For the week ending 11 September 2010 / 2 Tishri 5771

Avodah Zarah 30 - 36

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The problem of exposed wine
  • Wine of non-Jews or exposed to them
  • The vessels containing such wine
  • Flesh offered as sacrifice for idol worship
  • Using the vessels used by non-Jews
  • Seeds and skins of grapes of non-Jews
  • Fish oils and cheeses purchased from them
  • The dialogue between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Yehoshua
  • Keeping the reason for a rabbinical decree a secret for a year
  • Milk, bread and other food matters of non-Jews
  • Rabbinical decrees to prevent intermarriage
  • The source for the ban on intermarriage

The Ban on Intermarriage

  • Avoda Zara 36b

"You shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son and you shall not take his daughter for your son; for he will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods of others." (Devarim 7:3-4)

Is this Torah ban on intermarriage limited to the seven nations who inhabited Eretz Yisrael or does it include all non-Jews?

While there is one position that the Torah prohibited intermarriage only with those seven nations and the rest are prohibited by rabbinic law, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is quoted as contending that even though the context would indicate that the Torah ban is limited, the fact is that the term "he will cause your child to turn away from Me" must be understood as a warning to avoid marriage with any non-Jew.

The only problem with this citing of Rabbi Shimon's position is that it does not appear anywhere in Tannaic records. Tosefot mentions the solution of RaShbaM to this problem.

Since Rabbi Shimon is known to base halachic rulings on his understanding of the reason for a mitzvah, it seems superfluous for the Torah to state that intermarriage be avoided because of the danger of being turned away from G‑d since this would have been assumed as the reason for this prohibition. The gemara therefore assumes that Rabbi Shimon would interpret this apparently superfluous explanation as a signal to include all non-Jews who also pose this threat.

What the Sages Say

"No decree is made by the Sages unless most of the public is capable of obeying it."

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel and Rabbi Elazar ben Tzadok - Avoda Zara 36a

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