Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Avodah Zara 44: Idols and Sexual Behaviour; King David's Crown

The rabbis continue to determine how one should depose of items used for idolatry.  Items that are ground up might make their way into the fields which could benefit the crops (depending on the makeup of the tool of idolatry).  We are not permitted to benefit in any way from the practice of idolatry.  As part of this discussion, Rabbi Yosef suggests that the definition of an unknown term leads him to believe that it referred to an idol with a phallus attached to it that women would have relations with every day.  Most of this discussion offers cases where idolatrous items were destroyed without fear of benefiting from the idol's decomposed state.

We are taught that King David placed a heavy golden crown on his head; that crown may have been used as an idol.  The rabbis try to understand how he could benefit from this idol when we are strictly prohibited from such behaviour.  The rabbis consider how much the crown might have weighed.  They question whether or not he would wear such a heavy item.  Such a crown would only be fitted for a king's head.  The rabbis consider that King David might have worn the crown as tefillin, for one could wear two sets of tefillin.

At the end of our daf, the rabbis discuss Rabban Gamliel's visit to a bathhouse.  An idol shaped as Afroditi was in that particular bathhouse.  When challenged about his choice to bathe in an idolatrous bathhouse, Rabban Gamliel replied that he did not enter a bathhouse dedicated to Afroditi.  Instead, Afroditi was used as decoration in this bathhouse.  In response to their claim that he might have had seminal emissions while looking at Afroditi, Rabban Gamliel notes that Afroditi was placed near the urinals and thus this idol is not at all honoured in the bathhouse.  The rabbis go on to discuss other cases of bathhouse decoration and how people and idols might be honoured - or, more often, disrespected in the urinals.

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