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Avodah Zarah, 12
1) HALACHAH: DRINKING WATER FROM A WATER FOUNTAIN STATUE
OPINIONS: The Gemara discusses actions that one is prohibited from doing
because those actions resemble forms of idol worship. One of these actions
involves drinking water that comes from the mouth of a statue. Idolaters
would build water fountains in the shape of statues, with water coming out
of the mouth of the statue. The Gemara says that a person is not allowed to
place his mouth on the mouth of the statues in the cities in order to drink
the water, because it appears as though he is kissing the Avodah Zarah. The
Gemara does not specify whether this prohibition applies to statues which
themselves are used for Avodah Zarah, or whether it applies even to ordinary
water fountain statues.
2) MUST ONE GIVE UP HIS LIFE FOR "MAR'IS HA'AYIN" OF IDOLATRY?
(a) The RIF, ROSH, and TUR (YD 150) record the prohibition of the Gemara
without specifying that the fountain itself must be one which is used for
HALACHAH: The Bach concludes that the Halachic opinion is that of the
Rambam, and as recorded by the Shulchan Aruch. However, he maintains that
someone who is stringent upon himself and does not drink from any water
fountain statue will receive a blessing. This is also the opinion of the
The TAZ also writes that one should be stringent and follow the opinion of
the Tur. However, he seems to say that it is more than just a stringency,
but that it is the Halachah, but he does not explain why. Perhaps his
reasoning is that of the Bach in his Hagahos to the Rif, where the Bach
points out that since there are many Rishonim who prohibit drinking from
such a fountain even when it is not used for Avodah Zarah, and since our
Gemara does not mention that the statue must be in front of an Avodah Zarah,
the Halachah would seem to follow the view of the Tur. (Y. Montrose)
According to this opinion, though, why does the Gemara specifically say this
Halachah with regard to statues in the cities? The TAZ answers that it seems
that the Gemara is giving a stringency by mentioning statues in the city,
for such statues are commonly built merely for beauty and not for Avodah
Zarah. (In contrast, statues in villages were usually built for idol
worship; see SHULCHAN ARUCH YD 141:1, based on the Mishnah on 44b). The
Gemara is telling us that one may not drink from statues even in the cities.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 3:8), SEMAG, and SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD
150:3) specify that this prohibition pertains only to fountains which are
situated in front of an Avodah Zarah. (Obviously, it applies as well when
the statue itself is an idol.)
The BACH cites a proof to this opinion. Our Gemara discusses three other
cases: crouching in front of an Avodah Zarah in order to remove a thorn,
picking up money in front of an Avodah Zarah, and drinking from a stream
which lies in front of an Avodah Zarah. After explaining the necessity to
mention all three cases, the Gemara asks why do we also need the case of the
water fountain. RASHI (12b, DH Partzufos) explains that from the case of the
stream we already see that even when someone is very thirsty he is not
allowed to drink from that water, and thus what more can the case of the
water fountain be teaching us? The Gemara answers that this case was said
merely to introduce the next part of the Beraisa.
According to the opinion that the prohibition applies even when the statue
is *not* in front of Avodah Zarah, why does the Gemara say that there is no
intrinsic novelty in this case? This case *is* unique in that it forbids
drinking from the fountain even when there is no Avodah Zarah present,
unlike the other cases! It must be that this prohibition applies only when
the fountain is in front of an Avodah Zarah.
OPINIONS: The Beraisa lists several actions that one is prohibited from
doing because those actions resemble forms of idol worship. These actions
are: crouching in front of an Avodah Zarah in order to remove a thorn,
picking up money in front of an Avodah Zarah, and drinking from a stream
which lies in front of an Avodah Zarah. The Gemara states that if the
Beraisa had not taught us the law in the case of the stream, we might have
thought that it is permitted to drink from the stream in front of an Avodah
Zarah when not drinking will endanger his life. The Beraisa is teaching that
it is nevertheless prohibited.
We know that the sin of Avodah Zarah is one of three sins for which a Jew
must die in order not to transgress. The Gemara here seems to be saying that
one must die even in order to avoid transgressing "Mar'is ha'Ayin" (doing a
permitted action which appears to be an act of transgression) of Avodah
Zarah. Is this true?
