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Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Three

Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Three

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Halacha 1

Whoever serves false gods willingly, as a conscious act of defiance, is liable for כרת. If witnesses who warned him were present, he is [punished by being] stoned to death. If he served [such gods] inadvertently, he must bring a fixed sin offering.

Halacha 2

The gentiles established various different services for each particular idol and image. These services do not [necessarily] resemble each other. For example, Pe'or is served by defecating before it. Marculis is served by throwing stones at it or clearing stones away from it. Similarly, other services were instituted for other idols.

One who defecates before Marculis or throws a stone at Pe'or is free of liability until he serves it according to the accepted modes of service, as [implied by Deuteronomy 12:30]: "[Lest one inquire about their gods, saying,] 'How did these nations serve their gods? I will do the same.'"

For this reason, a court must know the types of worship [practiced by gentiles], because an idolater is stoned to death only when we know that [he has worshiped a false god] in the mode in which it is traditionally worshiped.

Halacha 3

The warning [forbidding] such worship and the like is the verse [Exodus 20:5] which states: "Do not serve them."

When does the above apply? with regard to services other than bowing, slaughtering [an animal], bringing a burnt offering, and offering a libation. A person who performs one of these four services to any one of the types of false gods is liable, even though this is not its accepted mode of service.

How is this exemplified? A person who offers a libation to Pe'or or slaughters [an animal] to Marculis is liable, as [implied by Exodus 22:19]: "Whoever slaughters [an animal] to any deity other than God alone must be condemned to death."

[Liability for performing the other services can be derived as follows:] Slaughter was included in the general category of services [forbidden to be performed to false gods]. Why was it mentioned explicitly? To teach [the following]: Slaughter is distinct as one of the services of God, and one who slaughters to false gods is liable to be executed by stoning. Similarly, with regard to any service which is distinct as one of the services of God, if a person performs it in worship of other gods, he is liable.

For [a similar reason, Exodus 34:14] states: "Do not bow down to another god," to teach that one is liable for bowing down [to another god] even when this is not its accepted mode of service. The same applies to one who brings a burnt offering or pours a libation. Sprinkling [blood] is considered the same as pouring a libation.

Halacha 4

[Even if] one pours feces before it or pours a libation of urine from a chamber pot before it, one is liable. If one slaughters a locust before it, one is not liable, unless this is the mode of service of that deity. Similarly, if one slaughters an animal lacking a limb for it, one is not liable, unless this is the manner of service of this deity.

[The following rules apply when] a false god is worshiped by [beating with] a staff [before it]: If one breaks a staff before it, one is liable [for the worship of false gods], and [the deity] is forbidden. If one threw a staff before it, one is held liable, but [the deity] is not forbidden, because throwing a staff is not considered equivalent to sprinkling blood. The staff remains as it was, while the blood spatters [in different directions].

A person who accepts any one of the various false gods as a deity is liable for [execution by] stoning. Even one who lifted up a brick and said, "You are my god," or the like, is liable. Even if he retracted his statements in the midst of speaking and said, "This is not my God," his retraction is not significant and he should be stoned [to death].

Halacha 5

Anyone who serves a false god through its accepted mode of service - even if he does so in a derisive manner - is liable. What is implied? When a person defecates before Pe'or to repudiate it, or throws a stone at Marculis to repudiate it - since this is the manner of serving them - the person is liable and must bring a sacrifice [to atone for] his inadvertent transgression.

Halacha 6

[The following rules apply when] a person serves a false deity out of love - i.e., he desires an image because its service is very attractive - or when one serves it out of his fear of it - i.e., he fears that it will harm him - as the [idol] worshipers fear [their deities as sources of] benefit and harm: If he accepts it as a god, he is liable to be stoned to death. If he serves it out of love or fear through its accepted mode of service or through one of the four services [mentioned above], he is not held liable.

One who embraces a false deity, kisses it, sweeps before it, mops before it, washes it, anoints it, dresses it, places shoes upon it, or performs any similar act of deference violates a negative commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:5]: "Do not serve them." Such acts are also "service." The offender is, nevertheless, not liable for lashes, because [these services] are not [mentioned] explicitly [by the Torah].

If one of the above services was the accepted mode of worship [of a particular deity] and a person performed this service as an act of worship, he is liable [for execution].

Halacha 7

If a splinter becomes stuck in a person's foot before an idol, he should not bend down to remove it, because it appears that he is bowing down to the idol.

If money belonging to a person becomes scattered before an idol, he should not bow down and pick it up, because it appears that he is bowing down to the idol. Instead, he should sit down, and then pick it up.

Halacha 8

A person should not place his mouth over the mouths of statues which serve as fountains that are located before false deities in order to drink, because it appears that he is kissing the false deity.

