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Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Seven

Avodah Kochavim - Chapter Seven

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Halacha 1

It is a positive commandment to destroy false deities, all their accessories, and everything that is made for their purposes, as [Deuteronomy 12:2] states: "You shall surely destroy all the places [where the gentiles... served their gods]" and, as [implied by Deuteronomy 7:5]: "Rather, what you should do to them is tear down their altars."

In Eretz Yisrael, the mitzvah requires us to hunt after idol worship until it is eradicated from our entire land. In the diaspora, however, we are not required to hunt after it. Rather, whenever we conquer a place, we must destroy all the false deities contained within.

[The source for this distinction is Deuteronomy 12:3, which] states: "And you shall destroy their name from H3this place," [implying that] you are obligated to hunt false deities in Eretz Yisrael, but you are not obligated to do so in the diaspora.

Halacha 2

It is forbidden to benefit from false deities, their accessories, offerings for them, and anything made for them, as [implied by Deuteronomy 7:26]: "Do not bring an abomination to your home."

Anyone who derives benefit from any of the above receives two measures of lashes: one because of the prohibition, "Do not bring an abomination...," and one because of the prohibition, "Let nothing which is condemned cling to your hand."

Halacha 3

It is forbidden to benefit from an animal which was sacrificed to false deities in its entirety - even its excrement, its bones, its horns, its hooves, and its hide. It is forbidden to benefit from it at all.

To cite an example, the hide of an animal which is marked by a sign that indicates that it was offered as a sacrifice to false deities - e.g., it has a round hole in the place of the heart through which the heart is extracted, which was a common practice [of idolaters] - It is forbidden to benefit from all of these hides and others of the like.

Halacha 4

What is the difference between an idol belonging to a gentile and one belonging to a Jew? It is forbidden to benefit from an idol belonging to a gentile immediately [after it is fashioned], as [implied by Deuteronomy 7:25]: "You shall burn the sculptures of their gods with fire" - i.e., they are considered gods as soon as they have been sculpted.

[In contrast,] it is not forbidden to benefit from a Jew's [idol] until he worships it, as [implied by Deuteronomy 27:15]: "[Cursed is the person who makes an idol...] and places it in a hidden place" - i.e., it is not forbidden until he does private acts - i.e., worship - on its behalf.

The accessories of idol worship, whether belonging to a Jew or to a gentile, are not forbidden until they were actually used for the purpose of idol worship.

Halacha 5

[When] a person makes an idol for another person - although he receives lashes - his wage is permitted. [This applies] even when he made [the idol] for a gentile, and it is therefore forbidden immediately.

[What is the rationale for the latter decision? The idol] is not forbidden until it is completed and the hammer-stroke which completes it is not worth a penny.

[The following rules apply when] a person buys scrap metal from a gentile and finds idols within it: If he has already paid the money, but has not taken possession of it, he should return it to the gentile. The same [rules] apply if he took possession of it, but did not pay the money. Though taking possession represents a formal transfer of ownership in dealings with a gentile, the transaction was made in error. If he paid the money and took possession [of the scrap], he must take [the idols] to the Dead Sea.

Similarly, when a gentile and a convert [divide] the estate of their father - a gentile - the convert may tell the gentile, "Take the idols and I will take the money," "Take the forbidden wine and I will take the produce." Once [idols] come into the possession of the convert, however, they are forbidden.

Halacha 6

We are allowed to benefit from images which gentiles made for aesthetic purposes. It is forbidden, however, to benefit from images that are made for the purpose of idol worship.

What is implied? It is forbidden to benefit from any images found in villages, for one may assume that they were made for the sake of idol worship. When images are found in a city, they are forbidden only when they are found at the entrance to the city and hold a staff, bird, globe, sword, crown, or ring in their hands. Otherwise, we may assume that they were made for aesthetic purposes, and benefit from them is permitted.

Halacha 7

Statues of false deities which are found discarded in the marketplace or in a scrap metal heap are permitted. Needless to say, this applies to pieces of statues.

In contrast, should one find a hand, a foot, or another limb from the form of one of the constellations or celestial signs, it is forbidden to benefit from it. Since one knows that this limb is one of the images that is worshiped, the prohibition against [benefiting from it] remains until one knows that the gentiles who worshiped it, nullified it.

Halacha 8

[The following laws apply when] a person finds articles which have the form of the sun, the moon, or a d'rakon upon them: If they are golden or silver objects, or silk garments, or if these forms were engraved on a nose-ring or finger-ring, they are forbidden. If these forms are found on other articles, they are permitted, since we may assume that they were made for aesthetic purposes. Similarly, we may assume that any other form which is found on an article was intended for aesthetic purposes. Therefore, [the articles] are permitted.

Halacha 9

A false deity, its accessories, and the objects offered to it are always forbidden, regardless of the proportion [of a mixture they make up].

What is implied? If an idol becomes mixed together with statues made for aesthetic purposes - even if the proportion is merely one in several thousand - the entire group must be taken to the Dead Sea. Similarly, if a goblet [used for] idol worship becomes mixed together with many other goblets, or a piece of meat [coming from a sacrifice to a false deity] becomes mixed with other meat, the entire group must be taken to the Dead Sea. Similarly, if a hide with a hole through which the heart was removed becomes mixed with other hides, it is forbidden to benefit from the entire mixture.

[When] a person transgresses and sells a false deity, one of its accessories, or an object that was offered to it, it is forbidden to benefit from the money received, and that prohibition [remains if these funds become mixed with others], regardless of the proportion [of the mixture] they make up. [Deuteronomy 7:26] states: "Lest you become condemned like it." [From this we infer,] that anything that comes from a false deity, from any of its accessories, or from [anything] offered to it is [governed by the same prohibitions] as it is.

Halacha 10

When a false deity or an asherah is burned, it is forbidden to benefit from its ashes. A coal taken from an idol is forbidden; a flame [from an idol] is permitted, for it is not an entity with substance.

When there is a doubt whether an object is connected to idol worship or not, it is forbidden. If, however, that doubt is questionable, it is permitted.

What is implied? Should a goblet used for idol worship fall into a storage room of goblets, they are all forbidden, because a false deity and all its accessories are always forbidden, regardless of the proportion [of a mixture they make up]. If one of the cups from this mixture falls together with two other cups, the the [entire second mixture] is permitted.

Should a ring [used to adorn] an idol become mixed together with one hundred other rings, and then two of them fall into the Mediterranean Sea, it is permissible to use all of them. We presume that the [forbidden] ring was among the two [which fell].

Should [a forbidden ring] become mixed together with a hundred others and then [the group] becomes divided, forty being separated in one group and sixty in another, and then the entire [group of] forty fall into another group of rings, it is permissible to use all of them. We presume that the forbidden ring remained among the majority. If the [group of] sixty fall into another group of rings, they are all forbidden.

Halacha 11

Sitting under the shade of the trunk of an asherah - whether it is worshiped itself or whether an idol was placed under it - is forbidden. It is, however, permissible to sit under the shade of its branches and its leaves.

If a person has another route, it is forbidden for him to pass under it. If he has no other route, he may pass under it, provided he runs.

Halacha 12

Chicks which do not need their mother and nest in [an asherah] are permitted. In contrast, the chicks and eggs which need their mother are forbidden for the asherah is considered as if it is a base for them. The nest itself - [even though it is] in the top of the tree - is permitted, for the birds bring the wood for it from other places.

Halacha 13

It is forbidden to benefit from wood which one takes from it. Should a person have heated the oven with such wood, he must cool it off. Afterwards, he should kindle it with other, permitted, wood and then bake within.

Should he bake bread in [an oven heated in this manner] without cooling it, he is forbidden to benefit from the bread. If [such a loaf] became mixed together with others, he must bring the value of that loaf to the Dead Sea so that he will never benefit from it. The other loaves, however, are permitted.

Halacha 14

If one took [a piece of wood from an asherah to use as] a shuttle, and wove a garment with it, it is forbidden to benefit from [the garment]. Should the garment become mixed together with other garments, he must bring the value of that garment to the Dead Sea. All the other garments, however, are permitted.

