Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Halachic Prohibition of drinking water from a Fountain Statue


The Talmud Tractate Avodah Zarah (Idol - Worship) 12 teaches that Jews are not allowed to drink water from a water statue of a fountain. The reason for this prohibition is a suspicion of idol – worship. Further, the Talmud teaches that in ancient times, idol – worshipers used to build statues on their water fountains and this is basically the source for the prohibition. The Gemara (rabbinic discussions) says that Jews should not drink any water from the mouth of the statue, as this could be called “kissing” and is strongly considered as idol – worship. On the other hand, the Gemara is asking whether the prohibition only applies to fountain statues actively being used for idol – worship or to any fountain statue. What is the Halacha ?

The Talmud commentators RIF, Rosh and TUR consider the prohibition as a general matter and thus, there is no drinking from any fountain statue. However, the Gemara makes a further division between fountains in cities and fountains found in villages. People living in the cities mainly built their fountains for beauty and not necessarily for idol – worship.

The RAMBAM (Maimonides, 1135 – 1204), on the other hand, said that the prohibition only applies to those fountain statues being used for idol – worship. Rabbi Yoel Sirkis (1561 – 1640), known under the name / abbreviation BACH said, that the Gemara lists three prohibitions: 1. Not to bend down before a statue in order to pull a thorn out of your skin or clothing. 2. Not to bend down before a statue in order to pick up money (from the street, floor, etc.). 3. Not to bend down before a statue in order to drink water from a river. 
Remark: Today, those three points are also in use regarding churches. Meaning that Jews are not allowed in any way to bend down before a church. Not even in order to tie one’s shoes.

The BACH as well as the RAMBAM agree that any Jew taking the strict regulations of not drinking from any statue upon him does receive a special blessing.

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