ט״ו באדר ה׳תשע״ח (March 2, 2018)

Avoda Zara 46a-b: Can Shaky Rocks Become Pagan Idols?

This week’s essays have been dedicated in memory of
Morris M Geifman z”l</br />
Moshe Mordichai ben Yahael Michel


As we have learned on yesterday’s daf even if someone worships a hill or a valley, his actions will not cause the natural formation to become forbidden.
Similarly, someone who worships a living animal will not create a situation where the animal becomes forbidden (although it may not be used as a sacrifice, given that it has been treated as a deity). The underlying principle, as taught in the Mishna (42b) is that something that has had human intervention can become forbidden, but in their natural state, things do not become forbidden.

Our Gemara discusses a case of avanim she-nidaldelu – rocks that broke off of the mountain (Rabbeinu Ḥananel suggests that they did not break off entirely, but are now only partially connected to the mountain). If someone were to pray to these rocks, would they become forbidden, or will we argue that they still have had no human intervention and as such will remain permitted? The Gemara presents two opinions on this matter – Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi Ḥiyya’s sons, Ḥizkiyya and Yehuda. According to one of them the fact that there has been no human intervention is most important, and we are not concerned with the fact that the rocks are no longer connected to the mountain, since animals, too, are not connected, yet they cannot become forbidden. According to the other, the passage in Sefer (7:26) obligates us to reject avoda zara at every opportunity.

The Rambam limits the case of avanim she-nidaldelu to situations where the rocks remain in their original place, even though they are now separated from the mountain. The Ritva, however, argues that even if they were subsequently moved by a person, simply transporting them is not a significant act in the rocks themselves and they will still be subject to the conclusion regarding this question.