It is permissible to plant vegetables under [an asherah] - whether in the summer - when they need the shade - or in the winter. [This leniency is granted] because the vegetables' growth is produced by two factors: the shade of the asherah, which is forbidden, and the earth, which is permitted. Whenever an effect is produced by the combination of a forbidden factor and a permitted factor, it is permitted. Therefore, if a field was fertilized with fertilizer [that was forbidden because of a connection with] idol worship, one may sow it. Similarly, [the meat of] a cow that was fed with beans [that were forbidden because of a connection with] idol worship, may be eaten. The same principle applies in other similar situations.

Halacha 15

It is not forbidden to benefit from meat, wine, and fruits that were prepared as offerings for idols. Although they were brought into the temple of a false deity, [they are not prohibited] until they are actually brought as offerings.

Once they are brought as offerings, [their status changes] and they remain forbidden forever, even if they were later removed [from the temple].

Torah law forbids benefiting from anything that is found in a temple of a false deity, even water or salt. If a person eats even the slightest amount from such substances, he is [punished by] lashing.

Halacha 16

[The following laws apply when] a person finds garments, utensils, or money [placed] on the head of an idol. If he finds them [placed] in a derisive manner, they are permitted. If he finds them [placed] in a deferential manner, they are forbidden.

What is implied? If one finds a purse hanging around its neck, folded garments placed on its head, or a utensil overturned on its head, they are permitted, because [they were placed] in a derisive manner. The same applies to other similar situations. [In contrast,] if one finds an object of a type which is used as an offering for the [Temple] altar on the head [of an idol], it is forbidden.

When does the above apply? When one finds such articles outside its [usual] place of worship. When, however, one finds such articles within the [idol's place of worship], regardless of whether it was placed in a derisive manner or in a deferential manner, or whether it is of the type of objects used as sacrifices for the [Temple] altar, any article found within [such a structure] - even water or salt - becomes forbidden.

[Different laws apply regarding] Pe'or and Marculis. It is forbidden to benefit from anything that is found together with them, whether [it is found] in their [temple] or outside of it. Similarly, with regard to the stones [found near a symbol of] Marculis: If a stone appears to be together with it, it is forbidden to benefit from it.

Halacha 17

When [the shrine of] a false deity possesses a bathhouse or a garden, benefit may be derived from it, provided one does not offer appreciation [in return]. [If] one must offer appreciation, it is forbidden.

[If the garden or bathhouse] is mutually owned by [the shrine] and another entity, one may derive benefit from it even if one provides its priests with appreciation. One may not, however, pay a fee.

Halacha 18

It is permitted to bathe in a bathhouse even though an idol is located within, because it is placed there for aesthetic purposes and not to be served. [This leniency can be inferred from the use by Deuteronomy 12:2 of the term:] "their gods" - i.e., the prohibition applies when they treat them as gods, and not when they humiliate them, such as in an instance where [the idol] stands over the sewage pipe and they urinate before it.

Should [the idol's] worship involve such activities, it is forbidden to enter [the bathhouse].

Halacha 19

It is permitted to benefit from [an animal] slaughtered using a knife [forbidden because of its connection to] idol worship, because one is detracting from [the animal's] value. If the animal is in danger [of dying], it is forbidden, because one is enhancing its value, and this improvement involves benefit from an accessory of idol worship.

Similarly, it is forbidden to cut meat with [such a knife], because one is enhancing its value. Should one cut with a destructive intent, causing a loss, the meat is permitted.

Commentary Halacha 1

It is a positive commandment - Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 185) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 436) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

to destroy false deities - The process of destruction is described in Chapter 8, Halachah 6.

all their accessories, and everything that is made for their purposes - Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.) states that the mitzvah is to destroy "every entity which is worshiped and their temples," from which one might conclude that the destruction of the accessories of idol worship is a Rabbinic injunction. Avodat HaMelech, however, cites Avodah Zarah 51b, which also derives the injunction to destroy the accessories of idol worship from a Biblical proof-text.

as [Deuteronomy 12:2] states: "You shall surely destroy all the places [where the gentiles... served their gods]" - Note the Bnei Binyamin, which states that when fulfilling this commandment, we should recite a blessing: "Blessed... who commanded us to eradicate idol worship from our land." Other commentaries explain that reciting a blessing is inappropriate, based on the principle (Rashba, Vol. I, Responsum 18) that a blessing is not recited for a mitzvah that comes to correct a sin. The Bnei Binyamin, however, maintains that this principle does not apply here, since the transgression was committed by gentiles.

and, as [implied by Deuteronomy 7:5]: "Rather, what you should do to them is tear down their altars." - Kinat Eliyahu questions the purpose of the second proof-text.

In Eretz Yisrael, the mitzvah requires us to hunt after idol worship until it is eradicated from our entire land. - Kinat Eliyahu explains that this obligation has its source in the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael. Because it is God's holy land, we must rid it of idol worship. In contrast,

In the diaspora, however - The obligation to destroy false deities is of a different nature.

we are not required to hunt after it. - Since these lands are not holy, we are not obligated to eradicate idol worship from them.

Rather, whenever we conquer a place, we must destroy all the false deities contained within - because a false deity may not exist under a Jew's authority.

In his notes on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 146:20), the Vilna Gaon explains that the Rambam's statements appear to mean that whenever the Jews conquer a land, they are obligated to destroy all false deities and their places of worship. These statements may, however, also be interpreted as meaning that whenever an individual finds or takes possession of a false deity, it must be destroyed.

[The source for this distinction is Deuteronomy 12:3, which] states: "And you shall destroy their name from this place," - i.e., Eretz Yisrael. The opening verse of the Biblical passage cited states: "These are the statutes... you must heed... in the land that God... is giving you."

[implying that] you are obligated to hunt false deities in Eretz Yisrael, but you are not obligated to do so in the diaspora. - The Bnei Binyamin writes that even according to the opinions which permit gentiles to believe in Christianity, Jews are obligated to destroy their objects of worship and churches. This raises a question regarding the churches that exist in Eretz Yisrael today. Should their existence be tolerated, or are we, as a people and as individuals, obligated to destroy them?

Commentary Halacha 2

It is forbidden to benefit from false deities - i.e., statues, trees, or other entities which are worshiped.

their accessories, offerings for them - The Rambam considers the prohibition against benefiting from wine offered as a libation for false deities as a mitzvah in its own right (Negative Commandment 194). Therefore, he does not mention the laws governing this prohibition here, but in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot, where he devotes three chapters to the subject.

[The fact that the Rambam associates the prohibition against benefitting from objects offered to idols with a Biblical proof-text appears to indicate that he considers this prohibition as having its roots in the Torah itself. Note Tosafot, Bava Kama 72a which states that the prohibition is Rabbinic in origin.]

and anything made for them, as [implied by Deuteronomy 7:26]: "Do not bring an abomination to your home." - Note the Pri Chadash,who questions whether a person who brings a false deity home without benefiting from it also receives lashes.

Anyone who derives benefit - Yad HaMelech contrasts the prohibition against benefiting from false gods with other Torah prohibitions where benefit is forbidden: e.g., non-kosher species of animals. In the latter case, though all types of benefit are forbidden, the Torah requires that punishment be administered only for eating the forbidden substances, and not for deriving other types of benefit (Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 8:16), while with regard to false deities, punishment is administered for deriving any type of benefit.

The source for this difference is that the Torah uses the expression "Do not eat" or the like when forbidding the other prohibitions. Accordingly, punishment is administered only for eating. In contrast, the verses prohibiting false deities are more inclusive in nature.

from any of the above receives two measures of lashes: one because of the prohibition, "Do not bring an abomination..." -Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 25) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 429) consider this to be one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

and one because of the prohibition, "Let nothing which is condemned cling to your hand." - As mentioned in Chapter 4, Halachah 7, the latter prohibition primarily concerns the property of a condemned city (עיר הנדחת). Nevertheless, since false deities are also described as "condemned," benefiting from them is also included in the scope of the above prohibition (Megillat Esther, Sefer HaMitzvot, Negative Commandment 194).