Halacha 9

A person who has a false god made for himself - even though he, himself, did not actually fashion it, nor worship it - is [punished by] lashing, as [Exodus 20:5] states: "Do not make for yourself an idol or any representation."

Similarly, a person who actually fashions a false god for others, even for idolaters, is [punished by] lashing, as [Leviticus 19:4] states: "Do not make molten gods for yourselves." Accordingly, a person who actually fashions a false god1for himself receives two measures of lashes.

Halacha 10

It is prohibited to make images for decorative purposes, even though they do not represent false deities, as [implied by Exodus 20:23]: "Do not make with Me [gods of silver and gods of gold]." This refers even to images of gold and silver which are intended only for decorative purposes, lest others err and view them as deities.

It is forbidden to make decorative images of the human form alone. Therefore, it is forbidden to make human images with wood, cement, or stone. This [prohibition] applies when the image is protruding - for example, images and sculptures made in a hallway and the like. A person who makes such an image is [liable for] lashes.

In contrast, it is permitted to make human images that are engraved or painted - e.g., portraits, whether on wood or on stone - or that are part of a tapestry.

Halacha 11

[The following rules apply regarding] a signet ring which bears a human image: If the image is protruding, it is forbidden to wear it, but it is permitted to use it as a seal. If the image is an impression, it is permitted to wear it, but it is forbidden to use it as a seal, because it will create an image which protrudes.

Similarly, it is forbidden to make an image of the sun, the moon, the stars, the constellations, or the angels, as [implied by Exodus, ibid.]: "Do not make with Me [gods of silver...]" - i.e., do not make images of My servants, those who serve before Me on high. This [prohibition] applies even [to pictures] on tablets.

The images of animals and other living beings - with the exception of men - and similarly, the images of trees, grasses, and the like may be fashioned. This applies even to images which protrude.

Commentary Halacha 1

Whoever serves false gods willingly - i.e., if he is forced to worship false gods by another person, he is not held responsible for his act. It is nevertheless forbidden to consent to such pressure. One is obligated to sacrifice one's life rather than consent to such worship (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:2,4).

as a conscious act of defiance - as opposed to someone who worships inadvertently.

[The Radbaz (Vol. V, Responsum 1510) notes that the Rambam uses the expression "willingly, as a conscious act of defiance" with regard to the violation of the prohibitions against idolatry, the Sabbath laws (Hilchot Shabbat 1:1), and the laws of Yom Kippur (Hilchot Sh'vitat Asor 1:1). With regard to all other transgressions punishable by כרת, he states merely: "as a conscious act of defiance."

The Radbaz explains that it is possible that the Rambam mentioned the concept of "willingly" with regard to these three transgressions because they are the first cases of כרת mentioned in the Mishneh Torah. Furthermre, they are transgressions which people at large would consider most severe. After mentioning the concept on these three occasions, the Rambam does not think further repetition is necessary.]

is liable for כרת. - Mo'ed Katan 28a relates that a person liable for כרת would die before reaching the age of fifty. The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 8:1) emphasizes that being "cut off in this world" is not the sum total of Divine retribution for such a transgression. Rather, the person's soul is also cut off and prevented from reaching the world to come.

If witnesses who warned him - See Hilchot Sanhedrin 12:1-2.

were present - when he committed the offense and later testified in court,

he is [punished by being] stoned to death - as mentioned above, Chapter 2, Halachah 6.

If he served [such gods] inadvertently - He performed an act of idol worship without realizing that it was forbidden, or was not aware of the punishment involved (Hilchot Shegagot 2:2).

he must bring a fixed sin offering. - Though the sin offering brought to atone for idol worship differs from that brought to atone for other sins - see Numbers 15:27-31; Hilchot Shegagot 1:4 - the Rambam uses this term to differentiate it from a 18הלועáןברק דרויו - a guilt offering which differs depending on the financial status of the person bringing it.

Commentary Halacha 2

The gentiles established various different services for each particular idol and image. These services do not [necessarily] resemble each other. For example, Pe'or - See Numbers, Chapter 25, which describes the Jews' worship of this image. See also Sanhedrin 61a.

is served by defecating before it. Marculis - The Aruch identifies the Hebrew Marculis with the Greek god, Mercury. He notes that the form used to represent the deity and its manner of service resemble that found in Roman and Greek sources. See Tosafot, Sanhedrin 64a for a different interpretation.

is served by throwing stones at it - Note Halachah 5.

or clearing stones away from it. - Clearing away these stones leaves more room for others to throw. Hence, such an act is also considered to be service of the deity (Sanhedrin 64a).

