THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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Avodah Zarah, 47
1) USING A "LULAV" FROM A TREE THAT WAS WORSHIPPED AS AVODAH ZARAH
QUESTION: Reish Lakish asks whether one may use a Lulav that was cut from a
palm tree that was worshipped as Avodah Zarah. Rav Dimi explains that his
question is whether the nullification (Bitul) of Avodah Zarah that occurs
when the Lulav is cut from the tree permits the Lulav to be used for a
Mitzvah or not. On one hand, it should be permitted because the Lulav is no
longer part of the Avodah Zarah. On the other hand, perhaps since it was
once unfit to be used for the Mitzvah, it remains unfit for the Mitzvah
(this is referred to as "Dichuy Etzel Mitzvos"). (The question of Reish
Lakish regarding "Dichuy" applies only if the Bitul of the Avodah Zarah was
done on Yom Tov, since the Lulav was not fit at the beginning of Sukos.
However, if the Bitul was done before Yom Tov, then the Lulav certainly may
be used for the Mitzvah. There is no question of "Dichuy" since the Lulav
was fit to be used from the time that the obligation to fulfill the Mitzvah
took effect. See TOSFOS DH Asheirah, and RASHI to Sukah 33b, DH Dichuy
The Gemara attempts to determine the Halachah based on a Mishnah (Chulin
87a) that discusses the Mitzvah of Kisuy ha'Dam. The Halachah is that if the
wind blew sand on top of the blood of a bird that was slaughtered, one is
not required to cover the blood more. However, if the blood later becomes
uncovered, then one becomes obligated to cover the blood with sand (since he
never did an act of covering the blood). We see from here that even though
the Mitzvah did not apply to the blood, nevertheless when the blood later
becomes uncovered, one is obligated to perform the Mitzvah. This shows that
there is no "Dichuy Etzel Mitzvos."
How can the Gemara compare using a Lulav that was once disqualified to
covering blood that was once covered? The Mitzvah of Kisuy ha'Dam is an
obligation upon the person; just because the blood was once covered does not
exempt the person from his obligation. Whenever the blood becomes uncovered,
he must fulfill his obligation. In contrast, there is no obligation to use
this particular Lulav for the Mitzvah. Therefore, this Lulav can be
disqualified permanently through Dichuy without exempting the person from
his obligation to hold a Lulav! In other words, Dichuy should be able to
disqualify an object from a Mitzvah, but it should not be able to exempt a
person from his obligation to perform a Mitzvah.
ANSWER: The ROSH (Moed Katan 3:96) writes that if a child becomes Bar
Mitzvah within thirty days of the passing of one of his parents, he is
obligated to observe the laws of mourning. The MAHARAM MI'ROTENBURG explains
that even though the child was a Katan when the Mitzvah took effect, we
apply the rule "Ein Dichuy Etzel Mitzvos" and obligate him in Avelus. The
Rosh disagrees and writes that the question of Avelus is not related to the
principle of "Ein Dichuy Etzel Mitzvos." "Ein Dichuy Etzel Mitzvos" applies
when the object that is to be used for a Mitzvah (or the animal that is to
be used as a Korban) becomes unfit, while the person's obligation is not
affected. However, if the person was not obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah at
the time that it took effect, then the person never becomes obligated to do
It is clear from the Rosh that the question of "Dichuy" with regard to
Mitzvos and Korbanos is a question involving the object that will be used
for the Mitzvah or the Korban, but it does not involve the person's
obligation. The obligation of the person depends exclusively on whether the
Mitzvah was applicable to him at the time that the circumstances for the
Mitzvah began. If he was not fit at that time, then he remains exempt, and
if it was fit, then he remains obligated.
