Avodah Zarah

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)                     On the three days preceding the festivals of idolaters, it is forbidden to conduct business with them, to lend articles to them or borrow from them, to lend or borrow any money from them, to repay a debt, or receive repayment from them. a)                                           Rabbi […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah is a continuation of the mishnah we learned yesterday, which stated that it is forbidden to conduct transactions with non-Jews three days before their festivals, lest they offer sacrifices or libations to their gods for their transactions with Jews.   Mishnah Two              1)                     Rabbi Ishmael […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three delineates which idolatrous holidays are referred to in the previous two mishnayoth.   Mishnah Three 1)                     These are the festivities of the idolaters:  Kalenda,  Saturnalia,   Kratesis, the anniversary of accession to the throne and birthdays and anniversaries of deaths, according to Rabbi Meir. 2)                     But […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah provides some exceptions to the prohibition of conducting business with non-Jews during their festivals.   Mishnah Four 1)                     When an idolatrous [festival] takes place within a city it is permitted [to conduct business with non-Jews] outside it. a)                                           If the idolatrous [festival] takes place outside […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah begins a somewhat new topic:  things which are forbidden to sell to idolaters at all times of the year and not just during their holidays, lest these things be used in idol worship.  Again, it is not only forbidden to worship idols, but it is […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah discusses the prohibition of a Jew from selling animals to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews use them for work on the Sabbath.   Mishnah Six 1)                     In a place where it is the custom to sell small domesticated animals to non-Jews, such sale is permitted; but […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah teaches that one is forbidden to assist a non-Jew in any way that may injure the public.                                             Mishnah Seven 1)                     One should not sell them bears, lions or anything which may injure the public. 2)                     One should not join them in building a […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss things that should not be sold to non-Jews.  The first section lists things that shouldn’t be sold lest they be used for idolatrous purposes.  The remainder of the mishnah discusses land and things attached to the land.  These should not be sold […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Avodah Zarah, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the previous mishnah, which discussed selling and letting houses to idolaters.   Mishnah Nine 1)                     Even in such a place where the letting of a house has been permitted, they did not say [that this was permitted if it was] for […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

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 […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the discussion which began in the previous mishnah.  It continues to discuss prohibitions that are a result of the Jewish suspicion that non-Jews are murderers.   Mishnah Two 1)                     We may allow them to heal us when the healing relates to money, […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah lists things that belong to non-Jews that may not be used by Jews, for fear that the Jew will be using something that has previously been used in idol worship.    Mishnah Three 1)                     The following things belonging to non-Jews are forbidden [for Jews to […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains three disputes between Rabbi Meir and the Sages with regards to the prohibitions of certain foods once owned by non-Jews.  In each case Rabbi Meir is more strict.    Mishnah Four 1)                     Skin-bottles or flasks of non-Jews in which wine of a Jew is […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah contains a discussion between Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Joshua concerning the prohibition of non-Jewish cheese.    Mishnah Five 1)                     Rabbi Judah said: Rabbi Ishmael put this question to Rabbi Joshua as they were walking on the way, “Why have they forbidden the cheese of non-Jews?” […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction 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 […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah lists food produced by non-Jews which a Jew is allowed to eat.   Mishnah Seven The following are permitted to be eaten [by an israelite]: 1)                     milk which a non-Jew milked with a Jew watching him; 2)                     honey, 3)                     grape-clusters  — even though these secrete […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction According to Deuteronomy 7:25-26 it is forbidden for a Jew to derive any benefit from idolatrous images.  Our mishnah defines which images made by non-Jews are idolatrous and therefore forbidden and which are made merely as adornments, and are therefore permitted.   Mishnah One 1)                     All images […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Our mishnah asks how does one annul an asherah in order to make it permitted for Jews to use.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     How does one annul [an asherah]? a)                                 If [a pagan] pruned or trimmed it, removing from it a stick or twig or even a […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah discusses the permissibility of broken pieces of potentially idolatrous images.   Mishnah Two 1)                     One who finds fragments of images, behold they are permitted. a)                                 If one found the figure of a hand or the figure of a foot, behold it is prohibited because such […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses what one must do with things that he found that are likely to have been used as idols.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If one finds utensils upon which is the figure of the sun or moon or a dragon, he casts them into the […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains a famous story of a discussion between Proclos, a Greek philosopher and Rabban Gamaliel, the Jewish patriarch.    Mishnah Four 1)                     Proclos, son of a plosphos, asked Rabban Gamaliel in Acco when the latter was bathing in the bathhouse of aphrodite.  2)                     He said […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah discusses hills, mountains and trees which were used in idolatrous worship.  The question is asked, are these to be forbidden as were other material items used in idol worship.    Mishnah Five 1)                     If idolaters worship mountains and hills these are permitted;  but what is […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six deals with two subjects: 1)  a person who lives adjacent to an idolatrous shrine; 2) the ritual impurity of idolatrous objects.    Mishnah Six 1)                     If [a Jew] has a house next to an idolatrous shrine and it collapsed, he is forbidden to rebuild it.   […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah discusses houses, stones and tree which were used in idolatrous ways and divides each of them into three different types.    Mishnah Seven 1)                     There are three types of shrines:   a)                                 A shrine originally built for idolatrous worship — behold this is prohibited.   b)                                 If […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah talks about using the space underneath the asherah tree. The question asked is: is using this space considered deriving benefit from idolatry and therefore forbidden?  Furthermore the mishnah discusses the purity of one who passes underneath the asherah tree.    Mishnah Eight 1)                     One may […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine discusses the prohibition from deriving benefit from the wood of an asherah tree.   Mishnah Nine 1)                     If one took pieces of wood from it [the asherah tree], they are forbidden to be used. a)                                 If he heated an oven with them— i)                                                       if it […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction In Sanhedrin 7:6 we learned that one who throws stones at a statue of merculis (the Roman god, mercury) is guilty of worshipping the idol, for that his how merculis is typically worshipped.  Our mishnah deals with the status of stones found next to the merculis statue.   […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah discusses different types of contact that a non-Jew may have with wine that may or may not make the wine into yen nesekh, which is forbidden to Jews.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     If a non-Jew was found standing by the side of a vat of […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah and the one that follows discuss wine owned by a non-Jew but produced by a Jew with the intent that the non-Jew will be able to sell it to the Jews, without it having the status of yen nesekh.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     If [an […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction The final mishnah in chapter four is a continuation of mishnah eleven.  It continues to discuss a Jew who makes wine that belongs to a non-Jew, with the intent of the Jew purchasing it.   Mishnah Twelve 1)                     If [a Jew] prepares a non-Jew’s wine in a […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two continues to discuss items that are found in proximity to the mercurius idol, and whether or not these items are assumed to have been used in idolatrous worship and therefore prohibited.   Mishnah Two 1)                     If he found on top [of a mercurius] a coins […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