Similarly, other services were instituted for other idols. One who defecates before Marculis or throws a stone at Pe'or is free of liability - for he did not serve the god in the service required for it, or through one of the four services which were accepted as modes of worship for all gods, as explained in the following halachah. One might think that a person would be held liable for serving one of these gods in the manner used to serve the other, since they are both served in an unbecoming manner. Sanhedrin 61a teaches us that, nevertheless, one is not liable.

until he serves it according to the accepted mode of service, as [implied by Deuteronomy 12:30]: "[Lest one inquire about their gods, saying,] 'How did these nations serve their gods? I will do the same.' - The Torah's inclusion of such a question implies that this knowledge is significant. A person who does not worship an idol in the accepted mode of service is not liable (Sanhedrin, ibid.).

For this reason, a court must know the types of worship [practiced by gentiles] - Note Chapter 2, Halachah 2, which forbids the study of idolatrous practices. Apparently, license to do so is granted the sages to allow them to gain the knowledge mentioned in this halachah. (See Sanhedrin 68a.)

because an idolater is stoned to death only when we know that [he has worshiped a false god] in the mode in which it is traditionally worshiped. - Thus, were the court not cognizant of the different modes of idol worship, they could not administer the appropriate punishment.

Commentary Halacha 3

The warning [forbidding] such worship and the like is the verse [Exodus 20:5] which states: "Do not serve them." - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 6) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 29) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. It, to be distinguished from the prohibition against the belief in false gods (Sefer HaMitzvot, Negative Commandment 1), involves the performance of deeds of worship in service of false gods.

The Ramban (Hasagot L'Sefer HaMitzvot) considers the two prohibitions as one negative mitzvah. The Rambam's view, however, is justified by other authorities.

When does the above - that one is liable only when performing services with which a deity is worshiped

apply? with regard to services other than bowing - See Chapter 6, Halachah 8, which states that this means bowing one's face to the ground, whether bending, kneeling, or totally prostrate on the ground.

slaughtering [an animal], bringing a burnt offering, and offering a libation. - Since these four modes of worship are accepted services of the true God, using them to serve false gods is absolutely forbidden (Sefer HaMitzvot, Negative Commandment 6). Therefore,

A person who performs one of these four services to any one of the types of false gods is liable, even though this is not its accepted mode of service. - In Halachah 6, the Rambam discusses paying reverence or showing affection to false gods through services with which the true God is not worshiped.

How is this exemplified? A person who offers a libation to Pe'or or slaughters [an animal] to Marculis - despite the fact that they are served in other ways, as explained in the previous halachah

is liable, as [implied by Exodus 22:19]: "Whoever slaughters [an animal] to any deity - Note Rashi, Sanhedrin 60b, who explains that since the verse does not state, "Whoever worships a deity through sacrifice," we can conclude that the sacrifice of an animal is sufficient for one to be held liable, even when this is not the accepted mode of service.

other than God alone must be condemned to death." - He is stoned to death.

[Liability for performing the other services - pouring a libation and bringing a burnt offering, which are not explicitly forbidden by the Torah.

can be derived as follows:] Slaughter was included in the general category of services [forbidden to be performed to false gods]. Why was it mentioned explicitly? To teach [the following]: - This represents an example of the eighth of Rabbi Yishmael's thirteen principles of Biblical exegesis:

When a specific case is first included in a general category and then, singled out to instruct us regarding a new concept, we assume that it has been singled out not only to teach us concerning its own case, but rather for that new idea to be applied with regard to the totality of the general category.

Slaughter is distinct as one of the services of God - i.e., it is a particular case included in a general category

and one who slaughters to false gods is liable to be executed by stoning. - This is the new concept for which the Torah singled out this service to teach us. Following the above rule, we conclude

Similarly, with regard to any service which is distinct as one of the services of God, if a person performs it in worship of other gods, he is liable - for execution.

For [a similar reason, Exodus 34:14] states: "Do not bow down to another god" - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 5) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 28) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. This prohibition also includes performing the other three services mentioned above.

In this instance as well, the Ramban (Hasagot L'Sefer HaMitzvot) considers this prohibition to be included within the first negative mitzvah, the prohibition against believing in false gods. The Rambam's view, however, is justified by other authorities.

to teach that one is liable for bowing down [to another god] even when this is not its accepted mode of service. - Bowing down is not considered to be one of the Temple services. Hence, it - as opposed to bringing a burnt offering or pouring a libation - cannot be derived from the prohibition against sacrificing, and requires a unique verse of its own.

The same applies to one who brings a burnt offering - be it an animal, incense, or any other substance

or pours a libation. Sprinkling [blood] - before an idol or on its altar

is considered the same as pouring a libation - and is forbidden even if this is not the accepted mode of service.Sanhedrin (ibid.) equates sprinkling blood with offering a libation, based on Psalms 16:4: "Do not pour their libations of blood."