According to this, the Gemara's discussion of Dichuy with regard to Kisuy
ha'Dam cannot be relating to the obligation of the Shochet to cover the
blood. Since the Mitzvah applied to him at the time of Shechitah, the
obligation should remain with him. The Gemara's discussion is whether or not
the blood which became unfit for the Mitzvah (because it was already covered
with sand) can return to its former obligation and have the Mitzvah apply to
it when it becomes uncovered. If there is Dichuy for Mitzvos, then the blood
should no longer be subject to the Mitzvah. Since covering other blood will
not fulfill the Mitzvah to cover this blood, and this blood is unfit for the
Mitzvah, the Shochet will not be required to cover the blood. Therefore, the
question of Dichuy with regard to Kisuy ha'Dam is comparable to the question
of Dichuy with regard to Lulav. In both cases the Gemara wants to know if an
object that became unfit for a Mitzvah can become fit once again. However,
with regard to Kisuy ha'Dam, if the object does not return to its former
state of being obligated for the Mitzvah, then the Shochet will
automatically be exempt from covering the blood (since there is no blood to
According to the Rosh, perhaps the logic of those who maintain that there is
Dichuy for Mitzvos is as follows. Just as an animal becomes sanctified when
it is designated to be brought as a Korban on the Mizbe'ach, in the same way
all other objects of Mitzvah become "sanctified," so to speak, at the time
that circumstances warrant the application of the Mitzvah. When a Korban
becomes unfit to be offered, it loses a certain degree of its sanctity, its
Kedushah. That Kedushah cannot be replaced, since it can only come at the
time that the animal is original designated and sanctified as a Korban. Once
the animal has already been sanctified, the owner cannot add sanctity to it.
This is why the Korban becomes permanently disqualified according to those
who maintain that there is Dichuy for a Korban. In the same manner, an
object can became "sanctified" for a Mitzvah only at the time that the
circumstances warrant the obligation of the Mitzvah. If the object at some
later point becomes unfit for the Mitzvah, it lessens the object's Kedushah
and it can no longer become fit for that Mitzvah. This is why there should
be Dichuy for a Mitzvah.
(The time at which a Lulav becomes sanctified for the Mitzvah is the evening
of the first day of Sukos (see Rashi to Sukah 33a, DH v'Lulav). Even though
the Mitzvah cannot be performed at night, this is not considered "Dichuy,"
since the Mitzvah is only "Mechusar Zeman," lacking the passage of time, and
not "Mechusar Ma'aseh," lacking a corrective act. See ARUCH LA'NER there.)
2) A HOUSE THAT IS WORSHIPPED
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah teaches that if a house was built originally for the
sake of being worshipped as an Avodah Zarah, the house is Asur b'Hana'ah.
The Gemara quotes Rav who teaches that when a person bows down to a house,
he causes it to become prohibited. The Gemara infers from Rav's statement
that if an object that was detached becomes attached to the ground, it is
still considered to be detached with regard to the laws of Avodah Zarah.
3) HALACHAH: CONVERTING A NOCHRI HOUSE OF WORSHIP INTO A SYNAGOGUE
This Gemara seems problematic. First, what difference does it make if the
house is attached or detached to the ground? What prevents something that is
attached ("Mechubar") to the ground, such as a mountain, from becoming
prohibited is the fact that it has no "Tefisas Yedei Adam" -- it was never
handled by human hands. For example, the Gemara earlier (46a) mentions that,
according to one opinion, if a stone breaks loose from a mountain on its
own, that stone does not become prohibited when it is worshipped, because
there is no human involvement in its creation (see Insights there).
Conversely, Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili (51a) teaches that trees become prohibited
when they are worshipped because they do have human involvement, "Tefisas
Yedei Adam!" Therefore, whether the house is considered "Talush" (detached)
or "Mechubar" (attached) should not be the subject of discussion; since the
house was built by human hands, it should be subject to the laws of Avodah
Zarah and it should be prohibited even if it is "Mechubar!"
Second, why does the Gemara infer that a house is considered detached from
the statement of Rav? Why does it not make that inference from the Mishnah,
which says that a house that was built for AZ becomes prohibited when
(a) TOSFOS (45b, DH v'Hacha) explains that according to the Rabanan who
argue with Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili and permit a tree that is worshipped, a tree
is not considered to have been handled by a person ("Tefisas Yedei Adam").
