AVODAH ZARAH 48 - Dedicated by Harav Gedaliah Weinberger shlit'a in memory of his father, Reb Chaim Tzvi ben Reb Shlomo Weinberger, whose Yahrzeit is 18 Adar. Reb Chaim Tzvi, a Holocaust survivor who raised his family in a new country, bequeathed his children a steadfast commitment to Torah and its study.
1) PRUNING A TREE FOR THE SAKE OF AVODAH ZARAH
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that when a person prunes a tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah and branches grow afterwards, it is sufficient to remove the growths in order to permit benefiting from the rest of the tree. RASHI explains that the person who pruned the tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah had intention to worship the growths that would come afterwards, as a result of the pruning, but he did not have intention to worship the entire tree.
In the preceding Mishnayos (47b) -- which teach that when a person adds a decorative finish to a house or to a stone for the sake of Avodah Zarah he must remove that finish in order to be able to benefit from the house or stone -- Rashi does not explain that the person had intention to worship only the decorative finish. The simple reading of the Mishnayos there implies that he intended to decorate the house because he wanted the entire house to be an Avodah Zarah. This indeed is the way Rashi explains earlier (47b, DH Siyedah). Why, then, does Rashi explain that the Mishnah here is discussing a person who intended to worship only the growth that comes later?
ANSWER: TOSFOS (47b, DH Gid'o) explains that Rashi maintains that if a person would have intention to worship the entire tree, then the entire tree would become forbidden when he prunes it. He proves this from the Gemara later (54b) which teaches that if a person worships a field and digs holes in it for the sake of Avodah Zarah, then the entire field becomes forbidden. In the same way, by pruning the tree the entire tree becomes forbidden if he has intention to worship it.
The ROSH, cited by the TUR (YD 145), rejects the proof of Tosfos. The Rosh explains that the Gemara later (54b) that if a person bows down to a field and digs holes in it, the entire field becomes forbidden. The Mishnayos here, in contrast, are discussing a person who only prunes the tree or decorates the house, but does not bow down to the tree or house, as is evident from the Gemara earlier (47b) and Rashi there (DH Notel), regarding the case of decorating the house. Since the person only pruned the tree but did not bow down to it, the only part that becomes prohibited is the part that grows afterwards.
To answer this question on the explanation of Tosfos, one may suggest that Tosfos is following his opinion as expressed later. The Gemara records the ruling of Shmuel who says that when a person bows down to a tree, what grows afterwards is prohibited as Avodah Zarah. The Gemara challenges Shmuel's statement from the Mishnah which says that when a person prunes a tree, what grows afterwards is prohibited, which, the Gemara asserts, implies that if a person merely bows to a tree but does not prune it, then what grows afterwards does not become prohibited. Tosfos asks that if the Mishnah is discussing a person who prunes the tree but does not bow to it, then it should not present any contradiction to Shmuel's statement, as both can be true! A tree can become prohibited through an action -- by pruning it -- even though the action does not involve the actual worship of the tree. On the other hand, a tree also can become prohibited through being worshipped even when there is no action involved. As mentioned earlier, the Gemara (47b) makes a similar point regarding a person who worships a house.
Tosfos answers that it is clear that the Gemara maintains that it is impossible to prohibit, through an action, an object that is attached to the ground without actually worshipping the object as Avodah Zarah. Therefore, if the Mishnah says that what grows from a tree becomes prohibited when the tree is pruned for the sake of Avodah Zarah, then it must mean that the growth is prohibited when a person both prunes the tree and bows down to what grows there. Therefore, the Mishnah indeed contradicts the statement of Shmuel, since the Mishnah requires both bowing to the tree and pruning it, while Shmuel maintains that bowing to the tree alone can cause the subsequent growth to become prohibited.