Commentary Halacha 4

[Even if] one pours feces before it or pours a libation of urine from a chamber pot before it, one is liable. - These are considered as libations (Avodah Zarah 50b), for which one is held liable even if this is not the mode in which the deity is worshiped.

If one slaughters a locust before it, one is not liable - for there is no concept of ritual slaughter with regard to locusts. TheOr Sameach holds one liable when one sacrifices a locust on an altar before a false deity.

unless this is the mode of service of that deity - in which instance one would be held liable, based on the principles stated in Halachah 2.

Similarly, if one slaughters an animal lacking a limb for it - Note Avodah Zarah 51a which states that this leniency only applies to the slaughter of any animal lacking a limb. In contrast, one is held liable for the slaughter of an animal with a disqualifying physical blemish.

one is not liable - because even the gentiles do not offer sacrifices of such animals

The Ra'avad holds one liable even for the slaughter of such an animal or of a locust, explaining that although the Rambam's decision reflects certain opinions mentioned in the Talmud, the final decision is that one is held liable. He explains that such forms of slaughter are much closer to the concept of the slaughter for sacrifice than the offering of feces or urine are to the service of libation.

unless this is the manner of service of this deity - as explained above.

[The following rules apply when] a false god is worshiped by [beating with] a staff - Note the Ra'avad, who emphasizes that the following rules apply although the service of this deity does not involve breaking or throwing a staff

[before it]: - This interpretation is also followed by theShulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 139:3.

If one breaks a staff before it - since this activity resembles the slaughter of an animal

one is liable [for the worship of false gods] - To justify the seeming difficulty in the Rambam's decisions mentioned by the Ra'avad (see above), the Lechem Mishneh explains that since staffs figure in the worship of this deity, an act that resembles slaughter that is performed with a staff is significant. In contrast, animals lacking limbs and locusts are never used in the service of such deities; hence, their slaughter is of no consequence.

[Note, however, the Ramah, who explains that one is liable only when the deity is worshiped by breaking the stick.]

and [the deity] is forbidden. - to be used, as stated in Chapter 7, Halachah 4. This interpretation depends on the female construction of the word נאסרת. Other authorities quote the word in a masculine form and interpret it as a reference to the staff. Since it was used in the worship of a false god, it is forbidden, as stated in Chapter 7, Halachah 2.

If one threw a staff before it - since this activity resembles pouring a libation before an idol

one is held liable, but [the deity] - or the staff

is not forbidden - This decision makes the Rambam's line of reasoning difficult to follow. If throwing the staff is not comparable to sprinkling blood, why is one held liable for it? Accordingly, some commentaries have explained that this decision applies only when the deity is worshiped by throwing staffs. The Pri Chadash, however, differentiates between the liability of the worshiper (for which a sprinkling that spatters is not required) and the prohibition of the worship of the deity (for which it is).

because throwing a staff is not considered equivalent to sprinkling blood. The staff remains as it was - a single whole entity

while the blood spatters [in different directions]. - Since the reason that these services are considered significant even though the deity is not normally worshiped in this manner is that these services were performed in the Temple, the analogy must be complete. Thus, the entity poured or thrown before the deity must spatter, as blood spatters when sprinkled on the altar (Avodah Zarah, ibid.).

A person who accepts any one of the various false gods - which already exist

as a deity - even though he does not perform a deed of worship

is liable for [execution by] stoning. - The Rambam mentions that one is liable for stoning specifically. Generally, the term "liable" means "liable to bring a sacrifice." In this instance, however, a person who makes such a statement inadvertently is not obligated to bring a sacrifice. A sacrifice is only brought when one performs a deed in violation of the Torah's command (Hilchot Shegagot 1:2).

Even one who - creates a new false god for himself (Lechem Mishneh)

lifted up a brick - The Lechem Mishneh explains that this expression is merely a figure of speech. There is no need to perform a deed - lifting up the brick - for one to be held liable.

and said, "You are my god," or the like, is liable. - When two people do not witness this declaration, the death penalty may not be administered by the court. The person is, however, liable for karet (premature death at the hand of God) if he made his statements intentionally.

Even if he retracted his statements in the midst of speaking - As explained above (Chapter 2, Halachah 9), this term has a specific meaning, the amount of time it takes to say 18ךילעáםולש יבר.

and said, "This is not my God," his retraction is not significant - Although a retraction made in this amount of time is normally considered significant, different rules apply with regard to the acceptance of false gods. It is assumed that a person would never make such a statement unless he were fully aware of its ramifications.

and he should be stoned [to death].

Commentary Halacha 5

Anyone who serves a false god through its accepted mode of service - Regardless of the nature of that service

even if he does so in a derisive manner - i.e., both the act he performs and his intent in performing it is to abuse the false deity

is liable - for a sacrifice, as will be explained. This is an extension of the principle stated in Halachah 2.

