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Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Ten

Avodat Kochavim - Chapter Ten

Halacha 1

We may not draw up a covenant with idolaters which will establish peace between them [and us] and yet allow them to worship idols, as [Deuteronomy 7:2] states: "Do not establish a covenant with them." Rather, they must renounce their [idol] worship or be slain. It is forbidden to have mercy upon them, as [Deuteronomy, ibid.] states: "Do not be gracious to them."

Accordingly, if we see an idolater being swept away or drowning in the river, we should not help him. If we see that his life is in danger, we should not save him. It is, however, forbidden to cause one of them to sink or push him into a pit or the like, since he is not waging war against us.

To whom do the above apply? To gentiles. It is a mitzvah, however, to eradicate Jewish traitors, minnim, and apikorsim, and to cause them to descend to the pit of destruction, since they cause difficulty to the Jews and sway the people away from God.

Halacha 2

From the above, we can infer that it is forbidden to offer medical treatment to an idolater even when offered a wage. If, however, one is afraid of the consequences or fears that ill feeling will be aroused, one may treat them for a wage, but to treat them free is forbidden.

[With regard to] a ger toshav, since we are commanded to secure his well-being, he may be given medical treatment at no cost.

Halacha 3

It is forbidden to sell them homes and fields in Eretz Yisrael. In Syria, one may sell them homes, but not fields.

One may rent them homes in Eretz Yisrael, provided that a neighborhood [of idolaters] is not established. Fewer than three [homes] does not constitute a neighborhood. It is, however, forbidden to rent them fields. In Syria, one may rent them fields.

Why did [the Rabbis issue] more stringent laws regarding fields? Because two difficulties are involved: One removes the obligation of tithes [from these fields], and one gives them a resting place in our land.

It is permitted to sell them houses and fields in the Diaspora, because it is not our land.

Halacha 4

Even when it is permitted to rent [homes to idolaters], it is not permitted to rent to them for use as a dwelling, because they will bring idols into them, as [Deuteronomy 7:26] states: "Do not bring an abomination into your home." It is, however, permitted to rent them homes to use as storehouses.

It is forbidden to sell them fruit, grain, or other produce while it is attached to the earth. One may sell [these products] after they have been harvested or [before they have been harvested], on the condition that they will be harvested, and he must harvest them.

Why is it forbidden to sell them [land or anything attached to the land]? Because [Deuteronomy 7:2] states: "Do not be gracious with them." [This phrase can also be interpreted:] "Do not give them a resting place in the land." As long as they do not have a resting place in the land, their stay will be a temporary one.

[This prohibition also] forbids speaking about [idolaters] in a praiseworthy manner. It is even forbidden to say, "Look how beautiful that idolater's body is." How much more so is it forbidden to praise their deeds or to hold their words dear, as [the phrase states]: "Do not be gracious with them." [This phrase can also be interpreted:] "Do not look at them graciously," for doing so will cause you to draw close to them and learn from their wicked behavior.

[Also implicit in the above phrase is that] it is forbidden to give them a present. A present may, however, be given to a ger toshav, [as implied by Deuteronomy 14:21:] "You may give it to the stranger in your gates so that he may eat it; or sell it to a gentile," [i.e., to an idolater]; it should be sold, not given.

Halacha 5

We should provide for poor idolaters together with poor Jews for the sake of peace. One should not rebuke idolaters [from taking] leket, shich'chah, and pe'ah, for the sake of peace. One may inquire about their well-being - even on their festivals - for the sake of peace.

One may never repeat good wishes to them. Also, one should not enter the house of a gentile on one of his festivals to wish him well. If one encounters him in the marketplace, one may greet him meekly with a serious countenance.

Halacha 6

All the above matters apply only in an era when Israel is in exile among the idolaters or in an era when the idolaters are in power. When, however, Israel is in power over them, it is forbidden for us to allow an idolater among us.

Even a temporary resident or a merchant who travels from place to place should not be allowed to pass through our land until he accepts the seven universal laws commanded to Noah and his descendants, as [Exodus 23:33] states: "They shall not dwell in your land" - i.e., even temporarily.

A person who accepts these seven mitzvot is a ger toshav. A ger toshav may be accepted only in the era when the [laws of the] Jubilee Year are observed. In an era when the [laws of the] Jubilee Year are not observed, however, we may accept only full converts [to Judaism].

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