July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel Ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.


This week we learned Sanhedrin 61 and 62. These are some highlights.

Sanhedrin 61: Is Islam the ancient idolatry of Markulis?

Our Gemara discusses the idolatry called Markulis. Their god was represented by three stones—two side by side and one on top of them. The service of Markulis entailed throwing stones at the idol of three stones. Even though throwing a stone at something is usually an insult, since this is the way of service for Markulis it is prohibited. Other disgraceful actions are not prohibited to be done to the Markulis idol.

Our current law distinguishes between gentiles who worship idols and other gentiles (Shulchan Aruch YD 123:1). We may not drink the wine of a non-Jew who does not worship idols, but we may derive benefit from it. If such a gentile touches our wine we may not drink it but we may still derive benefit from it. A non-Jew who worships idols is treated more severely. We may not derive any benefit from wine of his or wine of ours that he touches. Tur (YD 124) rules that Arabs are non-Jews who do not worship idols; we may not drink their wine but we may get benefit from it.

Taharat Hamayim (Ma’arechet Hayud Ot 27) wonders about this law. The Ishmaelite religion includes an obligation to travel to Mecca and throw stones at a large stone. This seems to be the idolatry of Markulis. Why are we allowed to benefit from their wine? Shouldn’t the law be that we may not derive any benefit from their wine because they are idolaters?

Taharat Hamayim argues that the Arabs are idolaters and still we may benefit from their wine. The reason for the prohibition against wine touched by a gentile idolater is that we fear he may offer wine as a libation to his god. Wine poured in service to an idol is biblically prohibited. With Arabs there is no such fear. The Arabs do not pour wine to idols. The Arabs avoid wine. They do not drink any wine. Since there is no fear that they might offer wine to an idol, the wine they touched is permitted for enjoyment. There is still a fear that we not fraternize too closely with the Arabs. If we would be too friendly, we might end up with intermarriage. We may not drink the wine they touch, but benefit may be derived from it.

Rambam (Shu”t Harambam 448) rules that Arabs are not idolaters. He writes that in the past there were three idolatries in the areas of Arabia; Kemosh, Ba’al Peor and Markulis. The followers of Mohammed accepted the true understanding of one God. They are monotheists. But, they did incorporate practices from the pagan world. They gave these practices new meaning. The throwing of stones in Mecca originated as stones to Markulis. The Arabs do not intend for idolatry when they throw these stones. Their motivation is to stone the devil. Since they no longer have idolatrous beliefs, even though some of their practices came from pagan groups, they are not idolaters. There is no room to think that we may not derive benefit from their wine. (Mesivta)

Sanhedrin 62: Does a man who unwittingly ate a worm in his fruit need to repent?

A man had a basket of fruit. Some of the fruit was known to harbor insects. He checked the fruits. The one he took out seemed clean. He ate it. Afterwards, someone told him, “I saw a worm in that fruit you ate.” He realized he did not check as carefully as he could have. Does he need to repent? Does he need atonement?

Our Gemara teaches that, in most instances, a mit’aseik, one who performs an act mindlessly, is exempt from punishment. If I did not realize what I was doing, and aimlessly waved my arm on Shabbos and thereby turned on a light, I do not need to bring a sacrifice. Exceptions to this rule are forbidden relations and prohibited fats. If a person mindlessly engages in forbidden marital relations or eats forbidden fats he is not exempt. He had pleasure. What about our case? Is there any pleasure in eating a worm? Does he need atonement?

Atvan D’oraita (Kellal 24) writes that the reason for the rule of our Gemara is that generally Hashem prohibits us from doing certain actions. If the action was mindless and without any thought, the act is not credited to me. I am therefore exempt. But, in the cases of marital relations and forbidden fats Hashem prohibited the pleasure. If one received the forbidden pleasure there is a need for atonement. Shach (YD Siman 84:30) distinguishes between a fly and a worm. He says that a fly has no enjoyable taste. But, there is a good taste to a worm. Rav Zilberstein suggests that perhaps one who mindlessly consumes a fly would be exempt but one who mindlessly consumes a worm needs atonement for he received pleasure.

Shu”t Shivat Tzion (Siman 28) deals with this issue. He points out that the man wanted to eat fruit. He did not want to eat the worm. He finds the worm revolting. Maybe we cannot convict him for his mindless ingestion of the worm. He did not enjoy the ingestion. Shu”t Shivat Tzion thinks that he is considered mit’aseik on the worm and is fully exempt and does not even need atonement.

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 (Chashukei Chemed)

Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.


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