(p.215) Appendix C
(p.215) Appendix C
The Ritual Impurity of Idolatry: A Refutation of Alon
Abstract and Keywords
Gedaliah Alon claims that three types of ritual impurity are ascribed to idols in rabbinic sources, corresponding to three types of ritual impurity ascribed to Gentiles. Alon views this correspondence as evidence that the principle of Gentile ritual impurity is grounded in the ritual impurity of idols. Since he believes the latter to be ancient (i.e., biblical), Alon assumes that the former is also. However, only one form of ritual impurity is consistently ascribed to Gentiles in rabbinic literature and this form of ritual impurity corresponds to none of the three forms ascribed to idols. Moreover, the ritual impurity of idols is a rabbinic novum lacking biblical precedent and cannot, therefore, be the basis of an ancient (i.e., biblical or prophetic) principle of Gentile ritual impurity.
In this appendix, I present a detailed refutation of many of the particulars of Alon's ( 1977 ) claim that rabbinic sources attest to three types of ritual impurity associated with idols and idolatry since ancient times. Specifically, I focus on Alon's discussion of the ritual impurity of idolatrous temples, asherahs, sacrifices, and libation wine.
We have already seen the toseftan tradition, according to which an idolatrous temple ritually defiles one who enters with his head and the greater part of his body (t. Zav 5:7; t. AZ 6:2). In this tradition, the ritual impurity of the temple is based on the laws of scale disease impurity. It is likely that this impurity is derived by analogy from a house afflicted with scale disease (as asserted in the Yerushalmi, p. AZ 3:6, 43a). In such a view, the idol in an idolatrous temple may be likened to the plague that infects and defiles buildings and persons. This view is reflected in a midrash (Lam Rab 21) which speaks of the Jerusalem temple, defiled by idolatry, as comparable to a person afflicted by scale disease and concludes that idolatry defiles like scale disease. Thus, the rabbinic formulation of the impurity of idolatrous temples on analogy with the impurity of scale diseased houses leads to a conception of idols as defiling on analogy with scale disease itself. 1 The idea that idols defile like scale disease, however, does not appear outside of discussions of the impurity of temples, suggesting the former's dependence on and derivation from the latter. 2
“He who comes under it [an asherah] is as if he came into a temple of idolatry. But if the public way passed through it—behold, this is permitted” (t. AZ 6:8). The overhang created by the branches and foliage of an asherah are likened to the overhang of a temple of idolatry. However, it is not clear that the conveyance of ritual impurity is the subject (p.216) addressed by this tradition. First, the text is concerned with whether or not entry under the overhang of the asherah is prohibited or permitted. Second, the immediately surrounding passages are concerned with deriving benefit from the shade of an asherah, and they do not refer to the communication of impurity. Thus it may be that this passage means only to prohibit entry under the shade of an asherah because of the benefit derived therefrom. Regardless of its motivation, the prohibition is clearly understood to be rabbinic rather than biblical, as indicated by the fact that it is waived when entry is unavoidable (i.e., when the public way passes through it).
Mishnah AZ 3:8 combines a concern for the prohibition of benefit with a concern for avoiding impurity: “One may not sit in its shade, but if he sat he is undefiled. Nor may one pass beneath it, and if he passed he is defiled. If it encroached upon the public road and he passed beneath it he is undefiled.” The second clause of this mishnah prohibits passage under the overhanging branches of an asherah. 3 Persons who do pass are ritually defiled. That this defilement is rabbinic rather than biblical is again signaled by the fact that it is waived under certain circumstances (i.e., when passage is unavoidable because the asherah encroaches upon the public road). The precise reason for the defilement is not given here. We may hypothesize various reasons based on information in other sources. For example, the immediately preceding mishnah, m. AZ 3:7 records divergent views on the definition of an asherah. As we shall see, the definition of an asherah is relevant when determining the mode of defilement attributed to it.
What is an asherah?
Any tree under which is located an idol.
R. Shimeon [T 3] says, “Any [tree] that people worship.”
There was an incident in Sidon of a tree that people worshipped and they found a pile of stones under it. R. Shimeon said to them, “Examine the pile of stones.” They did examine it and found an image in it. He said to them, “Since they are worshipping the image [rather than the tree], then we may permit them to use [derive benefit from] the tree.”
According to R. Shimeon, an asherah is a tree that is itself worshipped. 4 In such a view, the source of the impurity would be the tree itself. The tree as a worshiped object or idol conveys impurity and, because of its particular shape, probably conveys that impurity by overhang. However, according to the anonymous tradition in this mishnah an asherah is any tree under which an idol is located. In this view, the source of the impurity is the idol. The idol conveys impurity by overhang created by the branches of the tree housing it and so defiles any who enter under the foliage of the tree. In essence, an asherah is comparable to an idolatrous temple in regard to the conveyance of impurity (which may, after all, be the point of the more obscure tradition in t. AZ 6:8). 5 Which of these views informs the impurity of the asherah described in m. AZ 3:8? We cannot be sure, nor is the matter clarified by the two Talmuds.
