The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 14 August 2010 / 3 Elul 5770

Avodah Zarah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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A Tale of Three Animals

  • Avodah Zarah 5b
Rule 1 Rule 2 Rule 3
The Case: A Jew is forbidden to sell an animal to an idol worshipper during the three days preceding his pagan festival because he may use it as a sacrifice in the idol worship forbidden to all mankind. A Jew is forbidden to slaughter an animal and her child on the same day, and one who has sold the mother must inform the potential purchaser of her child if there is reason to assume that both will be slaughtered on the day of purchase. Such an assumption is mandatory only on four days of the year (erev Pesach, erev Shavuos, erev Rosh Hashana and erev Shmini Atzeres) when people are accustomed to slaughter animals in order to have meat available for the holiday. If the mother was sold a day earlier the seller need not assume that it will be slaughtered that very day and is not required to warn the buyer of the child. This is because people do not purchase an animal for slaughter so much in advance. Inquiries as to the eligibility of an animal to serve as Korban Pesach (Pascal Lamb) are presented to the authorities as early as thirty days before the holiday.
The Problem: How many days before he needs an animal does a man purchase it? Rule One suggests three days, Rule Two limits it to one, while Rule Three stretches it to thirty!
The Resolution: When the purpose of the acquisition is meat, it is customary to buy on the very day it is needed. When the purpose is a religious one, the purchaser buys well in advance to assure that the animal will be fit to serve as a proper sacrifice. Since non-Jews disqualify an animal only if it is missing a limb, it takes no more than three days to find and check such an animal. The Jew acquiring an animal for his sacrifice must make sure that even the slightest blemish does not exist, and therefore begins his search for a sacrificial candidate thirty days before the holiday.

A Thread for Four Tragedies

Four human situations are compared to death - poverty, blindness, tzaraas (a sin-induced leprosy-like condition which requires isolation) and childlessness.

Proofs from Scripture are cited by the Talmud for each of these, but the common denominator uniting them seems to be an elusive one.

The late Rosh Hayeshiva of Mirrer Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zatzal, suggested that the inability to give to others in normal fashion is a dimension of death. This is the thread which runs through the poor man's economic liability, the blind man's disability, the metzora's isolation and the childless man's lack of a beneficiary who is an extension of himself.

  • Avodah Zarah 5a

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