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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah

Folio 12a

placing two pots on the same stove? yet the Sages did not mind.1


What is it that they did not mind?2  Said Abaye: The possibility of eating 'flesh of nebelah:3  We are not to presume that while the Israelite turned his face, the heathen dropped some nebelah into his pot; as a parallel case, here too the Sages should not mind the possibility of receiving money of an idolater.4  Raba said, what the Sages did not mind there is the cooking by a heathen; the parallel being that here too, the Sages should not object to the transacting of business on account of the festivity.5  Rabbah b. 'Ulla said: What the Sages raised no objection to is only the splashing,6  the analogy to our case is [only] that the sages would not object to the period before the festivity.


Our Rabbis taught: It is forbidden to enter a city while idolatrous worship is taking place therein — or [to go] from there to another city; this is the opinion of R. Meir. But the Sages say, only when the road leads solely to that city is it forbidden; if however the road does not lead exclusively to that place it is permitted. If a splinter has got into his [foot] while in front of an idol, he should not bend down to get it out, because he may appear as bowing to the idol; but if not apparent7  it is permitted. If his coins got scattered in front of an idol he should not bend and pick them up, for he may be taken as bowing to the idol; but if not apparent it is permitted. If there is a spring flowing in front of an idol he should not bend down and drink, because he may appear to be bowing to the idol; but if not apparent it is permitted. One should not place one's mouth on the mouth of human figures, which act as water fountains in the cities, for the purpose of drinking; because he may seem as kissing the idolatrous figure. So also one should not place one's mouth on a water pipe and drink therefrom for fear of danger.8

What is meant by 'not being apparent' — Shall we say that he is not seen? Surely Rab Judah stated in the name of Rab that whatever the Sages prohibited merely because it may appear objectionable to the public, is also forbidden in one's innermost chamber! — It can only mean that if [by bending] he will not appear as bowing to the idol.

And all [three instances given] are necessary. For if we were taught the case of the splinter only, [we would have thought that it is forbidden] because he can well walk away from the idol and take it out, but in the case of the coins where this could not be done, the prohibition does not apply. If, on the other hand, we were given the case of the coins only [we might say that the prohibition holds good] because only a loss of money is incurred, but in the case of the thorn, where pain is caused, the prohibition is not to be applied. Were we given both these instances, [we might still say that the prohibition applied to them] because there is no danger involved, but in the case of the spring where there is danger, for it may mean dying of thirst, we might say that the prohibition should be waived, hence all the instances are necessary.

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. So also no objection need be raised against transacting business with the idolaters in the bazaar merely because of the festival held at Gaza in proximity to it.
  2. What kind of prohibition was disregarded in the case of Tyre, which might offer an analogy to our case?
  3. [H], flesh of any animal, even a clean one, which dies of itself, or which is not slaughtered in accordance with ritual law and is forbidden to a Jew.
  4. We are not to assume that the money paid by the heathen outside the city for the animal sold to him by the Jew, has been handed to him by an idolater within the city with the express order of procuring a sacrifice for the idolatrous festival. Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself (Deut. XIV 21) being a scriptural injunction, the practice in Tyre may be taken as a parallel for waiving the scriptural prohibition, There shall cleave naught of the devoted thing to thy hand (Deut. XIII, 18) which is applied to things connected with idolatry (v, infra 64a). Thus, according to Abaye, even a possible transgression of a scriptural prohibition may be disregarded under the circumstances given here.
  5. Raba's contention is that in the case of Tyre there is no Scriptural prohibition involved at all. The possibility of eating forbidden flesh could not have occurred to the Sages, for there is no ground for suspecting the heathen of the offence of tampering with the Israelite's food. What did suggest itself to them is the possibility of the heathen, in the desire to oblige the Israelite, attending in the latter's absence to his cooking, in which case it would become food cooked by an idolater ([H]) which is prohibited by the Rabbis. This case may therefore only be cited as a parallel to transacting business with an idolater, on his festival, when he is dealing with his own money and not with that appertaining to idolatry — so that only a Rabbinic enactment is involved, in which case the proximity of the Bazaar of Gaza to the town might be overlooked.
  6. According to Rabbah b. 'Ulla the case of Tyre does not offer a parallel for disregarding even a Rabbinic prohibition. The possibility of cooking by heathen must here be excluded, this being applicable only to food cooked solely by idolaters without any intervention by the Jew, which is obviously not the case in this instance. All that the Sages could have suspected in that case is the 'splashing' of some of the contents of the heathen's pot into that of the Jew. This being but a light prohibition — as the small quantity of the Trefa liquid would become 'nullified' by the much larger quantity of the kasher one — and of rare occurrence, it can only be taken to offer a parallel to the transaction of business in the Bazaar of Gaza prior to, but not during, the idolatrous festival held within the city.
  7. This is explained presently.
  8. I.e., of swallowing an insect, etc. v. Tosef. A.Z., VII.
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‘Abodah Zarah 12b

