Daf Yomi

For the week ending 24 May 2003 / 22 Iyyar 5763

Avoda Zara 65-71

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Perfect and Imperfect Pleasure

The potentate Bar Sheishach spent his holiday indulging in an extreme form of physical pleasure. When the Sage Rava brought him a gift on that day, Bar Sheishach tauntingly asked him if there was a pleasure so great as this in store for Jews in the hereafter.

There are a couple of passages which Rava could have cited to show that our pleasure will be greater than his. Rabbi Papi suggests that he could have quoted King Davids prophetic vision of our royal grandeur expressed in "princesses shall honor you with their service" (Tehillim 45:10). Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak suggested a quote from the prophetic description of the rewards of the hereafter as being beyond human imagination for "no eye but Yours, L-ord, has seen what You will do for those who await Your salvation." (Yeshayahu 64:3)

Rava, however, hesitated to respond to the noblemans challenge with prophetic promises whose validity he could not hope to prove. He chose instead to deflate the quality of his pleasure by pointing to something which could be demonstrated. Rava therefore called attention to the vulnerability of even a high official like Bar Sheishach who is subservient to the arbitrary whims of his king, while Jews in the hereafter will be free from the yoke of any such power. No sooner had he haughtily denied any such subservience than Bar Sheishach was summarily summoned to abandon his indulging and to appear before the king.

Ravas gift to Bar Sheishach on his holiday and that of Rabbi Yehuda to Avidarna on his holiday are explained as being permissible because these sages were certain that the recipients of these gifts were not idol worshippers. The ban on dealing with idol worshippers on and around their holidays for fear that they would offer thanks to their idol did not, therefore, apply to them.

But if these holidays were not days with a religious significance for these non-Jews why did these sages find it necessary to pay homage to them on these particular days? Rabbi Yacov Emden suggests that the holiday referred to here was a New Years celebration which idol worshippers treated as an occasion for idol worship but which Bar Sheishach and Avidarna related to as simply a day for feasting and one on which receiving gifts was considered a good omen for the year just begun.

Avoda Zara 65a

The Case for Kashering

After their military triumph over the Midianites, the Israelite troops were instructed by the Kohen Hagadol Elazar what to do with metal cooking vessels which were part of the spoils.

"Whatever was used for cooking with fire must be passed through fire in order to become pure." (Bamidbar 31:23)

This is the source for what we know as "kashering" vessels which have absorbed some non-kosher substance. If the substance was absorbed through boiling then boiling must be used to extract it and if it was in direct contact as in broiling then fire must be directly applied to it for removing the absorption.

What sort of vessels are referred to in the above passage?

Rabbi Shimons position is that the need for kashering was limited to those vessels which had been so recently used for non-kosher cooking that not even a 24-hour period had passed. Once the absorbed substance has been there that long, he contends, the taste it will inject into the subsequent kosher cooking is considered spoiled and making a negative contribution which the Torah did not forbid.

In support of this position Rabbi Shimon cites the passage forbidding the consumption of an animal whose death was not caused by the ritual slaughter of shechita. "To the stranger (a non-Jew who has abandoned idol worship) shall you give this carcass for him to eat." (Devarim 14:21) Only something which is fit for the stranger to eat is forbidden, concludes Rabbi Shimon, to the exclusion of something which is not fit because it is spoiled, which includes food absorbed in a vessel for more than 24 hours. It should be noted, however, that kashering of such vessels is still required by rabbinical law, which forbids the consumption of even such spoiled substances and only permits the use of food which has unintentionally been cooked in such vessels.

Avoda Zara 67b

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