Since it takes root after the person placed it in the ground, its status
changes into a piece of the ground, and it is no longer considered a tree.
When it takes root, this negates any actions that were done to it while
before it was attached to the ground.
The Gemara is inferring from Rav's statement that the same does not apply to
a house. When bricks are attached to the ground, they do not become part of
the ground, thereby negating their "Tefisas Yedei Adam." Rather, they retain
their independent identity of bricks, and because of this the "Tefisas Yedei
Adam" that they had before they were attached to the ground still applies to
them now and will cause them to become prohibited when worshipped.
In the final analysis, what prohibits the bricks is not the fact that they
are considered detached, but the fact that they had "Tefisas Yedei Adam"
which still applies to them since their status has not changed into that of
Regarding our second question, the Gemara could not prove from the Mishnah
that something that was once detached and is now attached to the ground
still has the status of being detached, since, according to the Rabanan who
argue with Rebbi Yosi, a tree does not become prohibited when worshipped
after it is planted, but it does become prohibited if it is planted for the
sake of Avodah Zarah. Although a tree does not have "Tefisas Yedei Adam"
according to the Rabanan, there is a Gezeiras ha'Kasuv (45b) that says,
"va'Asherehem Tisrefun ba'Esh" (Devarim 12:3, which teaches that a tree
planted for the sake of Avodah Zarah becomes prohibited. The same verse
would teach that a house that was built to be served as an Avodah Zarah
would become prohibited even if it is considered Mechubar.
Rav, however, teaches, that the house becomes prohibited even if it was not
built for Avodah Zarah. From Rav's statement we can deduce that a house is
not considered Mechubar.
(b) RASHI seems to learn differently than Tosfos. Rashi (45b, DH Ilan, and
46a, DH u'me'Ilan Yavesh) writes that according to the Rabanan who argue
with Rebbi Yosi, if a tree was planted for Avodah Zarah it becomes
prohibited, because it is considered to have "Tefisas Yedei Adam." That is,
it is not prohibited because of a unique Gezeiras ha'Kasuv unrelated to the
laws of Mechubar, but rather it is prohibited because it is in the same
category of Talush, since it has "Tefisas Yedei Adam." We see from the
Gemara's discussion of the stones that became detached from the mountain
(46a) that according to those who permit stones that were detached, there is
no verse prohibiting any detached object that became worshipped. Rather, the
verse prohibits only objects that had "Tefisas Yedei Adam" that become
worshipped, since they are not similar to mountains (which are not
Rashi writes that according to the Rabanan, the only objects considered to
have "Tefisas Yedei Adam" are objects that were initially handled (or
planted) for the purpose of Avodah Zarah. The "Tefisas Yedei Adam" must be
for the sake of Avodah Zarah in order to prohibit the object. What, then, is
the source of our Gemara for teaching that an object which is detached, such
as a house, can become prohibited when it was worshipped after it was built?
Such a house was never handled for the purpose of Avodah Zarah, and thus we
should derive from the laws of mountains, animals, and trees, that such an
object does not become prohibited when worshipped!
This question is especially difficult since Rashi himself (ibid.) writes
that if a tree was replanted after it had already grown into a tree, it will
become prohibited when it is later worshipped, since it had "Tefisas Yedei
Adam" when it was replanted. Why does Rashi call the planting of a tree
"Tefisas Yedei Adam?" There is only one verse that teaches the principle of
"Tefisas Yedei Adam" (according to the way Rashi learns the verse), and that
is the verse which of "va'Asherehem Tisrefun ba'Esh" (Devarim 12:3)! If that
verse is teaching that a tree planted for Avodah Zarah is prohibited because
of "Tefisas Yedei Adam," then what is the source to consider a tree that was
planted after it was already grown to be "Tefisas Yedei Adam," when it was
not planted for the sake of being worshipped? On the other hand, if the
verse is prohibiting a tree that was planted when it was fully grown, then
what is the source to consider a tree planted as a seed to be "Tefisas Yedei
Adam" when it was planted for the purpose of Avodah Zarah?
