The Talmud tries to prove that Noah was not a trefa by citing various adjectives used to describe him. But when this fails, they say simply that Noah could not have been a trefa because God would not have said “like you” if Noah himself was a trefa.
If the Torah had just written “with you” I would not have known that Noah had to bring fertile animals on to the ark. I might have thought that they were just there for company. He could not have brought a trefa but he could have brought an old or infertile animal. Therefore, the Torah says that the animal must be able to bear children (seed).
The mishnah said that a Jew should not engage in business with an idolater three days before the festival. Does this include the festival day, for a total of three days of prohibition, or is it three days before the festival even starts?
Ishmael prohibits engaging in business for the three days before and the three days following the festival. From his phrasing it seems that the festival day is not included, for if it was, it would be included twice—with the days before and with the days following.
The Talmud rejects this answer. It might be that R. Ishmael does include the festival day with the three days. It is prohibited to engage in business for three days before, including the festival. The phrase “three days following” is not precise, and does include the festival day. He only used this language to parallel the phrase “three preceding.”
According to Shmuel, since Sunday (a reference to Christianity, manuscripts read “the Christian day” instead of Sunday) is always a holiday, it would always be prohibited to engage in business with idolaters, or at least with Christians. This must mean that the three days do not include the festival for if they did, one could engage in business with Christians on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Talmud admits that to R. Ishmael the three days clearly does not include the festival itself. But what about to the rabbis who prohibit only the three days before?
Ravina tries to use a later mishnah to answer the question. The Mishnah lists a few holidays. We will discuss what these holidays are when we get to that mishnah. R. Hanin b. Rava says that each of these holidays is eight days before or after the equinox. If the number of days includes the festival, then the first mishnah should have read ten (2 plus the 8 days of the holiday) and not 3.
The answer is that all of Kalenda might be considered one day. Thus the prohibition would begin two days before Kalenda and then last for the whole festival, which is considered only one day.
From the words “preceding the festivals,” R. Ashi concludes that the prohibition is for three days before the festival, not including the festival day itself.
This section asks an important question about the Mishnah—why should Jews refrain from engaging in business with idolaters before their festivals?
I should note that I have a chapter on this subject in my forthcoming volume 2 of Reconstructing the Talmud. In this chapter, my co-author and I show that the original reason for the prohibition was that participation in the economic aspect of the festival was akin to idol worship itself. In other words, the problem was not that the Jew was in some ways abetting the idol worship of a non-Jew. The problem was that the Jew was engaging in idol worship himself. However, the Talmud for the most part does not read the mishnah in this way.
Is it prohibited to engage in business because doing so will cause the idolater to profit and then he will go thank his god on his festival? Or is it a transgression of the prohibition of causing someone else to stumble? By selling or giving an animal to be sacrificed, the Jew is causing the idolater to engage in idolatry.
If the idolater has another animal of his own, then if the prohibition is due to profit, it is still in effect because by selling the idolater another animal, the Jew still causes him to profit. If, however, the prohibition is because of placing a stumbling block before the blind, then if the idolater has another animal to sacrifice, the Jew is not enabling him to offer a sacrifice. The idolater could have sacrificed one anyway.
The implication above was that if the idolater has another animal to sacrifice, the Jew who sells him an animal does not transgress the prohibition of placing a stumbling block before the blind. But this contradicts a baraita stated by R. Natan. If one makes forbidden substances available to those to whom they are prohibited, he transgresses, even if the person could have consumed the substance in any case.