As a result, Tracate Avoda Zara is really less about idol-worship than it is about how Jews should relate to pagans in general. Idol-worship is one of the worst sins in Judaism, but in this section of the Talmud, the rabbis don’t seem much disturbed by the possibility that a Jew might be tempted to commit it. Rather, they are concerned with patrolling the boundaries between Jewish and pagan society, using idol-worship as a kind of all-purpose excuse to enforce Jewish self-segregation. At moments, however, the excuse wears thin and the rabbis’ real concerns can be glimpsed: not just idol-worship, but what we now call “assimilation,” the possibility that a Jew would become so well-integrated into gentile society that he would stop being Jewish.Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.
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