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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 46a

R. Akiba said to him: But has it not been already stated, Ye shall surely destroy? If so, why is there a text to state, And ye shall destroy their name out of that place? — [Its purpose is to teach that] an idol must be renamed. It is possible to think [it may be renamed] for praise.1  Can it enter your mind [that the renaming] is for praise? But it is possible to think [that the renaming may be] neither for praise nor contempt; therefore there is a text to state, Thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it.2  How is it, then? If [the heathens] called it Beth Galya [house of revelation], call it Beth Karya [house of concealment]; if they called it 'En Kol [the all-seeing eye], call it 'En Koz [the eye of a thorn].

A tanna recited as follows in the presence of R. Shesheth: If idolaters worship mountains and hills, these latter are permissible but the worshippers [should be destroyed] with the sword; [if they worshipped] plants and herbage, these latter are prohibited but the worshippers [should be destroyed] with the sword. [R. Shesheth] said to him: Who tells you that? It must be R. Jose son of R. Judah who declared: A tree which had been planted and was subsequently worshipped is prohibited. But let [R. Shesheth] apply [the statement reported by the tanna] to a tree which had been planted for idolatry at the outset and [make it agree with the view of] the Rabbis! — This cannot enter your mind, because it states the analogy of a mountain: as with a mountain it was not planted for idolatry at the outset, so with this also it was not planted for idolatry at the outset.

It has been stated: If boulders become detached from a mountain, the sons of R. Hiyya and R. Johanan [take different views];3  one says that they are prohibited and the other that they are permitted. What is the reason of him who says they are permitted? — [The boulders are] like the mountain; and as the mountain is something with which no manual labour has been connected and is permitted, so these likewise have had no manual labour connected with them and are permitted. [But it may be argued] that a mountain is immovable!4  — The case of an animal will prove [the contrary].5  [Here again it may be argued] that an animal [is only permitted] because it is an animate being! — The case of a mountain proves [the contrary].6  Therefore the conclusion returns,7  because the two examples8  are dissimilar; but the point common to them both is that with neither has there been any manual labour and each is permitted. Consequently everything is permitted with which there has been no manual labour.

[But it may be argued that] the point common to them both is that they have not changed from their natural form!9  — [Well then, derive that a boulder is permitted by] an analogy drawn between an animal which has become blemished and a mountain;10  or [it may be drawn] also between an unblemished animal and a withered tree.11  As for him who prohibits [the boulders], it is because Scripture declares, Thou shalt utterly detest it, and that, shalt utterly abhor it — although it is possible to reason to the conclusion that they are permitted, yet do not draw that conclusion.12

It can be proved that it is the sons of R. Hiyya13  who permit their use; because Hezekiah asked: How is it if a man set up an egg to worship it? This question must be understood in the sense that the man had the intention of worshipping it and did worship it; and the point of [Hezekiah's] query is whether the setting up of the egg is to be considered an action14  or not. Consequently [his opinion must be that] if the man had not set it up, it is not prohibited [to be used].15  Conclude, therefore, that it was the sons of R. Hiyya who permitted [the use of the boulders]! — No; I can always maintain that it was the sons of R. Hiyya who prohibited their use, because if the man worshipped [the egg], even though he had not set it up,16  it would be prohibited [according to their view]; and the circumstance with which we are dealing here is where he set up an egg to worship but did not worship it. Now according to whom [is the question of its permissibility to be decided]? If according to him who says that the idolatrous object of an Israelite is prohibited forthwith, then it is prohibited;17  if according to him who says [that such an object is not prohibited] until it has been actually worshipped, behold the man has not worshipped it!17  — No;18  but it is necessary [to suppose the following case]: If he, e.g., set up an egg to worship but did not do so, and an idolater came and worshipped it [is it permitted] regard being had to what Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel:19  If an Israelite set up a brick to worship [but did not do so] and an idolater came and worshipped it, it is prohibited. And [Hezekiah] asked thus the question: [Does he specify] a brick because its erection is conspicuous, but the law is otherwise with an egg;20  or perhaps there is no difference? — The question remains unanswered.

Rami b. Hama asked: If a man worshipped a mountain, may its stones be used to build an altar [to God]?21

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., to give it a better-sounding name.
  2. Ibid. VII, 26.
  3. As to whether they may be used, the mountain had been worshipped.
  4. And a boulder is not fixed in the ground and therefore the two are not comparable, with the consequence that a boulder should not be permitted.
  5. Since it is not fixed in the ground; and yet, if it had been worshipped, it may be put to a secular use.
  6. Because it is inanimate and yet permitted.
  7. To what was stated at first, viz., the boulders are permitted.
  8. The mountain and the animal.
  9. And for that reason an animal or mountain is permitted; but this is not so with a boulder because it is now a movable object and should therefore be prohibited.
  10. If the animal, while unblemished, was worshipped, it may be used later if it became blemished. Therefore the criterion of not having changed its form cannot apply to the boulder.
  11. The latter, despite the change it has undergone in its condition, is permitted solely on the ground that the existence thereof, like that of the beast, is not due to human action.
  12. In order to carry out the strict law of Scripture and only allow what the Torah expressly permits. Therefore that reason must apply also to a boulder.
  13. Their names were Judah and Hezekiah.
  14. I.e., the effect of human labour.
  15. So it all depended upon whether there had been manual labour, and the same criterion applies to the boulders.
  16. And so there had been no manual labour. Consequently the illustrations of the boulder and egg are not analogous.
  17. And what was the point of Hezekiah's query?
  18. It is agreed that Hezekiah asked his question on the view of the one who holds that the idolatrous object of an Israelite must first be worshipped before it is prohibited.
  19. Infra 53b; the reading is 'Rab'.
  20. Since it is a small object.
  21. Is it analogous to an animal which has been worshipped? It cannot be offered to God but may be used by man.
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‘Abodah Zarah 46b