Perhaps we may suggest that, indeed, these two descriptions that Rashi gives
for "Tefisas Yedei Adam" reflect two different, independent, and mutually
exclusive approaches to the Sugya. Originally, Rashi explained the Sugya in
one way, and later he retracted and chose another explanation, adding the
second one into his previously-written glosses while the original
explanation was not removed/ (See TOSFOS 45a, DH Eloheihem, who points out
that there were two conflicting versions of Rashi on the Mishnah.)
Originally, Rashi explained that the verse of "va'Asherehem Tisrefun"
teaches that an object is considered to have "Tefisas Yedei Adam" only if it
was handled for the sake of Avodah Zarah. According to that explanation, the
question regarding the stones that broke loose from a mountain would apply
to any object that was never handled for the purpose of Avodah Zarah. The
opinion that permits the stones would permit such objects. The opinion that
prohibits the stones maintains that we learn from a verse that all detached
objects become prohibited even if they are never handled by a person. (See
Rashi 46a, DH l'Hachi Kesiv.)
Accordingly, when Rav teaches that a house that was worshipped becomes
prohibited even though it was not handled for the sake of Avodah Zarah, Rav
must be following the opinion that prohibits stones that became detached
from a mountain that were worshipped. This, therefore, is what the Gemara
means when it infers from Rav's statement that a house is considered
detached. If the house would be considered attached, then it would be
permitted, just like a tree. However, since it is detached, we learn from a
verse that any detached object becomes Asur b'Hana'ah when worshipped. This
answers our first question regarding what difference it makes whether the
house is considered detached or attached.
This also answers our second question. We cannot infer from the Mishnah that
a house is considered detached, because the Mishnah is discussing a house
that was originally built for the sake of Avodah Zarah. Something that was
built or handled for the sake of Avodah Zarah becomes prohibited even if it
is attached, as we learn from the verse, "va'Asherehem Tisrefun."
Rashi later retracted this explanation and proposed a different explanation.
The Rabanan learn from "va'Asherehem Tisrefun" *not* that a seed planted for
the sake of Avodah Zarah is prohibited, but rather that a tree that was
planted when it was already a tree and was fit for worship becomes
prohibited. (This is what the Gemara means earlier (45b) when it says that
"va'Asherehem Tisrefun" prohibits a tree that was "originally planted for
this purpose [of Avodah Zarah];" it was fit to be served in the state in
which it existed at the time that it was planted.)
According to this explanation, it makes no difference whether a tree was
planted for the sake of Avodah Zarah or not. The only crucial question is
whether it was planted as a tree or as a seed.
(This also answers the questions that Tosfos asks on Rashi on 45b, DH
When a house is built, it is not attached to the ground fully built, but
rather it is built brick by brick. Therefore, it is comparable to a tree
that is planted as a seed. Why, then, should the house become prohibited if
it was worshipped after it was built? We must explain, as we mentioned
earlier, that Rav -- who prohibits the house -- maintains that stones which
were detached from the mountain but not handled by a person become
prohibited when worshipped, and only attached objects (or animals) remain
permitted when worshipped. This is what the Gemara means when it infers from
Rav that a house is considered a detached object -- because it becomes
prohibited when worshipped. This answers our first question.
Regarding our second question -- why did the Gemara not infer this from the
Mishnah -- we may suggest that had it not been for Rav's statement, we would
have learned that our Mishnah follows the opinion of Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili,
who considers even a tree planted from a seed to be "Tefisas Yedei Adam."
