THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Avodah Zarah, 14
1) CAUSING A PERSON TO CAUSE ANOTHER PERSON TO SIN
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (13b) states that it is forbidden to sell a states
that even though one is generally forbidden to sell Levonah (frankincense)
to an idol worshipper, since it is likely that he will use the Levonah to
serve his idol. The Gemara quotes a Tosefta which teaches that one *is*
permitted to sell a large quantity, a "bundle" (Chavilah), of Levonah to an
idol worshipper. RASHI explains that since he is buying a large bundle, he
most probably wants it for commercial purposes and not for idol worship.
The Gemara asks that perhaps the idol worshipper who is buying the bundle of
Levonah will then go and sell some of it to others who will use it for
Avodah Zarah, and, therefore, how is it permitted for a Jew to sell to an
idol worshipper even a large quantity? Abaye answers that we are commanded
not to do something that will cause another person to sin -- "v'Lifnei Iver
Lo Siten Michshol" -- "Do not place a stumbling block before the blind"
(Vayikra 19:14), but we are not commanded not to do something that will
cause another person *to cause another person* to sin ("Lifnei d'Lifnei").
What is the basis for the leniency of "Lifnei d'Lifnei?" Is the reason for
this leniency the fact that the idol worshipper might not actually sell the
Levonah to someone who needs it for Avodah Zarah? Perhaps even when the one
who buys it from the idol worshipper will definitely use it for Avodah
Zarah, it is still permissible for the Jew to sell it to the first idol
worshipper, because there is no indication in the verse to differentiate.
(a) TOSFOS (14b, DH Chatzav) discusses selling books that were used for
Avodah Zarah to ordinary Nochrim who are not priests. He says that it is
prohibited, because the first Nochri buyer "will *definitely*" give it or
sell it to a priest. This is also the opinion of the SEMAG (Lavin, #45) and
the HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 9:6). The BACH (YD 139)
points out that these Rishonim maintain that the allowance of "Lifnei
d'Lifnei" applies only when the second person will not definitely transgress
(b) The TERUMAS HA'DESHEN (#299) seems to disagree with the ruling of
Tosfos. He discusses the following question. There is a dispute among the
Rishonim regarding whether Nochrim are prohibited from castrating animals.
According to the opinion that they are prohibited, may one sell animals to
Nochrim when he knows that they will castrate them? The Terumas ha'Deshen
says that there is reason to permit it. The reason is that since the buyer
himself does not castrate the animal, but rather he gives the animal to his
servants who perform the castration, it is a case of "Lifnei d'Lifnei." (We
cannot ask that perhaps this case is not a case of "Lifnei d'Lifnei" since
the servant is acting as the agent, Shali'ach, of the buyer, because,
according to Halachah, a person cannot designate a Shali'ach to perform a
sin, and nor can a Nochri appoint a Shali'ach in general.)
However, the Terumas ha'Deshen concludes by saying, "Nevertheless, one can
differentiate between this case and the case of Levonah (the case of our
Gemara)." What does the Terumas ha'Deshen mean by this statement? What is
the difference between selling an animal to a Nochri who will give the
animal to his servants to castrate, and selling Levonah to a Nochri who will
sell it to someone who will use it for idolatry?
The Bach says that the Terumah ha'Deshen is referring to the difference that
Tosfos says. In the case of selling an animal to a Nochri, the castration
definitely will happen, and thus "Lifnei d'Lifnei" does not permit it, while
in the case of our Gemara, it is not definite that the Nochri buyer will
sell the Levonah to someone who will use it for idolatry.
The KESAV SOFER argues with the Bach and says that this is not the intention
of the Terumas ha'Deshen. The Terumas ha'Deshen (in P'sakim #27) explicitly
argues with Tosfos regarding selling books to an ordinary Nochri who will
give them to a priest, and he says that it is permitted because of "Lifnei
d'Lifnei!" It is clear that the Terumas ha'Deshen argues with the reasoning
The Kesav Sofer explains instead that the difference between the case of the
animal and the case of Levonah is that in the case of selling Levonah, the
Nochri who is buying the Levonah does not have intention to sin with the
object; rather, he is simply buying merchandise in order to sell it to make
a profit (the same applies in the case of selling books to a Nochri). Even
though it is almost certain that another Nochri will sin as a result of the
object being sold to the first Nochri, that sin is too far removed from the
seller to make his act of selling prohibited. In the case of selling
animals, the buyer himself intends to do the sin of castrating the animals.
Even though he will not be the actual perpetrator of the sin, selling it to
him is like ensuring that his servant will castrate the animal. This is why
the Terumas ha'Deshen says that this case is not similar to the case of
Levonah. The SEDEH CHEMED (Ma'arachah 6, 26:24) has a similar understanding
of the Terumas ha'Deshen.