Why then mention the instance of [placing one's mouth on the mouths of the] figures? — That is only because he wanted to teach the instance, which resembles it, of not placing one's mouth on the water-pipe to drink therefrom for fear of danger. What is the danger? — The swallowing of a leech.

Our Rabbis taught: One should not drink water either from rivers or from pools direct with his mouth or [by drawing the water] with the one hand;1  if he drinks it, his blood shall be upon his head, for it is dangerous. What danger is there? That of [swallowing] a leech.

[This statement] supports R. Hanina: for R. Hanina said: For one who swallows a leech it is permissible to get water heated on the Sabbath.2

There was actually a case of one swallowing a leech, when R. Nehemiah declared it permissible to get water heated for him on the Sabbath. 'Meanwhile', said R. Huna son of R. Joshua, 'let him sip vinegar'. Said R. Idi b. Abin: One who has swallowed a wasp cannot possibly live. Let him however drink a quarter3  of strong vinegar; perhaps [by this means] he will live long enough to set his house in order.

Our Rabbis taught: One should not drink water in the night;4  if he does drink his blood is on his head, for it is dangerous. What danger is there? The danger of Shabriri.5  But if he be thirsty, how can he put things right? — If there is another person with him, he should wake him and say: 'I am athirst for water'. If not, let him knock with the lid on the jug and say to himself: 'Thou [giving his name] the son of [naming his mother], thy mother hath warned thee to guard thyself against Shabriri, briri, riri, iri, ri, which prevail in blind vessels.'6


GEMARA. Said R. Simeon b. Lakish: This only refers to [shops] decorated with garlands of roses and myrtle, so that he enjoys the odour,10  but if they are decorated with fruit, it is permissible [to buy in them]. The reason is this: Scripture says, There shall cleave naught of the devoted thing to thy hand;11  hence it is to derive an enjoyment that is forbidden

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. The drawing of the water with one hand has to be done so rapidly that he would have no time to examine it.
  2. The biblical injunction ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitation upon the Sabbath day (Ex. XXXV, 3) is to be waived in cases where danger to life is involved; hence the swallowing of a leech is regarded as dangerous.
  3. Of a Log.
  4. V. Pes. 112a, where the words 'either from streams or from pools' are added.
  5. [H] Aram. 'blindness'; v. Targum to Gen. XIX, 11. Generally taken as a contraction of the words [H] breaker of the eyesight. Kohut, s.v. [H] asserts that the correct reading is shab-khiri, Persian for night blindness. — 'A demon appointed over the affliction of blindness' (Rashi).
  6. So Kohut, who calls attention to the resemblance of this incantation against the demon of blindness to the amulet bearing the inscription Abracadabra reduced by one letter on each succeeding line till the last letter only remains, and used by Romans as an antidote to the influence of evil spirits.
  7. The decoration signified that part of the proceeds in that shop is dedicated to idolatry.
  8. Place in Palestine south of Lake Gennesareth, v. Josh. XVII, 16 and, Judges I, 27. The modern Baisan.
  9. Tosaf. explains that we are here dealing with a market-day that is not a festival, to which the prohibition mentioned in the first Mishnah of this Tractate does not apply.
  10. Of articles which are usually strewn before the idols as part of the worship.
  11. Deut. XIII, 18.
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