Thursday, January 5, 2023

Suspected of being a Christian

 Avoda Zara (16b): Our Rabbis taught that when R’ Eliezer was arrested because he was suspected of being a Christian they took him to the court to be judged. The governor asked him, “How can a sage like yourself be involved in these worthless activities?”  R’ Eliezer replied, “The Judge is right.”  The governor thought that R’ Eliezer was referring to him when in fact  R’ Eliezer was referring to his Father in Heaven. Because of the governor’s misunderstanding the governor said, “Because you have faith in my judgment I am pardoning you.” When he returned home his students came to console him but he refused to accept their consolation because he was upset that he had been accused of being a Christian. R’ Akiva  said to him, “Will you give  me permission to say one thing of that which you have taught me?”  R’ Eliezer gave him permission.  R’ Akiva then said, “Perhaps you were exposed to Christian teachings and it gave you pleasure and that perhaps is the reason that you were arrested?” R’ Eliezer replied that R’ Akiva’s comment caused him to recall an incident. “Once I was walking in the upper market of Tzipori when I met one [of the students of Yeshu] by the name of Yaakov of Kfar Sekaniah. He said to me that it is written in your Torah (Devarim 23:19) that one should not bring money which had been paid to a prostitute into the Temple. Can it be used to build a bathroom for the High Priest? I did not answer him. He then told me that he had been taught by Yeshu that it says in Michah(1:7), For of the hire of a prostitute has she gathered them and unto the hire of a prostitute shall they return. That means that they came from a place of filth so let them go to a place o filth. Because I enjoyed these words I was arrested as a Christian. That is because I transgressed that which was said in the Torah. Mishlei(5:8) says to ‘Remove your way far from her’ – and that is a reference to heresy or Christianity while  ‘come not close to the door of her house’ is referring to the ruling power.” Others interpret the end of this verse to be a warning to stay way from a prostitute rather than the ruling power.

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