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Treatise XI. Idolatry Chapter III, The Talmud

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The Talmud, by Joseph Barclay, [1878] 1. "All images are forbidden, because they are worshipped once a year." The words of R. Meier. But the Sages say, "only those are forbidden which have in their hand a staff, or bird, or ball." R. Simon, the son of Gamaliel, said, "all images which have in their hand anything whatever." 2. "If one find the broken pieces of images?" "They are allowed (for useful purposes)." "If one find the figure of an hand, or the figure of a foot?" "They are forbidden, because such as they are worshipped." 3. "(If one find) vessels on which is the form of the sun-disc, the form of the moon, the form of a dragon?" "They are to be carried into the Salt Sea." 1 R. Simon, the son of Gamaliel, said, "when such forms are on precious (vessels) they are forbidden, when they are on insignificant (ones) they are allowed." 4. R. José said, "one must grind the image to powder and scatter it to the wind, or cast it into the sea." The Sages said to him, "then it will make dung," and it is said, "And there shall not cleave to thy hand aught of the accursed thing." 2 5. Proclus, the son of a philosopher, asked R. Gamaliel, in Acho, 3 as he was bathing in the bath of Venus, and said to him, "it is written in thy law, 'and there shall not cleave to thy hand aught of the accursed thing;' why dost thou bathe in the bath of Venus?" He said to him, "men do not give replies in the bath;" and when he came out he said to him, "I came not within its district; it came into my district." They did not say, "let us make a bath to the honour of Venus, but they said, let us make Venus an honour to the bath." Another thing: "if they gave thee money wouldst thou enter naked before thy idol, or wouldst thou do aught disgraceful in its presence? yet if it stands on a canal every one dishonours it." It is not said, save for their heathen gods, "that which is customary from its being a god, is forbidden, that which is not customary from its being a god, is allowed." 6. Though idolaters worship the mountains and the hills, the mountains and the hills are allowed, but what is upon them is forbidden; as is said, "Thou shalt not covet the silver and the gold upon them to take them." 1 R. José, the Galilean, said, "their gods of the mountains, but not the mountains their gods; their gods of the hills, but not the hills their gods." "But why are the groves forbidden?" "Because they are prepared by man's hands, and every object of idolatry which is prepared by man's hands is forbidden." Said R. Akiba, "I will consider and decide before thee; every place in which you find a high mountain, and an elevated hill, and a flourishing tree, know that there is idolatry." 7. "He who had a house joined to an idol, and it fell down?" "It is forbidden to rebuild it." "What shall he do?" "He must first reduce the size of the house by four cubits, and then rebuild it." "If the house be in common between him and the idol?" "It is decided to leave the four cubits unoccupied, as its stones, wood, and dust cause defilement like a worm, 'Thou shalt utterly detest it.'" 2 8. There are three sorts of buildings. The house originally built for idolatry is forbidden. "If the idolater whitewashed, and painted, and repaired it for the idol?" "He must take down his repairs." "If he brought in and afterwards took out the idol?" "It is allowed." 9. There are three sorts of stones. The stone originally hewn for a pedestal to the idol is forbidden. "If the idolater whitewashed, and painted, and repaired it to honour an idol?" "He must take down his repairs." "If he placed his idol upon it, and afterwards took it away?" "It is allowed." 10. There are three sorts of groves. The tree originally planted to honour an idol is forbidden. "If the idolater cut it, and hewed it, and made changes to honour an idol?" "He must take down his changes." "If he placed an idol beneath it and abused it?" "It is allowed." 11. "What is a grove?" "That in which there is an idol." R. Simon said, "everything that is worshipped, as it happened in Zidon at the tree where they worshipped, and they found beneath it a heap. Said R. Simon to them, ‘examine this heap.’ And they examined it and found in it an image.’ He said to them, 'as the object of service is the image, we shall allow the tree to you.'" 12. One must not sit in the shadow of an idolatrous grove, and though he sit, he is legally clean. And one must not pass underneath it; even if one pass he is defiled. "If it occupy the public thoroughfare and one pass beneath it?" "He is clean." 13. One may sow underneath it vegetables in winter, but not in summer. But lettuce 1 must not be sown either in summer or winter. R. José said, "not even vegetables in winter, since the leaves would fall upon then and serve them for dung." 14. "Has one taken wood from it?" "Its wood is forbidden for every use." "Has one heated an oven with it?" "If the oven be new it must be broken down, and if old it must be cooled down." "Has one baked bread in it?" "The use of the bread is forbidden." "Are the loaves mixed with other loaves, and these again with others?" "The use of all the loaves is forbidden." R. Eliezer said, "its value is to be cast into the Salt Sea." The Sages replied to him, "there is no redemption for idolatry." "Has one made out of such a tree a weaver's shuttle?" "Its use is forbidden." "Has one woven a garment with it?" "The use of the garment is forbidden." "Is the garment mixed with other garments, and these again with others?" "The use of all the garments is forbidden." Rabbi Eleazar said, "its value is to be cast into the Salt Sea." The Sages replied to him, "there is no redemption for idolatry." 15. "How is the tree to be desecrated?" "Has the idolater broken off dry bark, or green boughs; has he taken from it a staff, or a twig, or even a leaf—it is desecrated." "Has he trimmed it for the sake of the tree?" "It is forbidden." "Has he trimmed it, but not for the sake of the tree?" "It is allowed." 209:1 The Salt Sea generally means in the Talmud the Dead Sea. It is now called by the Arabs Bahr-Lût, i.e. the Sea of Lot. 209:2 Deut. xiii. 17. 209:3 The modern Akka (Acre). 210:1 Deut. vii. 25. 210:2 Deut. vii. 26. 211:1 Lest the lettuce might derive profit from the shade of the idolatrous grove.

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1 Ahmed M = "Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews are in agreement that life should be seen as a ritual to honour the Creator."
2 Ahmed M = "For the Orthodox tradition, there is a heavy emphasis on the precise recitation of specific prayers in specific situations"
3 Ahmed M = "The Conservative holds to the view that ritual is an expression of values like loving God and helping others."