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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate ‘Abodah Zarah
BUT THE SAGES DECLARE, [AN IMAGE] IS NOT PROHIBITED etc. [It is prohibited when holding] a staff, because [the implication is] that it rules the whole world as with a staff.4 [It is prohibited when holding] a bird, because [the implication is] that it grasps the whole world as though it were a bird. [It is prohibited when holding] an orb, because [the implication is] that it grasps the whole world as though it were a ball.
A Tanna taught: They added [subsequently to the aforementioned] a sword [in the hand], a crown [upon the head], or a ring [upon the finger].5 A sword — at first it was thought to be just the emblem of a robber, but later it was interpreted as denoting that it has the power of slaying the whole world. A crown — at first it was thought to be just a woven wreath, but later it was interpreted as denoting a kingly crown. A ring — at first it was thought to be just an emblem of distinction, but later it was interpreted as denoting that it has the power of sealing [the fate of] the whole world for death.
RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS etc. A Tanna taught: Even [if it has in its hand] a pebble or chip of wood. R. Ashi asked: How is it if it held excrement in its hand? Do we say that [the intention is that] it shows contempt for all people as though they were filth,6 or perhaps [the meaning is] that it is held in contempt by all as though it were filth? The question remains unanswered.
MISHNAH. IF ONE FINDS FRAGMENTS OF IMAGES, BEHOLD THEY ARE PERMITTED. IF ONE FOUND THE FIGURE OF A HAND OR THE FIGURE OF A FOOT, BEHOLD IT IS PROHIBITED BECAUSE SUCH AN OBJECT IS WORSHIPPED.7
GEMARA. Samuel said: Even fragments of idols [are permitted]. But have we not learnt: FRAGMENTS OF IMAGES?8 — The same law applies even to fragments of idols. And the reason the Mishnah uses the phrase FRAGMENTS OF IMAGES is because of the intention to continue with the teaching: IF ONE FOUND THE FIGURE OF A HAND OR THE FIGURE OF A FOOT, BEHOLD IT IS PROHIBITED BECAUSE SUCH AN OBJECT IS WORSHIPPED.9
We learnt [in the Mishnah]: IF ONE FOUND THE FIGURE OF A HAND OR THE FIGURE OF A FOOT, BEHOLD IT IS PROHIBITED BECAUSE SUCH AN OBJECT IS WORSHIPPED. But why [should they be prohibited]?
‘Abodah Zarah 41bThey are only fragments! — Samuel explained that [the prohibition only applies when the hand and foot] are set upon their base.1
It has been stated: If an idol was broken of its own accord,2 R. Johanan said that [its fragments] are prohibited, and R. Simeon b. Lakish said that they are permitted. R. Johanan said that they are prohibited because [the idol] has not been annulled.3 R. Simeon b. Lakish said that they are permitted because [the owner] certainly annuls [the idol] without expressly doing so by saying, 'It could not save itself, so how can it save me!'
R. Johanan quoted against R. Simeon b. Lakish: And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut off … Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread etc.!4 — He replied to him: Can any proof [be brought] from there? In that passage [we learn] that they abandoned Dagon and worshipped the threshold; because, said they, the divinity left Dagon and went and settled itself upon the threshold.5 [R. Johanan then] quoted against him: IF ONE FINDS FRAGMENTS OF IMAGES, BEHOLD THEY ARE PERMITTED — consequently, fragments of idols are prohibited! — [R. Simeon replied:] Do not deduce that fragments of idols are prohibited, but deduce that the images themselves [when whole] are forbidden, and the anonymous statement in the Mishnah is the view of R. Meir.6
Now as to R. Johanan, are we not to infer from the view of R. Meir what is the opinion of the Rabbis: Did not R. Meir say that images are prohibited but the fragments of images are permitted? Hence likewise, according to the Rabbis, while an idol itself is prohibited, its fragments are permitted?7 — But is the analogy correct? There [in the case of images] they were perhaps worshipped or perhaps not; and even if you assume that they had been worshipped, perhaps they had been annulled. But in the case of an idol, it has certainly been worshipped; and who can say whether it has been annulled? Consequently there is a doubt8 and a certainty,9 and a doubt cannot set aside a certainty.10
And cannot a doubt set aside a certainty? Behold it has been taught: If a haber11 died and left a store-room full of fruits even if they are only then due to be tithed,12 they are presumed to have been properly treated.13 Now here it is certain [that the fruits were once] untithed and there is a doubt whether he had tithed them or not; yet the doubt does set aside the certainty!14 [No] here it is a case of certainty and certainty, because it is regarded as certain that he had tithed the produce, according to the teaching of R. Hanina of Hozae.15 For R. Hanina of Hozae said: It is presumed with a haber that he does not allow anything to pass out of his control unless it had been properly treated. Or if you wish I can say that it is a case of doubt and doubt, as he might have acted according to [the advice of] R. Oshaia who said: A man may act cunningly with his produce and store it together with the chaff, so that his cattle may eat of it and it become exempt from the tithe.16
And cannot a doubt set aside a certainty? Behold it has been taught: R. Judah said: It once happened that a female slave
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