Daf Yomi

For the week ending 22 March 2003 / 18 Adar II 5763

Avoda Zara 2-8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

The Foolish Claim

In the hereafter, states Rabbi Chanina bar Papa, all the nations of the world will stand before G-d in judgment. This is the scene described by the Prophet Yeshayahu (43:9) in which the Creator issues the challenge "Who amongst them has anything to say about this" a reference to the Torah as in "this is the Torah which Moshe placed before the Children of Israel" (Devarim 4:44).

This is the ultimate moment of truth when G-d reveals to all of mankind that only those who were involved in the study of Torah are deserving of reward. The Romans present the claim that they established marketplaces, built bathhouses and amassed great wealth, all in order to enable Jews to study Torah. The Persians follow with a similar claim that their exploits in building bridges, conquering cities and waging war were for the sake of Jews studying Torah. "Fools," G-d rebukes them, pointing out that all of their achievements were motivated only by their own desires for wealth, power and pleasure, and not for the sake of Torah study by Jews.

The logic of these nations, and the others who follow with similar claims, can be understood in the light of what Rambam writes in his introduction to his commentary on the Mishna. G-d designed this world in a manner which has many people involved in mundane tasks so that the rare righteous person involved in spiritual matters will have the material things he needs for his existence. Since there is no doubt that Jews were able to study Torah because of the material infrastructure provided by the nations, those nations claim credit as supporting cast. In His rebuke, G-d does not accuse them of lying but rather of being fools for not realizing the role they played was part of G-ds pattern for providing His chosen people with the support they needed for studying Torah, but reward is due only to one who consciously acted out of a desire to promote Torah study rather than self-aggrandizement.

Avoda Zara 2b

Accomplice to the Crime

Should a nazir one who has taken a vow which forbids him to drink wine ask another Jew to hand him a cup of wine it is prohibited to accommodate him even if the wine belongs to him. One who indeed hands him the wine is guilty of violating the Torah command of "You shall not place a stumbling block in the path of a blind man" (Vayikra 19:14).

This interpretation of the passage applies to any situation in which one enables another to commit a sin which he would not be able to without this assistance. In the case of the nazir, our Sages point out, this applies to a case in which he cannot reach the wine himself because it is on the other side of a river and he is dependent on someone else on that other side. This is why Rabbi Nosson in the beraita uses the term "dont hand it to him" rather than "dont give it to him" to signal that there is a separation which must be breached.

If this is a universal rule why did the gemara choose the example of a nazir?

Tosefots explanation is that when a nazir asks for wine we must assume that he plans to drink it since it is permissible for every other Jew and that he simply forgot that he was a nazir. Should an observant Jew, however, ask another to hand him some non-kosher meat or any other forbidden food there is no reason to assume that he intends eating it, and there is nothing wrong with accommodating him. If the one asking this help is not observant he is considered the "blind man" whom we must refrain from placing a "stumbling block" in his path by helping him sin.

It must be noted that the distinction between helping one who could not otherwise commit the sin and one who could applies only to the Torah prohibition. Our Sages, however, have decreed that we are prohibited from abetting a sinner in any situation, so that we are not guilty of being accomplices.

Avoda Zara 6b

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