Rav, however, certainly rules like the Rabanan who argue with Rebbi Yosi
ha'Glili. When he prohibits a house that was worshipped, it can only be
because it is considered detached, and something detached is prohibited when
worshipped even when it was never handled by a person. Accordingly, the
prohibition of the Mishnah is also because a house is considered detached,
according to Rav. This might be why Rashi in Sanhedrin (47b, DH b'Kever
Binyan) writes that a house that was built for the purpose of Avodah Zarah
is prohibited because it was originally detached and thus is still
considered to be detached, and not because it was originally built for
Avodah Zarah (see BINYAN SHLOMO here).
(It must be noted that our explanation of the opinions of Rebbi Yosi
ha'Glili and the Rabanan follows the interpretation of the argument offered
by the Gemara earlier (45b). Later, however, the Gemara (48a) offers an
entirely different interpretation of their argument.)
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses whether an object that was attached to the
ground that was worshipped as Avodah Zarah may be used for purposes of
Hekdesh ("Gavoha"). The Gemara concludes that it is prohibited. In addition,
the Gemara states that a house, the stones of which were once detached from
the ground, is considered to be detached, and thus a house that was used for
idol-worship should be prohibited even for non-"Gavoha" purposes.
According to this, is it permitted to make a synagogue out of a house that
was used as a house of prayer by Nochrim?
(a) The MAGEN AVRAHAM (cited by the Mishnah Berurah OC 154:45) rules that it
is permitted to convert a Nochri house of worship into a synagogue. Since
the worshippers do not worship the house itself, the house itself is not an
object of Avodah Zarah and is not prohibited.
HALACHAH: The MISHNAH BERURAH concludes that the common practice is to be
lenient, like the Magen Avraham. RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN zt'l (Igros Moshe OC
1:49) agrees that the common practice is to rely on the ruling of the Magen
Avraham. However, he adds that when he is asked about converting such a
building into a synagogue in the first place, he advises against it, unless
the walls of the Nochri house of worship have been mostly destroyed and the
remainder needs significant remodeling, in which case it may be rebuilt and
designated as a synagogue.
(b) However, the Mishnah Berurah cites the ELIYAH RABAH who advises not to
make such a house into a permanent Beis ha'Kneses, presumably because it is
not respectful to pray to Hashem in a house that once served such a purpose.
The Mishnah Berurah adds that if the house of worship had hosted an idol,
then the Halachah is different. As he proves in the Bi'ur Halachah, a house
that hosted an idol is considered "Meshamshei Avodah Zarah," an object which
served the purpose of Avodah Zarah (as is evident from the Gemara earlier
(19b), regarding a person hired to build a house of worship). Therefore, it
will be prohibited to be used for "Gavoha" just like an Avodah Zarah itself
Why, then, does our Mishnah teach that if a house hosted an idol and the
idol was removed, the house is permitted? Since the house of worship no
longer has an idol when it is used as a Beis ha'Kneses, it should be
The answer to this question can be found in RASHI (DH Hichnis and DH
He'emid), who says that the Mishnah permits the house only if the idol was
housed there temporarily. If, however, the idol was placed therein order to
be worshipped on a permanent basis, then the house becomes "Meshamshei
Avodah Zarah" and is prohibited.
The RAN cites Rashi's approach to the Mishnah, and he adds that others
explain that the Mishnah might even be discussing a house that was used to
host an Avodah Zarah permanently. The reason why the house becomes permitted
with the removal of the idol is because when the Nochri removes the idol
from the house he is Mevatel the Avodah Zarah, thereby permitting the object
used as Avodah Zarah and all of the objects that serviced it.
Those who explain this way have a different Girsa in the Mishnah later
(48a). Their texts read that an Asheirah under which an Avodah Zarah was
placed becomes permitted when the idolater is "Mevatel" it (rather that when
he "removes" it, as our text reads). Apparently, according to this opinion
the Avodah Zarah was not simply removed from the house, but it was removed
from being worshipped as an Avodah Zarah permanently, in any place, and
therefore it is considered to have been nullified. The same would apply if
the Avodah Zarah inside the Nochri house of worship was removed permanently.
It would then become permitted to make the house into a Beis ha'Kneses, even
though it had housed an Avodah Zarah.