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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 64a

but we may uproot them1  together with him in order to reduce what is improper!2  They maintained that the statement [that uprooting is permitted] was [even according to] R. Akiba who said: He who helps to preserve mixed plantings3  is liable to the punishment of lashes; for it has been taught: He who weeds or covers mixed plantings with soil is liable to the punishment of lashes; R. Akiba says: Also he who helps to preserve them. What is R. Akiba's reason? — Scripture stated, Thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed4  — I have here mention only of sowing; whence is it [that the prohibition applies also to] preserving them? There is a text to state, Not … with a diverse kind,5  so [deduce from this that] if the purpose is to reduce what is improper it is permitted!6  — No, we have here [not the opinion of R. Akiba but] of the Rabbis.7  If, however, it is the opinion of the Rabbis, why specify 'We may uproot them,' since their teaching holds good even with the preservation of the plants!8  — With what circumstance are we dealing here? When, e.g., he worked for nothing,9  and it is in accord with the teaching of R. Judah who said: It is forbidden to make them a free gift.10  [But nevertheless] from R. Judah's statement can we not infer what is R. Akiba's view: R. Judah having declared that it is forbidden to make them a free gift, but it is all right for the purpose of reducing what is improper;11  similarly with R. Akiba, although he declared that he who preserves [mixed plantings] is liable to the punishment of lashes, it is all right for the purpose of reducing what is improper!12  There is nothing further to discuss on this subject. Again [while the afore-mentioned Rabbis] were sitting together the question was raised: How is it with the price of an idol in the possession of an idolater?13  Does [the prohibition] affect the money which is in the possession of an idolater or not? — R. Nahman said to them: The more probable view is that the price of an idol in the possession of an idolater is permitted, [as may be seen from the incident where some would-be proselytes] came before Rabbah b. Abbahu and he told them, 'Go and sell all your possessions and then come to be converted.'14  What was his reason? Was it not because he held that the price of an idol in the possession of an idolater is permitted!15  But perhaps it is different in this latter circumstance, because having the intention of becoming a proselyte each of them must surely have annulled [his idolatrous objects]!16  — Rather may [support for R. Nahman's view be obtained] from this teaching: If an Israelite has a claim for a maneh against an idolater and the latter sold an idol or yen nesek and brought him the proceeds, [the money] is permitted to him; but if [the idolater] said, 'Wait until I sell an idol or yen nesek and I will bring you the proceeds,' it is prohibited.17

What is the difference between the two circumstances [that one is permitted and the other not]? — R. Shesheth said: The latter [is prohibited] because [the Israelite] then wishes [the idol] to be preserved.18  But is it prohibited if he wishes it to be preserved under such conditions? For behold we have learnt: If a proselyte and an idolater inherited from their father who was an idolater, the proselyte can say to the other, 'You take the idol and I the money; you take the yen nesek and I the fruits';19  but after [the inherited objects] have come into the possession of the proselyte it is forbidden [to make such a proposition]!20  — Raba b. 'Ulla said: This Mishnah refers to an idol which can be divided according to its pieces.21  Granted that this is so with an idol, but what is there to say with yen nesek!22  — [It refers to wine preserved] in hadrianic earthenware.23  But is he not desirous of their preservation that they should not be stolen or lost! — Then R. Papa said: [You cite a passage that] treats of the inheritance of a proselyte!24  It is different with a proselyte's inheritance in connection with which the Rabbis took a lenient view from fear that he might relapse into his error.25

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Even for payment.
  2. Here, too, the Jew must long for the preservation of the forbidden plantings so that he may be hired to uproot them.
  3. By putting up a hedge around them.
  4. Lev. XIX, 19.
  5. The verse in Lev. is lit.: 'Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind, thou shalt not sow thy field with a diverse kind.' Since the two laws are not connected by 'and', they are united for the purpose of exposition, and the second clause is interpreted as implying that not only may a field not be sown with two kinds of seeds but a mixed planting which had already taken place there must not be allowed to remain.
  6. Although it is in his interests that they should be cultivated since he would have employment. [This is what led them to maintain that the author of the Baraitha permitting uprooting could also be R. Akiba.]
  7. Who are unconcerned about the man's interest in the preservation of the mixed plantings in order to earn money from their eradication. [As regards idolatry, however, they would agree that it is forbidden to accept payment where it involves the wish to preserve idolatry.]
  8. Therefore the quoted teaching cannot be the Rabbis'; and since it is found to agree neither with them nor R. Akiba, it must be re-interpreted, and this is done to make it accord with the Rabbis.
  9. The regulation 'we may uproot them' does not refer to paid labour.
  10. It is accordingly forbidden for a Jew to give his services free to an idolater (v. supra 20a) and yet where the effect is to reduce what is improper it is permitted.
  11. As, e.g., uprooting mixed plantings.
  12. And R. Nahman who permits the breaking of a cask of yen nesek finds support in this Baraitha, whoever the author of it may be.
  13. If an idolater sold an idol to another idolater, may a Jew have dealings with him for that money?
  14. If they become converts first, their idolatrous objects could not be annulled and the proceeds used by them or by Jews generally.
  15. This supports R. Nahman.
  16. And then they could be sold and the money used.
  17. Tosef. A.Z. VIII. This supports R. Nahman.
  18. So that it may be sold and he receive the proceeds.
  19. The proselyte then hopes for their preservation, so that he may have his share; and yet this is permitted.
  20. Dem. VI, 10.
  21. E.g., a golden image which is broken up and the metal shared between them, because the proselyte would have no objection to the idol being destroyed.
  22. The proselyte would be anxious that the jars containing it should not be broken.
  23. V. supra 32a. In this case there is no anxiety about the jar being broken.
  24. This is an exceptional circumstance; consequently nothing can be deduced from it in connection with the subject under discussion.
  25. If he lost his inheritance through a strict interpretation of Jewish law.
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‘Abodah Zarah 64b

