Friday, January 02, 2009

I propose a maskilic* solution to a 40 year old question by R. Dovid Cohen

*Maskilic - see here.

The answer is: because they're Muslims.

Allow me to explain.

About 40 years ago Rabbi Dovid Cohen published some volumes called ספר ואם תאמר containing hundreds, indeed well over a thousand, of questions arranged according to the calendar, a sort of daily points to ponder. (Buy it here.) They cover a very wide spectrum and certainly testify to his broad learning at a relatively young age. Inside volume ii:

קושיא יומית
ליקות של 383 קושיות מסודרות
לפי הלוח השנתי
רובן לפי ענינא דיומא

In the month he calls חשון, page מא we find a great question:

הרמב"ם כתב (פי"א ממאכלות אסורות ה"ז) שהישמעאלים אינם חשובים כעובדי עבודה זרה. וצ"ע מהא דחולין (לט, ב) הנהו טייעי דאתו לציקוניא יהבו דוכרה לטבחו ישראל אמרי להו דמא ותרבא לדידן משכא ובשרא לדידכו ופרש"י שהיו ישמעאלים שאינם אוכלים אלא בשר שחוטה ורצו הדם והחלב לעבודה זרה שמתוך שהיו טרודים בעסקיהם היו נותנים לטבחי ישראל לשחוט ולהפשיט עי"ש הרי שישמעאלים עובדים לעבודה זרה

This is a powerful question. On the one hand, the Rambam rules that Ishmaelites are not considered idol-worshippers. On the other hand, Rashi explains the action of the Ishmaelites referred to in the Gemara Chullin 39b to be related to their idol worship. צ"ע.

So I thought about it for a second and noticed that perhaps it is possible that one can tentatively think about suggesting that maybe sometime between the Ishmaelites mentioned in Chullin in Talmud Bavli and the Rambam something happened in the history of monotheistic religion, perhaps concerning the peoples designated ישמעאלים? I mean, you never know.

(Soncino translation FYI: Certain Arabs once came to Zikonia and gave the Jewish butchers some rams to slaughter, saying: ‘The blood and the fat shall be for us, while the hide and the flesh shall be yours’. )

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