According to this approach, Tosfos' explanation for Rashi is clear. The Mishnah is discussing a person who both bows to the tree and prunes it, and, therefore, it is comparable to the case later (on 54b) in which a person both digs holes in a field and bows down to the field. Consequently, the entire tree should become prohibited if not for the fact that the person intended to worship only the growths that come afterwards. Support for this explanation of Tosfos may be found in TOSFOS RABEINU YECHIEL MI'PARIS.
The Rosh, however, clearly understands that the Mishnah is discussing a person who pruned the tree but did not bow down to it, which is why only the growth is prohibited but not the tree itself. How, then, will the Rosh answer the question of Tosfos? The Mishnah should not present a contradiction to Shmuel, who is discussing a person who bows down to a tree, since the statements of the Mishnah and of Shmuel are not mutually exclusive.
The answer to this question may be found in the TOSFOS HA'ROSH, which is the source for the Tur's citation. The Rosh answers that if Shmuel's ruling is correct and bowing alone can prohibit a tree, it would be a greater Chidush than the Chidush of the Mishnah, because what the Mishnah teaches -- that pruning a tree prohibits the growth -- is self-evident from the beginning of the Mishnah. The reason for this is that pruning is tantamount to planting the growths that are produced through pruning (see Shabbos 73b, where we find a similar concept with regard to the laws of Shabbos, in that pruning is considered an act of the Av Melachah of Zore'a). The beginning of the Mishnah already teaches that when one plants a tree for the purpose of worshipping it, the tree becomes prohibited. Hence, it should be obvious that when one prunes a tree to worship it, the growths become prohibited. If Shmuel's ruling is correct, then the Mishnah should have taught instead that when one bows to a tree the growths become prohibited, since that is not included in the earlier teaching of the Mishnah! Since the Mishnah is not teaching Shmuel's ruling, it must be that the Mishnah does not accept it as the Halachah.
(b) According to what we have explained above, the Rosh seems to be arguing not only with Tosfos, but with Rashi as well, since Rashi also writes that the intention of the person who pruned the tree was to worship what grows afterwards. Is there any other way to learn Rashi, such that his words can be reconciled with the opinion of the Rosh?
Perhaps the Rosh interpreted Rashi to be saying not that the person intended only to serve that which grows afterwards, but that the person intended also to serve that which grows afterwards. In the preceding Mishnayos, when the person decorated the house or the stone, he intended to worship the house or the stone in its present state, with the added finish. One might have concluded, therefore, that in the case of this Mishnah, the person pruned the tree in order to beautify the tree and serve it in its pruned state. However, if that were true, then it would be logical for the Mishnah to rule that by removing what grows later, one permits the tree. Why should the later growths become prohibited in the first place, if the person never decorated them or served them? It must be that the person intended to prune the tree in order to produce shoots that he plans to worship. The pruning, therefore, was an act that produced this object of Avodah Zarah that grew afterwards. The growths are therefore prohibited either because of the action that the person did, or because his act is tantamount to planting a tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah. When one removes those growths, he removes the tree that he "planted" through his act of pruning, and, therefore, the remainder of the tree is permitted. The remainder of the tree does not become prohibited, just as the remainder of the house or stone does not become prohibited once one removes the additions that were made for the sake of Avodah Zarah.
HALACHAH: As explained above, Tosfos and the Rosh disagree about whether a person can prohibit the branches that grow from a tree through pruning it without bowing down to it. What is the Halachah?
The TUR (YD 145) records both opinions. (RABEINU YERUCHAM 17:4, cited by the Hagahos in the Shiras Devorah edition of the Tur, also records two similar opinions; it is important to note that although he seems to be quoting a third opinion as well, a closer examination of the words will show that an entire line of his text was accidentally repeated during transcription.) The Tur favors the opinion of his father, the Rosh. This is also the ruling of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 8:3) and the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 145:6).
