אפילו לשנויי ערקתא דמסאנא
Even to change the strap of a sandal. There was a Jewish custom with regard to sandal straps. If the gentile authorities were to decree that Jews must change their practice and wear sandal straps like those worn by the gentiles, one would be obligated to give up his life rather than veer from the accepted custom.
וכמה פרהסיא אמר ר' יעקב אמר רבי יוחנן אין פרהסיא פחותה מעשרה בני אדם פשיטא ישראלים בעינן דכתיב (ויקרא כב, לב) ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל בעי רבי ירמיה תשעה ישראל ונכרי אחד מהו
The Gemara asks: And the presence of how many people is required so that it should be deemed a public act? Rabbi Ya’akov says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: An action is not considered a public act if it is performed in the presence of fewer than ten people. The Gemara clarifies this point: It is obvious that we require that these ten people be Jews, as it is written in the verse from which we derive the requirement of ten for the sanctification of God’s name: “And I shall be sanctified among the children of Israel” (Leviticus 22:32). Rabbi Yirmeya asks: What is the halakha if there were nine Jews and one gentile present?
תא שמע דתני רב ינאי אחוה דרבי חייא בר אבא אתיא תוך תוך כתיב הכא ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל וכתיב התם (במדבר טז, כא) הבדלו מתוך העדה הזאת מה להלן עשרה וכולהו ישראל אף כאן עשרה וכולהו ישראל
The Gemara answers: Come and hear an answer from what Rav Yannai, the brother of Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba, teaches in a baraita: This is derived by means of a verbal analogy between the word “among” written with regard to the sanctification of God’s name, and the word “among” written with regard to Korah and his assembly. Here, with regard to the sanctification of God’s name, it is written: “And I shall be sanctified among the children of Israel,” and there, with regard to Korah, it is written: “Separate yourselves from among this congregation” (Numbers 16:21). The meaning of the word “congregation” written with regard to Korah is derived by means of a verbal analogy to the word “congregation” written with regard to the spies sent out by Moses to scout the land: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation” (Numbers 14:27). Just as there, the congregation of spies numbered ten, and all were Jews, so too here, concerning the sanctification of God, there must be ten, all of them being Jews.
והא אסתר פרהסיא הואי אמר אביי אסתר קרקע עולם היתה
The Gemara raises a difficulty: But wasn’t the incident involving Esther, i.e., her cohabitation with Ahasuerus, a public sin? Why then did Esther not surrender her life rather than engage in intercourse? The Gemara answers: Abaye says: Esther was merely like natural ground, i.e., she was a passive participant. The obligation to surrender one’s life rather than engage in forbidden sexual intercourse applies only to a man who transgresses the prohibition in an active manner. A woman who is passive and merely submits is not required to give up her life so that she not sin.
רבא אמר הנאת עצמן שאני
Rava says that there is another justification for Esther’s behavior: When gentiles order the transgression of a prohibition not in order to persecute the Jews or to make them abandon their religion, but for their own personal pleasure, it is different. In such a situation there is no obligation to sacrifice one’s life, even when the sin is committed in public.
דאי לא תימא הכי הני קוואקי ודימוניקי היכי יהבינן לה אלא הנאת עצמן שאני הכא נמי הנאת עצמן שאני
Rava explains: As if you do not say so, then how do we give them coal shovels [kevakei vedimonikei]? The Persian priests would take coal shovels from every house, fill them with coals, and use them to heat their temples on their festival days. Although this involved assisting idol worship in public, Jews would not sacrifice their lives in order not to do so. Rather, the reason they cooperated is certainly that a measure enacted for the gentiles’ personal pleasure is different. Here too, concerning Esther, Ahasuerus engaged in intercourse with her for his personal pleasure, and a measure enacted for a gentile’s personal pleasure is different, and there is no obligation to sacrifice one’s life to avoid it.
ואזדא רבא לטעמיה דאמר רבא עכו"ם דאמר ליה להאי ישראל קטול אספסתא בשבתא ושדי לחיותא ואי לא קטילנא לך ליקטיל ולא לקטליה שדי לנהרא ליקטליה ולא ליקטול מ"ט לעבורי מילתא קא בעי
The Gemara comments: And Rava follows his own line of reasoning, as Rava says: If a gentile said to a certain Jew: Cut grass [aspasta] on Shabbat and throw it before the cattle, and if you do not do this I will kill you, he should cut the grass and not be killed. But if the gentile said to him: Cut the grass and throw it into the river, he should be killed and not cut the grass. What is the reason for the latter ruling? Because it is clear that the gentile is not seeking his own personal pleasure, but rather he wants to force the Jew to violate his religion.
בעו מיניה מר' אמי בן נח מצווה על קדושת השם או אין מצווה על קדושת השם
§ The Sages raised a dilemma before Rabbi Ami: Is a descendant of Noah, who is commanded to refrain from idol worship, also commanded about the sanctification of God’s name, or is he not commanded about the sanctification of God’s name?
אמר אביי ת"ש שבע מצות נצטוו בני נח ואם איתא תמני הויין א"ל רבא אינהו וכל אבזרייהו
Abaye says: Come and hear an answer to this question from a baraita in which it was taught: Descendants of Noah were commanded to observe seven mitzvot: To establish courts of law, to refrain from cursing God, idol worship, adultery, bloodshed, robbery, and from eating the limb of a living animal. And if it is so that they are commanded about the sanctification of God’s name, then there would be eight mitzvot in which they are commanded. Rava said to him: There is no proof from here, as when the baraita speaks of seven mitzvot it means the seven mitzvot themselves with all their associated [avzaraihu] obligations. The mitzva to sanctify God’s name can be understood as a detail of the prohibition of idolatry.
מאי הוי עלה אמר רב אדא בר אהבה אמרי בי רב כתיב (מלכים ב ה, יח) לדבר הזה יסלח ה' לעבדך בבא אדני בית רמון להשתחות שמה והוא נשען על ידי והשתחויתי וכתיב (מלכים ב ה, יט) ויאמר לו לך לשלום
The Gemara asks: What halakhic conclusion was reached about this matter? Rav Adda bar Ahava says that they say in the school of Rav: It is written that Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, said to the prophet Elisha: “For this matter may the Lord pardon your servant, that when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to bow down there and he leans on my hand, and I bow myself down in the house of Rimmon” (II Kings 5:18). That is, he was forced to bow down before an idol out of fear of his master, the king of Aram. And it is written in the following verse: “And he said to him: Go in peace,” indicating that Elisha did not criticize him for acting in this manner.