Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six



Mishnah six discusses idols which have been abandoned by those who previously worshipped them.  The question is, can we assume that the worshipper has annulled the idol by abandoning it and it is therefore permitted to the Jew.


Mishnah Six

1)                     An idol which its worshippers abandoned in time of peace is permitted,

2)                     in time of war it is prohibited.

3)                     Pedestals of kings are permitted because they set them up at the time the kings pass by.



Section one:  If an idolater abandoned his idol in time of peace the idol is permitted since we can assume that the idolater has no intention of returning to worship the idol.  For instance if Maximus the idolater decides to move from Jaffa to Caesarea and he leaves his idols behind, he has shown that he doesn’t intend to worship them anymore.  However, if Maximus the idolater flees his home during a war and in distress leaves his idols behind, he may intend to return and worship them when the war is over.  Therefore they are not considered to be annulled. 

Section two:  Pedestals which were set up on the sides of roads to place upon them idols when kings pass by are not forbidden to Jews, since they are only temporarily used by the kings.  During other times, when normal people pass them by, they do not worship these pedestals.

The mishnah connects these two issues because the pedestals are like idols that have been abandoned by their owners. When the kings are not there these idols are “abandoned”. 


Questions for Further Thought:

What is the difference between the type of annulment reflected in this mishnah and that reflected in the previous mishnah?