What is implied? When a person defecates before Pe'or to repudiate it, or throws a stone at Marculis to repudiate it -Sanhedrin 64a relates that one of the Sages of the Talmud actually made such an error and threw a rock at a shrine of Marculis, with the intent of destroying it. When the matter was brought before his colleagues, they informed him of his mistake.

since this is the manner of serving them - the person is liable and must bring a sacrifice [to atone for] his inadvertent transgression. - Although he consciously performed an act which is considered to be worship of these gods, since his intent was not to serve them, he is not considered to be one who willfully serves idols. Hence, he is not punished by the court for his deed, nor is he obligated for karet by God. Since he, nevertheless, did perform an act of worship to these gods, he must bring a sacrifice for atonement.

The above represents the Kessef Mishneh's interpretation of this halachah. Many other authorities (see Tosafot, Sanhedrin 64a) disagree, and maintain that even in such circumstances, one could be held liable for capital punishment. For example, two witnesses who knew the law were present and warned the person against repudiating the idol in this fashion. He ignored their warning and performed the derisive act of worship. Although his intent was not to serve the deity, since he performed an act of worship despite the warning he was given, he is liable for execution.

Rav Kapach brings support for the Kessef Mishneh's view from the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:6. There, the Rambam discusses a similar situation and states that a person who performs such service "is liable for a sin offering." In the original texts of that commentary, the Rambam stated that the person "is liable." The addition of the words "for a sin offering" appear to indicate that he is liable only for an offering, but not for punishment by the court. Note also Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:4, where the Rambam states that a person who unknowingly worships a false god is not liable for his deeds.

Commentary Halacha 6

[The following rules apply when] a person serves a false deity out of love - i.e., he desires an image because its service is very attractive - The commentaries note that the Rambam interprets "out of love" differently from "out of fear." "Out of love" refers to a love for the image and its service, while "out of fear" means fear of what the deity can do to the person.

Rav Kapach explains the Rambam's position, justifying the need for such a difference in interpretation. Most idolaters do not worship their images out of a genuine conviction that they are the true god, but rather for the benefit they feel this service will bring them. Therefore, were a person to serve an idol with this intent in mind, the Rambam would hold him liable. In contrast, were he to serve out of fear, he is not considered to be acting on his own volition, and hence is not held responsible.

or when one serves it out of his fear of it - i.e., he fears that it will harm him - as the [idol] worshipers fear [their deities as sources of] benefit and harm: - See Chapter 1, Halachot 1-2.

If he accepts it as a god - and serves it as an act of worship

he is liable to be stoned to death - as stated in Halachah 1.

If he serves it out of love or fear - without accepting it as a god - even though he served it

through its accepted mode of service - as mentioned in Halachah 2

or through one of the four services [mentioned above] - in Halachah 3,

he is not held liable - since he did not accept the deity as a god.

Although the Rambam's opinion is questioned by many other authorities, it is based on an established tradition of Talmudic interpretation. This halachah is based on Sanhedrin 61b. That passage is also quoted in Shabbat 72b. Rabbenu Chanan'el, one of the foremost commentators in the generations between the Geonim and the Rambam, interprets the latter passage using the same concepts _ and almost the same phraseology _ as employed by the Rambam here.

The Ra'avad and others challenge the Rambam's interpretation and explain that "out of love" and "out of fear" mean: motivated by the love or fear of the person who tries to influence one to worship the false deity. The Rambam cannot accept this interpretation, because in Hilchot Yesodei Torah 5:4, he states that a person who is forced to serve false gods is not held liable for his deeds (Kessef Mishneh).

The fact that a person is not held liable for such service does not at all minimize the seriousness of the prohibition involved. In no way is one allowed to serve false gods for such reasons. Even with regard to the Ra'avad's interpretation "out of fear" - i.e., out of fear of a person - the Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 150:3) prohibits performing any act that might be interpreted as idol worship - e.g., bowing to a ruler who is wearing an image.

One who embraces a false deity, kisses it, sweeps before it, mops before it, washes it, anoints it, dresses it, places shoes upon it, or performs any similar act of deference violates a negative commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:5]: "Do not serve them." - This commandment is described in Halachot 2 and 3.

Such acts are also "service." The offender is, nevertheless, not - executed, as is one who worships a false deity, nor is he

punished by lashes, because [these services] are not [mentioned] explicitly [by the Torah]. - The Kessef Mishneh explains that punishment is not given because this prohibition is a 18ואל תוללכבש - i.e., it includes many different forbidden acts. Lashes are not given for the violation of such a prohibition, as stated in Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:2-3.

