Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

This mishnah teaches that non-Jewish idol worshippers are suspected of several heinous sins:  bestiality, sexual licentiousness and murder.  This mishnah adopts a very harsh attitude towards the idolaters at the time.  We should remind ourselves that according to later Jewish law, non-Jews who did not engage in such practices were not subject to these laws. 

 

Mishnah One

1)                     One should not place animals in inns of non-Jews,  because they are suspected of bestiality.

2)                     A woman should not be alone with them, because they are suspected of licentiousness;

a)                                 Nor should a man be alone with them, because they are suspected of shedding blood.

3)                     A Jewish woman should not act as midwife to a non-Jewish woman, because she would be delivering a child for idolatry.

a)                                 But a non-Jewish woman may act as midwife to a Jewish woman.

4)                     A Jewish woman should not suckle the child of a non-Jewish woman,

a)                                 But a non-Jewish woman may suckle the child of a Jewish woman in her premises.

 

Explanation

Section one:  Non-Jewish idolaters are suspected of bestiality.  Therefore Jews should not place animals in their inns.  By doing so they would be encouraging the non-Jew to engage in bestiality, which according to Jewish ideology is also forbidden to non-Jews.  It is one of the seven “Noahide” commandments which are incumbent upon non-Jews to observe.

Section two:  Jewish women should not be alone with non-Jewish idolaters for they are suspected of being rapists.  Jewish men should not be alone with non-Jewish idolaters for they are suspected of being murderers.

Section three:  A Jewish woman should not act as midwife for a non-Jew for this would abet idol worship.  In the Talmud it is explained that this is only prohibited if the Jewish woman works for free.  If she is paid for her work it is permitted. 

A non-Jewish woman may act as a midwife for a Jewish woman.

Section four:  A Jewish woman may not act as a wet-nurse for a non-Jewish child.  This is for the same reason that she may not act as a midwife. 

A non-Jewish woman may be a wet-nurse to a Jewish child, provided she nurse the child on the premises of the Jewish family.  The Jewish family may not give over their child to the non-Jewish woman for fear that she will kill the child. 

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