In this version, Mar Zutra cites R. Nahman’s statement to prove that all tannaim agree that the flour is prohibited because it is like a case where the animal was first pregnant and then subject to bestiality.
However, in this version, the Talmud rejects the analogy. Flour is not to be compared to animal offspring. A fetus is an animal—it is just locked up inside its mother. Birth does not really transform it. In contrast, flour is different from its “wheat” mother and therefore, all tannaim would agree that it can be used on the altar.
Today’s section continues the discussion about cases where something was worshipped as an idol but since it was attached to the ground, the object did not become prohibited. Can parts of that object be used in the Temple service?
The particular issue arises if the tree was not planted for the sake of idolatry and then was worshipped. If it was planted for the sake of idolatry, it is forbidden even for secular use. Furthermore, it is only a question for those rabbis who hold that in such cases the tree is permitted for secular use. While the branches and fruit could be used for non-religious purposes can the lulav be used for the mitzvah on Sukkot?
R. Dimi says that the question was asked with regard to an asherah, a tree that had been planted to be worshipped that was then annulled. The concept of “disqualification” is that once an object has been disqualified it cannot go back and become qualified again. If we apply this concept to the lulav, then since the lulav could not have been used when the tree was still an asherah, it cannot be used later when the tree is no longer an asherah.
The Talmud tries to solve the question by looking at another sugya in which the concept of “disqualification” appears. The blood of a wild animal (deer) or bird that has been slaughtered must be covered. If one covered it up and then it became uncovered, since he has fulfilled the mitzvah, he need not do it over again. If the wind covered it, and then again uncovered it, he must cover it. But if the wind covered it and it remains covered, he need not perform mitzvah.
The Talmud then analyzes the concept behind this last law. If the wind covered it then the mitzvah was fulfilled. So why should it matter if the wind again uncovers it. Once the mitzvah has been fulfilled, it should not need to be fulfilled again. This seems to prove that there is no concept of “disqualification” with regard to mitzvot. Even though the mitzvah was fulfilled, in a sense “disqualified” from needing to be fulfilled, it needs to be fulfilled again.
The answer is provided by noticing the difference between cases where this concept leads to a leniency and cases where it leads to a stringency. In the case of the blood, it would lead to a leniency—if the wind covered and then uncovered the blood, the notion of “disqualification” would lead us to conclude that the blood need not be covered again. Since it would lead to a leniency R. Papa did not invoke it. But maybe he would invoke the principle in the case of the lulav, for there it would lead to a stringency—once the tree was worshipped its branches cannot be used, even if the tree was annulled as an idol. Or maybe he would never invoke the principle, no matter the results.
Since we don’t know whether R. Papa did invoke the principle to lead to a stringency, the question had to be asked. But, as often is the case, there is no answer.
R. Papa here asks another question about using an object for a mitzvah that had once been worshipped as an idol.
R. Papa asks the same kind of question again, and the Talmud notices the repetition. If he is asking about using the blue thread to make clothes for priests, well that is the same as the question asked by Rami b. Hama about making a minchah out of wheat that had been worshipped. And if the question is about tzitzit, that is a personal, non-Temple mitzvah, and that is the same question asked by Resh Lakish about the using a lulav that came from an asherah tree.
R. Papa was not asking just about the wool, he was asking about other parts of the animal to make the musical instruments used in the Temple service.
There is a dispute in many places in the Talmud over what is the main aspect of the Temple music—is it the playing of the instruments or is it the Levites’ singing. If we hold that the main aspect is the instruments than surely we cannot use parts of an animal that had been worshipped. But if we hold that the main aspect is the singing, then maybe we can use them, because maybe they are there just to make the singing sound better. Alas, there is again no answer to this question.
Another question of the same nature.
The Talmud tries to understand Rabbah’s question. If he was asking about what a person is actually doing when he worships a spring—is he worshipping his own reflection (literally narcissism) or is he worshipping the water (in which case it would be prohibited), then the question should have been about water in a bowl and whether it can be put to secular use. So this must not be the meaning of his question.
The question is whether he was worshipping just the water that is in front of him. That water has already flowed away and therefore any water subsequently drawn was not actually worshipped. Or was he worshipping the flow, meaning all of the water? If so, it would be prohibited to use the water from the stream.
Water which belongs to the public cannot become prohibited. So his question must refer to water that bubbles up from the ground on the property of a private person. While the Talmud does not say so, there is no answer to this question either. This is the end of this series of highly theoretical and abstract questions. I thought they were quite interesting and served as a window to the thinking of late amoraim.
This section opens with a mishnah that deals with two subjects: 1) a person who lives adjacent to an idolatrous shrine; 2) the ritual impurity of idolatrous objects.
If one shared a wall with an idolatrous shrine, meaning his house was next to this shrine, he need not tear down his house and move somewhere else. Since he lived there before the shrine was built he does not need to move. However, if the house should fall down he may not rebuild the wall that will be shared with the shrine. What he may do is withdraw four cubits and build his own wall, one which will not be shared with the shrine.
The wall that is shared by the Jewish homeowner and the idolatrous shrine is considered to be jointly owned. The half that is next to the shrine is forbidden for Jews to use and the half that is next to the Jewish house is permitted.