TalmuDigest

For the week ending 14 August 2010 / 3 Elul 5770

Avodah Zarah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • Doing business with idolaters near their days of worship
  • The great trial of the hereafter
  • A second chance for those who rejected the Torah
  • The laughter and activities of G-d
  • Divine justice and mercy
  • Another perspective on the sins of David and of the Golden Calf
  • Four who are considered like dead
  • Waiting period before slaughtering animal
  • When does ban on doing business with idolaters begin
  • Prohibition against being an accomplice to sin
  • Lending, borrowing and repaying before the idol days
  • What are the days of worship of the idolaters
  • Jews and Romans

The Great Trial

  • Avodah Zarah 2b

"What did you do for the study of Torah?"

This is the challenge which G-d will present to all of the nations on judgment day after announcing that all who were involved in Torah study would be rewarded.

In response the Roman representative will boast that his nation created many markets, built many bathhouses and amassed much silver and gold, adding that all of this was done in order to enable Jews to study Torah. The Persian spokesman will describe how his nation had built many bridges, conquered many cities and waged many wars – all in order to enable Jews to study Torah.

These arguments, as well as those of all the other nations, will be quickly dismissed by the Divine Judge who points out that everything they did was for their own benefit and are therefore not deserving of the reward reserved only for those involved in Torah study.

There is a difficulty in understanding this scenario because it is unimaginable that the people coming before G-d should think that they could deceive Him with the pretense that the motivation for all they achieved was the promotion of Torah study by the Jewish People. The explanation offered by Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik – the Rav of Brisk – is that they were claiming a reward for the fact that Jews did benefit from their marketplace and bridges. Rambam writes in his introduction to the Mishneh that in the Divine plan of things there are people who unconsciously play supporting roles in the survival and development of the "perfect man". Just as their existence is justified by this role, so too will the nations argue that they deserve a reward for their supporting rule.

The Divine rebuttal is that while this is how G-d programs a world in which everyone has a role, the only ones who deserve a reward are those who intentionally learn and support Torah.

What the Sages Say

"Why are people compared to the fish of the sea? To teach you that just as fish perish if they leave the water, so too do people perish if they abandon Torah and mitzvoth."

  • Rabbi Yehuda in the name of the Sage Shmuel - Avodah Zarah 3b

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