The Yerushalmi is concerned not with the source of the asherah's ritual impurity but with the reason for the prohibition in the first clause of the Mishnah—the prohibition against passage under its shade: [p. AZ 3:13 (m. AZ 3:8), 43b]:
As noted above, the mishnaic context supports the idea that passage under an asherah is prohibited because of the prohibition against deriving benefit. The stam rejects this idea on the basis of comparable cases: Graves and the sanctuary are also subject to a prohibition of benefit, and yet passage beneath the shade of these entities is permitted. Therefore, the prohibition of passage under the shade of an asherah is not due to the prohibition against deriving benefit from it. We may suppose that according to the Yerushalmi, the prohibition of passage under the shade of an asherah is based on the ritual defilement incurred by such an act. 6 The gemara does not further explore the source of the shade's impurity, nor does it question the idea that an asherah defiles by overhang. However, the tradition of Rabbi Avin in the name of Babylonian sages suggests that the waiving of impurity when the asherah encroaches on the public domain (i.e., when passage is unavoidable) indicates that the ritual impurity of an asherah is not clearly toraitic but rabbinic.
Why is its shade prohibited? Because of [the prohibition against deriving] benefit from it. But behold, a grave is prohibited for benefit yet its shade is permitted; [and] behold, the Sanctuary is prohibited for benefit yet [we have a tradition teaching that] “Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was sitting and teaching in the shade of the Sanctuary. . . . ” (p.217) It must be that the reason is not because of the prohibition against deriving benefit from it.
By contrast, the Bavli wants to determine the source of the asherah's impurity and is troubled by the claim implicit in the mishnah, that an asherah defiles by overhang. For the Bavli, it is an established principle that idols defile by contact, according to the sages, or by carriage, according to R. Akiva (see the discussion of m. AZ 3:6 above), but not by overhang. Thus, according to the Bavli, the mishnah cannot be saying that an asherah defiles by overhang. 7 The Bavli concludes that the mishnah must (1) envisage an asherah under which are found idolatrous sacrifices and (2) represent the view of an early tanna, R. Yehudah ben Bathyra, who deemed idolatrous sacrifices to defile like corpses (i.e., by overhang). 8
In the Bavli's harmonistic reading, the mishnah does not teach or imply that idols (either the asherah itself, following the anonymous tradition in m. AZ 3:7, or the idol it houses, following R. Shimeon) defile by overhang. Rather, the mishnah can only mean that idolatrous sacrifices defile by overhang, and in so doing represents a minority view.
What is the reason [for the ritual impurity contracted by passing under an asherah]?
Because it is impossible that there not be idolatrous offerings there.
Whose teaching is this?
It is that of R. Yehudah b. Bathyra, for it has been taught: R. Yehudah b. Bathyra says, “How do we know that an idolatrous offering defiles by overhang? Because it is said, They joined themselves also unto Baal‐Peor and ate the sacrifices of the dead” (Ps 106:28)—as a dead body defiles by overhang so an idolatrous offering defiles by overhang. (b. AZ 48b)
There is a further difference between the two Talmuds in the consideration of this mishnah. The Yerushalmi's sugya opens with a statement attributed to R. Hisda (BA 3) to the effect that the shade corresponding to the height of the asherah is prohibited but not the shadow cast beyond the height of the asherah (e.g., in the late afternoon when shadows stretch beyond the actual height of an object). In the Bavli, however, a dialectical discussion of traditions that distinguish the two types of shade leads to the assertion that no ritual impurity is contracted even from the shade that corresponds to the actual height of the tree. 9 The Bavli thus limits defilement to passage beneath the actual overhang of the asherah's branches—a leniency in comparison to the Yerushalmi.
