Sunday, 18 February 2018

Avodah Zara 34: 12 Month Hiatus, How Pure is Pure?

Today we learn more about our traditions at Pesach.  Rabbis who are lenient regarding the use of shared earthenware or bottles with non-Jews during the year are stringent over Pesach.  One reason is because Torah law directs stringency on Pesach but only the rabbis teach us about stringencies over the regular year. Hot liquids are thought to absorb into a vessel, and most cups hold only cold liquids like water or wine.

As part of three questions asked of Rabbi Akiva, we learn that partial-day fasts are permitted, that Moshe wore a plain white garment for the seven days when he built and served in the mishkan, and that bottles belonging to Gentiles can be kashered by leaving them unused for one year and then submerging them in water three times.  

Within twelve months a number of items may not be used nor are we permitted to benefit from them.  The rabbis decide that the following items are permitted after leaving them sit for twelve months:

  • dry grape pits
  • dry grape skins
  • food made from the dregs of a Gentile's wine
  • empty vessels
  • a Gentile's thick leather pouch
  • arch (a food made of flour, spices, milk and wine)
  • grape pits belonging to Gentiles
  • specific white or black vessels belonging to Gentiles
  • fish oil
  • chilak, fish who have not grown their fins or scales yet

The rabbis discuss whether or not cheese from Beit Unaiki is permitted or forbidden.  They argue that most calves there are slaughtered for idolatry*.  Or perhaps a minority of calves there are slaughtered for idolatry.  And if calves are a minority of the animals there, then we should not rule for all based on a minority of a minority.

Rabbi Yochanan says that an animal is forbidden if it was slaughtered so that its blood would be poured or so that it would be burned in the name of idolatry, the animal is forbidden.  Those acts are ways to serve idols.  Reish Lakish argues that the animal is permitted because the acts of pouring and burning are requisite acts of service that are also done in the name of idolatry.  He concludes that the slaughterer must say in his heart that he intends to serve an idol by finishing the slaughter for the animal to be forbidden.

At the end of our daf, the rabbis consider whether or not a woman is betrothed to a man if the fluids of the intestine of an ox sentenced to be stoned is used; if the same of a calf offered to idolatry.  The rabbis wonder about whether only the meat of an animal is forbidden or whether we must not benefit from any part of an animal bound for idolatrous purposes.

* The stomach of a calf used for idolatry could have been used to hold the milk made into cheese.

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