(a) The RASHBA, TUR (YD 150) and others state that the simple understanding
of the Gemara is that indeed one must sacrifice his life in order not to do
even an act of "Mar'is ha'Ayin" of Avodah Zarah. This also appears to be the
intention of RASHI (DH Aval).
The BI'UR HA'GRA (ibid.) cites another proof to this opinion. The Gemara in
Sanhedrin (75a) discusses a case in which a man became sick from his lust
for a woman. The doctors said that he would recover even if she would
consent merely to talk to him from behind a wall. The Rabanan rule in such a
case that it is better for the man to die than to have the woman talk with
him. There are two opinions there regarding the status of the woman; one
opinion states that she was married, and the other states that she was
single. The Gemara states that according to the opinion that she was
married, we can understand the ruling that it is better that he die than
have her talk with him (since she is an Eshes Ish and would fall into the
category of the Isur of Arayos, one of the categories of transgression for
which a person must die in order to avoid transgressing). The Vilna Ga'on
asks why is that opinion, that she was married, any more understandable than
the opinion that she was single? According to the Ramban and many others,
the prohibition there would only have been an Isur d'Rabanan! Why, then,
should the man be left to die? It must be that even for a Rabbinic
prohibition (in one of the three categories of sins of "Yehareg v'Al
Ya'avor"), the rule that one must die and not transgress applies. Likewise,
one must die and not transgress the Rabbinic prohibition of "Mar'is ha'Ayin"
of Avodah Zarah.
(b) The RAN also writes that this is the straightforward meaning of the
Gemara, but he qualifies that the requirement to die and not transgress does
not apply in all cases of "Mar'is ha'Ayin," but only in certain cases. In
the case of drinking from a stream, where the person looks as though he is
bowing down to the Avodah Zarah, one is required to give up his life and not
transgress "Mar'is ha'Ayin" of Avodah Zarah. However, in cases of "Mar'is
ha'Ayin" where the person's act does not appear to be such a blatant act of
idol worship (for example, travelling to a city in which there happens to be
an idolatrous festival being celebrated), a person is not required to give
up his life.
(c) However, the Ran seems to conclude that even the case of drinking from a
stream in front of an Avodah Zarah is not a case of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor."
How, though, does the Ran understand the Gemara? He understands that the
Gemara is saying that even though the person is very thirsty and might
*possibly* die before he finds water, he is still not allowed to drink the
water. However, if he *knows* that he will not find any other water and that
he will certainly die, then he is allowed to drink the water. He quotes this
opinion as the opinion of RABEINU ASHER. This opinion is also cited by the
REMA (YD 150:3).
The MEKOR MAYIM CHAYIM (ibid.) explains how the Ran will answer the proof of
the Vilna Ga'on. In the case in Sanhedrin, the person was interested in
doing more than just talking to the woman. The Chachamim said that, in
general, a man should not talk in such a context to a married woman since it
might lead to an actual transgression of Giluy Arayos. The case here is
totally different, as the person involved has absolutely no interest in
doing the actual sin of Avodah Zarah. Therefore, the Chachamim did not
include this act in the category of "Yehareg v'Al Ya'avor." (Y. Montrose)
3) THE SOURCE FOR THE PROHIBITION AGAINST BENEFITING FROM OBJECTS OFFERED TO
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that one should not do business in a city of
Avodah Zarah with a store that is decorated in honor of the Avodah Zarah.
The Gemara explains that the decorations to which the Mishnah refers are
myrtle branches and roses, which have a pleasant, enjoyable aroma. RASHI (DH
d'Ka) explains that since the idol worshippers would normally spread these
decorations in front of their Avodah Zarah, it is forbidden to derive any
benefit from them. However, if the store is decorated only with fruit, then
one may do business there. This is derived from the verse written with
regard to the property of the inhabitants of an Ir ha'Nidachas (an entire
city that served Avodah Zarah), "v'Lo Yidbak b'Yadcha Me'umah Min
ha'Cherem" -- "Nothing shall remain in your hand from the banned property"
(Devarim 13:18), which teaches that only deriving benefit is forbidden, and
not giving benefit (by doing business with an idolater).
The Gemara later (29b), however, says that the prohibition to derive benefit
from these items is learned from the verse, "And they ate from the
sacrifices of the dead (referring to idols)" (Tehilim 106:28). Just as it is
prohibited to derive benefit from the corpse of a dead person, it is
prohibited to derive benefit from things brought to idols.
