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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
What means miplezeth [abominable image]? — Rab Judah said: [An object which] intensifies licentiousness [maphli' lezanutha] as R. Joseph taught: It was a kind of phallus with which she had daily connection.
R. Jose said to [the Rabbis]: But has it not been stated, He brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made.7 They replied to him: Can any proof be adduced from this passage? Behold it states, And the Lord said unto Moses, Make leka ['thee'] a fiery serpent,8 — 'leka' means 'from what belongs to thee,' and a man cannot render prohibited what is not his property!9 — In the affair [of the brazen serpent] there was really no necessity for it to have been broken in pieces,10 but when [Hezekiah] saw that the Israelites were erring after it, he arose and destroyed it. [R. Jose] said to [the Rabbis]: But has it not been stated — And they left their images there, and David and his men took then away11 — and what means, and David … took them away? — It is an expression for scattering, as R. Joseph translated12 the word in the passage, Thou shalt fan them and the wind shall carry them away.13 and we translate it: 'Thou shalt winnow them and a wind will disperse them'! They replied to him: Can any proof be adduced from this passage? Behold it states, And they were burned with fire,14 and since it is not written, 'and he burnt them and took them away,' conclude that took them away must be interpreted in the literal sense [and not as 'scattered']! Nevertheless the two verses are contradictory! — It is as R. Huna pointed out; for R. Huna objected: It is written, And David gave commandment, and they were burned with fire, and it is written, he took them away. There is no contradiction; the first passage refers to the time before Ittai the Gittite came, the latter to after his coming;15 for it is written, And he took the crown of Malcam from off his head, and the weight thereof was a talent of gold.16 But was that permissible since any advantage is prohibited [from an idol]? — R. Nahman explained: Ittai the Gittite came and annulled it. If the weight [of the crown] was a talent of gold, how could [David] have put it on? — Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: [The meaning is] that it was fit to rest upon David's head.17 R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: There was a lodestone in it18 which raised it up.19 R. Eleazar said: [The meaning is] that there was a precious stone in it worth a talent of gold.
This I have had, because I kept Thy precepts20 — what does this intend? — The following: as a reward for keeping Thy precepts, 'this' is a testimony on my behalf.21 What was its testimony? — R. Joshua b. Levi said: He used to wear [the crown] in the place of the phylacteries and it fitted him. But it would be necessary for him to put on the phylacteries! R. Samuel son of R. Isaac said: There is sufficient room on the forehead to lay two sets of phylacteries.22
[It is written], Then he brought out the king's son and put upon him the Nezer and the testimony.23 'Nezer' — that is the 'crown'. [What is] 'the testimony'? — Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: It was a testimony to the house of David that whoever was eligible for the throne [the crown] fitted, but it would not fit anyone who was not eligible.
[It is written], Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself saying, I will be king.24 Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: He exalted himself [thinking that the crown] would fit him, but it did not fit him. And he prepared his chariots, and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. In what did their superiority consist? — It has been taught: All of them had had their spleen cut out and the soles of their feet hollowed.25
‘Abodah Zarah 44b
MISHNAH. PROCLOS, SON OF A PHILOSOPHER,1 PUT A QUESTION TO R. GAMALIEL IN ACCO WHEN THE LATTER WAS BATHING IN THE BATH OF APHRODITE.2 HE SAID TO HIM, IT IS WRITTEN IN YOUR TORAH, AND THERE SHALL CLEAVE NOUGHT OF THE DEVOTED THING TO THINE HAND;3 WHY ARE YOU BATHING IN THE BATH OF APHRODITE?' HE REPLIED TO HIM, WE MAY NOT ANSWER [QUESTIONS RELATING TO TORAH] IN A BATH.4 WHEN HE CAME OUT, HE SAID TO HIM, 'I DID NOT COME INTO HER DOMAIN, SHE HAS COME INTO MINE.5 NOBODY SAYS, THE BATH WAS MADE AS AN ADORNMENT FOR APHRODITE; BUT HE SAYS, APHRODITE WAS MADE AS AN ADORNMENT FOR THE BATH. ANOTHER REASON IS, IF YOU WERE GIVEN A LARGE SUM OF MONEY, YOU WOULD NOT ENTER THE PRESENCE OF A STATUE REVERENCED BY YOU WHILE YOU WERE NUDE OR HAD EXPERIENCED SEMINAL EMISSION, NOR WOULD YOU URINATE BEFORE IT. BUT THIS [STATUE OF APHRODITE] STANDS BY A SEWER AND ALL PEOPLE URINATE BEFORE IT. [IN THE TORAH] IT IS ONLY STATED, THEIR GODS6 — I. E., WHAT IS TREATED AS A DEITY IS PROHIBITED, WHAT IS NOT TREATED AS A DEITY IS PERMITTED.
