For the week ending 4 September 2010 / 24 Elul 5770

Avodah Zarah 23 - 29

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Buying a red heifer for ritual use from a heathen
  • The exemplary honoring of a father by a heathen
  • The song of the cows transporting the Holy Ark
  • When the sun stood still for the sake of Israel
  • Being alone with a heathen in a house or on the road
  • The cleverness of Rabbi Akiva's disciples
  • Serving as midwife or nursing mother for heathens
  • or being served by them in such manner
  • Circumcision of a non-Jew or by a non-Jew
  • Medical service from a heathen
  • When martyrdom is required
  • Which conditions are considered a danger to life and warrant violation of Shabbat
  • Some illnesses and their cures
  • Haircuts of a heathen or by a heathen
  • Wine and foods of a heathen

The Silent Sun

  • Avoda Zara 25a

"And the sun was still and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies." (Yehoshua 10:13)

Thus is described the great miracle of victory achieved by Yehoshua over a powerful coalition of five kings, a miracle characterized as "there was no day like that before it or after it, that G-d hearkened to the voice of man." (Ibid. 10:14)

When those kings declared war on the inhabitants of Givon for making an alliance with the invading Israelite army, Yehoshua came to their rescue. His triumph over such a superior force was achieved through Heavenly intervention which included the raining down of great stones upon them. But in order to complete his annihilation of these dangerous enemies Yehoshua needed more time before nightfall. He therefore commanded the sun to stand still and it did indeed stand in the middle of the sky for about a whole day.

An interesting aspect of this miracle that sent shock waves throughout the universe is the report that Yehoshua spoke to G-d and that the sun was still. Rashi, in his commentary on our gemara, points out that the stillness of the sun refers to the interruption of the song of praise to G-d which it sings while in motion. It was therefore necessary for Yehoshua, who initiated that interruption, to take its place in the above-mentioned "speaking to G-d" as his human song of praise.

What the Sages Say

"Just as the sun stood still for Yehoshua so too did it stand still for Moshe and for Nakdimon ben Gurion" (Mesechta Taanit 20a).

  • Tosefta - Avoda Zara 25a

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