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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
R. Simeon b. Lakish asked: How is it if a man had worshipped a palm-tree, may its branch be used for the fulfilment of the commandment?6 If it was a tree originally planted for idolatry the question does not arise, because it is prohibited even for secular use; but the question does arise with a tree which had been planted and subsequently worshipped. Now according to the view of R. Jose son of R. Judah,7 [even then] the question does not arise because it is prohibited by him even for secular use; but the question does arise according to the view of the Rabbis.8 How, then, is [the branch] to be regarded in connection with the fulfilment of a commandment; is it to be rejected in the divine Service or not? — When R. Dimi came9 he said: [R. Simeon b. Lakish] asked the question in connection with an Asherah10 which had been annulled: Does a disability continue in respect of commandments or not?11 — You can solve this problem from what we have learnt: If one covered it,12 and it became uncovered,13 he is free from the obligation to cover it again; but if the wind covered it,14 he is obliged to cover it himself. And Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: This teaching only applies when the wind again uncovered it,15 but if the wind did not again uncover it, he is free from the obligation to cover it. And we raised the question against this point of view: If the wind again uncovered it, what of it?16 Since [the blood] has been obliterated [by the covering], it is obliterated [once for all]! Thereupon R. Papa said: This proves that a disability does not continue in respect of commandments.17 But there is a question in connection with this very statement of R. Papa, viz., Is it quite clear to R. Papa that disability does not continue in respect of commandments either to take a lenient18 or strict19 view; or perhaps he is doubtful; and we apply [accordingly] this rule to the strict view only and not to the lenient?20 — The question remains unanswered.
R. Papa asked: How is it if a man worshipped an animal; may its wool be used for blue thread? 'Blue thread' for what purpose? If it is for the blue material of the priests' [garments], that is dealt with in the question of Rami b. Hama!21 If it is for the blue thread of the zizith,22 that is dealt with in the question of R. Simeon b. Lakish!23 — Quite so, there was no need [for R. Papa] to ask about this; but the reason why he raised the question is because there are other similar matters [about which he asked, viz.]: May its wool be used for blue thread, its horns for trumpets, the bones of its legs for flutes, its intestines for harp-strings?24 According to him, who says that the basis of [Temple-] music is in the instrument, the question does not arise because these are certainly prohibited; but the question does arise according to him who says that the basis of [Temple-] music is in the mouth. Is, then, the purpose [of the instrument] only to sweeten the sound25 and we may introduce them [when made of these materials], or perhaps even then it is prohibited? — The question remains unanswered.
Rabbah asked: How is it if a man worshipped a fountain; may its water be used for the drink-offerings? What is the point of his question? Is it whether the man worshipped his reflection [in the water],26 or perhaps he worshipped the water itself?27 He could, then, have put the same question about a bowl of water and its use for secular purposes!28 — Certainly [it is assumed] that he worshipped the water; and this is the point of his question: Did he worship the water which was in front of him and that water has flowed away,29 or did he worship the whole stream of water? But can [water which has been worshipped] be prohibited at all; for behold R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Jehozedek: Water which is public property is not prohibited [if an individual worshipped it]! — No, it was necessary [to ask the question] where it is water which wells up front the earth.30
MISHNAH. IF [AN ISRAELITE] HAS A HOUSE ADJOINING AN IDOLATROUS SHRINE AND IT COLLAPSED, HE IS FORBIDDEN TO REBUILD IT.31 HOW SHOULD HE ACT? HE WITHDRAWS A DISTANCE OF FOUR CUBITS INTO HIS OWN GROUND AND THERE BUILDS. [IF THE WALL] BELONGED BOTH TO HIM AND THE SHRINE, IT IS JUDGED
‘Abodah Zarah 47bAS BEING HALF AND HALF.1 ITS STONES, TIMBER AND RUBBISH DEFILE LIKE A CREEPING THING,2 AS IT IS SAID, THOU SHALT UTTERLY DETEST IT;3 R. AKIBA SAYS: [IT DEFILES] LIKE A NIDDAH,4 AS IT IS SAID, THOU SHALT CAST THEM AWAY AS AN UNCLEAN THING, THOU SHALT SAY UNTO IT, GET THEE HENCE.5 AS A NIDDAH DEFILES [AN OBJECT] BY CARRYING IT, SO ALSO AN IDOLATROUS OBJECT DEFILES BY ITS BEING CARRIED.
GEMARA. [But by acting as directed in the Mishnah], he enlarges the space for the shrine! — R. Hanina of Sura said: He should use [the four cubits] for constructing a privy. But it is necessary to safeguard modesty!6 — He should make a privy for use at night. But behold a Master has said: Who is modest? He who relieves himself at night in the same place where he relieves himself by day!7 And although we explain that [in that statement] the phrase 'in the same place' is to be understood as 'in the same manner,'8 still it is necessary to safeguard modesty! — He should, then, make [a privy] for children; or let him fence in the space with thorns and shrubs.9
MISHNAH. THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF SHRINES:10 A SHRINE ORIGINALLY BUILT FOR IDOLATROUS WORSHIP — BEHOLD THIS IS PROHIBITED.11 IF A MAN PLASTERED AND TILED [AN ORDINARY HOUSE] FOR IDOLATRY AND RENOVATED IT, ONE MAY REMOVE THE RENOVATIONS.12 IF HE HAD ONLY BROUGHT AN IDOL INTO IT AND TAKEN IT OUT AGAIN, [THE HOUSE] IS PERMITTED.13
GEMARA. Rab said: If one worshipped a house, he has rendered It prohibited. Conclude, then, that he holds that an object which is not fixed in the ground and subsequently becomes fixed is like an unfixed object.14 But the Mishnah deals with a shrine built [originally for idolatry]!15 — [The prohibition applies to a shrine] built [originally for idolatry] although nobody has yet worshipped in it, and to one in which somebody worshipped although he had not built it.16 If that be so, the three types [mentioned in the Mishnah] should be four!17 — Since the reference is to the subject of annulment,18 the erection [of a shrine] and worshipping there are considered one and the same thing.
MISHNAH. THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF [IDOLATROUS] STONES:19 A STONE WHICH A MAN HEWED ORIGINALLY TO SERVE AS A PEDESTAL [FOR AN IDOL] — BEHOLD THIS IS PROHIBITED. IF A MAN [MERELY] PLASTERED AND STUCCOED [A STONE] FOR IDOLATRY, ONE MAY REMOVE THE PLASTER AND STUCCO, AND IT IS THEN PERMITTED. IF HE SET AN IDOL UPON IT AND TOOK IT OFF, BEHOLD [THE STONE] IS PERMITTED.
GEMARA. R. Animi said: [It is only prohibited] if he plastered and stuccoed in the stone itself.20 But surely it is, as we learn, analogous to a house; and21 in the case of a house [the plastering] was not inserted into the material and yet it is prohibited!22 — Also with the house there is [that kind of plastering] in the space between the bricks. [Since, however, the Mishnah does not mention this,] may we not be dealing with the circumstance where he plastered [a house not for idolatry] and then re-plastered it [for idolatry]?23 — Therefore, if R. Ammi's teaching is quoted it must be with reference to annulment,24 and although the man plastered and stuccoed in the stone itself, if he removes the renovation, it is all right — For25 what you might have said was that since he plastered and stuccoed in the material of the stone, it is analogous to a stone which had been originally hewn for idolatry and the whole of it is prohibited. He consequently informs us [that it is not so].
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