2) HOW PART OF THE WORSHIPPED TREE BECOMES PROHIBITED
QUESTION: The Gemara concludes that according to Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah, when one bows to a tree, the entire tree becomes prohibited. According to the Rabanan, when one bows to a tree, only what grows afterwards becomes prohibited, but not the original part of the tree (as Shmuel rules). The Mishnah may be reconciled according to the opinion of the Rabanan: when the Mishnah teaches that pruning a tree prohibits the later growth, the same applies to bowing down to a tree. Why, then, does the Mishnah not teach that even if a person merely bows down to a tree (without pruning it), the later growth becomes prohibited? The Gemara explains that the Mishnah wants to show that even if one prunes the tree, only the later growth becomes prohibited, but not the tree itself. One might have thought that since the person worshipping the tree performed an action to the tree itself, the entire tree should become prohibited. The Mishnah teaches, therefore, that pruning prohibits only what grows later.
The Gemara earlier teaches that even if a person is Mavrich (grafts) or Markiv (see Background) a tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah, only what grows afterwards becomes prohibited, while the original tree remains permitted. It is clear from the Gemara there that Harkavah or Havrachah is a more significant act than the act of pruning, but, nevertheless, it cannot cause the original tree to become prohibited. If the Gemara concludes that the main point of the Mishnah is that even an act performed on a tree itself cannot prohibit the original growth of the tree, then why does the Mishnah use the example of pruning a tree? The Mishnah should say that even if a person is Markiv or Mavrich a tree, only the growths become forbidden, but not the original part of the tree!
(a) The Mishnah earlier (47b) teaches that if a person decorates a stone for the sake of Avodah Zarah, he simply may remove what he added and the rest of the stone becomes permitted. Rebbi Ami adds that even when a person decorated the stone by digging into the stone itself, by removing merely the addition he permits the rest of the stone to be used. TOSFOS (DH v'Hu) explains that it is evident from the Gemara that if a person digs a decorative finish into the stone itself, it is not enough to simply remove what he added; rather, he must remove the entire area opposite the part that was dug out (in order to place the decorative finish there) all the way through to the other side of the stone. Although Rebbi Ami does not mention this explicitly, this is how his words must be interpreted.
Where, though, does Tosfos see this expressed in the Gemara? (See TESHUVOS HA'REMA #115, and footnotes there, and TESHUVOS MAHARSHACH 2:138, who discuss the intention of Tosfos at length.)
It seems that the intention of Tosfos is to ask a question similar to the question that we asked on the previous Mishnah. Why does the Mishnah teach that if one decorates a stone for the sake of Avodah Zarah, he may remove the decoration and thereby permit the stone? The Mishnah should teach instead that even if one digs into the stone and decorates it for the sake of Avodah Zarah, it suffices to remove the decorations! (The Mishnah clearly is not discussing a case in which a person digs into the stone, as the Gemara proves by comparing this Mishnah to the previous Mishnah.)
Tosfos answers that in the case of Rebbi Ami, the stone itself also becomes prohibited (to a certain extent), and one must remove the part of the stone that is opposite the part that was dug out. The Mishnah wants to teach a case in which the addition alone becomes prohibited, and that is why it mentions the case of adding a decorative finish to the stone, rather than the case of digging into the stone.
If this indeed is the intention of Tosfos, then a similar explanation may be given for the case of the Gemara. When the Gemara teaches that when a person is Markiv or Mavrich a tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah, it suffices to remove the growths in order to permit the tree, it does not mean literally that none of the original tree becomes prohibited. Rather, the stem into which the person was Markiv or Mavrich the Avodah Zarah also becomes prohibited, since it is opposite the growth that was planted for Avodah Zarah. The Mishnah does not mention that case because it wants to mention a case in which only the growths, and not any part of the original tree, become forbidden.
