Part of that chapter deals with idolatry.
And to start out the subject the Mishna gives a list of six things that are liable.
"One who serves an idol, one who sacrifices to it, one who burns a sacrifice to it, one who pours a libation in front of it, one who bows before it and one who accepts it as his god and says, 'you are my god.'"
That is the six are : the four regular types, plus service according its way and then words with intention.
Later on the Gemara (Babylonian Talmud) brings an argument between two sages Abyee and Rava (two amoraim (people that lived in the time of the Talmud)) if idolatry needs intension.
My comments here deal with the question of how do they learn (understand) our Mishna?
Talmud Sanhedrin page 61 side B. The way I used to think about idolatry was that its essence was to accept another being as one's god -a being that is not God. In this context God would be considered as the First Cause. But that is clearly wrong. We have an argument in Sanhedrin 61b. One who serves an idol from love or fear Abyee says he is liable and Rava says he is not liable. So certainly to Abyee, the essence of idolatry is not accepting it as one god. And there is no reason to think Rava disagrees with this. It is just that Rava adds an extra condition. So idolatry is serving another being that is not God, and Rava adds a condition that one accepts this other beings as ones god. [I am not saying any of this is clear. I am just saying what it looks like the the Talmud is holding this as the definition of idolatry. I so far am not claiming I have any idea what this means. I assume it has something to do with numinousity that comes from some being that is not God. But that is just my guess.]
But now let us look at the Mishna 60b. It lists several ways to be liable (sacrifice, burning, pouring, bowing) and then lists another way: "One who accepts it as his god and says, 'you are my god.'" This on one hand seems to be like Abyee. That is because the condition accepting it as ones god is not necessary to be liable in the previous cases. On the other hand this looks to be not like Abyee. After all if saying "You are my god" to an idol is liable, then to Abyee there should be no reason to add an extra condition "accepting it as ones god."
The next thing I wanted to say today was in reference to a Rambam that explains "from love or fear" to mean
"love" of the beauty of the idol and "fear" is fear that the idol should not hurt him. Why would the Rambam say this? I did not mention this before because I was learning like Rashi and that made the most sense. [I forget why.] Rashi says love and fear means love and fear of a person.
At any rate, the reason I think the Rambam says his explanation is this: Abyee agrees that walking into a house of an idol and bowing down thinking it is a synagogue is not liable because his heart is towards Heaven. With Rashi there seems to be little difference between love and fear and this last case. In both cases he is not serving the idol with any kind of intension. With the Rambam it all makes sense why he would be liable to Abyee for love and fear and not liable when his heart is towards Heaven.
This is these ideas stated in Hebrew for anyone that might be reading this that speaks Hebrew better than English:
)סנהדרין סא: הקדמה. המשנה מונה שישה דברים שחייבים בשביל עבודה זרה. העובד עבודה זרה, זביחה, הקטרה, עירוי, השתחווייה, והמקבלו כאלוה ואומר לו אלי אתה. הגמרא מביאה מחלוקת בין אביי ורבא אם עבודה זרה צריכה כוונה. אני הייתי רגיל לחשוב שעיקר עבודה זרה הוא לקבל אותה כאלוה. עכשיו ברור שזה אינו נכון. לאביי אפשר להיות חייב גם אם אינו מקבלו כאלוה. ואין סיבה לחשוה שרבא חולק על עיקר פירושו של עבודה זרה. אלא שהוא מוסיף תנאי.) סנהדרין סא: המשנה מונה ששה דברים שחייבים בשביל עבודה זרה. האחרון הוא המקלו עליו כאלוה ואומר לו אלי אתה. מצד אחד זה נראה כמו אביי בגלל שבשביל העבודות הראשונות כנראה לא צריכות לקבל כאלוה. מצד שני זה מראה לא כאביי שאם האמירה אלי אתה מחייבת אותו למה צריכים גם לקבל עליו כאלוה?)סנהדרין סא: מחלוקת אביי ורבא. אתמר העובד עבודה זרה מאהבה ומיראה, אביי אמר חייב. רבא אמר פטור. הרמב''ם מפרש מאהבה מאהבת היופי שלה, ומיראה מיראה שמא תריע לו. רש''י מפרש מאהבת אדם ומיראתו. הסיבה שהרמב''ם מפרש כשיטתו היא שאביי מודה שמשתחווה לבית עבודה זרה וחושב שהוא בית הכנסת לא כלום הוא שליבו לשמים. להרמב''ם מובן שיש חילוק גדול בין מאהבה ומיראה שחייבים וליבו לשמים שלא כלום הוא
The critique on Musar is when I told my learning partner that it is first order morality. I said it is about things you have to do, not justification for why you have to do them. I said, "That might be why you never found it interesting." He said: "That would explain why it seems to be not effective in correcting people's character as it is supposed to."
I am not saying I agree with his assessment. But you should know that he has never been enthusiastic about Musar. Almost to the degree of seeing it as a waste of time. I hold the exact opposite. My impression of Musar is that it is important to understand the Torah's point of view. Without Musar people tend to come up with a lot of crazy ideas of what they think the Torah ought to be saying. Not that there is anything wrong with being independent but it ought to be after sufficient research. Has a person finished Shas and Poskim and all writings of the Ari and the Gra and the Rambam and Saadai Geon? Then he can have his own opinion about what the Torah says. Everyone has a right to his own informed opinion. No one has the right to an uninformed opinion. Ah but he does not have time for all that study? Then he has no right to an opinion.
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