There is a teaching to the same effect: This only applies when they inherit, but in a case of partnership1  it is prohibited.

Then again [the afore-mentioned Rabbis] were sitting together and the question was raised: Can a ger toshab2  annul an idol? Must a worshipper annul it so that a non-worshipper cannot, or perhaps anybody who belongs to them3  can annul it and he belongs to them? — R. Nahman said to them: The more probable view is that a worshipper must annul it and a non-worshipper cannot. Against this is quoted: If an Israelite found an idol in a public place, before it comes into his possession he may ask an idolater to annul it, but after it comes into his possession he may not ask an idolater to annul it because [the Rabbis] declared: An idolater can annul the idol belonging to himself or to another idolater whether he worships or does not worship it.4  What means 'he worships it' and what means 'he does not worship it'? If I say that in either case it refers to an idolater, then it is identical with 'belonging to himself or to another idolater'! Must we not then suppose that the subject of 'worships' is an idolater and of 'does not worship' a ger toshab, and deduce from it that a ger toshab can also annul? — No; I can always tell you that in either case it refers to an idolater, and when it is argued that it is then identical with 'belonging to himself or to another idolater,'[the reply I make is] that in the first clause it means when each of them [worships] Peor or each [worships] Mercurius,5  whereas in the second clause it means when one [worships] Peor and the other [worships] Mercurius.6

Against this is quoted: 'Who is a ger toshab? Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself in the presence of three haberim7  not to worship idols. Such is the statement of R. Meir; but the Sages declare: Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself the seven precepts8  which the sons of Noah undertook; and still others maintain: These do not come within the category of a ger toshab; but who is a ger toshab? A proselyte who eats of animals not ritually slaughtered, i.e., he took upon himself to observe all the precepts mentioned in the Torah apart from the prohibition of [eating the flesh of] animals not ritually slaughtered. We may leave such a man alone with wine,9  but we may not deposit wine in his charge even in a city where the majority of residents are Israelites.10  We may, however, leave him alone with wine even in a city where the majority of residents are heathens; and his oil is like his wine.' How can it enter your mind to say that his oil is like his wine; can oil become nesek!11  [The wording must be amended to] his wine is like his oil,12  but in every other respect he is like a heathen.13  Rabban Simeon says: His wine is yen nesek. Another version [of Rabban Simeon's statement] is: 'It is allowed to be drunk [by Israelites].' At all events it teaches that 'in every other respect he is like a heathen.' For what practical purpose [is this mentioned]? Is it not that he can annul an idol in the same manner as an idolater?14  — R. Nahman b. Isaac said: No; it is in connection with his power to transfer or renounce ownership;15  as it has been taught: An apostate Israelite who publicly observes the Sabbath16  may renounce his ownership, but if he does not observe the Sabbath publicly he may not renounce his ownership because [the Rabbis] said: An Israelite may transfer or renounce his ownership, whereas with a heathen this can only be done by renting [his property]. In what way? — [One Israelite] can say to [another Israelite], 'My ownership is acquired by you; my ownership is renounced in your favour,' and the latter has thereby acquired [the property]17  without the necessity of a formal assignment.

Rab Judah sent a present

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Between a proselyte and a heathen. In that case the proselyte may not derive benefit from an idol or yen nesek.
  2. Lit., 'proselyte-settler,' i.e., a Gentile who renounces idolatry to become a settler in Palestine. V. the next paragraph for a discussion of the term.
  3. I.e., are non-Jews whether actual idolaters or not.
  4. Tosef. A.Z. VI.
  5. Each worships a separate idol of the same deity; only then can one annul the idol of the other.
  6. Even then one can annul the other's idol although he himself does not worship it.
  7. V. Glos. s.v. Haber.
  8. V. supra p. 5, n. 7.
  9. Without its being disqualified as yen nesek. This is not allowed with a heathen.
  10. [For fear that he might erroneously exchange it with his wine, which is forbidden.]
  11. [Rashi omits the word 'wine' in our edd.]
  12. I.e., just as his oil may be used by Jews so his wine may be used by them, though not for drinking purposes.
  13. Because he had not submitted to the two conditions of a proselyte vis., circumcision and immersion.
  14. This contradicts R. Nahman.
  15. Of a piece of land to combine it with the property of a Jew for the purpose of uniting them to enable an article to be carried from one place to another within that area on the Sabbath.
  16. Whatever he may do in private. The fact that he observes it publicly indicates that his Jewish sensibility has not been completely suppressed.
  17. By the mere declaration, without the purchase money having been first paid.
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