Though the Ramban (Hasagot L'Sefer HaMitzvot) disputes the Rambam's decision, support for the Rambam's opinion can be found in several Talmudic sources - e.g., Avodah Zarah 34b, 51b.

The prohibition stated in this halachah and the positive commandment mentioned in the previous one serve as the foundation for all the laws discussed in this and the following chapter.

Commentary Halacha 3

It is forbidden - because of the prohibition mentioned in the previous halachah. (See also Deuteronomy 32:38.)

to benefit from an animal which was sacrificed to false deities in its entirety - The standard published text of the Mishneh Torah states שהקריבוה כולה לעכוóם - i.e., the phrase "in its entirety" modifies the verb "sacrifices," leading to the conclusion that were an animal to be consecrated only partially to a false deity different rules would apply. Note the Kessef Mishneh, Avodat HaMelech, and Or Sameach, which discuss this concept.

Authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah, however, read אסורה כולה - i.e., "in its entirety" modifies "forbidden." According to this version, the explanation is straightforward, when an animal is sacrificed to a false deity the prohibition includes

even its excrement, its bones, its horns, its hooves, and its hide - i.e., the prohibition involves not only the animal's meat, but even these less important elements of its being.

It is forbidden to benefit from it at all. To cite an example, the hide of an animal which is marked by a sign that indicates that it was offered as a sacrifice to false deities - e.g., it has a round hole - if the hole is oblong, there is no prohibition (Avodah Zarah 2:3).

in the place of the heart through which the heart is extracted - They would slit open the animal's hide and kill it by cutting out the heart (Keter HaMelech)

which was a common practice [of idolaters] - when offering sacrifices (Avodah Zarah, ibid.):

It is forbidden to benefit from all of these hides and others of the like - because we assume that the animal was used as a sacrifice to idols and is therefore forbidden.

Commentary Halacha 4

What is the difference - with regard to the prohibition mentioned in the previous law

between an idol belonging to a gentile and one belonging to a Jew? It is forbidden to benefit from an idol belonging to a gentile immediately [after it is fashioned], as [implied by - the Torah's command to destroy idols

Deuteronomy 7:25]: "You shall burn the sculptures of their gods with fire;" i.e. - the mention of the word "sculptures" is an addition, teaching that

they are considered gods as soon as they have been sculpted - whether they have been worshiped or not. Therefore, they are forbidden from that time onward. Note the comments of the Lechem Mishneh, which mentions an apparent contradiction between these statements and Chapter 8, Halachah 8. (See our commentary on that halachah.)

[In contrast,] it is not forbidden to benefit from a Jew's [idol] until he worships it, as [implied by Deuteronomy 27:15]: "[Cursed is the person who makes an idol...] and places it in a hidden place," - When does the curse fall? Not when the idol is made, but when it is placed in a hidden place.

i.e., it is not forbidden until he does private acts - i.e., worship - for it is unlikely that a Jew would worship a false deity openly.

on its behalf.

The accessories of idol worship, whether belonging to a Jew or to a gentile, are not forbidden until they were actually used for the purpose of idol worship. - Avodah Zarah 51b derives this concept from the exegesis of Deuteronomy 12:2, which states "You shall surely destroy all the places where the gentiles... served their gods." The gentiles' places of worship and the other accessories to idol worship are not forbidden until the false deities are "served."

Commentary Halacha 5

[When] a person makes an idol for another person - although he receives lashes - as stated above, Chapter 3, Halachah 9

his wage is permitted. - We do not say that the wage is benefit derived from false deities, and is therefore forbidden.

[This applies] even when he made [the idol] for a gentile, and it is therefore forbidden immediately - as explained in the previous halachah.

[What is the rationale for the latter decision? The idol] is not forbidden until it is completed and the hammer-stroke which completes it - See Shabbat 73a, 75b and commentaries regarding the final hammer-stroke which completes a project.

is not worth a penny. - Avodah Zarah 19b explains that this law is dependent on the following principle of business law: Every moment an artisan works on a project is considered as a separate entity. When he finishes the project, it is considered as if the entire sum of money - with the exception of the value of the final hammer-stroke - is owed him from beforehand. Since benefit from the idol is not forbidden until it is completed, the money which is owed him previously is permitted.

[The following rules apply when] a person buys scrap metal from a gentile - There is an apparent contradiction between the laws which follow and Halachah 7, which states that idols found in a scrap metal heap are permitted. Two possible resolutions are offered:
a) According to the version (see our commentary on that halachah) which reads "statues" and not "statues of idols," there is no contradiction.
b) The prohibitions mentioned in this halachah were instituted because of the appearance that might be created if the Jew were to keep the idols he purchased. Accordingly, stricter laws were instituted.

and finds idols within it: - Once the Jew becomes the full legal owner of the idols, he is obligated to destroy them, and cannot nullify the transaction and return them. The question in the following instances is whether the transaction has been completed or not.

If he has already paid the money, but has not taken possession - We have taken some liberty in translating the word, ומשך. Literally, it means "and drew it after him." Performing this activity, however, is one of the means of formalizing a business transaction (see Hilchot Mechirah 3:1) and, therefore, the word was translated as above.

of it, he should return it to the gentile. - Though paying money represents the finalization of a transaction (kinyan) between a Jew and gentile (see Hilchot Zechiyah UMatanah 1:14), the transaction was made in error, as explained below. Since, in transactions carried out between two Jews, the transaction would not be completed until the recipient takes possession of the article, a Jew can return the idols to the gentile in this instance.

The same [rules] apply if he took possession of it, but did not pay the money. Although taking possession represents a formal transfer of ownership in dealings with a gentile - See Hilchot Zechiyah UMatanah, ibid.

the transaction was made in error - Since, in transactions carried out between two gentiles, the transaction would not be completed until the money was paid, it can be nullified in this instance.

If he paid the money and took possession [of the scrap] - even though the transaction was carried out in error, since it appears to have been completed, it is forbidden to benefit from the idols because of the impression it may create. Therefore, they must be destroyed (Avodah Zarah 53a, 71b). (See also Siftei Cohen 1464.)

Our commentary follows the interpretation of Rav Kapach. It must be noted that many of the classic commentaries on the Mishneh Torah have questioned why the Rambam mentions the concept of a transaction made in error only in the case when the Jew took possession and did not pay, but not when he paid and did not take possession. They have offered several possible resolutions, including a sweeping statement by Avodat HaMelech that our Sages nullified the effectiveness of monetary payment as an effective means of finalizing the transfer of property (kinyan), not only with regard to transactions between two Jews (see Hilchot Mechirah 3:1,4-5), but also with regard to transactions between a Jew and a gentile.

(Interestingly, though the Rambam's phraseology has raised such problems, it is quoted verbatim by the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 146:3.)

When stating that a forbidden object must be destroyed, our Sages frequently used the expression:

he must take [the idols] to the Dead Sea. -Tosafot, Avodah Zarah 43b, explain that one need not literally take the idols to the Dead Sea. By using that term, our Sages implied a place where the idols will never benefit man. Similarly, the Beit Yosef (Yoreh De'ah 146) explains that the Dead Sea is mentioned because it is a desolate area, not frequented by ships. If an article is cast into that sea, we can assume that it will not be recovered.

Tosafot also relates that, in practice, one need not take the idols to the Dead Sea. All that is necessary is to destroy the article in a manner in which neither it, nor its ashes or dust, will benefit man. See also Chapter 8, Halachah 6.

[It must be noted that though the Rambam occasionally uses the term 18חלמהáםי to refer to the Mediterranean Sea (see the conclusion to his Commentary to the Mishnah), in this context, it is clear that his intent is the Dead Sea.]

Similarly, when a gentile and a convert [divide] the estate of their father - a gentile - The problem in this instance is that it is forbidden to exchange an idol for other property. Hence, before taking possession of the inheritance,

the convert may tell the gentile, "Take the idols and I will take the money" or "Take the forbidden wine and I will take the produce." - In which case, the idols have never come into the convert's possession and, hence, he is not considered to have benefited from their exchange.

