IMAGES OF THE SUN, MOON AND STARS [images:stars]
Mishnah: R. Gamliel had forms of the moon on a tablet on the wall. He would ask witnesses who had seen the new moon which forms resembled what they saw.
Question (Beraisa): "Lo Sa'asun Iti" - do not make things in the form of those who serve Me above.
Beraisos expound from here the Isur to make forms of angels, and the sun, moon, stars and constellations.
Answer #1: A Nochri made them for R. Gamliel.
Question: But a Nochri made Rav Yehudah's signet ring, and Shmuel told him to damage its form!
Answer: His ring had a protruding form. Shmuel told him to blunt it to avoid suspicion.
Beraisa: If a signet ring has a protruding form, it is forbidden to wear it. It is permitted to sign with it (for this makes a recessed form);
If it has a recessed form, it is permitted to wear it. It is forbidden to sign with it (for this makes a protruding form).
Question: Are we really concerned that people will suspect Yisraelim of idolatry?!
A statue was placed in the Beis ha'Keneses of Shaf v'Yasiv. Shmuel's father and Levi prayed in the Beis ha'Keneses. They were not concerned for suspicion!
Answer: People will suspect an individual, but not a large group.
Question: R. Gamliel was an individual, he should have been concerned!
Answer #1: He was the Nasi and people constantly came to him, so he is considered like a large group.
Alternative Answer: R. Gamliel's images were of Perakim.
Alternative Answer: For the sake of learning, such images are allowed.
Beraisa: "Lo Silmad La'asos (do not learn witchcraft to use it)", but you may learn in order to understand and give Halachic rulings.
Rif (Avodah Zarah 18b): A Beraisa forbids forms of Hash-m's servants above, such as the sun, moon, stars and constellations. It was permitted for R. Gamliel, for his intent was only to understand and give Halachic rulings.
Ran (DH Tanan): R. Gamliel's images were of Perakim, i.e. they came in parts. He assembled them only when interrogating witnesses. They were not visible at other times, so there was no suspicion.
Ran (citing Maharam me'Rotenbork): Even though we seem to learn upper and lower servants from "Lo Sa'asun Iti", Abaye distinguishes them. It says "Lo Sa'asun Iti Elohei Chesef vEilohei Zahav Lo Sa'asu Lachem". The Reisha, "Lo Sa'asun", forbids you to make, but allows images made by others. It refers to the end of the previous verse, "Ki Min ha'Shomayim Dibarti Imachem", i.e. lower servants. The end of our verse, "Iti...Lo Sa'asu" refers to what is closer to Hash-m, i.e. upper servants. "Lachem" forbids even those made by others.
Question (Ran): The Gemara asked that even though others made Rav Yehudah's ring, Shmuel told him to deface it. Presumably it was a human image. If so, it does not matter who made it!
Answer (Ran): We must say that it had the image of a lower servant. The Rif and Rambam did not specify. The Rambam does not permit lower servants made by others. They must explain that in the conclusion images may be made for the sake of learning or ruling, so Yisraelim made R. Gamliel's images, and we do not distinguish upper from lower servants. However, this is difficult, for Abaye expounded that they are different. If Abaye was rejected, the Gemara should have said 'Ela'.
Rambam (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 3:11): One may not make forms of the sun, moon, stars and constellations. "Lo Sa'asun Iti", do not make forms of those who serve Me above. This is even on a tablet.
Rebuttal (Ra'avad): The Rambam forbids all images of Hash-m's servants, even flat images. He forbids man's image only if it protrudes. I do not know his source to distinguish man from other upper servants. Even though the Reisha of the Beraisa forbids protruding images, we may not infer that flat images are permitted, for the Seifa permits (only) recessed images. The same applies to all His servants.
