Monday, 12 March 2018

Avodah Zara 54: Idols as symbols; G-d's Option to Destroy Idols

Some ideas that are discussed in today’s daf:
  •    If an animal is worshiped because of coercion, what are the repercussions?
  •    None – just like the betrothed maiden who is raped is not punished further
  •   “You shall not bow down to them nor shall you worship them” – is this intended to include coercion? Those words are followed by “You shall not profane my holy name”, suggesting that the Sages were speaking of coercion and of a public display of idol worship
  •    If one worships an idol in privacy, the “idol” is not forbidden
  •    The rabbis discuss the necessity of a kosher shemitah if that animal was worshiped privately (forced)
  •    How do the rabbis determine whether such an item is excluded if it is the exchange of an exchange of an item that was worshipped?
  •    Two verses that come as one  - teaching the same principal – do not dictate halacha to other similar cases
  •    Consecrated items exchanged for money do not transfer their status and the money is not sanctified

A new Mishna asks why G-d does not destroy objects of worship.  The rabbis answer: people worship the sun, moon and stars.  Should G-d destroy those objects and also destroy his entire world?  Of course not.  So why, ask the rabbis, does G-d not destroy only those items that are not required by our world?  The answer is equally simple: because those who worship nature would use this as proof of their belief.  Their idols were not destroyed, and thus they must be valuable.

The Gemara discusses the liability of those who are “fools” and worship idols.  How can they have multiple pregnancies, which seem to be a sign of G-d’s favour?  They will be punished later, the rabbis surmise.

Why doesn’t G-d punish the idols? A parable is used to explain the G-d’s reasoning.  A king had a son who named his dog after his father.  When he swore, he would swear on the life of his dog, the king.  The king was angry with the son and not the dog.  The son has the ability to choose whom to worship; the idol/dog do not have this ability.

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