GEMARA. But how did [R. Gamaliel] act in this manner?7 For Rabbah b. Bar Hanah has said in the name of R. Johanan: It is permitted to ponder [over matters of Torah] in any place except a bath and privy! Should you reply that he spoke to him in the vernacular,8 behold Abaye has said: It is permitted to discuss secular subjects in the holy tongue, but it is forbidden to discuss holy subjects in the vernacular! A Tanna taught: When he came out, he replied to him, 'We may not answer [questions relating to Torah] in a bath.'9
R. Hama b. Joseph said in the name of R. Oshaia: R. Gamaliel made a fallacious reply to that general [Proclos], but I maintain that it was not fallacious. What was the fallacy? — Because he told him,10 THIS [STATUE] STANDS BY A SEWER AND ALL PEOPLE URINATE BEFORE IT. And if people do urinate before it, what of it?11 For Raba has said: Peor12 proves [the contrary], because people evacuate in its presence every day but it is not annulled as a consequence. 'But I maintain that [R. Gamaliel's answer] was not fallacious,'13 — because [in the case of Peor] such was the mode of its worship, but [with Aphrodite] it was not the mode of her worship.
Abaye said: [It can be shown that the reply was] fallacious from the fact that he told him, 'I DID NOT COME INTO HER DOMAIN, SHE HAS COME INTO MINE.' And if he had come into her domain, what of it?14 For we learn: If an idol has a bath-house or garden, we may use either so long as it is not to the advantage [of idolatry],15 but we may not use either if it is to its advantage!16 'But I maintain that [R. Gamaliel's answer] was not fallacious,'17 — because no token of recognition by R. Gamaliel was as valued as a token of recognition by other men.18
R. Shimi b. Hiyya said: [It can be shown that the reply was] fallacious from the fact that he told him, 'THIS [STATUE] STANDS BY A SEWER AND ALL PEOPLE URINATE BEFORE IT.' And if people do urinate before it, what of it? For we learn: If he spat before it, urinated before it, dragged it [in the dust] or hurled excrement at it, behold it is not annulled!19 'But I maintain that [his answer] was not fallacious.' There [in the Mishnah just cited] the man may have been momentarily incensed against the idol and subsequently made his peace with it; but here [in the case of the Aphrodite image] it is constantly treated in this contemptuous manner.
Rabbah b. 'Ulla said: [It can be shown that the reply was] fallacious from the fact that he told him, 'NOBODY SAYS, THE BATH WAS MADE AS AN ADORNMENT FOR APHRODITE, BUT APHRODITE WAS MADE AS AN ORNAMENT FOR THE BATH. And if one said that the bath was made as an adornment for Aphrodite, what of it? For it has been taught: If one says, 'This house is for an idol, this cup is for an idol,' he has said nothing because there can be no dedication to an idol!20 'But I maintain that [his answer] was not fallacious.' Granted that [the use of the bath] is not actually forbidden, it is nevertheless intended as an ornament [of the idol, and is consequently prohibited].
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