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Avodah zarah

The meaning of «avodah zarah»

Avodah Zarah (Hebrew: .mw-parser-output .script-hebrew,.mw-parser-output .script-Hebr{font-family:"SBL Hebrew","SBL BibLit","Frank Ruehl CLM","Taamey Frank CLM","Ezra SIL","Ezra SIL SR","Keter Aram Tsova","Taamey Ashkenaz","Taamey David CLM","Keter YG","Shofar","David CLM","Hadasim CLM","Simple CLM","Nachlieli",Cardo,Alef,"Noto Serif Hebrew","Noto Sans Hebrew","David Libre",David,"Times New Roman",Gisha,Arial,FreeSerif,FreeSans}עבודה זרה‎ "foreign worship", meaning "idolatry" or "strange worship") is the name of a tractate of the Talmud, located in Nezikin, the fourth Order of the Talmud dealing with damages. The main topic of the tractate is laws pertaining to Jews living amongst Gentiles, including regulations about the interaction between Jews and "idolaters".

The tractate consists of five chapters. The number of mishnayot is according to the standard numbering; however, different versions split up the individual mishnayot, or combine them, and the chapter breaks may vary, as well.

Chapter One (nine mishnayot) deals with the prohibition of trade with idolaters around their festival (so as not to be complicit in the festivity), and the items that are forbidden to be sold to idolaters (which is basically any item that the idolater is likely to offer in an idolatrous service or commit an immoral act with). Thus, the main commandment explored in the chapter is lifnei iver, because a Jew who helps a gentile to worship idols is facilitating sin.

Chapter Two (seven mishnayot) deals with precautions against the violence and immorality of idolaters, and the items that are forbidden/permitted to be bought from idolaters. These include categories of objects that may be by-products of idolatrous services, as well as foods with a difficult to identify kashrut status.

Chapter Three (ten mishnayot) deals with the laws of various images/idols and the asherah (idolatrous tree). Thus, it details the distinctions between forbidden and permitted use of various aspects and states of idolatrous items.

Chapter Four (twelve mishnayot) deals with benefit from the auxiliary items of a markulis (a Roman deity consisting of a heap of stones whereby worship consisted of throwing stones, and thus adding to the heap) and other idols, the nullification of an idol (effected by an idolater deliberately defacing his/her idol), and the laws detailing the prohibition of the use and benefit of Yayin Nesech (gentile wine suspected of being used in idol worship).

Chapter Five (twelve mishnayot) continues detailing the prohibition of yayin nesech and the kashering of utensils used by idolaters.

This Gemara on Avodah Zarah was a frequent target of controversy and criticism. Of all the texts in Rabbinic Judaism, this is probably the one in which it is most difficult to obtain an "authentic" version, as almost all the pages have had censorship imposed. In the standard Vilna edition of the Talmud, the tractate has 76 folios. In terms of the actual length of the Gemara, Avodah Zarah is fairly close to the middle, being an "average" length tractate.

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