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Avodah Zarah, 12


OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses actions that one is prohibited from doing because those actions resemble forms of idol worship. One of these actions involves drinking water that comes from the mouth of a statue. Idolaters would build water fountains in the shape of statues, with water coming out of the mouth of the statue. The Gemara says that a person is not allowed to place his mouth on the mouth of the statues in the cities in order to drink the water, because it appears as though he is kissing the Avodah Zarah. The Gemara does not specify whether this prohibition applies to statues which themselves are used for Avodah Zarah, or whether it applies even to ordinary water fountain statues.
(a) The RIF, ROSH, and TUR (YD 150) record the prohibition of the Gemara without specifying that the fountain itself must be one which is used for Avodah Zarah.

According to this opinion, though, why does the Gemara specifically say this Halachah with regard to statues in the cities? The TAZ answers that it seems that the Gemara is giving a stringency by mentioning statues in the city, for such statues are commonly built merely for beauty and not for Avodah Zarah. (In contrast, statues in villages were usually built for idol worship; see SHULCHAN ARUCH YD 141:1, based on the Mishnah on 44b). The Gemara is telling us that one may not drink from statues even in the cities.

(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 3:8), SEMAG, and SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 150:3) specify that this prohibition pertains only to fountains which are situated in front of an Avodah Zarah. (Obviously, it applies as well when the statue itself is an idol.) The BACH cites a proof to this opinion. Our Gemara discusses three other cases: crouching in front of an Avodah Zarah in order to remove a thorn, picking up money in front of an Avodah Zarah, and drinking from a stream which lies in front of an Avodah Zarah. After explaining the necessity to mention all three cases, the Gemara asks why do we also need the case of the water fountain. RASHI (12b, DH Partzufos) explains that from the case of the stream we already see that even when someone is very thirsty he is not allowed to drink from that water, and thus what more can the case of the water fountain be teaching us? The Gemara answers that this case was said merely to introduce the next part of the Beraisa.

According to the opinion that the prohibition applies even when the statue is *not* in front of Avodah Zarah, why does the Gemara say that there is no intrinsic novelty in this case? This case *is* unique in that it forbids drinking from the fountain even when there is no Avodah Zarah present, unlike the other cases! It must be that this prohibition applies only when the fountain is in front of an Avodah Zarah.

HALACHAH: The Bach concludes that the Halachic opinion is that of the Rambam, and as recorded by the Shulchan Aruch. However, he maintains that someone who is stringent upon himself and does not drink from any water fountain statue will receive a blessing. This is also the opinion of the SHACH. The TAZ also writes that one should be stringent and follow the opinion of the Tur. However, he seems to say that it is more than just a stringency, but that it is the Halachah, but he does not explain why. Perhaps his reasoning is that of the Bach in his Hagahos to the Rif, where the Bach points out that since there are many Rishonim who prohibit drinking from such a fountain even when it is not used for Avodah Zarah, and since our Gemara does not mention that the statue must be in front of an Avodah Zarah, the Halachah would seem to follow the view of the Tur. (Y. Montrose)
OPINIONS: The Beraisa lists several actions that one is prohibited from doing because those actions resemble forms of idol worship. These actions are: crouching in front of an Avodah Zarah in order to remove a thorn, picking up money in front of an Avodah Zarah, and drinking from a stream which lies in front of an Avodah Zarah. The Gemara states that if the Beraisa had not taught us the law in the case of the stream, we might have thought that it is permitted to drink from the stream in front of an Avodah Zarah when not drinking will endanger his life. The Beraisa is teaching that it is nevertheless prohibited.

We know that the sin of Avodah Zarah is one of three sins for which a Jew must die in order not to transgress. The Gemara here seems to be saying that one must die even in order to avoid transgressing "Mar'is ha'Ayin" (doing a permitted action which appears to be an act of transgression) of Avodah Zarah. Is this true?

