Avodah Zarah 3aעבודה זרה ג׳ א
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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3aג׳ א

לומר שאף על פי שמקיימין אותן אין מקבלין עליהם שכר

This serves to say that even if they fulfill the seven Noahide mitzvot they do not receive a reward for their fulfilment.

ולא והתניא היה רבי מאיר אומר מנין שאפילו עובד כוכבים ועוסק בתורה שהוא ככהן גדול תלמוד לומר (ויקרא יח, ה) אשר יעשה אותם האדם וחי בהם כהנים לוים וישראלים לא נאמר אלא האדם הא למדת שאפילו עובד כוכבים ועוסק בתורה הרי הוא ככהן גדול

The Gemara asks: And are they not rewarded for fulfilling those mitzvot? But isn’t it taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, and shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term “person.” From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest. This demonstrates that gentiles are rewarded for fulfilling mitzvot, despite the fact that they are not commanded to do so.

אלא לומר לך שאין מקבלין עליהם שכר כמצווה ועושה אלא כמי שאינו מצווה ועושה דאמר ר' חנינא גדול המצווה ועושה יותר משאינו מצווה ועושה

Rather, the verse serves to tell you that they do not receive as great a reward for their fulfillment as one who is commanded and performs a mitzva. Rather, they receive a lesser reward, like that of one who is not commanded and still performs a mitzva. As Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded and performs it.

אלא כך אומרים העובדי כוכבים לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע ישראל שקיבלוה היכן קיימוה

The Gemara returns to the discussion between God and the nations of the world, whose claims are rejected with the rebuttal that they did not receive the Torah because they did not fulfill the seven Noahide mitzvot that were incumbent upon them. Rather, this is what the gentiles say before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, as for the Jewish people who accepted the Torah, where is the evidence that they fulfilled its mitzvot?

אמר להם הקב"ה אני מעיד בהם שקיימו את התורה כולה אומרים לפניו רבש"ע כלום יש אב שמעיד על בנו דכתיב (שמות ד, כב) בני בכורי ישראל אמר להם הקב"ה שמים וארץ יעידו בהם שקיימו את התורה כולה

The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them in response: I will testify about the Jewish people that they fulfilled the Torah in its entirety. The nations say before Him: Master of the Universe, is there a father who can testify about his son? As it is written: “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). Since God is considered the Father of the Jewish people, He is disqualified from testifying on their behalf. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: Heaven and earth will testify about them that they fulfilled the Torah in its entirety.

אומרים לפניו רבש"ע שמים וארץ נוגעין בעדותן שנאמ' (ירמיהו לג, כה) אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חוקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי (דאר"ש) [ואר"ש] בן לקיש מאי דכתיב (בראשית א, לא) ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום הששי מלמד שהתנה הקב"ה עם מעשה בראשית ואמר אם ישראל מקבלין את תורתי מוטב ואם לאו אני אחזיר אתכם לתוהו ובוהו

The nations say before Him: Master of the Universe, in this matter the testimony of heaven and earth is tainted by a conflict of interest, as it is stated: “If My covenant be not with day and night, I would not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). And concerning this verse, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31)? This teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, established a condition with the acts of Creation, and said: If the Jewish people accept My Torah at the revelation at Sinai, all is well, but if they do not accept it, I will return you to the primordial state of chaos and disorder.

והיינו דאמר חזקיה מאי דכתיב (תהלים עו, ט) משמים השמעת דין ארץ יראה ושקטה אם יראה למה שקטה ואם שקטה למה יראה אלא בתחלה יראה ולבסוף שקטה

And this is similar to that which Ḥizkiyya says with regard to a different matter: What is the meaning of that which is written: “You caused sentence to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was silent” (Psalms 76:9)? If the earth feared, why was it silent, and if it was silent, why did it fear? One who is afraid does not stay silent, and one who remains silent thereby demonstrates that he is not afraid. Rather, this is the meaning of the verse: At first, when God came to give the Torah to the Jewish people, the earth feared that they might not accept it, and it would be destroyed. This is alluded to by the phrase “You caused sentence to be heard.” But ultimately, when the Jews accepted the Torah, the earth was silent. Consequently, heaven and earth are interested parties and cannot testify about the Jewish people’s commitment to the Torah.

