Thursday, 15 March 2018

Avodah Zara 58: Rava's Rulings; Interacting with Gentiles

Rav Huna son of Chinena made a ruling that contradicted Rava's ruling regarding the viability of wine that was touched by a Gentile.  In today's daf we are told the story of what happened when Rav Huna son of Chinena came to Rava's town.

Rava learned of this visit and ordered the doors to his town closed.  Eventually, he allowed Rav Huna to enter and speak with him.  Rav Huna son of Chinena said that Rava was contradicting his own earlier ruling.  Rava tried to defend himself by suggesting that his ruling applied only to the remaining liquid and not all of the wine.  Part of the profits would be thrown away.  Rava rescinded this decision.  Different versions of this story are shared.

Another case describes a Gentile who put his hand into a barrel of wine thinking that it was oil.  The rabbis debate whether that wine is permitted for drinking or for libations.  Similar cases, like that of a Gentile who tastes a spoon that is returned to the barrel are debated as well.  In this case, the rabbis focus on the man's intention.  

Why are the rabbis so concerned with the minutiae of these bizarre cases?  My thinking is that the rabbis are not actually concerned with the law regarding purity and impurity.  Instead they are helping us understand how we should consider our interactions with other peoples.   Even small interactions are not mundane.  We should think through the ways that we present ourselves to others and how we receive from others as well.  Idolatry is one of the most serious transgressions.  When these actions are discussed within the context of avodah zara, the importance of each interaction is heightened for us.


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