Which verse is the real source for this prohibition?
(a) TOSFOS (DH "Ela") maintains that the verse, "v'Lo Yidbak," is the source
for the Torah prohibition against deriving benefit from objects offered to
or used for Avodah Zarah. Tosfos explains that although smell is usually not
considered a form of forbidden pleasure, it *is* forbidden when the primary
purpose of the object is to provide a pleasurable smell. Even when the
primary purpose of the object is not its smell, it still should be
prohibited, on some level, to smell an object used for Avodah Zarah. This is
because the Gemara in Pesachim (24b) states only that one does not receive
Malkus for transgressing a prohibition in an abnormal fashion (such as by
smelling an object that is normally not used for its smell); the act,
though, might still be prohibited.
Furthermore, Tosfos states, Avodah Zarah might be like certain other
prohibitions which are exceptions to the rule in that Malkus is administered
even when transgressed in an abnormal manner. Tosfos explains that the Torah
does not mention the act of eating with regard to Avodah Zarah at all;
eating is mentioned with regard to Avodah Zarah only in Tehilim, as quoted
above. Since the Torah does not mention the specific act of eating with
regard to the prohibition of Avodah Zarah, it is reasonable to suggest that
any form of pleasure is prohibited.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 7:2) explicitly states that the verse,
"v'Lo Yidbak," is the source for the prohibition, together with the verse,
"v'Lo Savi So'evah El Baisecha" -- "You shall not bring an abomination into
your house" (Devarim 7:26).
REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in GILYON HASHAS) asks a very strong question on the
words of Tosfos. Tosfos writes that since the act of eating is not mentioned
in the Torah with regard to the prohibition of Avodah Zarah, the prohibition
of deriving benefit from objects used for Avodah Zarah might be an exception
to the general rule that one transgresses a prohibition only when he
performs the act in the normal manner. Rebbi Akiva Eiger asks that the words
of Tosfos would make sense if the Isur of deriving benefit from objects used
for Avodah Zarah would be written in the Torah with no mention of the act of
eating. However, there is *no* mention of this Isur in the Torah! Although
we know that it is a Torah prohibition, the only verse that teaches this
Isur is in Tehilim!
What does Rebbi Akiva Eiger mean to ask? The Gemara itself states that this
Isur is derived from the verse, "v'Lo Yidbak," which is in the Torah and not
in Tehilim! Apparently, Rebbi Akiva Eiger understands that it is obvious
that the source is the verse in Tehilim that the Gemara later cites, and
*not* the verse that the Gemara here cites. Rebbi Akiva Eiger (in Likutim,
end of DERUSH V'CHIDUSH, vol. 2) also asks this question on the words of
(b) The RAMBAN (to SEFER HA'MITZVOS #194) argues that the verse of "v'Lo
Yidbak" cannot be prohibiting objects brought to Avodah Zarah. The verse
says, "Nothing shall remain in your hand from the banned property (Min
ha'Cherem)." The "Cherem" refers specifically to Avodah Zarah itself, and
not to objects offered to Avodah Zarah.
This also seems to be the view of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, who rejects Tosfos'
assertion that the Isur is written in a verse in the Torah, as we mentioned
(The CHAZON ISH answers the difficulty regarding the word "Cherem" according
to the Rambam. He explains that while the word usually refers to Avodah
Zarah itself (i.e. the actual idol), it is also used to refer even to
objects that are brought to Avodah Zarah, as we see from the verses that the
Gemara quotes later.)
If, however, the verse of "v'Lo Yidbak" is not teaching the prohibition to
derive benefit from objects used for Avodah Zarah, then why does the Gemara
here cite this verse at all?
The KEHILOS YAKOV (Avodah Zarah 6:2) answers that according to the Ramban
and Rebbi Akiva Eiger, by quoting the verse of "v'Lo Yidbak" the Gemara is
not teaching the source for the prohibition of benefiting from objects that
were used for Avodah Zarah. Rather, the Gemara is showing that one is
*permitted* to shop in a store (decorated with fruit, as opposed to myrtle
branches and roses) owned by an idolater, even though he is thereby giving
indirect support to Avodah Zarah. The verse that prohibits taking objects of
Avodah Zarah only discusses *taking* such things, and it does not discuss
indirectly supporting Avodah Zarah. (Y. Montrose)