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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
Come now and see what difference there is between mere thieves of Babylon and robbers of Palestine!4
MISHNAH. AN ISRAELITE WOMAN SHOULD NOT ACT AS MIDWIFE TO A HEATHEN WOMAN, BECAUSE SHE WOULD BE DELIVERING A CHILD FOR IDOLATRY. A HEATHEN WOMAN, HOWEVER, MAY ACT AS MIDWIFE TO AN ISRAELITE WOMAN. AN ISRAELITE WOMAN SHOULD NOT SUCKLE THE CHILD OF A HEATHEN, BUT A HEATHEN WOMAN MAY SUCKLE THE CHILD OF AN ISRAELITE WOMAN IN HER PREMISES.
GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: An Israelite woman should not act as midwife to heathen, because she delivers a child to idolatry; nor may a heathen woman [be allowed to] act as midwife to an Israelite woman because heathens are suspected of murder. This is the opinion of R. Meir. The Sages, however, say: A heathen may act as midwife to an Israelite woman so long as there are others
standing by, but not if she is acting on her own.5 But R. Meir holds: Not even if others are standing by her, for she may find an opportunity of pressing her hand on the [infant's] temples and kill it without being observed; witness the incident of that woman who, on being called by a neighbour 'Jewish midwife, the daughter of a Jewish midwife!' retorted, 'May as many evils befall that woman, as I have dropped [Jewish children] like lumps of wood into the river.' Our Rabbis, however, say: No; she may have merely given her some kind of retort.
AN ISRAELITE WOMAN SHOULD NOT SUCKLE etc. Our Rabbis taught: An Israelite woman should not suckle a child of a heathen, because she rears a child for idolatry; nor should a heathen woman [be allowed to] suckle a child of an Israelite woman, because she is liable to murder it. This is the opinion of R. Meir. But the Sages say: A heathen may suckle a child of an Israelite woman, so long as there are others standing by her, but not if she is on her own. R. Meir, however, says: Not even while others are standing by her, for she may take the opportunity of rubbing in poison on her breast beforehand and so kill the child. And both the above instances are necessary; for if we were told about a midwife only [we might have thought that] only in that case do the Sages permit, since, being observed by others, she could do no harm, but in the case of suckling, where it is possible for her to apply poison to the breast beforehand and so kill the child, they might agree with R. Meir. If [on the other hand] we were told only about suckling, [we might have thought that] only in that case does R. Meir forbid, because she could kill the child by applying poison to her breast beforehand, but in the case of a midwife, where she could do no harm while others are standing by her, he might agree with the Rabbis; [hence both are] necessary.
The following was cited in contradiction: A Jewish woman may act as midwife to a heathen woman for payments but not gratuitously! — Answered R. Joseph: Payment is permitted to prevent ill feeling.6 R. Joseph had a mind to say that even on the Sabbath it
is permitted to act as midwife to a heathen for payment, so as to avoid ill feeling;7 he was, however, told by Abaye that the Jewish woman could offer the excuse, 'Only for our own, who keep the Sabbath, may we waive it, but we must not waive the Sabbath for you who do not keep it.' R. Joseph also had a mind to say that even suckling for payment should be allowed because of ill-feeling; but Abaye said to him: She can excuse herself by saying, 'I want to get married,' if she is unmarried; or, if she be married, 'I will not degrade myself before my husband.' R. Joseph further had in mind to say, in regard to what has been taught that in the case of idolaters and shepherds of small cattle one is not obliged to bring them up [from a pit] though one must not cast them in it8 — that for payment one is obliged to bring them up on account of ill feeling. Abaye, however, said to him: He could offer such excuses as, 'I have to run to my boy who is standing on the roof', or, 'I have to keep an appointment at the court.'
R. Abbahu recited to R. Johanan: 'Idolaters and [Jewish] shepherds of small cattle need not be brought up
‘Abodah Zarah 26b
though they must not be cast in, but minim,1 informers, and apostates may be cast in, and need not be brought up.' Whereupon R. Johanan remarked: I have been learning that the words, And so shalt thou do with every lost thing of thy brother's [thou mayest not hide thyself],2 are also applicable to an apostate, and you say he may be thrown down; leave out apostates! Could he not have answered that the one might apply to the kind of apostate who eats carrion meat to satisfy his appetite,3 and the other to an apostate who eats carrion meat to provoke? — In his opinion, an apostate eating carrion meat to provoke is the same as a min.4
It has been stated: [In regard to the term] apostate there is a divergence of opinion between R. Aha and Rabina; one says that [he who eats forbidden food] to satisfy his appetite, is an apostate, but [he who does it] to provoke is a 'min'; while the other says that even [one who does it] to provoke is merely an apostate. — And who is a 'min'? — One who actually worships idols.5
An objection was raised: If one eats a flea or a gnat he is an apostate. Now such a thing could only be done to provoke, and yet we are taught that he is merely an apostate! — Even in that case he may just be trying to see what a forbidden thing tastes like.
The Master said: 'They may be cast in and need not be brought up' — if they may be cast in need it be said that they need not be brought up? — Said R. Joseph b. Hama in the name of R. Shesheth: What is meant to convey is that if there was a step in the pit-wall, one may scrape it away, giving as a reason for doing so, the prevention of cattle being lured by the step to get unto the pit. Raba and R. Joseph both of them said: It means to convey that if there is a stone lying by the pit opening, one may cover the pit with it, saying that he does it for [the safety] of passing animals. Rabina said: It is meant to convey that if there is a ladder there, he may remove it, saying, I want it for getting my son down from a roof.
Our Rabbis taught: An Israelite may perform a circumcision on a heathen for the purpose of becoming a proselyte — thus excluding [the purpose of] removing a morana.6 But a heathen should not [be allowed to] perform circumcision on an Israelite, because he is liable to take his life. This is the opinion of R. Meir. The Sages said: A heathen may circumcise an Israelite, so long as others are standing by him, but not while he is on his own.7 R. Meir, however, said: Not even when others are standing by, for he may find occasion to let the knife slip and so sterilise him. Does then R. Meir hold the opinion that a heathen is not [to be allowed to circumcise]? But the opposite is proved by the following: In a town where there is no Jewish physician, but there is a physician who is a Cuthean as well as one who is an idolater, circumcision should be performed by the idolater but not by the Cuthean.8 This is the opinion of R. Meir. R. Judah, however, said: It should be performed by the Cuthean but not by the idolater?9 — Reverse [the names]: R. Meir holding that the Cuthean and not the idolater should circumcise, and R. Judah holding the idolater and not the Cuthean. Does then R. Judah hold that it is in order for an idolater to do so? Surely it has been taught: R. Judah said: Whence can it be deduced that circumcision performed by a heathen is invalid? From this verse, And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant!10 — Indeed, do not reverse, but say that we are here dealing
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