AVODAH ZARAH 45 (14 Adar; Purim) - Dedicated l'Iluy Nishmas HaRav Ze'ev Wolf Rosengarten of Zurich, Switzerland, a person of "Sheleimus" in every way, who passed away on 14 Adar 5760. Dedicated in honor of the Yahrzeit by his nephew and Talmid, Eli Rosengarten of Zurich.
1) MOUNTAINS THAT WERE WORSHIPPED
OPINIONS: The Mishnah states that mountains that were worshipped are permitted, and what is on them is forbidden. Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili explains that this is based on the verse "Eloheihem Al ha'Harim" -- "Their gods on the mountains" (Devarim 12:2), implying "v'Lo ha'Harim Eloheihem" -- "And not the mountains, their gods." Does this mean that one is permitted to benefit from mountains which were worshipped as Avodah Zarah?
(a) RASHI (DH Hen Mutarim and DH u'Mah she'Aleihen) writes that indeed one is permitted to benefit from the mountain itself. One is permitted, for example, to break off stones from such a mountain and plant crops on it. If the idolaters coated it with some kind of decoration, only the coating is forbidden from benefit.
TOSFOS (DH Eloheihem Al he'Harim) quotes RABEINU TAM who asks that if Rashi maintains that the mountain does not become forbidden as Avodah Zarah, and one who offers a sacrifice to the mountain does not render it Tikroves Avodah Zarah, why should such a person be killed for worshipping Avodah Zarah?
(b) RABEINU TAM therefore explains that the mountain certainly is forbidden, like any object of Avodah Zarah, and when one offers a Korban to it, that Korban becomes Tikroves Avodah Zarah. The Mishnah merely means to say that the obligation of "Abed Te'abdun" -- "You must surely destroy" (Devarim 12:2) -- does not apply to a mountain that was worshipped, as it applies to other objects that were worshipped. One does not have to uproot the mountain. Rabeinu Tam says that he found a text of Rashi which supports his position. In that text, Rashi writes that a piece of the mountain that broke off is forbidden from benefit, like any other Avodah Zarah.
The RI (cited by Tosfos) prefers our text of Rashi. A central issue in this argument is the intention of the Gemara in Chulin (40a). The Mishnah there states that when two people slaughter an animal together, and one of them has in mind that he is slaughtering to a mountain, a river, and the like, the Shechitah is invalid ("Pasul"). The Gemara infers from the fact that the Mishnah calls it merely "Pasul" that the animal is not considered Tikroves Avodah Zarah. However, the Gemara asks, another Beraisa says that in such a case the animal is considered Tikroves Avodah Zarah. Are these Beraisos arguing? The Gemara answers that they are not arguing. One Beraisa refers to when the person said that he is slaughtering to a mountain, and the other refers to when he said that he is slaughtering to the angel in charge of the mountain. According to our text of Rashi, the intention of the Gemara there is clear: slaughtering to the mountain does not make the animal Tikroves Avodah Zarah. However, according to Rabeinu Tam, why does the animal not become Tikroves Avodah Zarah? Rabeinu Tam explains that the Gemara there means that when the Beraisa says that when one person said that he is slaughtering to a mountain, it refers to when he is far away from the mountain. In such a case, he does not really intend to sacrifice the animal to the mountain. This is why it does not become Tikroves Avodah Zarah.
The Ri has great difficulty with this answer. If the person explicitly stated that he is slaughtering the animal to the mountain, why should we not believe him? The Ri therefore sides with Rashi (according to our text). Perhaps the Ri was not bothered by the question of Rabeinu Tam on Rashi's explanation for the following reason. The prohibition of Avodah Zarah is not to believe in or serve another "power." Accordingly, the Torah says that anyone who serves anything as another power is transgresses the prohibition against serving Avodah Zarah and should be killed, even though the Torah does not always forbid the object itself from benefit despite the fact that it was served (or offered to something which does not have the Halachic status of an Avodah Zarah). (Y. MONTROSE)
2) "A TREE WHICH WAS PLANTED AND THEN WORSHIPPED"
OPINIONS: The Mishnah (45a) quotes Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili who apparently supports the Tana Kama's ruling that a mountain cannot become forbidden when it is worshipped, because it is part of the ground. The source for this leniency is the verse, "Eloheihem Al ha'Harim" -- "their gods on the mountains" (Devarim 12:2), which implies "v'Lo ha'Harim Eloheihem" -- "and not the mountains, their gods." He then explains that even though an Asheirah tree is connected to the ground, the Torah requires that it be destroyed because a person had a part in its creation (he planted it), unlike a mountain which was not made by man.
The Gemara asks, what is the difference between the Tana Kama and Rebbi Yosi? Reish Lakish suggests that the difference lies in the coating of the mountain. The Tana Kama maintains that a man-made coating for the Avodah Zarah on the mountain would be prohibited, while Rebbi Yosi maintains that it would be Batel to the mountain. Rav Sheshes says that they both maintain that such a coating would be prohibited. They argue in a case in which a tree was planted and only afterward served as Avodah Zarah ("Ilan she'Neta'o uleva'Sof Avdo"). What exactly is this case?
(a) RASHI (DH Ilan) explains that the tree was planted with the same intent as any ordinary tree (not planted for Avodah Zarah). According to the Tana Kama, as long as there was no intent for Avodah Zarah before it was planted, it has the same status as a mountain which cannot become forbidden as Avodah Zarah. Only if the tree was planted so that it should be an Avodah Zarah does it have the status of Avodah Zarah. According to Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili, a tree is fundamentally different from a mountain, as it is planted by man. It therefore becomes forbidden like any other Avodah Zarah, whether it was worshipped before or after it was planted.
TOSFOS (DH v'Hacha) asks a number of questions on Rashi's opinion. One of his questions is that the Gemara later quotes the opinion of the Rabanan, who agree with the Tana Kama that trees are generally permitted. The Gemara asks how the Rabanan understand the verse, "va'Asherehem Tisrefun ba'Esh" -- "And their Asheirah trees you shall burn in fire" (Devarim 12:2), which clearly states that some trees are forbidden. The Gemara answers that they understand that if one plants a tree with intent that it be an Avodah Zarah, it is forbidden (as the Tana Kama maintains). Tosfos asks that if the Rabanan need the verse to teach that a tree can become forbidden, then they should learn that the verse teaches only the most obvious case in which a tree would become forbidden (that is, the verse should teach the case which is the smallest Chidush). The most obvious case to which the verse should refer would be a tree that one planted into the ground, and not a seed. It is more logical that a tree which one plants into the ground with intent that it be an Avodah Zarah should become prohibited, since before it is planted it is a finished and movable product, as opposed to a seed which becomes a tree only later.
(b) Tosfos therefore presents an entirely different understanding for "Ilan she'Neta'o uleva'Sof Avdo." He explains that everyone agrees that when a seed is planted in the ground, it does not become forbidden if it is worshipped only later. Tosfos apparently understands that everyone also agrees that a seed planted in order to create an Avodah Zarah is forbidden (see CHAZON ISH 60:3, AVODAH BERURAH on Tosfos). When Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili says that a tree can become forbidden because man is involved with its formation, he means that a person can make a tree forbidden only after it was planted in a normal manner if it was replanted as a tree. Since a person handled the tree as a movable object, the tree becomes forbidden even though it is now attached to the ground. (Y. MONTROSE)