Defense (Ran Avodah Zarah Reish 19b): It is difficult to distinguish man from other upper servants, for we learn all of them from "Lo Sa'asun Iti". Perhaps the Rambam holds that since angels are not physical, and heavenly bodies do not appear protruding to us, we do not distinguish whether or not images of them protrude. We always see man's form protruding, so flat images of man are permitted.
Rosh (Avodah Zarah 3:5): R. Gamliel had forms of the moon on tablets and the wall. He used them when interrogating witnesses who had seen the new moon. We ask from "Lo Sa'asun Iti", which forbids forms of the sun, moon, stars and constellations. We answer that he bought the forms from a Nochri. Shmuel told Rav Yehudah to get rid of a ring with such a form. This is because the form protruded. One may stamp with such a ring, but not wear it. If the form is recessed, one may wear it, but not stamp with it. We discuss a form of the sun, moon, stars, constellations, or a person, which are forbidden. One may not even keep them if a Nochri made them, due to suspicion. R. Gamliel was permitted because many people were frequent by him, or because the forms were of Perakim, i.e. incomplete. Alternatively, they are permitted for the sake of understanding and giving rulings.
Question: Why didn't the Gemara answer that R. Gamliel's forms did not protrude? (They were (flat,) on a tablet!)
Answer #1 (R. Tam and Riva, brought in Rosh, ibid.): Regarding the sun, moon stars and constellations we do not distinguish between protruding and recessed forms, for they appear recessed to us in the sky.
Gra (YD 141:26): The Gemara answered that even though R. Gamliel's images were permitted, Rav Yehudah's ring was forbidden because it protruded. R. Tam must say that the answerer intended to add '...and Rav Yehudah was an individual', but Rabim frequented R. Gamliel. The questioner interrupted and asked another question before the answerer finished speaking.
Answer #2 (Kesef Mishneh): The Rebbi'im of the Ramach permit keeping flat images. However, they permit only keeping them, but not making them. The Gemara first answered that Nochrim made them. It says, alternatively, we can say that they were of Perakim, or that it is permitted to make them in order to understand.
Shulchan Aruch (YD 141:4): Images of the sun, moon and stars are forbidden whether they protrude or are recessed.
Beis Yosef (DH umi'Kol): Why does the Tur bring the law like the Gemara says? Nowadays, all Nochrim that we know worship only the form of man! Indeed, R. Yerucham permits Hana'ah from all other forms, but forbids keeping them. However, Tosfos connotes that the law has not changed from the time of the Gemara.
Shulchan Aruch (ibid.): If they are for understanding or giving rulings, all are permitted, even if they protrude.
Beis Yosef (DH u'Mah she'Chosav Lechalek): It seems that all three answers for R. Gamliel (his forms were like of Rabim, or of Perakim, or for understanding) are true. The Rosh concurs. However, the Rif and Rambam do not bring the first two answers. It seems that they hold that the last answer retracts from the previous ones. However, the Rambam does not bring even this Heter (in order to understand)!
Gra (21,27): The text of the Rif and Rambam omits 'Are we really concerned for suspicion?...' until 'Alternatively, for the sake of learning, such images are allowed.' They hold that there is suspicion only for human forms. This seems correct, for the final answer '...but it is permitted in order to understand' does not answer why there is no suspicion.
Taz (13): The Shulchan Aruch (6) permits the form of a fish, and Rav would draw a fish in lieu of a signature. Why was this permitted? This is one of the constellations! Perhaps the constellations have a special form. However, the Bach forbids any lion or ox. We must say that a flat picture is more lenient even than something recessed, for it has no substance. Nevertheless, one should not intentionally draw a constellation.
Rema: Some permit if they are of the Rabim, for there is no suspicion.
Shach (27): The Heter is to keep them, not to make them. R. Yerucham says that even though there is no suspicion, it is despised. He says that two is considered Rabim. Berachos 3a supports him (if two people enter a ruin, there is no suspicion).
Bedek ha'Bayis (DH Kosav): He learns from Levi and Shmuel's father.