We find that the REMA (YD 139:15) understands that the Terumas ha'Deshen
remains with his view that "Lifnei d'Lifnei" is permitted even when the
secondary party will definitely do the sin. The SHULCHAN ARUCH there seems
to rule in accordance with the minority opinion that there is no prohibition
at all to sell books to *any* Nochri (seemingly even to priests; see BI'UR
HA'GRA who is perplexed by the Shulchan Aruch's decision not to even mention
the other opinions). The Rema there cites the opinion of Tosfos that one may
not sell such books to *any* Nochri, and he then says that the Terumas
ha'Deshen says that it is permitted to sell them to an ordinary Nochri. The
Rema rules that someone who is stringent and follows the view of Tosfos will
receive a blessing. This indicates that the Rema maintains that the Terumas
ha'Deshen indeed argues with Tosfos, and that me'Ikar ha'Din the Halachah
follows the view of the Terumas ha'Deshen.
However, the Rema elsewhere seems to contradict this ruling. Regarding the
Halachah of selling animals to Nochrim, the Rema (EH 5:14) cites both
opinions regarding selling animals to gentiles, and he writes that if the
Nochri buyer will not do the castration himself, then "everyone agrees that
[selling the animal to him] is permitted." The Kesav Sofer asks how can the
Rema say that this is permitted according to everyone? The Rema himself (in
YD 139:15) cites opinions who argue and say that such an act does not
constitute "Lifnei d'Lifnei!"
The Kesav Sofer answers that the Rema means that since most Poskim rule
leniently with regard to whether the prohibition of castration of animals
applies at all for Nochrim, and the Terumas ha'Deshen prefers to permit
selling animals to a Nochri, there is no reason to be stringent in practice.
The Kesav Sofer agrees that this is not an entirely satisfactory answer,
because this is not the straightforward meaning of the words "everyone
agrees." (Also, there are other opinions who rule stringently in both
respects, such as the SEMAG, who rules that Nochrim may not castrate
animals, and who rules like Tosfos that one may *not* sell an object to a
Nochri which he will definitely give to another Nochri who will sin with
it.) (Y. Montrose)
2) SELLING AN ANIMAL TO A NOCHRI
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that selling a Behemah Dakah (a small,
domesticated animal, such as a sheep) to a Nochri depends on the custom of
the place. Where the custom is to sell these animals to Nochrim, one may
follow the custom and sell them. Where the custom is not to sell these
animals to Nochrim, one may not sell them.
The Gemara (15a) concludes that everyone agrees that even in a place in
which the Nochrim are suspected of bestiality when they are alone with an
animal, it is permitted to sell an animal to a Nochri because Nochrim are
careful not to have relations with their own animal, since doing so weakens
What, then, is the reason why it is prohibited to sell an animal to a Nochri
in some places, if we are never concerned that a Nochri will have relations
with an animal that he buys?
(a) The RAN here explains that the custom not to sell a Behemah Dakah to a
Nochri is based on a different reason. The Mishnah later (22a) states that a
person is not allowed to leave his animals with a Nochri, for the Nochri is
suspected of having relations with them, and thus leaving one's animals with
a Nochri constitutes "Lifnei Iver Lo Siten Michshol." In order to ensure
that no Jew ever transgresses the Isur of "Lifnei Iver," the custom arose
never to sell an animal to a Nochri, even when Nochrim became careful not to
weaken their own animals by having relations with them.
The SEDER YAKOV questions the Ran's explanation. The Ran says that the
custom was established not to sell animals to Nochrim in order to make sure
that no one ever transgresses "Lifnei Iver." However, the Gemara later (22b)
states that Nochrim also have such a temptation with regard to birds.
According to the Ran's understanding, there should have also developed a
custom not to sell birds to Nochrim!
The Seder Yakov answers that perhaps there indeed was such a custom not to
sell birds to Nochrim. This custom was not mentioned in the Mishnah simply
because the Mishnah does not always include every possible case ("Tana
v'Shiyer"). Alternatively, we can say that even though there technically is
such a possibility, as it is less common they didn't establish a custom not
to sell them birds.
(b) The RITVA explains that even though Rebbi Elazar states that Nochrim are
careful not to have relations with their own animals as it weakens them, not
everyone wanted to rely on this generalization. In some places, the Jews
still suspected that there was a problem of "Lifnei Iver," and therefore
they did not sell any animals to the Nochrim. The Ritva says that although
Rebbi Elazar's principle is sound, this custom to be stringent is in the
category of "things which are permitted but for which it became customary to
be stringent." Since the Halachah is that it is prohibited to act leniently
in a place in which the custom is to be stringent, everyone in that place is
bound to abide by the custom. TOSFOS also seems to learn like the Ritva
(see, however, TOSFOS REBBI AKIVA EIGER in Pesachim (4:3) for an alternative
explanation in Tosfos).
(c) RASHI in the Mishnah (DH Makom) says that the custom to sell a Behemah
Dakah to a Nochri exists only in a place where there is no suspicion that
the Nochri might have relations with the animal. The MAGID MISHNEH (Hilchos
Shabbos 20:5) interprets this to mean that Rashi holds like the Ritva. The
LECHEM SESARIM understands that Rashi holds like the Ran.
However, Rashi himself in Pesachim (53a) explicitly writes like *neither* of
these explanations. He explains that the custom in some places not to sell a
Behemah Dakah to a Nochri was instituted in order to prevent them from ever
selling a Behemah Gasah to a Nochri. This opinion is also quoted by the
BARTENURA in Pesachim (4:3), the ESHKOL, and the ME'IRI. (Y. Montrose)