THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Avodah Zarah, 54
1) AN OBJECT WORSHIPPED AGAINST ONE'S WILL
QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that an object becomes prohibited when it is
worshipped even when it is worshipped through Ones, against the will of the
person worshipping it. Rebbi Zeira asks how can an involuntary act cause
the object to become prohibited? The verse says, "v'la'Na'arah Lo Sa'aseh
Davar" (Devarim 22:26), teaching that when one sins against his will, one
is exempt from punishment.
2) AN ANIMAL AS A PEDESTAL FOR "AVODAH ZARAH"
How does Rebbi Zeira infer from this verse that the object that was
worshipped should be permitted? The verse teaches only that the person who
sinned involuntarily is not punished. It does not teach anything about
whether or not the object of Avodah Zarah that was worshipped becomes
ANSWER: TOSFOS (DH Maskif), RABEINU CHANANEL, and the RITVA explain that
Rebbi Zeira seems to understand that when an act of worshipping Avodah
Zarah is not punishable with death, the object that was worshipped does not
become prohibited. What is the logic behind this?
(a) The simple understanding of Tosfos is that when a person worships
Avodah Zarah involuntarily, even if he is required to give his life rather
than to worship Avodah Zarah, nevertheless since the Aveirah was done
b'Ones it is a less-severe Aveirah than worshipping Avodah Zarah willfully.
This is why one is not punished for serving Avodah Zarah in such a manner.
For the same reason, the object does not become prohibited; only when a
person worships Avodah Zarah through a full-fledged Aveirah does the object
(b) The KOVETZ SHI'URIM (Kesuvos #5) cites the TESHUVOS CHEMDAS SHLOMO who
explains the words of Tosfos differently. He suggests that when a person
sins b'Ones, since his act was done without his will the act is not
considered to be his act. (It is as if someone else bent his body down in
front of an idol, which is not considered an act of idol-worship at all.
See TOSFOS DH Kegon.) Therefore, just as a person who worships an idol
b'Ones is exempt from punishment, the idol that he worshipped is also not
considered to have been served by him (and those that forced him to bow
down cannot prohibit the object that they do not own).
How does Rebbi Zeira derive this from the verse? The Kovetz Shi'urim
suggests that there are two ways of understanding why the verse exempts a
person for sinning b'Ones. The first reason is because the sinner is not at
fault, since the sin was not his choice. The second reason is that the act
is not considered his act, as the Chemdas Shlomo suggests. The first reason
does not suffice to exempt a person who sins with Avodah Zarah or with
immoral relations, because a person is required to give up his life rather
than to sin in such a manner. If he does not give up his life and he sins,
then he is at fault. However, we find that the verse exempts a person from
punishment for a sin of immoral relations when he does not give up his
life. Apparently, there is another reason to exempt him from punishment,
and that is the reason of the Chemdas Shlomo -- the act is not attributed
to the one who did the act.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Sanhedrin 20:2) writes that if a person commits a sin
against his will when the Torah requires that he give up his life rather
than transgress, he is not punished with death because of the verse,
"v'la'Na'arah Lo Sa'aseh Davar." Elsewhere, however, the Rambam writes (in
Hilchos Yesodei ha'Torah 5:6) that if a person was so ill that the doctors
warned him that if he does not eat something that is prohibited because of
Avodah Zarah, he will die, then he is not permitted to eat it, and if he
does eat it, Beis Din punishes him with whatever punishment a person
deserves for such a transgression. Why does the Rambam rule that he is
punished in such a case if the Rambam himself rules that a person who
transgressed and did not give up his life is *not* punished by Beis Din?
The Kovetz Shi'urim (Kesuvos #8) explains that there are two reasons to
exempt a person from a punishment for a sin committed involuntarily, as we
explained above. When a person obeys the doctors' orders and eats a
prohibited object in order to save his life, if that object is not an
Avodah Zarah, then he is exempt from punishment. He is exempt because he
cannot be held accountable for a sin which was not his choice, since the
Torah required that he do the act under such circumstances. When, however,
a person transgresses the sin of Avodah Zarah because another person forces
him to do so at the threat of his life, his exemption from punishment is
not because he did not choose to do the act. On the contrary, the Torah
required that he give up his life and he did not do so, choosing instead to
do the sin. Nevertheless, he is exempt from punishment for the second
reason -- an act done at the threat of one's life is not attributed to the
person who did the act.
In contrast, when a person obeys the doctors' orders and eats an object of
Avodah Zarah in order to save his life, he cannot be exempt from punishment
for the first reason, because the Torah did not require him to eat the
object to save his life; he did so based on his own free choice. He also
cannot be exempt from punishment for the second reason, because when there
is no other person forcing the person to transgress a Torah prohibition,
the act inherently is his own act and is attributed solely to him.