Once [idols] come into the possession of the convert, however - they are considered to be idols belonging to a Jew, and

they are forbidden - and must be destroyed.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (D'mai 6:10), the Rambam writes that were a similar situation - an inheritance containing property from which one heir would be allowed to benefit from and one would be forbidden - to occur among Jews, the leniencies mentioned above would not be permitted.

The difference between the two cases is that when a Jew inherits property from his father, the transfer of ownership is immediate, and from the moment of his father's death, the forbidden property belongs to the heir, who must take responsibility for it. In contrast, a convert's inheritance of his gentile father's estate is a Rabbinic decree, instituted in consideration of the convert. According to the Torah, once he converts, he has no connection to his natural parents. The Sages extended the leniency they granted in allowing him to acquire the inheritance to include the right to barter these forbidden articles before they actually become his property. (See also Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 146:5.

Commentary Halacha 6

We are allowed to benefit - i.e., enjoy the artistic talent and/or sell or use as scrap metal

from images - The Tur (Yoreh De'ah 141) states that these laws apply only to human images. Other authorities (and indeed certain interpretations of the Tur) disagree, and consider the statements as referring to all images. From the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 3:1), it appears that the latter opinion reflects his view.

which gentiles made for aesthetic purposes. - Note Chapter 3, Halachah 10, with regard to the prohibition against Jews making human images even for these purposes. See our commentary on that halachah, with regard to the place of art in Jewish life.

It is forbidden, however, to benefit from images that are made for the purpose of idol worship - even if they are artistic masterpieces. Thus, the entire realm of the gentile's sacramental art is forbidden to us.

What is implied? - The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 141:4) explains that the statements that follow (which are based on Avodah Zarah 41a) reflect the socio-cultural environment in which the Rambam lived. The criteria he mentions are thus not hard and fast rules, and will vary if different conditions prevail in other societies.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah, ibid., based on Avodah Zarah 40-41), the Rambam explains that although Rabbi Meir maintained that all gentile images were forbidden because they would be used for different pagan rites, the Sages disagreed and laid down the following general rules.

It is forbidden to benefit from any images found in villages for - Simple villagers are not expected to have artistic tastes. Therefore,

one may assume that they were made for the sake of idol worship. - Even if we have no proof to that effect, we follow the general rule that it is forbidden to benefit from an image which is merely suspected of being worshiped as an idol.

When images are found - even when the circumstances mentioned in the following halachah do not apply

in a city - Since the inhabitants of a metropolis are expected to be cultured and sophisticated, the images found there are not necessarily idols. Hence,

they are forbidden only when they are found at the entrance to the city - a position which implies their authority over the entire city.

and hold a staff, bird, globe, sword, crown, or ring in their hands. - All of these are also symbols of authority or sovereignty.

Otherwise, we may assume - The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 141:1, which frequently quotes the Rambam verbatim, changes the phraseology used in this clause from "we may assume" to "surely." The Siftei Cohen (141:1) explains that this change clarifies that even though it is forbidden to benefit from an image which is merely suspected to have been worshiped as an idol (see Halachah 10), our assumption

that they were made for aesthetic purposes - is so strong that this is not considered as a case of doubt

and benefit from them is permitted.

Commentary Halacha 7

Statues of false deities - Our text follows the published texts of the Mishneh Torah. The words "of false deities" and several of the other points in this halachah appear to be printer's additions, which are not found in the authoritative manuscripts and run contrary to the explanation of these concepts in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 3:2). Note also the apparent contradiction mentioned in our commentary on Halachah 5.

Significantly, the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 141:2 does not mention "idols," but "statues."

which are found discarded in the marketplace or in a scrap metal heap are permitted. - Avodah Zarah 41a-b explains this law as follows. The Mishnah uses the expression "statues" - i.e., a statue which we do not know that it has been worshiped. Shmuel, one of the Talmudic sages, adds, however, that the leniency also applies to idols which we know were worshiped.

His decision is based on the principle (Chapter 8, Halachah 8) that if the gentiles who worship an idol no longer consider it a god, the prohibition against benefiting from it is nullified. In this instance, the fact that these statues were found discarded is the clearest proof that their worshipers forsook them.

Afterwards, the Talmud quotes a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish, concerning idols which are broken accidentally. In the context of the explanation of that difference of opinion, the Talmud mentions the explanation of the Mishnah in question by Rabbi Yochanan (whom the halachah follows, see Chapter 8, Halachah 11). He explains that the pieces of the statues (not idols) are permitted because we are not sure that they were ever worshiped. Even if they have been worshiped, it is possible that they were nullified.

Thus, according to the Talmud, the interpretation of these laws is as follows: If one finds an idol that was obviously purposefully broken (Shmuel's law), it is permitted to benefit from it. If, however, the idol was not destroyed with an obvious destructive intent, it is forbidden to benefit from it, as Rabbi Yochanan states.

Needless to say, this applies to pieces of statues. - The fact that they were broken would appear to indicate that their worshipers nullified them.

In contrast, should one find a hand, a foot, or another limb from the form of one of the constellations or celestial signs - The phrase, "from the form of one of the constellations or celestial signs," is a printer's addition, which runs contrary to the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah, ibid. This phrase implies that this clause refers to a limb broken from an idol. The authoritative manuscripts state "should one find a hand... which is the form of a deity."

In his Commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states that this clause (found both in the mishnah and in this halachah) does not refer to a limb that is broken from an idol, but rather to an instance where the limb itself is worshiped. The Rambam explains that since the previous clause states that broken limbs of statues are permitted, this clause must be speaking about a different concept.

it is forbidden to benefit from it. - Though the fact that it was abandoned in a scrap heap could be considered as an indication that it was nullified,

Since one knows that this limb is one of the images that is worshiped - i.e., the prohibition against its use is firmly established,

the prohibition against [benefiting from it] remains until one knows - i.e., it is established with equal certainty

that the gentiles who worshiped it, nullified it - at which point its use is no longer prohibited, as explained in Chapter 8, Halachah 8.

Commentary Halacha 8

[The following laws apply when] a person finds articles which have the form of the sun, the moon - As mentioned in the commentary on Chapter 3, Halachah 11, the Rambam writes in 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 a dark old man of venerable age, Venus is represented as a beautiful maiden adorned with gold, and the sun is represented as a king with a diadem sitting in a chariot.

The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 141:3) quotes this explanation as halachah.

or a d'rakon - 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. Rashi, Avodah Zarah 42b, and others interpret the form as that of an animal similar to a serpent. Perhaps this term is the source for the word "dragon."

upon them: - The question is whether these forms should be considered to be representations of deities (and hence, forbidden).

If they are golden or silver objects, or silk garments - i.e., objects of great value.

or if these forms were engraved on a nose-ring or finger-ring - Rings, in addition to their value, also are a symbol of subservience: a slave wears his master's ring.

they are forbidden. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 141:3) mentions that even valuable objects are permitted if one is certain that they have never been used as articles of worship.

If these forms are found on other articles, they are permitted - The Mishnah (Avodah Zarah, ibid.) states the general rule: "If these articles are found on objects of value, they are forbidden. If they are found on articles of little worth, they are permitted." The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) mentions pots or kettles as examples of objects of little worth.

since we may assume that they were made for aesthetic purposes. - The Jerusalem Talmud (Avodah Zarah 3:3) states that if we are certain that these images were made for the purposes of worship, the article is forbidden even if it is of little value. TheShulchan Aruch (ibid.) quotes this principle.

The Ramah states that since paganism is not common at present, we assume that these forms were made for artistic purposes. Hence, it is not forbidden to benefit from an article even if it contains pagan images. One may not, however, keep such an article in one's possession. He adds that even at present, certain individuals are stringent with themselves and do not benefit from an article containing the three forms mentioned above.

Similarly, we may assume that any other form which is found on an article was intended for aesthetic purposes. - Avodah Zarah 42b asks rhetorically: "Are these the only forms that are worshiped?" and explains that it is possible that the other forms would also be worshiped, but they are generally not made for that purpose. In contrast, the three forms mentioned above are generally made for the purpose of worship.