Does the law prohibiting the use in the divine Service of objects which have been worshipped apply to things fixed in the ground or does it not? And if you decide that this law does apply to things fixed in the ground, are objects necessary for the preparation of a sacrifice1  analogous to the sacrifice or not?2  — Raba said: It is an a fortiori conclusion: if the hire of a harlot is usable for secular purposes when it is an object which is not fixed in the ground, but is prohibited in the divine Service when it is an object fixed in the ground3  (as it is written, Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot, or the wages of a dog4  — consequently it is immaterial [with the divine Service] whether it is not fixed in the ground or is fixed), how much more must a worshipped object, whose use for secular purposes is prohibited when it is not fixed, be prohibited in the divine Service when it is fixed! R. Huna the son of R. Joshua said to Raba: The reverse conclusion may be deduced, thus: If a worshipped object may not be used for secular purposes when unfixed but is permitted in the divine Service when fixed (as it is said, Their gods upon the high mountains, not the mountains which are their gods — consequently it is immaterial whether it is for secular use or for the divine Service), how much more must the hire of a harlot which is usable for secular purposes when it is unfixed be permissible in the divine Service when it is fixed! And if [you would argue that this conclusion is inadmissible] because of the words, into the house of the Lord thy God,5  they are required in accordance with this teaching: Into the house of the Lord thy God excludes a [red] heifer which does not enter the Sanctuary6  — such is the statement of R. Eliezer; but the Sages say: Their purpose is to include plates of beaten gold.7

[Raba] replied to [R. Huna]: I reason from the lenient to the strict view and you reason from the strict to the lenient view; and the rule is that where it is possible to reason to both conclusions we argue to the strict view. R. Papa said to Raba: But is it a fact that where it is possible to reason to both conclusions we never argue to the lenient view? Behold there is the example of the sprinkling in connection with the Passover8  on which R. Eliezer and R. Akiba differ; for R. Eliezer holds the strict view and makes the man liable [to bring the Paschal lamb] and R. Akiba holds the lenient view and absolves him.9  And still R. Akiba argues for the lenient conclusion; for we have learnt: R. Akiba said: Rather conclude the reverse: if the sprinkling which is only (forbidden on the Sabbath] on account of shebuth10  does not supersede the Sabbath, how much more must the act of slaughtering [the Paschal lamb which is a form of work prohibited] by the Torah not [supersede the Sabbath]!11  — [No;] in that matter R. Eliezer had himself taught him,12  but had forgotten his own teaching; so R. Akiba came and reminded him of it. That is why [R. Akiba] said to him, 'My master! do not make me an atonement in the time of judgment!13  Thus have I received the teaching from you: Sprinkling [is prohibited] on account of shebuth and it does not supersede the Sabbath.'14

Rami b. Hama asked: How is it if a man had worshipped standing-corn [in a field]; may it be subsequently used for meal-offerings? Does a change in form15  (make permissible] what had been used for idolatrous worship or does it not have that effect? — Mar Zutra son of R. Nahman said: Come and hear: In cases where [animals] are prohibited from being offered upon the altar, their young are permissible for that purpose;16  and in this connection it was taught that R. Eliezer forbids [the young as offerings].17  But was it not stated on that subject; R. Nahman said in the name of Rabbah b. Abbahu:18  The difference of opinion is over the circumstance where the animals had been unnaturally used and had then conceived,

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. As, e.g., the altar.
  2. If they are, then they cannot be used in the divine Service.
  3. Suppose he gave her a house, it may not be sold and the proceeds used for the purposes of the Sanctuary.
  4. Deut. XXIII, 19.
  5. Ibid.
  6. V. Num. XIX, 3. The red heifer was burnt outside the camp and only its ashes were used in the Sanctuary. Therefore the woman's hire may be used to purchase the animal.
  7. To decorate the walls of the Temple. These may not be purchased from her hire (Tosef. Par, I).
  8. I.e., a man had become defiled through contact with a dead body, and his seventh day, when he should be sprinkled with the water of purification occurred on the eve of Passover. If that day is the Sabbath, is the purification to be postponed?
  9. And they both employ the a fortiori argument. V. Pes. VI, 2.
  10. V. Glos.
  11. [Whereas R. Eliezer had previously argued to the effect that sprinkling supersedes the Sabbath.]
  12. Viz., R. Akiba, that in such a circumstance the sprinkling is forbidden on the Sabbath.
  13. I.e., do not say to me that my death be an atonement for my sins (v. Pes. 69a). In other words, do not show anger against me for contradicting your argument.
  14. In this illustration R. Akiba only employed his argument to refute his master's mistaken teaching. We have not, therefore, a genuine case against the rule quoted by Raba.
  15. The corn being now ground into flour.
  16. So by analogy the flour should be permitted.
  17. Hence the query propounded by Rami is a point of issue between Tannaim.
  18. Rashi corrects the text to: Raba said in the name of R. Nahman. In the parallel passage (Tem. 30b) the reading is: R. Huna b. Hinnena said in the name of R. Nahman.
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