To explain: The prohibition, "Do not serve them," is twofold in nature. It prohibits the worship of a false deity through its accepted modes of service, as stated in Halachah 2. This is a sin punishable by death. The same prohibition also forbids these expressions of affection or reverence. These deeds are not, however, punishable by death because they are not acts of worship.

Since violation of this prohibition incurs a penalty of execution, it is not associated with the punishment of lashes. Since, in essence, this prohibition is not associated with lashes, even the many transgressions of a lesser nature which are also included within this prohibition are also not punishable in this manner (Rav Kapach).

If one of the above services - kissing, and the like

was the accepted mode of worship [of a particular deity] and a person performed this service as an act of worship - and not merely as an expression of emotion. The Lechem Mishneh questions the addition of the words "as an act of worship," noting that in Halachah 5, the Rambam holds one liable for performing the service with which Pe'or or Marculis was worshiped, even though one's intent was to repudiate the idols. Thus, it appears that once a person performs a service which is the accepted mode of worship, his intent is no longer significant.

The Pri Chadash resolves this difficulty, explaining that the extent of liability is different. In the previous halachah, the offender was liable for a sin offering alone, while here,

he is liable [for execution] - as stated in Halachah 2.

Commentary Halacha 7

If a splinter becomes stuck in a person's foot before an idol, he should not bend down to remove it, because it appears that he is bowing down to the idol. - Avodah Zarah 12a states that if the person turns his back or side to the idol, his bowing would not be considered to be an act of deference, and no prohibition is involved.

Even if no other people are present, this and the following prohibitions apply. Any prohibition that was instituted because of the impression which might be created (18ןיעáתיארמ) is forbidden even in a person's most private chambers.

If money belonging to a person becomes scattered before an idol, he should not bow down and pick it up, because it appears that he is bowing down to the idol. - From the commentaries' discussion of this law, it appears that if the person does bow down, he is not held liable for his actions. Kin'at Eliyahu questions the difference between this decision and Halachah 5, which holds a person who throws a stone to Marculis with the intent to repudiate it liable for a sin offering. He resolves that difficulty, explaining that in Halachah 5, the person intended to throw the stone at the idol. Since that act constitutes worship of this deity, he is held liable. In contrast, in our halachah the person did not bow down to the idol at all. The only reason the bowing is prohibited is that a mistaken impression might be created.

Instead, he should sit down, and then pick it up. - Avodah Zarah (ibid.) mentions a third prohibition, that a person should not bow down to drink from a spring that flows in front of an idol. The Kessef Mishneh notes that Rav Yitzchak Alfasi also omits this law, and explains that it was not contained in their text of the Talmud. (This is somewhat unlikely, since it is found in Rabbenu Chanan'el's text of Avodah Zarah.)

The Radbaz (Vol. V, Responsum 1389) states that this law is included in the law mentioned in the following halachah. Hence, it is not mentioned explicitly by the Rambam.

Commentary Halacha 8

A person should not place his mouth over the mouths of statues which serve as fountains that are located before false deities in order to drink, because it appears - In the context of the discussion of this law, the Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 150:3) states an important general principle. Prohibitions which were instituted because of the impression which might be created (מראית עין) need not be upheld whenever there is a threat to human life.

that he is kissing the false deity. - This prohibition is also mentioned in Avodah Zarah (ibid.).

The commentaries have noted a slight difficulty in the Talmud's (and thus, the Rambam's) phraseology. The opening clause describes the statues as merely "located before false deities," while from the latter clause it appears that the statue itself is the false deity.

Commentary Halacha 9

A person who has a false god made for himself - even though he, himself, did not actually fashion it - i.e., he commissioned another person to make the idol for him.

nor worship it - i.e., although he commissioned the fashioning of the idol, he did not worship it or explicitly accept it as a god. Accordingly, he is not punished by execution as above. He is, nevertheless, considered to have violated a prohibition, and

is [liable for] lashes - The Lechem Mishneh questions this statement, noting that lashes are not given for a transgression which does not involve a deed, and that speech is not ordinarily considered to be a deed. He explains that since the craftsman fashions the idol on behalf of the person who commissioned him, he is considered to be the latter's agent. Therefore, the one who commissioned him is held responsible for his deed.

The commentaries question this explanation, noting that - with the exception of a few specific instances - the Torah never holds a person who commissions another individual to commit a sin liable, since the person who actually committed the sin is responsible for his actions. Also, the Rambam's phraseology here implies that one is held liable regardless whether the craftsman is a Jew or gentile, and a gentile is never given the halachic status of an agent.