Therefore, [the articles] are permitted.

Commentary Halacha 9

A false deity, its accessories, and the objects offered to it - Avodah Zarah 29b derives the prohibition against benefiting from wine used by pagans as a libation (yayin nesech) from the prohibition against benefiting from animals sacrificed to idols. Since the mishnah (Avodah Zarah 74a) specifically mentions yayin nesech as forbidden, regardless of the proportion of the mixture involved, the same principle applies to all objects offered to an idol.

are always forbidden, regardless of the proportion [of a mixture they make up]. - As mentioned in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot, Chapter 16, the prohibition against benefiting from different substances can be negated when the substance is accidentally mixed with other substances. For example, the prohibition against eating certain forbidden foods (e.g., non-kosher meat, fats, mixtures of meat and milk) is lifted when these substances become mixed with 60 times their amount of other substances. The prohibitions against terumah (and any other substances which are also called terumah) are lifted when it becomes mixed with 100 times their amount of other substances and similarly, the prohibitions against orlah andkilai hakerem are lifted when these substances are mixed with 200 times their amount of other substances.

Because of the serious nature of the prohibition against idol worship, these principles do not apply and anything connected with it is forbidden, regardless of the proportion of the mixture the forbidden substances make up. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah 5:8.)

What is implied? If an idol becomes mixed together with statues made for aesthetic purposes - which are permitted

even if the proportion is merely one in several thousand - the entire group must be taken to the Dead Sea - i.e., it is forbidden to benefit from them and they must be destroyed.

Similarly, if a goblet [used for] idol worship - i.e., an accessory of idol worship

becomes mixed together with many other - identical

goblets - Needless to say, if one can distinguish between the forbidden goblet and the permitted ones, there is no reason to forbid the use of the permitted ones.

or a piece of meat [coming from a sacrifice to a false deity] becomes mixed with other meat - See the following halachah.

the entire group must be taken to the Dead Sea. - TheLechem Mishneh (noting the Rambam's statements, Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 16:29) questions why in this instance, the Rambam does not suggest that the entire mixture be sold to a gentile, and then, the value of the forbidden article destroyed. This question is discussed by many commentaries; their consensus is that, although such a provision is made regarding closed barrels of yayin nesech, it applies in that specific case alone, but not with regard to other instances.

Similarly, if a hide with a hole through which the heart was removed - i.e., a round hole, as mentioned in Halachah 3. This was one of the common practices of idol worship.

becomes mixed with other hides, it is forbidden to benefit from the entire mixture - and it must be destroyed.

[When] a person - i.e., a Jew. Different laws apply regarding a gentile. (See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 132:7, 144:1.)

transgresses and sells a false deity, one of its accessories, or an object that was offered to it - The sale is forbidden, because it is forbidden to derive any benefit from a false deity. This prohibition is unique; whenever one sells other forbidden substances (with the exception of the fruits of the seventh year), the fact that their sale was forbidden does not affect the status of the money received for them. In contrast, when selling anything forbidden because of idol worship

it is forbidden to benefit from the money received - Rather, the money must be destroyed, like the idols themselves. If the proceeds from the sale or exchange of an idol are used to acquire another object, that object is also forbidden. See Chapter 8, Halachah 1.

and that prohibition [remains if these funds become mixed with others] regardless of the proportion [of the mixture] they make up. - i.e., the same severe restrictions that would apply to an idol itself, apply to the money received from its sale.

This principle is derived as follows:

[Deuteronomy 7:26] states: - "Do not bring an abomination (an idol) into your house...

"Lest you become condemned like it." [From this - The Hebrew word והיה

we - Avodah Zarah 54b

infer] that anything that comes - into your possession

from a false deity, from any of its accessories, or from [anything] offered to it - See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 132:5-7, which elaborates on this concept with regard to the laws pertaining to yayin nesech.

is [governed by the same prohibitions] as it is. - Note the commentary of Mishneh LaMelech, which questions whether the same ruling would be rendered if the purchaser did not know that the article which he acquired is connected with a false deity. Mishneh LaMelech maintains that the transaction is nullified, and the money the seller receives must be returned to the purchaser.

Commentary Halacha 10

When a false deity or an asherah - For a definition of the term asherah, see Chapter 6, Halachah 9, and see the following halachah.

is burned, it is forbidden to benefit from its ashes. - Ash was used for certain purposes - e.g., the manufacture of soap.

Although the idol was destroyed, the prohibition that applied to it applies to its ashes as well. (For this reason, our Sages suggested taking idols to the Dead Sea. Since this is a desolate area, there is little likelihood that anyone will ever benefit from the idols.)

Temurah 34a notes that this prohibition differentiates substances associated with idols from other forbidden substances that must be burned.

A coal taken from - a fire which is lit as an act of service to

an idol - is considered to be an accessory of the idol. It

is forbidden - to be used for any other purpose.

a flame [from an idol] is permitted, - to be used - e.g., to light another flame

for it is not an entity with substance - i.e., there is no entity to which the prohibition can be attached. Although as a safeguard, the Rabbis forbade the use of certain flames, they did not pass such a decree against flames from idol worship. In general, Jews were repelled by any association with idol worship. Hence, the Rabbis did not feel that it was necessary to institute a prohibition (Beitzah 39a).

When there is a doubt whether an object is connected to idol worship or not, it is forbidden. - When there is a doubt regarding whether a substance is prohibited or not, we follow the principle that מדאורייתא (according to Torah law), it is permitted. מדרבנן (according to Rabbinic decree), it is forbidden.

If, however, that doubt is questionable - The Hebrew, 18קפס אקיפס, implies that there is a doubt whether our original suspicion continues to apply, as illustrated by the examples mentioned in the latter clauses of the halachah.

The prohibition against benefiting from an object whose prohibited status is in question is only Rabbinic in nature. Whenever there is a doubt regarding whether a Rabbinic prohibition applies or not, a lenient approach is permitted (ספק דרבנן לקולא).

it is permitted. - For the Rabbis did not feel it necessary to institute a decree in such an instance.

What is implied? Should a goblet used for idol worship - i.e., an accessory of idol worship, which is forbidden, as mentioned in the previous halachah.

fall into a storage room of - identical

goblets, they are all forbidden, because a false deity and all its accessories are always forbidden, regardless of the proportion [of a mixture they make up]. - Since there is a doubt whether each of the goblets is the forbidden one or not, none of them may be used.

If one of the cups from this mixture falls together with two - This translation follows the standard printed text of the Mishneh Torah, which reads כוסות שנים. The Radbaz (Vol. V, Responsum 1406) suggests (and indeed, many manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah support this contention) that the text read כוסות שניים, which would be rendered as "other cups." This version is closer to the text of Zevachim 74a, the Talmudic passage that serves as the source for this law.

other cups - Here, there is a doubt whether our original suspicion continues to apply. Perhaps the cup one chooses from the new mixture did not come from the original mixture. Even if it did come from the original mixture, perhaps it is not the cup that was used for idol worship.

the [entire second mixture] is permitted. - The Kessef Mishneh and other commentaries question the Rambam's decision, noting that the text of Zevachim, ibid., appears to indicate that it is necessary for there to be three mixtures. Indeed, in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 16:10, when discussing the prohibitions of a דבר חשוב (a forbidden substance whose importance prevents it from ever being nullified in a mixture), the Rambam himself appears to follow this view, stating:

If one pomegranate from a mixture [containing a forbidden pomegranate] falls together with two other pomegranates... and from these three, one pomegranate falls together with other pomegranates, the latter [mixture] is permitted.

Indeed, on the basis of the statements in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 140) deviates from the Rambam's opinion and requires three mixtures.

This approach, however, is not followed by all commentaries. Rashi and Tosafot (Zevachim, ibid.) explain that even with regard to a דבר חשוב, only two mixtures are necessary. These views are quoted as halachah by the Turei Zahav and the Siftei Cohen in their glosses on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 110:8).

