sold to him], but if he asks for this and another one it is permitted [to sell both together]; and even when he asks for 'this [white] cock', if the idolater is giving a banquet for his son, or if he has a sick person in his house, [its sale] is permitted.17
But have we not learnt: 'If an idolater gives a banquet for his son the prohibition [of selling] applies to that day and that man alone', so that as regards that day and that man the prohibition does apply!18 Said R. Isaac son of R. Mesharsheya: Our statement refers to an ordinary party.19
We have learnt: AS FOR OTHER THINGS, IF THEY ARE NOT SPECIFIED THEIR SALE IS PERMITTED, BUT IF SPECIFIED IT IS FORBIDDEN. Now what is meant by 'specified' and by 'unspecified'? Shall we say that 'unspecified' means if he asks [for example] for white wheat, and 'specified' if he states that [he requires it] for idolatry?
‘Abodah Zarah 14bIn that case it is neither necessary to state that the unspecified may be sold,1 nor is it necessary to state that the specified must not be sold!2 We must then say that 'unspecified' means if he asks for [say], wheat, [which is permitted] and 'specified' when he asks for white wheat, [which is forbidden]; and this would imply that in the case of a cock it is forbidden even when unspecified!3 — [No.] We may say, indeed, that 'unspecified' is when he asks for white wheat, and 'specified' is when he states [that it is required] for idolatry; yet it is necessary to state that the 'specified' is forbidden: we might think that that man does not really require it for idolatry; only being very much attached to idolatry, he thinks that all people are likewise attached to it; [he therefore thinks to himself] let me say thus, so that they might readily give it to me; it is therefore necessary to state [that its sale is forbidden].
R. Ashi propounded: [If he asks,] 'Who has a mutilated white cock?' may one sell him a white cock without blemish? Do we say since he asks for a mutilated one, he does not require it for the idols, or perhaps he is merely acting cunningly? And if you should say that this one is acting cunningly, [what if one enquires,] 'Who has a white cock? Who has a white cock?' and when a black one is given to him he accepts it or when a red one is given to him he accepts it, may a white one be sold to him? Do we say, since when he was given a black one or a red one he accepted it, it is proved that he does not require one for idolatry, or perhaps he is merely acting cunningly? This stands undecided.
R. MEIR SAYS, ALSO A GOOD-PALM etc. Said R. Hisda to Abimi: There is a tradition that the [tractate] ‘Abodah Zarah of our father Abraham consisted of four hundred chapters; we have only learnt five, yet we do not know what we are saying. And what difficulty is there? The Mishnah states that R. MEIR SAYS: ALSO A GOODPALM', HAZAB AND NIKOLAUS ARE FORBIDDEN TO BE SOLD TO IDOLATERS [which implies that] it is only a 'good-palm' that we must not sell but a 'bad-palm' we may sell, yet we have learnt:4 One may not sell to them anything that is attached to the soil! He replied: What is meant by 'good-palm' is the fruit of a 'good-palm'. And so also said R. Huna: The fruit of a good-palm. HAZAB is the species of dates called Kishba. As to NIKOLAUS, when R. Dimi came5 he said in the name of R. Hama b. Joseph that it is kuirati.6 Said Abaye to R. Dimi: We learn 'nikolaus, and do not know what it is, so you tell us it is 'kuriati' which we do not know either, where then have you benefited us? — Said he: I have benefited you this much: were you to go to Palestine and say 'nikolaus'7 no one would know what it is; but if you say 'kuriati' they will know and will show it to you.
MISHNAH. IN A PLACE WHERE IT IS THE CUSTOM TO SELL SMALL CATTLE TO IDOLATERS, SUCH SALE IS PERMITTED; BUT WHERE THE CUSTOM IS NOT TO SELL, SUCH SALE IS NOT PERMITTED.8 IN NO PLACE HOWEVER IS IT PERMITTED TO SELL BIG CATTLE, CALVES OR FOALS, WHETHER WHOLE OR MAIMED.9 R. JUDAH PERMITS IN THE CASE OF A MAIMED ONE10 AND BEN BATHYRA PERMITS IN THE CASE OF A HORSE.11
GEMARA. Are we to take it that there is no actual prohibition, but that it is only a matter of custom; so that where the usage is to prohibit, it is to be followed, and where the usage is to permit it is to be followed? But this is in conflict with the following [Mishnah]: One should not place cattle in inns kept by heathen, because they are suspected of immoral practices!12 — Said Rab: In places where it is permitted to sell, it is permitted to leave them together alone, but where leaving them together alone is forbidden [by usage] the sale is also forbidden.13
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