Being the cause for prohibited praise

Avodah Zara (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | a month ago

The first Mishnah of Avodah Zara discusses the prohibition of engaging in commerce with idol worshipers near their holidays. In the last cycle, 10(37), we addressed the debate in the Gemara regarding the source of the prohibition and the difference between each side of the debate.

One understanding is that the idol worshipper would be happy with the deal and thank his god during the holiday. Being the cause of this reaction violates the prohibition, "… the name of the gods of others you shall not mention, nor shall your mouth cause it to be heard." (Shemot 23:13). The second understanding is that by providing the idol worshiper with, e.g. an animal to sacrifice as part of the worship, it would constitute the prohibition of lifnei iver – enabling another to sin. The practical difference between these two explanations, is if the idol worshiper already had an animal to sacrifice. In that case lifnei iver would not be violated. Nevertheless, one would still be providing the idol worship with reason to praise his god. In this article we shall address a different question.

The Tosfot Yom Tov cites Rashi who explains that the prohibition violated in our Mishnah is "nor shall your mouth cause it to be heard" – the first understanding listed above. R' Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher asks why giving the idol worship reason to praise is not considered lifnei iver.

R' Kalisher answers that speech alone is not considered an action. Consequently, if the idol worshiper would then praise his god, it would not be considered worship or a violation of a prohibition that applied to him. That being the case there is no issue of lifnei iver. The Bach (YD 148) explains similar that praising is similar to kissing an idol, against which gentile idol worshiper is not commanded. Whilst a Jew would be prohibited, it would not be considered a capital offence like the prohibited forms of worship. Nevertheless, by causing him to praise the idol, the prohibition of "nor shall your mouth cause it to be heard" still applies.

The Taz however argues that accepting an idol as a god is certainly a capital offence – lifnei iver should still then apply. The Nukdat HaKesef defends the Bach by explaining that there is a difference between accepting it as a god and our case, which is simply praising it. The Chazon Ish (YD 62:17) explains that acceptance is a definitive moment prior to worship. Praising, after that, is not an act of acceptance, but rather is a statement of the existing relationship

The Taz instead answers that lifnei iver is violated when enabling another to violate a prohibition. The classic example is giving a nazir a glass of wine (that he is prohibited to drink) when he was unable to attain any himself. However, if the other party was able, and the Yisrael simply expedited its execution, lifnei iver would not be violated. Applying the logic to our case, nothing was stopping the idol worshiper from praising his god on his festival and reason to do so would inevitably be found.

The Chazon Ish (YD 62:15) argues with the explanation of the Taz. The fact that he will a find different cause for praise elsewhere is not a reason to discount this case as lifnei iver. At that point there was no cause for praise, and the transaction resulted in the Yisrael being the cause for praise. Consequently, lifnei iver should still apply.

R' Kalisher suggest another answer. Lifnei iver only applies when the object handed to the other party is used to violate the prohibition. In this case however, no object involved in the transaction is being used for idol worship. It is only that the transaction evokes a response that he will praise his god.

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