Among the suggestions made by the commentaries to resolve the difference between the Rambam's statements here and those in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot are the following:
a) Most people are careful regarding the prohibition against benefiting from any object connected with idol worship. Therefore, there is no need to reinforce the prohibition. In contrast, the prohibition against benefiting from a דבר חשוב is far less known. Hence, the Rabbis added severe safeguards to make sure that it be observed (Kessef Mishneh).
b) Here, the Rambam is speaking about a prohibition against benefiting from a forbidden object (איסור הנאה). In contrast, Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot is concerned with partaking of forbidden foods, where the prohibition is more severe (Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 110:52).

Even the authorities who permit the second mixture to be used do not allow a single individual to partake of the entire mixture at one time. In such an instance, there would be only a single doubt whether he used the forbidden object or not.

The Rabbis (Zevachim, 74b) mentioned another example of a mixture which is permitted because of circumstances which create a doubt whether our original suspicion continues to apply:

Should a ring [used to adorn] an idol become mixed together with one hundred other rings, and - they would thus all be forbidden according to the above principles. However, if

then two of them fall - accidentally. If one intentionally throws one into the sea, the leniency does not apply (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 110:7).

into the Mediterranean Sea - and are thus lost. If two merely become separated from the group, the others remain prohibited (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.). (Note the Kessef Mishneh's comments that here, the Dead Sea is intended.)

it is permissible to use all of them. - i.e., all the rings that remain. The prohibition does not continue to apply, because

We presume that the [forbidden] ring was among the two - The Kessef Mishneh notes that when stating a similar law in Hilchot Terumah 15:2, the Rambam required only a single barrel of wine to be lost. The difference between these two laws can be resolved by taking into account the nature of the prohibited substances: Rings are small, and the loss of a single ring does not make a substantial difference to the entire group. In contrast, barrels of wine are large, and the loss of even one will attract attention.

[which fell]. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 140) limits this leniency, stating that it is forbidden to use a single ring alone, nor may one person benefit from the entire group of rings at once.

The Rabbis (Zevachim, ibid.) mentioned a third example of a mixture which is permitted because of circumstances which create a doubt whether our original suspicion continues to apply:

Should [a forbidden ring] become mixed together with a hundred others and - they would thus be forbidden according to the above principles. However, if

then [the group] becomes divided, forty - i.e., the minority

being separated in one group, and sixty - i.e., the majority

in another, and then the entire [group of] forty fall into another group of rings, it is permissible to use all of them - the second mixture.

We presume that the forbidden ring remained among the majority. - There is a doubt whether the forbidden ring was among the forty. Even if it had been included within that forty, perhaps the ring one chooses from the second mixture is not the forbidden one.

In this instance, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 140) does not accept the Rambam's view, and forbids the second mixture. Even according to the Rambam, it is not permissible to eat the entire second mixture at one time, for then there would be only a single doubt.

If the - entire

[group of] sixty fall into another group of rings, they are all forbidden. - Should, however, only a portion of the sixty fall into another mixture, the Rambam (but not the Shulchan Aruch) would permit their use. In such an instance, their status would parallel that of the second mixture of goblets mentioned above.

Commentary Halacha 11

Sitting under the shade of the trunk of an asherah - a tree associated with the worship of false deities

whether it is worshiped itself - as mentioned in Chapter 8, Halachah 3.

or whether an idol was placed under it - as mentioned in Chapter 6, Halachah 9, and Chapter 8, Halachah 4. In such instances, the tree was intended for aesthetic purposes and for offering shade to the worshipers.

is forbidden - because one will be deriving benefit from a false deity or its accessories.

It is, however, permissible to sit under the shade of its branches and its leaves. - This decision has been questioned by other authorities, who wonder why the Rambam distinguished between the tree's trunk and branches. On the surface, the same prohibition should apply to both of them.

The Rambam's decision is based on his interpretation of Avodah Zarah 48b, which is derived from the Jerusalem Talmud (Avodah Zarah 3:8). The Talmud explains that even though the shade of an asherah is forbidden, צל הצל, literally, "the shade of its shade," is permitted. The Jerusalem Talmud interprets 18לצ לצה as shade produced by the parts of the tree which would not touch the trunk if they fell.

[Rashi offers a different interpretation of Avodah Zarah, ibid. His view is accepted by most commentaries. When quoting this law, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 142:9) does not differentiate between the shade produced by the trunk and that of its leaves.

If a person has another route - to reach his desired destination, which is no longer than the one which passes under the asherah. If the alternate route is longer, the person is not required to deviate from the path leading under the asherah (Shulchan Aruch, ibid.).

it is forbidden for him to pass under it. - This prohibition appears to have been instituted lest one benefit from the tree's shade. Note, however, the Ramah's statements (Yoreh De'ah, ibid.), which permit one to pass under the asherah's shade, though not under the tree itself. According to his opinion, the prohibition stems from the impurity of idol worship.

If he has no other route, he may pass under it, provided he runs - Avodah Zarah (ibid.) relates that Rav Sheshet would run when he passed under an asherah. This Talmudic passage mentions the requirement to run only with regard to a person of distinction. Nevertheless, since there is no great difficulty in running for this short distance, the Rambam imposes this stringency on all people (Kessef Mishneh).

Commentary Halacha 12

Chicks which do not need their mother - i.e., which can fly on their own

and nest in [an asherah] are permitted. - Even though these chicks are permitted, Me'ilah 14a does not allow one to climb up the tree and take them in a normal manner. Rather, one must knock the chicks down with a stave, and then collect them. The Hagahot Maimoniot (and the Turei Zahav, Yoreh De'ah 142:12) explain that climbing on the tree or using it as support for a ladder would involve deriving benefit from the forbidden tree.

The Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Me'ilah 3:9, suggests a different interpretation. There, the Rambam specifically writes that when taking the nest - as stated in the final clause of this halachah - it permissible to climb up the tree in the normal manner. Therefore, it appears that one should knock down the chicks to see if they are capable of flying on their own or not. This explanation also clarifies why the Rambam does not mention in this halachah the need to knock down the chicks. By stating that only those which do not need their mother are permitted, he implies that one must determine whether or not the chicks need their mother (Rav Kapach).

In contrast, the chicks and eggs which need their mother are forbidden, for the asherah is considered as if it is a base for them. - Avodah Zarah 42b explains that this is a Rabbinic decree imposed lest the people desire to benefit from the asherah itself. Since these chicks and eggs require the asherah, they are prohibited as the asherah is.

The nest itself - [even though it is] in the top of the tree - is permitted, - and the wood from which it is composed may be used for other purposes

for the birds bring the wood for it from other places. - Were the wood, however, to come from the asherah itself, it would be forbidden even though it had been separated from it already, as is obvious from Chapter 8, Halachah 3.

The Ra'avad states that one must explicitly know that the birds built their nest from other wood. Avodat HaMelech explains that the Rambam does not require such knowledge, because of the following Talmud principle: When there is a question whether a substance came from the most probable source (רוב) or the closest source (קרוב), we presume it came from the most probable source.

Commentary Halacha 13

It is forbidden to benefit from wood which one takes from it. - i.e., from an asherah. Even though the wood has been separated from the tree itself, it is forbidden to benefit from the wood. (See Chapter 8, Halachot 1,3, and 4 for additional explanations regarding the nature of this prohibition.)

This prohibition applies not merely לכתחילה (a priori), but even in the following instance.

Should a person have heated an oven with such wood - and thus seek to benefit from the forbidden wood, he is not permitted to use the oven. Rather,

he must cool it off. - Note the contrast between the Rambam's statements here and those in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 16:22, where the Rambam states that if an oven is heated with the shells or peels of fruit which is forbidden (because it is either orlah or kil'ei hakerem), it is sufficient to remove the wood which is burning. The coals and the heat produced by the initial fire, however, are not forbidden and one may bake with them. He does not make such statements here, because, as stated in Halachah 10, even the coals and ashes of an asherah are forbidden.

[Curiously, when mentioning these laws in the Shulchan Aruch (142:4), Rav Yosef Karo quotes the Rambam's statements in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot, substituting forbidden wood for orlah, without distinguishing between the different prohibitions. Accordingly the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch (Turei Zahav 145:5, Siftei Cohen 145:10) object to his decision.]

