Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three

 

Introduction

Mishnah three discusses a garden or bathhouse that is in the courtyard of an idolatrous shrine. 

 

Mishnah Three

1)                     If an idolatrous shrine has a garden or bathhouse, one may use either so long as it is not to the advantage [of the idolaters],  

a)                                 But one may not use either if it is to its advantage.

2)                     If [the garden or bathhouse] belonged jointly to it and to others, one may use them whether it be to the advantage [of idolatry] or not.

 

Explanation

If an idolatrous shrine has a garden or bathhouse in its courtyard, there are certain circumstances in which the garden or bathhouse may nevertheless be used.  First of all one may always use them as long as one doesn’t give any advantage to the idolaters.  This means that one could use the garden or bathhouse as long as he does not pay the idolatrous priests for such use.  Secondly, if the garden or bathhouse was jointly owned by the shrine a private individual, one could always use them, and even pay for their use.  Even though some of the money may go to the shrine, the Jew can consider the payment as going to the individual partner.

We should note that Maimonides explains that “to the advantage of” does not mean paying money as we explained above, but rather giving verbal recognition to the owners.  If the bathhouse or garden is jointly owned, one may give verbal advantage to the owners, and even to the idolatrous priests, however, according to Maimonides, one may not pay for the use. 

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