The following are among the resolutions offered to this difficulty:
a) A hired worker's actions - whether positive or negative - are always attributed to his employer (Machaneh Efrayim, Hilchot Shutafim 8).
b) The verse prohibiting this act reveals that this is one of the few exceptions to the general rule mentioned above, and in this case, the person who commissioned the agent is held liable (Darchei HaMelech).
c) Commenting on Hilchot Sechirut 13:2, the Mishneh LaMelech explains that if it is possible to violate a particular prohibition by committing a deed, one is punished by lashes even when one violates it without committing a deed. The same concept can be applied here (S'deh Chemed).
d) The deed for which one is punished is not the command to make the idol, but rather its purchase or acquisition (Merchevat HaMishneh, Alfandari).

as [Exodus 20:5] states: "Do not make for yourself an idol or any representation." - The grammatical structure of this verse allows it to be interpreted, "Do not have an idol... made for you." Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 2) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 27) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

Similarly, a person who actually fashions a false god for others, even for - gentile

idolaters - even when he merely acts as a craftsman and does not worship or believe in the idol himself.

is [liable for] lashes, as [Leviticus 19:4] states: "Do not make molten gods for yourselves." - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 3) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 214) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

Accordingly, a person who actually fashions a false god for himself - violates both of the above prohibitions. Therefore, he

receives two measures of lashes. - See Hilchot Sanhedrin 17:4 for a description of how punishment is administered when a person is liable for more than one measure of lashes.

Commentary Halacha 10

It is prohibited to make images for decorative purposes, even though they do not represent false deities - i.e., they were made as decorations and works of art, without any intent that they be worshiped.

as [implied by Exodus 20:23]: "Do not make with Me [gods of silver and gods of gold]." - Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 4) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 39) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

This refers even to images of gold and silver which are intended only for decorative purposes, lest others err and view them as deities. - The Rambam's statement sheds light on an interesting Rabbinic debate. The Sages of the Talmud often established "fences around the Torah" - i.e., safeguards to prevent the violation of Torah law. (See Avot 1:1.) There is a question whether the Torah itself instituted prohibitions for such a purpose - i.e., are there mitzvot that are instituted without a self-contained goal of their own, but merely to prevent the violation of other prohibitions? (See Lekach Tov 8.)

From the Rambam's statements here (see also Hilchot De'ot 7:8), it appears that he accepts such a premise. It appears that there is nothing intrinsically wrong in making statues per se. Nevertheless, since if such statues are made, the possibility exists that they may be worshiped, the Torah forbids us to make them.

It is forbidden to make decorative images of the human form alone. - As explained in the following halachah, this prohibition also applies to the sun, the moon, and other celestial beings. It is permitted to make an image of all creations of our world aside from man.

Avodah Zarah 43b derives this from the above verse. The Hebrew words translated as "Do not make with Me..." can also be rendered, "Do not make Me..." - i.e., do not make images in the human form, the form in which God has revealed himself (Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 141:21).

Therefore, it is forbidden to make human images with wood, cement, or stone - or any other material. The Rambam mentioned these materials because they were commonly used in his time.

This [prohibition] applies when the image is protruding - for example, images and sculptures made in a hallway and the like. - The Tur (Yoreh De'ah 141) states that we are forbidden to make only a complete human statue. A bust of a head alone or a statue which is lacking any one of the body's limbs is not forbidden. Though the Shulchan Aruch (141:7) does not accept this view, it is shared by the Ramah.

A person who makes such an image is [liable for] lashes - but not by execution, since these statues were not worshiped as idols.

In contrast, it is permitted to make human images that are engraved or painted - e.g., portraits, whether on wood or on stone - or that are part of a tapestry. - Though the images on a tapestry protrude slightly, since they are not are a fully formed statue, there is no prohibition involved in making them. Note the contrast to the prohibition against making images of the celestial beings mentioned in the following halachah and commentary.

Commentary Halacha 11

[The following rules apply regarding] a signet ring - In ancient times, it was customary for rulers to seal their documents with a signet ring. (See Esther 8:8.) Wax would be poured on the document and the ring pressed into the wax, producing an imprint which is a reverse image of that on the ring.

which bears a human image: If the image is protruding, it is forbidden to wear it - on one's finger, because a protruding image is forbidden, as stated in the previous halachah.

but it is permitted to use it as a seal - for the human image it produces is sunken into the wax.

If the image is an impression, it is permitted to wear it - because there is not prohibition against such a human image

but it is forbidden to use it as a seal, because it will create an image which protrudes - which is forbidden.

Similarly, it is forbidden to make an image of the sun, the moon, the stars, the constellations - Our understanding of the Rambam's statements here can be enhanced by referring to his Commentary on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah 3:3:

This does not mean a sphere which represents the sun or a hemisphere which represents the moon, but rather the images which the astrologers [i.e., those following Greek mythology] attribute to the stars,... e.g., Saturn is represented as an old dark man of venerable age, Venus is represented as a a beautiful maiden adorned with gold, and the sun is represented as a king with a diadem sitting in a chariot.
[These are forbidden because] they are falsehoods and the nature of falsehood is that it will surely spread.