Afterwards, he should - remove the forbidden wood and

kindle it with other, permitted wood and then bake within. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 3:9), the Rambam explains that the above decision applies whether the oven is new or old.

The Mishnah states that if such wood is used in a new oven, the oven may never be used again. In Talmudic times, the ovens were made of clay and the clay would not harden sufficiently until the oven was kindled once. Thus, since kindling the oven for the first time prepared it to be used on all subsequent occasions, some Rabbis forbade its use when this first kindling was made with a forbidden substance. This opinion is, nevertheless, not accepted as halachah. The Rambam's view is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, ibid. (See the explanation of זה וזה גורם in the following halachah.)

Furthermore, this prohibition is extended beyond the oven:

Should he bake bread in [an oven heated in this manner] without cooling it - even if, afterwards, he added permitted wood

he is forbidden to benefit from the bread - because the beneficial effect of the forbidden wood preceded the influence of the permitted wood.

If [such a loaf] became mixed together with others - the entire mixture is forbidden. He can, however, cause that prohibition to be lifted if he carries out the following instructions.

[This mixture of bread can be differentiated from the mixtures mentioned in Halachah 10. Those mixtures involved objects which were themselves used as accessories for idol worship, while here the loaf itself was never used for such purposes. Hence, the severe laws mentioned there do not apply in this instance.]

he must bring the value of that loaf - even if it is more valuable than the wood (Siftei Cohen 142:9).

to the Dead Sea - or destroy it in another way (see the notes on Halachah 5)

so that he will never benefit from it. - The Siftei Cohen 142:8 states that the Rambam's [and, thus, the Shulchan Aruch's (Yoreh De'ah 142:3)] phraseology implies that it is not sufficient to destroy the value of the wood (regardless of whether the forbidden loaf becomes mixed with others or not). He does, however, suggest selling the loaf to a gentile (less the value of the forbidden wood) in a manner in which one could be sure that it would not be resold to a Jew.

The other loaves, however, are permitted - even to be eaten. In other similar situations, one is permitted to benefit from a forbidden mixture (e.g., sell it to a gentile), but partaking of it oneself is prohibited. (See Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 16:29.) Here, one is allowed to partake of the bread itself (Siftei Cohen 142:10).

Commentary Halacha 14

If one took [a piece of wood from an asherah to use as] a shuttle - the piece of the loom which passes the woof through the threads of the warp.

and wove a garment with it, it is forbidden to benefit from [the garment] - because it is prohibited to use anything made from idol worship.

Should the garment become mixed together with other garments, he must bring the value of that garment to the Dead Sea. - Note the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 3:9), where he explains why it is necessary to state both cases (the bread and the garment).

All the other garments, however, are permitted - as explained in the previous halachah. (See also Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 142:3.)

It is permissible - 18הליחתכל (a priori)

to plant vegetables under [an asherah], whether in the summer - when they need the shade - and thus, one will receive direct benefit from the asherah

or in the winter - when the influence of the asherah is less felt.

[This leniency is granted] because the vegetables' growth is produced by two factors: the shade of the asherah, which is forbidden, and the earth, which is permitted. - We follow a principle that is employed in many other areas of Torah law:

Whenever an effect is produced by the combination of a forbidden factor and a permitted factor, it is permitted. - In such instances, the leniency is generally granted only בדיעבד (after the fact). In this situation, however, the leniency is granted a priori, because the person does not receive any benefit when he sows the field and, afterwards, the benefit comes in and of itself (Rabbenu Nissim).

Therefore, if a field was fertilized with fertilizer [that was forbidden because of a connection with] idol worship, one may sow it - because the crop growth also depends on the earth, which is not forbidden. At the outset, however, it is forbidden to use such fertilizer (Siftei Cohen 142:11).

Similarly, [the meat of] a cow that was fed with beans - The Hebrew term כרשינים refers to "vetch," a species of bean commonly used for animal fodder.

[that were forbidden because of a connection with] idol worship, it may be eaten - because its growth was also influenced by the permitted food it ate. If, however, it was raised solely on forbidden food, different rules apply (Turei Zahav 142:17).

[Significantly, in Hilchot Issurei Mizbe'ach 3:9, the Rambam feels it necessary to give a different reason why a cow that was given such a diet might be used as a sacrifice. The Sages, however, always ruled more stringently with regard to sacrifices than with regard to food consumed by private individuals.]

The same principle applies in other similar situations.

Commentary Halacha 15

It is not forbidden to benefit from meat, wine, and fruits that were prepared as offerings for idols. - This law reflects a contrast to the Temple offerings. Once a person dedicated an animal to be offered as a sacrifice, or an article to be donated to the Temple treasury, it became consecrated (הקדש) and could no longer be used for mundane purposes. This principle does not apply with regard to articles designated to be used as offerings for idols, as explained in Chapter 8, Halachah 1.

Although they were brought into the temple of a false deity, [they are not prohibited] until they are actually brought as offerings. - However, as is obvious from the latter clause of this halachah, an object found in a temple of a false deity is forbidden, unless we have explicit knowledge that it was not brought as an offering. We assume that it was used for this forbidden purpose.

Once they are brought as offerings, [their status changes] and they remain forbidden - as stated in Halachah 2

forever, - Avodat HaMelech interprets this as a reference to Chapter 8, Halachah 9, where the Rambam states that the prohibition against using an offering brought to an idol can never be nullified. Although the prohibition against using an idol itself can be nullified, more stringent rules apply with regard to an offering.

even if they were later removed [from the temple]. - The change in their location does not effect a change in status.

Torah law - not merely Rabbinic decree

forbids benefiting from anything that is found in a temple of a false deity, even water or salt. - See the following halachah. (Also note Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 139:3.)

If a person eats even the slightest amount from such substances, he is [punished by] lashing. - Note Halachah 2, where the Rambam states that a person who benefits from offerings brought to a false deity receives a double measure of lashes. Apparently, the Rambam is not explicit here because he is relying on this previous statement.

Commentary Halacha 16

[The following laws apply when] a person finds garments, utensils, or money [placed] on the head of an idol. - Avodah Zarah 51b states that the prohibition applies only when the articles are placed on the idol itself. The fact that they are positioned near the idol is not sufficient to have them forbidden.

If he finds them [placed] in a derisive manner, they are permitted - because the manner in which they are placed indicates that they were not intended as adornment or service for the idol.

If he finds them [placed] in a deferential manner, they are forbidden. - Avodah Zarah, ibid., derives this concept from the exegesis of Deuteronomy 29:16: "You saw their putridities (their idols)... the gold and silver which is with them," explaining that "anything which is 'with them' is 'putrid,' forbidden as the idols are. Since these are articles that are used to adorn an idol, they are prohibited.

What is implied? If one finds a purse hanging around its neck, folded garments placed on its head, or a utensil overturned on its head, they are permitted, because [they were placed] in a derisive manner. - The position of the article indicates that it was not placed there with the intent of adorning the idol. On the contrary, placing these articles on an idol in such a fashion reflects one's contempt for it. Therefore, there is no reason for the article to be forbidden.

The same applies to other similar situations. [In contrast,] if one finds an object of a type which is used as an offering for the [Temple] altar - This includes the animals used as sacrifices, wine, flour, or oil. Avodah Zarah 51b notes that this prohibition includes even water, which is used for the water libation on Sukkot, and salt, which is added to all the sacrifices offered on the altar.

on the head [of an idol], it is forbidden. - The fact that these articles are used as offerings in the Temple leads to the conclusion that they were presented to the idol for a similar purpose.