Why should the part of the stone or tree become prohibited when a person digs into the stone for the sake of Avodah Zarah, or grafts a branch into a tree for the sake of Avodah Zarah? Perhaps Tosfos means to prohibit the part of the tree upon which the decoration or the graft stands, because it is "Meshamshei Avodah Zarah" in that it serves as a basis for the Avodah Zarah. In fact, RABEINU YONAH asks why the stone and house do not become prohibited when a person decorates them for Avodah Zarah since, after all, they become Meshamshei Avodah Zarah? He answers that Meshamshei Avodah Zarah become prohibited only when they are actually used for Avodah Zarah. The stone, though, was only designated for Avodah Zarah, but was not yet used, since the person did not yet worship it. Apparently, Rabeinu Yonah understands the case of the tree like the ROSH, who learns that the person only pruned the tree for Avodah Zarah but did not bow down to it (since if he did bow down to it, the entire tree would be forbidden).
Tosfos, however, learns that in the case of pruning the tree, the person both pruned the tree and bowed down to it. Accordingly, the answer of Rabeinu Yonah (to explain why the tree does not become "Meshamshei Avodah Zarah") will not be valid. Tosfos may have learned instead that when a person does not carve the decoration into the stone itself, the stone is not considered a Meshamesh for Avodah Zarah, since it is not helping the Avodah Zarah. Similarly, when a person prunes the tree for Avodah Zarah, the trunk is not considered a base for the subsequent growths, since the trunk is not serving or helping the branch that grows. However, when a person does carve the decoration into the stone itself, the part of the stone opposite the decoration is considered a base for the decoration. Similarly, when a person is Markiv or Mavrich a branch for Avodah Zarah, the part of the tree that serves as a stock for the grafted branch, or the branch that the person was Mavrich, will be considered Meshamshei Avodah Zarah.
(b) Another answer to our question may be suggested based on the words of the CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN. The Ran explains that there is more reason to prohibit the entire tree when a person prunes the tree than there is to prohibit the entire rock when a person decorates the rock for Avodah Zarah, since pruning benefits the entire tree, and not just what grows afterwards.
Similarly, we may suggest that there is more reason to prohibit the entire tree when a person prunes the tree than there is to prohibit the entire tree when a person is Markiv or Mavrich it, since pruning benefits the entire tree, and not just what grows afterwards. The Mishnah, then, may have preferred to teach that pruning a tree does not prohibit the original tree, because that Halachah is less evident than the Halachah that grafting a branch does not prohibit the original tree.
3) WALKING UNDER AN "ASHEIRAH" TREE
QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that a person who walks under an Asheirah tree becomes Tamei. The Gemara explains that this is because there undoubtedly are pieces of sacrificial offerings under the tree, and sacrifices to Avodah Zarah are Metamei like a Mes. The Mishnah continues and says that if the tree was planted in a place in which it obstructs the public thoroughfare, then when one walks under it he does not become Tamei.
If an Asheirah is assumed to have pieces of idolatrous sacrifices under it, then why is it not Metamei even when it overhangs the public domain?
(a) The RA'AVAD writes that idolaters normally do not place sacrifices in crowded places, such as a public domain, and even if they do, the sacrifices would become trampled and unrecognizable. The RITVA adds that even if there exists some possibility that the idolaters placed the sacrifices under the tree in Reshus ha'Rabim, nevertheless it is no longer a certainty (as it is when the tree does not overhang Reshus ha'Rabim), and the Halachah is that a Safek Tum'ah in Reshus ha'Rabim is Tahor.
(b) The RITVA himself and the NIMUKEI YOSEF suggest another approach to this question. They cite the Yerushalmi which explains that the reason why the people passing in Reshus ha'Rabim do not become Tamei is that "the Tum'ah of the sacrifices to Avodah Zarah is not 'clear'." The Ritva explains that the Yerushalmi's intention is to say that the Tum'ah of idolatrous sacrifices is only mid'Rabanan, and in order to protect the public from becoming Tamei the Rabanan did not apply their enactment of Tum'ah when the tree is overhanging Reshus ha'Rabim.
(It is possible that the Ra'avad will explain the words of the Yerushalmi according to his explanation. The Yerushalmi's intention might be that in Reshus ha'Rabim the Tum'ah is not definite, as it is when the Asheirah overhangs a more secluded area.)