(a) The RASHBA, TUR (YD 150) and others state that the simple understanding of the Gemara is that indeed one must sacrifice his life in order not to do even an act of "Mar'is ha'Ayin" of Avodah Zarah. This also appears to be the intention of RASHI (DH Aval). The BI'UR HA'GRA (ibid.) cites another proof to this opinion. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (75a) discusses a case in which a man became sick from his lust for a woman. The doctors said that he would recover even if she would consent merely to talk to him from behind a wall. The Rabanan rule in such a case that it is better for the man to die than to have the woman talk with him. There are two opinions there regarding the status of the woman; one opinion states that she was married, and the other states that she was single. The Gemara states that according to the opinion that she was married, we can understand the ruling that it is better that he die than have her talk with him (since she is an Eshes Ish and would fall into the category of the Isur of Arayos, one of the categories of transgression for which a person must die in order to avoid transgressing). The Vilna Ga'on asks why is that opinion, that she was married, any more understandable than the opinion that she was single? According to the Ramban and many others, the prohibition there would only have been an Isur d'Rabanan! Why, then, should the man be left to die? It must be that even for a Rabbinic prohibition (in one of the three categories of sins of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor"), the rule that one must die and not transgress applies. Likewise, one must die and not transgress the Rabbinic prohibition of "Mar'is ha'Ayin" of Avodah Zarah.

(b) The RAN also writes that this is the straightforward meaning of the Gemara, but he qualifies that the requirement to die and not transgress does not apply in all cases of "Mar'is ha'Ayin," but only in certain cases. In the case of drinking from a stream, where the person looks as though he is bowing down to the Avodah Zarah, one is required to give up his life and not transgress "Mar'is ha'Ayin" of Avodah Zarah. However, in cases of "Mar'is ha'Ayin" where the person's act does not appear to be such a blatant act of idol worship (for example, travelling to a city in which there happens to be an idolatrous festival being celebrated), a person is not required to give up his life.

(c) However, the Ran seems to conclude that even the case of drinking from a stream in front of an Avodah Zarah is not a case of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor." How, though, does the Ran understand the Gemara? He understands that the Gemara is saying that even though the person is very thirsty and might *possibly* die before he finds water, he is still not allowed to drink the water. However, if he *knows* that he will not find any other water and that he will certainly die, then he is allowed to drink the water. He quotes this opinion as the opinion of RABEINU ASHER. This opinion is also cited by the REMA (YD 150:3).

The MEKOR MAYIM CHAYIM (ibid.) explains how the Ran will answer the proof of the Vilna Ga'on. In the case in Sanhedrin, the person was interested in doing more than just talking to the woman. The Chachamim said that, in general, a man should not talk in such a context to a married woman since it might lead to an actual transgression of Giluy Arayos. The case here is totally different, as the person involved has absolutely no interest in doing the actual sin of Avodah Zarah. Therefore, the Chachamim did not include this act in the category of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor." (Y. Montrose)


QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that one should not do business in a city of Avodah Zarah with a store that is decorated in honor of the Avodah Zarah. The Gemara explains that the decorations to which the Mishnah refers are myrtle branches and roses, which have a pleasant, enjoyable aroma. RASHI (DH d'Ka) explains that since the idol worshippers would normally spread these decorations in front of their Avodah Zarah, it is forbidden to derive any benefit from them. However, if the store is decorated only with fruit, then one may do business there. This is derived from the verse written with regard to the property of the inhabitants of an Ir ha'Nidachas (an entire city that served Avodah Zarah), "v'Lo Yidbak b'Yadcha Me'umah Min ha'Cherem" -- "Nothing shall remain in your hand from the banned property" (Devarim 13:18), which teaches that only deriving benefit is forbidden, and not giving benefit (by doing business with an idolater).

The Gemara later (29b), however, says that the prohibition to derive benefit from these items is learned from the verse, "And they ate from the sacrifices of the dead (referring to idols)" (Tehilim 106:28). Just as it is prohibited to derive benefit from the corpse of a dead person, it is prohibited to derive benefit from things brought to idols.

Which verse is the real source for this prohibition?


