Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six



This mishnah lists things that were made by non-Jews which Jews may not eat but from which they may derive benefit.


Mishnah Six

The following articles of non-Jews are prohibited but the prohibition does not extend to deriving benefit from them:  

1.                     milk which a non-Jew milked without an israelite watching him,

2.                     their bread and oil (Rabbi and his court permitted the oil) —

3.                     stewed and pickled things into which they are accustomed to put wine or vinegar,

4.                     pickled herring which had been minced,  

5.                     brine in which there is no kalbith-fish floating,

6.                     helek,  

7.                     pieces of asa foetida

8.                     and sal-conditum.  

Behold these are prohibited but the prohibition does not extend to deriving benefit from them.



Mishnah three began with a list of things owned by a non-Jew from which it was prohibited to derive benefit.  This is a more stringent legal category than food which is merely prohibited to eat, the list which is contained in our mishnah.  We will explain each item in this mishnah and why it is forbidden to eat.

1)                  Milk—if the non-Jew milked an animal without a Jew watching, he may have mixed into the milk, milk which comes from an non-kosher animal, such as a camel.

2)                  Bread and oil—this prohibition is not due to a fear of the bread or oil being truly non-kosher.  Rather the Sages prohibited a Jew from eating non-Jewish bread or oil in order to prevent Jews from socializing with non-Jews. The Talmud relates that it is permitted to eat bread made by bakers (as opposed to private individuals) since that will not bring Jews and non-Jews together.  The mishnah notes, in what is surely a later addition, that Rabbi and his court permitted Jews to consume non-Jewish oil.  The “Rabbi” referred to here is Rabbi Judah Nesia, the grandson of Rabbi Judah the Prince who composed the Mishnah.  The reason, according to the Talmud, that they permitted the oil is that most people were not observing the prohibition.  From here we learn that a “decree” of the Sages that is not accepted by the people does not become law.

3)                  Stewed and pickled things which might have wine or vinegar in them.  These are forbidden because of the wine, which we learned in mishnah three is forbidden.

4)                  Pickled herring, which had been minced.  The concern is that the non-Jew added in non-kosher fish.  Since the fish is minced one would not be able to recognize what was in it.

5)                  Brine in which there is no kalbith-fish floating—According to the Talmud brine which has only kosher fish will always have a “kalbith” fish.  The absence of this type of fish is a potential sign that it also contains non-kosher fish.

6)                  Hilek—this is a type of fish that does not have fins and scales until it is older.  When it is young it may be mistaken for truly non-kosher fish, and therefore it may not be eaten.  

7)                  Pieces of asa-foetida:  This is a spicy tasting plant that needs to be cut with a sharp knife.  It is prohibited lest the same knife used to cut it had previously been used to cut the meat of non-kosher animals.

8)                   Sal-conditum:  This is a type of spice-salt which had non-kosher oils (from pigs and non-kosher fish) mixed into it.  


Questions for Further Thought:

·                      What are the different types of reasons for the prohibitions listed in this mishnah?  What can this tell us about the attitudes of the Sages to the non-Jews?