Yesterday’s section concluded with a baraita which forbid a Jew from working with a Gentile to hoe a field of mixed seeds, but allowed him to uproot the seeds because this was “reducing impropriety.”
The rabbis who heard this baraita originally thought that it follows even R. Akiva. R. Akiva is more strict when it comes to the laws of mixed seeds. It is not only forbidden to plant them, or weed them, it is also forbidden to preserve them. Nevertheless, R. Akiva would allow one to uproot them for that is reducing improper things.
The Talmud provides the midrashic support for R. Akiva’s reasoning. Rashi says that the midrash that allows R. Akiva to prohibit preserving mixed seeds is from the earlier clause which actually prohibits one from mixing different breeds of animals. In any case, the conclusion is that one may uproot the mixed seeds, even according to R. Akiva.
The Talmud now says that the baraita is the opinion of the rabbis. This would mean that R. Akiva would rule even more strictly, prohibiting even uprooting the plants.
The problem is that if the baraita is the rabbis, why would it specific that uprooting is permitted, for according to the rabbis one may even aid in preserving the mixed seeds. In other words, by saying that uprooting is prohibited, it implies that preserving them is permitted, and this is R. Akiva’s opinion.
The Talmud resolves this by saying that in this case he was working for free, and this opinion follows R. Judah who holds that one may not aid a non-Jew for free. Therefore, uprooting would be permitted but preserving would be prohibited. But if he was getting paid, even preserving would be permitted.
The Talmud now uses R. Judah’s opinion to learn something about R. Akiva’s. R. Judah says that one is allowed to reduce what is improper, even if this is a free gift. But then we could apply the same thinking to R. Akiva. R. Akiva allows a Jew to work for free. But all would agree that if he is being paid, he may uproot the mixed seeds or break the jugs of yayin nesekh. The baraita is now back to being a support for R. Nahman allowing the Jew to be hired to break jugs of yayin nesekh.
Today’s section contains another question asked of the same rabbis when they gathered together. The topic is again relevant to idolatry and yayin nesekh.
If a Jew sells an idol the proceeds are prohibited. But what if a non-Jew sells an idol—are the proceeds still prohibited?
Nahman says that such proceeds are permitted and proves this from a story of some non-Jews who come to convert in front of Rabbah b. Abbahu. The rabbi tells them to first sell of their possessions and then convert. Assumedly, their possessions include idols. So if they sell them first, then they can keep the proceeds. This proves that the proceeds of a sale of an idol by an idolater are permitted.
The Talmud rejects this case as proof. These idolaters were intending to convert and therefore we can assume that they annulled their idols before selling them. But in a normal case, where the idolater is not converting, perhaps the proceeds would still be prohibited.
This baraita proves that the proceeds of the sale of an idol by an idolater are permitted. However the baraita does prohibit them under certain circumstances. Tomorrow’s section will clarify what these circumstances are.
Today’s section explains a baraita from yesterday. The baraita reads:
If an Israelite has a claim for a maneh against an idolater and the latter sold an idol and brought him the proceeds or yayin nesekh and brought him the proceeds, [the money] is permitted; but if [the idolater] said, “Wait until I sell an idol and I will bring you the proceeds or yayin nesekh and I will bring you the proceeds,” it is prohibited.
Today’s section clarifies why in the first case the deal is permitted and the second it is not.
The difference between the first half and the second half of the baraita, according to R. Sheshet, is that in the second half, when the idolater says, “wait until I sell the idol/yayin nesekh and bring you the proceeds” the Jew wants the forbidden object to continue to exist until it is sold. Therefore the proceeds are prohibited.
The Talmud raises a difficulty on R. Sheshet from the case of a convert and a non-Jew who inherit from their father who has not converted. The convert cannot take possession of the idolatrous objects or the yayin nesekh. But he can make a deal with his brother—his brother will take the idolatrous, prohibited things, and he can take the items permitted to Jews. This is so even though the Jew would seem to want the idolatrous things to continue to exist so that his brother can inherit them. Thus, even though the Jew wants the idolatrous things to be preserved, as long as he does not actually own them, there is no problem.
This baraita refers to an idol that can be broken into pieces and still retain its value. Therefore, the Jew does not care if it is preserved. But the baraita from yesterday refers to an idol that cannot be broken up and therefore since the Jew would want it to be preserved, it is prohibited.
How can wine be broken into pieces? If it is in jugs then the Jew wants those jugs to continue to be preserved.
The answer is that the wine is preserved in hadrianic earthenware—these are potsherds soaked in wine. When people would travel they would bring them and put them in water to give the water flavor.
Still, the Jew does in a sense care that they should be preserved—he doesn’t want them to be stolen or lost. This is another difficulty against R. Sheshet. Again, the baraita about the convert and his idolatrous brother seems to prove that just because the Jew wants the idol to be preserved does not make it prohibited.
The difficulty is finally resolved by noting that inheritance is different. The rabbis allowed the convert to divide the inheritance in this manner because otherwise they feared that he would revert to being an idolater. After all, the loss of inheritance could be a major blow to his finances. But in a regular case of partnership, such a division is prohibited. The original baraita was not a case of a convert and therefore, since the Jew wants the idolatrous object to be preserved, it is prohibited.