(a) TOSFOS (DH "Ela") maintains that the verse, "v'Lo Yidbak," is the source for the Torah prohibition against deriving benefit from objects offered to or used for Avodah Zarah. Tosfos explains that although smell is usually not considered a form of forbidden pleasure, it *is* forbidden when the primary purpose of the object is to provide a pleasurable smell. Even when the primary purpose of the object is not its smell, it still should be prohibited, on some level, to smell an object used for Avodah Zarah. This is because the Gemara in Pesachim (24b) states only that one does not receive Malkus for transgressing a prohibition in an abnormal fashion (such as by smelling an object that is normally not used for its smell); the act, though, might still be prohibited.

Furthermore, Tosfos states, Avodah Zarah might be like certain other prohibitions which are exceptions to the rule in that Malkus is administered even when transgressed in an abnormal manner. Tosfos explains that the Torah does not mention the act of eating with regard to Avodah Zarah at all; eating is mentioned with regard to Avodah Zarah only in Tehilim, as quoted above. Since the Torah does not mention the specific act of eating with regard to the prohibition of Avodah Zarah, it is reasonable to suggest that any form of pleasure is prohibited.

The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 7:2) explicitly states that the verse, "v'Lo Yidbak," is the source for the prohibition, together with the verse, "v'Lo Savi So'evah El Baisecha" -- "You shall not bring an abomination into your house" (Devarim 7:26).

REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in GILYON HASHAS) asks a very strong question on the words of Tosfos. Tosfos writes that since the act of eating is not mentioned in the Torah with regard to the prohibition of Avodah Zarah, the prohibition of deriving benefit from objects used for Avodah Zarah might be an exception to the general rule that one transgresses a prohibition only when he performs the act in the normal manner. Rebbi Akiva Eiger asks that the words of Tosfos would make sense if the Isur of deriving benefit from objects used for Avodah Zarah would be written in the Torah with no mention of the act of eating. However, there is *no* mention of this Isur in the Torah! Although we know that it is a Torah prohibition, the only verse that teaches this Isur is in Tehilim!

What does Rebbi Akiva Eiger mean to ask? The Gemara itself states that this Isur is derived from the verse, "v'Lo Yidbak," which is in the Torah and not in Tehilim! Apparently, Rebbi Akiva Eiger understands that it is obvious that the source is the verse in Tehilim that the Gemara later cites, and *not* the verse that the Gemara here cites. Rebbi Akiva Eiger (in Likutim, end of DERUSH V'CHIDUSH, vol. 2) also asks this question on the words of the Rambam.

(b) The RAMBAN (to SEFER HA'MITZVOS #194) argues that the verse of "v'Lo Yidbak" cannot be prohibiting objects brought to Avodah Zarah. The verse says, "Nothing shall remain in your hand from the banned property (Min ha'Cherem)." The "Cherem" refers specifically to Avodah Zarah itself, and not to objects offered to Avodah Zarah.

This also seems to be the view of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, who rejects Tosfos' assertion that the Isur is written in a verse in the Torah, as we mentioned above.

(The CHAZON ISH answers the difficulty regarding the word "Cherem" according to the Rambam. He explains that while the word usually refers to Avodah Zarah itself (i.e. the actual idol), it is also used to refer even to objects that are brought to Avodah Zarah, as we see from the verses that the Gemara quotes later.)

If, however, the verse of "v'Lo Yidbak" is not teaching the prohibition to derive benefit from objects used for Avodah Zarah, then why does the Gemara here cite this verse at all?

The KEHILOS YAKOV (Avodah Zarah 6:2) answers that according to the Ramban and Rebbi Akiva Eiger, by quoting the verse of "v'Lo Yidbak" the Gemara is not teaching the source for the prohibition of benefiting from objects that were used for Avodah Zarah. Rather, the Gemara is showing that one is *permitted* to shop in a store (decorated with fruit, as opposed to myrtle branches and roses) owned by an idolater, even though he is thereby giving indirect support to Avodah Zarah. The verse that prohibits taking objects of Avodah Zarah only discusses *taking* such things, and it does not discuss indirectly supporting Avodah Zarah. (Y. Montrose)

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