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Avodah Zarah, Daf Het, Part 4
Reading for Wednesday
, August 9
Avodah Zarah 8-4

 

Introduction

Today’s sugya is about refraining from participating in the feasts of idolaters.

 

תניא רבי ישמעאל אומר ישראל שבחוצה לארץ עובדי עבודת כוכבים בטהרה הן. כיצד? עובד כוכבים שעשה משתה לבנו וזימן כל היהודים שבעירו אע”פ שאוכלין משלהן ושותין משלהן ושמש שלהן עומד לפניהם מעלה עליהם הכתוב כאילו אכלו מזבחי מתים שנאמר (שמות לד, טו) וקרא לך ואכלת מזבחו.

 

It was taught: R. Ishmael says: Israelites who reside outside of Israel are idol worshippers in purity. How so? An idolater gives a banquet for his son and invites all the Jews in his town. Even though they eat of their own and drink of their own and their own attendant waits on them, Scripture treats them as if they had eaten of the sacrifices to dead idols, as it is said, “And he will call you and you will eat of his sacrifice” (Exodus 34:15).

 

Simply living outside of Israel forces Jews to participate in idol worship, even if they have no intent of doing so. This is, I think, one of the deeper sources expressing a severely negative attitude towards living outside of Israel. Even if the Jew attempts to live a life of “purity” and not to eat the food of others, it is as if he is eating sacrifices to the dead.

 

ואימא עד דאכיל? אמר רבא אם כן נימא קרא ואכלת מזבחו מאי וקרא לך משעת קריאה.

 

But why not say that this is not true till he actually eats?

Rava said: If that were so, the verse would have only said, “And you shall eat of his sacrifice”; what does it mean, “And he will call you”? From the time he calls you.

 

The Talmud asks a strong question—why has the Jew transgressed just because the idolater calls him to the meal? Why not say that he has transgressed only if he actually eats of the sacrifice? Rava reads this out of the verse, which says “and he will call you.” But I think that there is more than a midrash at work here. There is a deeper statement—even if the Jew does not actually transgress, the fact that he lives in an idolatrous environment, in a place where idolaters will be inviting him to participate in their celebratory meals, is already a ticket to transgression.

 

הלכך כל תלתין יומין בין א”ל מחמת הלולא ובין לא א”ל מחמת הלולא אסור.

מכאן ואילך אי א”ל מחמת הלולא אסור ואי לא אמר ליה מחמת הלולא שרי.

וכי א”ל מחמת הלולא עד אימת?

אמר רב פפא עד תריסר ירחי שתא

ומעיקרא מאימת אסור? אמר רב פפא משמיה דרבא מכי רמו שערי באסינתי.

 

Hence during the entire thirty days [following a marriage celebration] whether he said to him that he was inviting him because of the banquet or not it is forbidden.

From that time onward, if he invited him because of the marriage, it is forbidden, but if not, it is permitted.

And if he said that the invitation is because of the marriage, until when is it prohibited?

Papa said: For twelve months.

And from the outset when is it prohibited?

Papa said in the name of Rava: From the time when the barley is placed in the tub.

 

This piece outlines when a Jew can accept the invitation from the idolater. When do we assume that the invite was part of the wedding celebration, in which case it is prohibited? And when can we assume that it is safe? The prohibition of participating in the meal begins from the time that the barley was thrown into the tub, in order to make beer.

We should note that this same exact sugya appears in Ketubot concerning reciting the special wedding blessings (today called the sheva berachot) When do we recite the special blessings and when do we not? That was probably the original context of this material.

 

ולבתר תריסר ירחי שתא שרי

והא רב יצחק בריה דרב משרשיא איקלע לבי ההוא עובד כוכבים לבתר תריסר ירחי שתא ושמעיה דאודי ופירש ולא אכל

שאני רב יצחק בריה דרב משרשיא דאדם חשוב הוא:

 

And after twelve months is it permitted? But did not R. Yitzchak the son of R. Mesharsheya, come to the house of a certain idolater more than a year after a marriage, and hear that they were thanking their gods and he refused to eat!

Yitzchak the son of R. Mesharsheya is different, for he is an important man.

 

The Talmud questions whether it is actually permitted to join such a feast after twelve months. R. Yitzchak heard them thanking their gods more than 12 months after the wedding and he refused to participate in the meal. But the Talmud resolves the issue by saying that he was an unusual case. An important person, a role model, should be even more stringent in avoiding such situations. But for a normal person, 12 months is long enough to wait.

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