Of all the subjects treated in Tractate Avoda Zara
, the one that takes up the most space is wine.
First of all, they prohibited the provision of medical services to non-Jews--medical care, circumcisions, and delivering their babies (Mishna, Avoda Zara, 2:1; Babylonian Talmud, ibid., 26b).
At the same time, receiving services from non-Jewish physicians and healers was limited as well for fear of harassment or murder disguised as a medical failure (Mishna, Avoda Zara, 2:2; Tosefta, Hulin, 2:21, Zuckermandel edition, 503).
Accordingly, the risk of interfaith tension served as grounds for permitting medical treatment of non-Jews and assisting in the labor of non-Jewish women, for a fee (Babylonian Talmud, Avoda Zara, 26b).
Among the topics are adapted Roman rituals in second-century CE Jewish houses, Jews and Christians under Trajan and the date of Ignatius' martyrdom, whether the Noahide commandments were formulated at Yavne: Tosefta Avoda Zara
8:4-9 in cultural and historical context, Christian gnosticism and Judaism in the first decades of the second century, and Josephus on the temple from a post-70 perspective.
Alon Goshen-Gottstein has given us a path-breaking study, grounded in profound erudition and spiritual discernment, which explores two interconnected themes: the status of Hinduism as Avoda Zara ("foreign worship" or "idolatry"), and the rabbinic category of Avoda Zara itself, by examining its suitability to some of the multiple forms of religious Hinduisms.
Goshen-Gottstein's study highlights the points that, on the one hand, medieval rabbinic conceptualizations of Avoda Zara which were developed in response to Christianity cannot be mechanically applied in halachic rulings to Hindu universes, and, on the other hand, the ongoing encounters with Hinduism can surprisingly illuminate certain dimensions of Jewish thought.
A good example of this came in last week's Daf Yomi reading, in chapter four of Tractate Avoda Zara
. Most of the chapter has to do with whether Jews may drink (or derive other kinds of benefit from) wine that has been handled by gentiles.
The Talmud (Avoda Zara
24b) has a curious story on how the red heifer was engendered: a cup of red liquid was passed in front of a pregnant normal colored cow.
Shimon bar Yohai (Shabbat 33b-34a)"; "Rabbinic Authority and Destruction of Jerusalem (Gittin 55b-56b)"; "Torah, Lineage, and the Academic Hierarchy (Horayot l3b-14a)"; and "Torah, Gentiles, and Eschatology (Avoda Zara
The subject of Tractate Avoda Zara
, which Daf Yomi readers have been studying for the last few weeks, is idol worship.
For instance, in Avoda Zara
25b, the Gemara says that, if a Jew encounters a gentile on the road, he should make sure to walk on the gentile's left side.