כ״ח באלול ה׳תש״ע (September 7, 2010)

Avodah Zarah 24a-b – Jews, pagans and sacrifices

As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page) Rabbi Eliezer forbids purchasing a Parah Adumah – a Red Heifer (see SeferBamidbar chapter 19) – from a non-Jew. The Gemara on today’s daf brings a number of Sages who believe that Rabbi Eliezer applies that same limitation to all sacrifices. Thus all animals used for sacrifices must be purchased from Jews.

 

This ruling seems to be contradicted by a list of stories throughout tanakh where animals belonging to non-Jews were brought as sacrifices. For example:

 

  • Moshe tells Pharaoh that not only will he free the Jews to worship themselves, but he will contribute sacrifices, as well (see Shemot 10:25).
  • Yitro comes to join the Israelite community in the desert and brings sacrifices (see 18:12).
  • King David is instructed to end a plague by building an altar on the place of the granary of Aravnah the Jebusite, the hilltop that was destined to become the Temple Mount (see Shmuel II chapter 24). Aravnah offers his granary, together with his cattle for sacrifices and the morigim and other utensils as firewood. King David insists on purchasing these from him.

 

Regarding the first cases, the Gemara explains that this rule did not apply before the Torah was given. In King David’s case, Rav Nahman suggests that Aravnah was a ger toshav – someone who accepted the laws incumbent upon him in order to live among the Jews (in his commentary on this story in tanakh, the Abravanel quotes our Gemara as saying that Aravnah was a ger tzedek – a righteous convert. It appears that he had a variant reading in the Gemara). The Talmud Yerushalmi suggests that King David did not actually bring these animals as sacrifices, rather it was his prayer that brought an end to the plague.

 

In a side comment, Ulla explains that the morigim donated by Aravnah were boards that were used to thresh the grain. In the time of the Mishnah these implements were still in use – as they still are today – albeit in a more developed form that allowed the animal driver to sit while the wheels of the morigim threshed the grain.