When does the above - distinction between a deferential and a derisive position

apply? When one finds such articles outside its - the idol's

[usual] place of worship. When, however, one finds such articles within the [idol's place of worship] - The fact that the article was brought into the idol's temple indicates that it was used in its service. Accordingly,

regardless of whether it was placed in a derisive manner or in a deferential manner, or whether it is of the type of objects used as sacrifices for the [Temple] altar, any article found within [such a structure] - even if it is not placed upon the idol itself

even water or salt - The Rambam's mention of these articles is somewhat problematic. Since they were offered on the Temple altar, as explained above, they are forbidden even if they are not found within the temple of an idol. The commentaries explain that since these articles are of little consequence and are not generally themselves brought as offerings to an idol, we would not think that they were forbidden. Therefore, it is necessary to mention them explicitly.

becomes forbidden. - Note Hilchot Sha'ar Avot HaTum'ot 6:7, where the Rambam states that the forbidden nature of foods offered to idols can never be negated. When, however, utensils are offered, the prohibition against using them can be negated, as explained in Chapter 8, Halachah 8.

[Different laws apply regarding] Pe'or and Marculis. - See the description of the service of these deities in Chapter 3, Halachah 2.

It is forbidden to benefit from anything that is found together with them, whether [it is found] in their [temple] or outside of it. - Since these deities are served in a derisive manner, no distinction is made between the manner in which articles placed upon them are found. Even when an article is found in a derisive position, it is forbidden.

Similarly, with regard to the stones [found near a symbol of] Marculis: If a stone appears to be together with it - Since a shrine to this deity consists of stones piled on each other, we assume that any stone found in proximity to it was once part of such a pile. Hence,

it is forbidden to benefit from it. - Rashi, Avodah Zarah 50a states that all stones within a cubit of the deity are forbidden. Stones which are further removed are permitted. Tosafot maintains that any stones found within a radius of four cubits are forbidden.

Commentary Halacha 17

When [the shrine of] a false deity possesses a bathhouse or a garden, benefit may be derived from it, provided one does not offer appreciation - We have rendered טובה as "appreciation" because, as evident from the final clause of the halachah, the benefit mentioned by the Rambam is not monetary or even goods that can be exchanged for money (Kessef Mishneh).

[Thus, the Rambam's interpretation differs from that of Rashi, who, in his commentary on Avodah Zarah 51b, understands טובה as referring to monetary payment.]

[in return]. - Our translation follows the standard published texts of the Mishneh Torah. The manuscript versions read: "provided one does not offer benefit to its priests." This version is supported by the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Avodah Zarah 4:3). If the benefit is offered to the idol's worshipers and not to its priests, one may make use of the bathhouse or garden even if it is necessary to pay a fee (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 143:3).

[If] one must offer appreciation, it is forbidden. - The Kessef Mishneh explains that this prohibition was instituted lest a person develop close feelings towards the priests who serve a false deity.

[If the garden or bathhouse] is mutually owned by [the shrine] and another entity, one may derive benefit from it - and one is not considered to have benefited from a false deity,since the bathhouse or garden is not itself a shrine

even if one provides its priests with appreciation. - The commentaries explain that since the prohibition is Rabbinic in nature (because it is appreciation and not a fee which is being offered), if the appreciation is not being given solely to the priests, the Rabbis did not feel it necessary to impose a prohibition.

One may not, however, pay a fee - because doing so provides direct benefit to the false deity.

This prohibition caused severe problems in Europe, where frequently many of the community services necessary for everyday life - e.g., flour mills, ovens, and the like - were owned by the Catholic Church. The rabbinic authorities of these areas interpreted these laws more leniently, offering different explanations of how one could benefit from church-owned property. (See Ramah and the Turei Zahav, Yoreh De'ah, ibid.) All authorities, however, agree that if a fee must be paid to the false deity itself and not to its attendants, no benefit is permitted.

Commentary Halacha 18

It is permitted to bathe in a bathhouse even though an idol is located within - This halachah is based on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah 3:4, which relates:

Rabban Gamliel was bathing in the bathhouse of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of beauty) in Akko, and Praclus ben Paluslus asked him: "Why are you bathing in Aphrodite's bathhouse? Does your Torah not command: 'Let nothing which is condemned cling to your hand'?
He responded: "One does not reply in a bathhouse." After he had departed, he told him, "I did not come into her territory, she came into mine. One does not say, 'This bathhouse is becoming to Aphrodite.' One says, 'Aphrodite is becoming to the bathhouse.' Furthermore, no matter how much money you were offered, you would not enter your idol's temple naked... and urinate before it." (The mishnah continues, mentioning the interpretation of Deuteronomy 12:2 quoted by the Rambam.)

[Significantly, Rashi (Avodah Zarah 44b) interprets the mishnah differently from the Rambam. They explain that rather than the idol being located within the bathhouse, the bathhouse was located within premises belonging to the idol.]

because it is placed there for aesthetic purposes and not to be served. - This is the Rambam's interpretation of Rabban Gamliel's first point. He did not enter a place where the statue was served (Aphrodite's territory). Rather, he entered a bathhouse (his territory) where a statue had been placed as an adornment.

[The Rambam's interpretation is also found in the Tosafot Rid and the Eshkol. Rashi and others interpret Rabban Gamliel's statements differently.]

[This leniency can be inferred from the use by Deuteronomy 12:2 of the term:] "their gods" - when describing the commandment to nullify idol worship

i.e., the prohibition applies when they - the gentiles

treat them - their statues

as gods, and not when they humiliate them, such as in an instance where [the idol] stands over the sewage pipe and they urinate before it. - Avodah Zarah 44b clarifies that the performance of a humiliating act before an idol does not necessarily nullify its forbidden character. (See Chapter 8, Halachah 10.) Nevertheless, since an idol placed in a bathhouse is constantly subjected to deprecating situations, we can assume that the gentiles do not regard it as a god.

Should [the idol's] worship involve such activities - As explained in Chapter 3, Halachah 2, there are some idols which are worshiped in a deprecatory manner - e.g., Pe'or, whose worshipers would defecate before it.

it is forbidden to enter [the bathhouse]. - As explained in Chapter 3, Halachah 5, even when a person performs these activities with the intent of humiliating the idol, since this is its mode of worship, he is considered to have inadvertently violated the commandment against idol worship, and is obligated to bring a sin offering for atonement.

Commentary Halacha 19

It is permitted to benefit - The Kessef Mishneh interprets the Rambam's phraseology as implying that although, after the fact, the meat is not forbidden, at the outset (לכתחילה), it is forbidden to slaughter an animal with such a knife. Other authorities, however, do not share this opinion, and maintain that there is no prohibition against using such a knife. (See Ramah, Yoreh De'ah 142:2 and the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, 10:1, which accept the latter view as halachah.)

from [an animal] slaughtered using a knife [forbidden because of its connection to] idol worship] - Chulin 8b clarifies that we are speaking about an instance where the knife has already been kashered, and thus, the only question involves benefiting from an accessory of idol worship. In Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 17:7, the Rambam discusses the process of kashering the knife and what must be done if the knife was used without being kashered. (See also Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, ibid.)

because one is detracting from [the animal's] value. - While an animal is alive, it can be used for work and for breeding, and is therefore of greater value.

If the animal is in danger [of dying], it is forbidden, because one is enhancing its value - If the animal dies naturally, a Jew will not be permitted to eat its meat. Thus, the animal's slaughter enhances its value.

and this improvement involves benefit from an accessory of idol worship. - Hence, it is forbidden, as stated in Halachah 2. The Kessef Mishneh states that, based on Halachot 12 and 13, it would appear that the Rambam maintains that all the meat from the animal is forbidden, and there is no way one may benefit from it. The Kessef Mishneh does not accept that view, and argues that it is sufficient to destroy an amount of meat equivalent to the value of the knife.

Similarly, it is forbidden to cut meat - i.e., cut large pieces of meat into smaller ones

with [such a knife], because one is enhancing its value - making it fit to be sold or cooked. The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 142:6) relates that if one cut pieces of meat with such a knife, even the Rambam would not forbid use of the meat entirely. It would be necessary, however, to destroy an amount of meat equivalent to the value of the knife.

Should one cut with a destructive intent, causing a loss - e.g., cut pieces which are of a size fit for cooking into smaller ones, which would be less attractive. See Chulin 8b.

the meat is permitted - because no benefit was derived from an accessory of an idol. On the contrary, a loss was caused.

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