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 […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first part of mishnah four discusses when an idol becomes prohibited from being used by a Jew.  The second half of the mishnah discusses when an idol that was once worshipped becomes “annulled” as an idol and thereby permitted to be used by a Jew.  Note […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five discusses how a non-Jew can annul an idol.    Mishnah Five 1)                     How does he annul it? a)                                 If he cut off the tip of its ear, the tip of its nose, or the tip of its finger; or if he defaced it, although there […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction 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 […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah contains a fascinating discussion between the Sages of Rome and some idolaters. Note the different style of this mishnah.  Although most mishnayoth contain brief halakhic (legal) discussions, occasionally the Mishnah does contain aggadic (philosophic) material.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     They asked the elders in Rome, […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In chapter two, mishnah three, we learned that Jews may not drink wine touched by non-Jews, lest they had used the wine as a libation.  The remainder of tractate Avodah Zarah will deal with the prohibition of non-Jewish wine.  Our mishnah defines at what point in the […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah discusses what actions a Jew may or may not do to help a non-Jew in the winemaking process.  The second and third sections of the mishnah discuss helping ritually impure winemakers and bakers.  These sections are only brought into our tractate due to their similarity […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah discusses a non-Jew who hires a Jew to work with him in the transportation of yen neskekh.    Mishnah One 1)                     If [a non-Jew] hires [a Jewish] workman to assist him in [the transportation of] yen nesekh, his wage is prohibited. a)                                 If he hired […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 10

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah returns to the discussion of yen nesekh that falls into a larger quantity of permitted wine.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     If yen nesekh fell into a vat, the whole of it is prohibited for use. 2)                     Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: the whole of it […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 11

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction In the time of the mishnah wine presses were sealed with pitch.  A little bit of wine was put into the pitch in order to prevent the smell of the pitch from ruining the taste of the wine made in the wine press.  Our mishnah discusses a […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 12

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah discusses how a Jew can make usable cooking utensils that were purchased from a non-Jew.  Since the non-Jew surely used these utensils to cook unkosher products, the utensils must be “kashered”.   Mishnah Twelve 1)                     If [a Jew] purchases cooking-utensils from a non-Jew, those which […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two discusses yen nesekh that falls on other food items.  The question is whether or not this causes the food to become prohibited.   Mishnah Two 1)                     If yen nesekh fell upon grapes, one may rinse them and they are permitted, but if they were split […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses a Jew who was carrying wine from one place to another with a non-Jew. The question is, are we suspicious that the non-Jew touched the wine, and that it is therefore forbidden.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If a non-Jew was transporting jars of wine […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of the previous mishnah.  In it we learn of two more situations in which a Jew leaves casks of wine with a non-Jew and we must decide whether or not the non-Jew is suspected of having opened the cask and removed […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah discusses a Jew who leaves a non-Jew sitting as a guest at his table.  The question is what wine can we assume the non-Jew touched, and is therefore prohibited.    Mishnah Five 1)                     If [a Jew] was eating with [a non-Jew] at a table and […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah discusses the permissibility of wine that was in a city when a band of non-Jewish marauders enter.   Mishnah Six 1)                     If a band of non-Jewish marauders entered a city in a time of peace, the open casks are prohibited and the sealed are permitted; […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The first two sections of this mishnah discuss situations in which a Jew is considered as selling yen nesekh, which therefore means that the proceeds from the sale are prohibited. The second two sections deal with situations in which a Jew is selling his wine to a […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah deals with the halachic topic of a forbidden substance becoming mixed with a permitted substance.  The question is how much of the forbidden substance must be in the mixture for the entire mixture to become forbidden.   Mishnah Eight 1)                     Yen nesekh is prohibited and […]

Avodah Zarah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Avodah Zarah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah contains a list of things that are prohibited and if even the smallest quantity of them is mixed up with a similar looking permitted item, the entire mixture is forbidden.  The difference between this mishnah and the previous one is that here we are dealing […]

Introduction to Avodah Zarah

Introduction to Avodah Zarah   “Avodah Zarah” is the Hebrew word for idolatry.  It literally means “foreign worship”.  The Tractate Avodah Zarah discusses the prohibition of Jews from using objects that non-Jews may have used while worshipping idols.  The central idea is that once an object has been used in idol worship the object is […]

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