Rav Kapach supports this interpretation by quoting BeMidbar Rabbah 2:6, which describes the pennant of the tribe of Issachar as having a picture of the sun and the moon. Were these images forbidden, it would be unlikely that Moshe would have told the tribe to depict them. Even if the decree was instituted in the later generations, it is not probable that the Rabbis would forbid images that had previously been used for a Torah purpose.

The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 141:3) quotes the Rambam's opinion. The Turei Zahav 141:13 and the Siftei Cohen 141:8, however, note that the Rambam's statements which were quoted above (and the Ramah's statements) refer to a question whether one is allowed to keep images of the sun or moon that he finds. Here, the question is whether one is allowed to make such images oneself. From the discussion of the question in Avodah Zarah 43b, where the Sages question how Rabban Gamliel possessed forms of the moon, it would appear that there is a prohibition against making images of the sun and the moon themselves.

This interpretation, however, is also somewhat problematic, because the Rambam writes that there is no prohibition against making images of animals, and some of the constellations of the Zodiac are represented and referred to as animals. For example, one of the Zodiac constellations is a fish and Gittin 36a describes Rav as making a drawing of a fish. Another is a lion, which is one of the most popular images found in Jewish art.

or the angels - As the Rambam writes in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:3-5, the angels have no body or form. Hence, here, he is obviously referring to a form which a man has conceived of as appropriate for a particular angel. Alternatively, it could refer to the metaphoric imagery used by the prophets.

as [implied by Exodus, ibid.]: "Do not make with Me [gods of silver...]" - The Rambam (quoting Avodah Zarah, ibid.) mentions the above Biblical proof-text in connection with this prohibition. It would appear, however, from the fact that making such images is not punishable by lashes, that the prohibition is only Rabbinic in nature. The reference to the verse must be understood as an asmachta (use of the Biblical verse as a support for a Rabbinic decree).

i.e., do not make images of - those who are "with Me" - i.e.,

My servants, those who serve before Me on high. _ This refers to the celestial beings and the angels. (See Chapter 1, Halachah 1, and Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:3.)

This [prohibition] - is more severe than the prohibition against making human images, and

applies even [to pictures] on tablets. - According to the Rambam's statements in his Commentary on the Mishnah, the difference between the prohibition against making these images and those of humans can be explained as follows: The prohibition against making human statues is Biblical in origin and is defined by the Torah itself. In contrast, the prohibition of making images of the celestial beings was a safeguard instituted by the Rabbis against Greek and Roman culture. It, therefore, applies to all images, whether pictures or statues, because both could influence people to stray from the Torah's ways.

According to the simple interpretation of the terms "sun" and "moon," the difference can be explained as follows: The sun and the moon, as we perceive them, appear against the background of the sky. Therefore, for a representation of them to be forbidden, it also need not protrude (Tosafot, 14Avodah Zarah, ibid.).

The images of animals and other living beings - with the exception of men - Avodah Zarah 42b also mentions a prohibition against making the image of a d'rakon which Rashi and others interpret as an animal similar to a serpent.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (ibid.), the Rambam describes this image as a fishlike man with fins and many scales, probably referring to the Greek god Neptune.

and similarly, the images of trees, grasses, and the like may be fashioned. This - leniency

applies even to images which protrude. - From these two halachot, particularly according to the Rambam's understanding as reflected in his Commentary on the Mishnah, we see that there is no conflict between Torah law and aesthetics. There are only two restrictions: realistic human statues (and according to some authorities, these must be complete, full-bodied statues) and depictions of pagan gods. Even according to the other opinions which forbid depictions of the sun, the moon, and the like, there is no prohibition against abstract portrayals of these entities. No other restrictions apply at all.

There is definitely a divergence between the approach to life that spawned much of the art forms of Western culture and a Torah lifestyle. Perhaps for that reason, many religious Jews have traditionally shunned participation in and patronage of the arts. In the present generation, however, a number of our Torah leaders have urged religious artists to dedicate themselves to expressing Torah ideas and values in a variety of art forms, explaining that:
a) Through these media, it is possible to reach many Jews who might never enter a synagogue or Torah center;
b) Everything in the world was created to be used by the Jews for a Torah purpose (Rashi, Genesis 1:1). This also applies to art. Using these art forms for Torah purposes expresses the true intent for their creation and endows them with a depth of meaning and inspiration - and in its deepest sense, a new wellspring of creativity.

According to Kabbalah, God's presence is more manifest in the sefirah of Tiferet ("Beauty") than in any other sefirah. Thus, the challenge confronting a Torah artist today is to use beauty as a medium to express Godly truth.

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