אמר להם הקב"ה מכם יבאו ויעידו בהן בישראל שקיימו את התורה כולה יבא נמרוד ויעיד באברהם שלא עבד עבודת כוכבים יבא לבן ויעיד ביעקב שלא נחשד על הגזל תבא אשת פוטיפרע ותעיד ביוסף שלא נחשד על העבירה

Instead, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says to the nations: Let the witnesses come from among you and testify that the Jewish people fulfilled the Torah in its entirety. Let Nimrod come and testify about Abraham that he did not engage in idol worship. Let Laban come and testify about Jacob that he is not suspect with regard to robbery (see Genesis 31:36–42). Let the wife of Potiphar come and testify about Joseph that he is not suspect with regard to the sin of adultery (see Genesis 39:7–12).

יבא נבוכד נצר ויעיד בחנניה מישאל ועזריה שלא השתחוו לצלם יבא דריוש ויעיד בדניאל שלא ביטל את התפלה יבא בלדד השוחי וצופר הנעמתי ואליפז התימני ואליהו בן ברכאל הבוזי ויעידו בהם בישראל שקיימו את כל התורה כולה שנאמר (ישעיהו מג, ט) יתנו עידיהם ויצדקו

Let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify about Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah that they did not prostrate themselves before a graven image. Let Darius come and testify about Daniel that he did not neglect his prayer (see Daniel 6). Let Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and Eliphaz the Temanite, and Elihu, son of Barachel, the Buzite, friends of Job (see Job 2:11 and 32:2) come and testify about the Jewish people that they fulfilled the Torah in its entirety. As it is stated: “All the nations are gathered together…let them bring their witnesses, that they may be justified” (Isaiah 43:9), i.e., the gathered gentiles will submit testimony on behalf of the Jewish people and demonstrate the Jews’ righteousness.

אמרו לפניו רבש"ע תנה לנו מראש ונעשנה אמר להן הקב"ה שוטים שבעולם מי שטרח בערב שבת יאכל בשבת מי שלא טרח בערב שבת מהיכן יאכל בשבת אלא אף על פי כן מצוה קלה יש לי וסוכה שמה לכו ועשו אותה

The gentiles say before Him: Master of the Universe, give us the Torah afresh and we will perform its mitzvot. The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to them in response: Fools of the world! Do you think you can request this? One who takes pains on Shabbat eve will eat on Shabbat, but one who did not take pains on Shabbat eve, from where will he eat on Shabbat? The opportunity for performing mitzvot has already passed, and it is now too late to ask to perform them. But even so, I have an easy mitzva to fulfill, and its name is sukka; go and perform it.

ומי מצית אמרת הכי והא אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (דברים ז, יא) אשר אנכי מצוך היום היום לעשותם ולא למחר לעשותם היום לעשותם ולא היום ליטול שכר

The Gemara asks: And how can you say so, that it is possible to perform a mitzva after the end of this world? But doesn’t Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi say: What is the meaning of that which is written: “You shall therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day, to do them” (Deuteronomy 7:11)? This verse teaches that today, in this world, is the time to do them, but tomorrow, in the World-to-Come, is not the time to do them. Furthermore, today is the time to do them, but today is not the time to receive one’s reward, which is granted in the World-to-Come.

אלא שאין הקב"ה בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו ואמאי קרי ליה מצוה קלה משום דלית ביה חסרון כיס

The Gemara explains: But even so, God gave the nations an opportunity to perform a mitzva, as The Holy One, Blessed be He, does not deal tyrannically [beteruneya] with His creations, but wants them to feel that they have been judged fairly. The Gemara asks: And why does God call the mitzva of sukka an easy mitzva to fulfill? Because performing the mitzva involves no monetary loss.

מיד כל אחד [ואחד] נוטל והולך ועושה סוכה בראש גגו והקדוש ברוך הוא מקדיר עליהם חמה בתקופת תמוז וכל אחד ואחד מבעט בסוכתו ויוצא שנאמר (תהלים ב, ג) ננתקה את מוסרותימו ונשליכה ממנו עבותימו מקדיר והא אמרת אין הקדוש ברוך הוא בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו משום דישראל נמי זימני

Immediately, each and every gentile will take materials and go and construct a sukka on top of his roof. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, will set upon them the heat [makdir] of the sun in the season of Tammuz, i.e., the summer, and each and every one who is sitting in his sukka will be unable to stand the heat, and he will kick his sukka and leave, as it is stated: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalms 2:3). The Gemara asks: Why does God heat the sun over them? But didn’t you say that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not deal tyrannically with His creations? The Gemara answers: This is not considered dealing tyrannically with the gentiles, because for the Jewish people as well, there are times