Therefore, in such a case the Rambam rules that the person is held
accountable for his act and is punished by Beis Din accordingly.
QUESTION: The Beraisa states that a person cannot prohibit an object that
does not belong to him by worshipping it. However, a different Beraisa
teaches that when one worships an animal involuntarily, b'Ones, the animal
becomes prohibited to be used as a Korban. According to some Amora'im, the
second Beraisa means to say that when a person bows down to his friend's
animal without permission to do so, he is able to prohibit the animal as an
object of Avodah Zarah. This, however, contradicts the first Beraisa which
states that one person cannot prohibit someone else's animal. How are the
Beraisos to be reconciled?
Chizkiyah answers that the second Beraisa is discussing a person who not
only bows down to his friend's animal, but who does an action with that
animal, such as pouring wine between its horns to an Avodah Zarah (that is
placed atop the animal). Rebbi Ada bar Ahavah rejects this answer, saying
that the animal would not become prohibited in such a manner, but rather it
would become merely a pedestal ("Bimus") for the Avodah Zarah to which the
person poured the wine.
What is the intention of Rebbi Ada bar Ahavah? Even if the animal is only a
pedestal for the Avodah Zarah, nevertheless it still should become
prohibited through the idol-worshipper's act. If an act of idol-worship can
prohibit another person's animal as an Avodah Zarah, then it should also be
able to prohibit another person's animal as a pedestal for Avodah Zarah
("Meshamshei Avodah Zarah")!
(a) RASHI writes that animals cannot become prohibited as "Meshamshei
Avodah Zarah," objects used for servicing Avodah Zarah. What, though, is
the reason for this? As the RITVA asks, why should there be any difference
between making an animal an Avodah Zarah and making an animal Meshamshei
The CHAZON ISH (YD 60:23 and 3:26) explains that the verse that teaches
that an animal can become prohibited from being brought as a Korban if it
is worshipped does not tell us that an animal can become prohibited from
being brought as a Korban if it becomes Meshamshei Avodah Zarah. Therefore,
Rashi teaches that when wine is poured on the animal, the animal does not
become prohibited from being brought as a Korban.
Why, though, should the fact that the animal was used only as Meshamshei
Avodah Zarah allow the animal to be used for a Korban in the case of our
Gemara? Our Gemara is discussing a case in which an *act* was done to make
the animal an object of Meshamshei Avodah Zarah (that is, wine was poured
on it). An act of Avodah Zarah can prohibit an animal even from being used
for ordinary, mundane purposes (as the Gemara teaches later, and as the
Rishonim explain; see TOSFOS DH Hayesah).
Apparently, the Chazon Ish understands that the act of pouring wine only
makes the object (on top of the animal) to which the wine is poured into an
Avodah Zarah; the act does not make the animal a pedestal for the Avodah
Zarah (Meshamshei Avodah Zarah).
Another possible understanding of Rashi is that an animal can never be
considered a pedestal for an idol, because a living thing cannot become
subordinate, as a pedestal, to another object.
(b) RABEINU CHANANEL explains that the animal does not become prohibited as
a pedestal for Avodah Zarah, because once a pedestal is nicked or dented,
it is permitted, as the Gemara says earlier (53b). Therefore, its owner can
simply make a nick in the animal to permit it, and thus the Beraisa would
not state unconditionally that the animal is prohibited.
The Ritva points out that, normally, an idol becomes permitted when it is
nicked (through "Bitul") only when the idol is owned by a Nochri and is
nicked by a Nochri. An idol owned by a Jew does not become permitted when
it is nicked. Similarly, a pedestal owned by a Jew should not become
permitted when it is nicked. The Ritva explains that Rabeinu Chananel
allows Bitul for objects of *Meshamshei* Avodah Zarah, such as a pedestal,
even if they are owned by a Jew. This is minority opinion among the
Rishonim. (See Ritva to 52a.)
(c) The RA'AVAD cited by the Ritva explains that an object is not
considered a pedestal for Avodah Zarah unless it is constructed for that
purpose. The Ritva rejects this explanation.
(d) The RAMBAN explains that the Gemara's question is not that when wine is
poured on the animal the animal should be permitted. The animal certainly
should be prohibited as Meshamshei Avodah Zarah. The Gemara's question,
rather, is that the Beraisa being discussed is describing an object that
was served as an Avodah Zarah itself ("Ne'evad"), and is not merely an
object of Meshamshei Avodah Zarah. An animal on which wine was poured
becomes a pedestal and not an Avodah Zarah.
(The Ramban apparently has the Girsa of the BACH, who omits the word
"v'Sharyei" ("and it is permitted"), since the Ramban does not permit the
animal, but rather he prohibits it because it is Meshamshei Avodah Zarah.)