According to rabbinic tradition, R. Yehudah b. Bathyra asserted the ritual impurity of idolatrous sacrifices. A beraita on b. AZ 48b states:
The midrashic exegesis of Ps 106:28 attributed here to R. Yehudah b. Bathyra appears in only two other locations—b. AZ 32b and b. Hul 13b. 10 Büchler ( 1926 :61–62) observes that R. Yehudah b. Bathyra holds unusually strict views about the defiling force of idolatrous sacrifices since there is no report of any other sage interpreting Ps 106:28 in the manner adopted by him. Indeed, the verse receives an alternative interpretation from the rabbis: Rather than establishing the ritual impurity of idolatrous sacrifices on analogy with a corpse, the verse is understood as simply establishing the prohibition of the one on analogy with the other (m. AZ 2:3, t. Hul 2:20, and b. AZ 29b). What, then, was the rabbinic view (as opposed to the view attributed to R. Yehudah b. Bathyra) of the ritual impurity of an idolatrous sacrifice? An important text in this regard is m. Hul 1:1: “That which is slaughtered by a Gentile is nevelah and defiles by carriage.” This view is perfectly logical. It is already an established biblical principle (Lev 17) that an animal not slaughtered in an act of ritual, or sacred, slaughter is considered nevelah (prohibited carrion). In the rabbinic view, an animal slaughtered by a Gentile is—naturally enough—a nevelah since no ritual or sacred slaughter directed to God has occurred. Since the nevelah defiles by contact and by carriage, it follows that any animal slaughtered by a Gentile defiles by contact or carriage.
What is the reason [for the ritual impurity contracted by passing under an asherah]?
Because it is impossible that there not be idolatrous offerings there.
Whose teaching is this?
It is that of R. Yehudah b. Bathyra, for it has been taught: R. Yehudah b. Bathyra says, “How do we know that an idolatrous offering defiles by overhang? Because it is said, ‘They joined themselves also unto Baal‐Peor and ate the sacrifices of the dead’ (Ps 106:28)—as a dead body defiles by overhang so an idolatrous offering defiles by overhang.”
Nevertheless, tannaitic texts already draw a distinction between two kinds of Gentile slaughter: ordinary slaughter and slaughter intended for idolatry, as seen in the following tannaitic dispute in m. Hul 2:7:
Ordinarily the validity of Gentile slaughter turns on the intention of the Gentile. However, in the case proposed in this mishnah, an Israelite acts on behalf of the Gentile. In (p.219) such a case, whose intention should determine the purpose and nature of the slaughter—that of the Gentile or the Israelite who performs the slaughter for him? Tannaim may differ about the appropriate determination in this particular case. Nevertheless, it would appear that there is consensus on the main point—that the Gentile's intention determines the status of the sacrifice as idolatrous or nonidolatrous. It may well be that already in tannaitic times an animal slaughtered by a Gentile was deemed to be nevelah, and thus capable of defiling like any other nevelah, and that a distinction was made between ordinary slaughter and idolatrous slaughter. Even so, it is not clear that a majority of the rabbinic authorities would have deemed idolatrous sacrifices to defile by overhang. It may be that only isolated sages (e.g., R. Yehudah b. Bathyra) held such a view. The classic scriptural occasion for deriving the impurity of idolatrous sacrifices (Ps 106:28) was employed by the sages from tannaitic times to derive the prohibition of those sacrifices instead. It is possible that the rabbinic sages chose deliberately to distinguish themselves in their exegesis and in their halakhah from those who strove to attribute severe ritual impurity to idolatrous sacrifices on analogy with a corpse.
He who slaughters [a Gentile's beast] on behalf of a Gentile—his act of slaughter is valid.
And R. Eliezer declares [it] invalid.
R. Eliezer said, “even if he slaughtered it [intending] that the Gentile should eat [only] the lobe of the liver it is invalid, for the unstated intention of a Gentile is deemed to be for the purpose of idolatry.”
R. Yosi said, “We may draw a conclusion from the weaker to the stronger case: If in a situation in which intention invalidates, i.e., in the case of consecrated animals, everything depends only on [the intention] of the one who performs the rites of the offering; then how much the more so in a situation in which intention does not invalidate, i.e., in the case of slaughtering non‐sacrificial animals, does all depend only on [the intention] of the one who performs the act of slaughter [i.e., the Israelite and so is valid]?”
Yen Nesek (“Libation Wine”)
Yen nesek Means “Libation Wine” and Refers To Wine That Has Been Libated To an Idol and Is Therefore Prohibited To an Israelite. the Term Is Applied Even To Wine Merely Suspected Of Having Been Libated (I.E., Wine That an Idolater Has Contacted In a Manner That Afforded an Opportunity To Libate Were He Of a Mind To Do So). the Mishnah Prohibits All Gentile Wine For Fear That It May Be yen nesek and So Involve an Israelite In the Violation Of the Prohibition Against Deriving Benefit From Idolatry: “The Following Things Belonging To Heathens Are Forbidden and the Prohibition Extends To Any Benefit That May Be Derived From Them: Wine, Or a Heathen's Vinegar That Was Formerly Wine . . . ” (M. Az 2:3). As Is True Of Many Of the Items Discussed In This Tractate, the Primary Ontological Categories Relating To Wine Are Permitted and Prohibited Rather Than Pure and Impure. the Mishnah Lacks Any Reference To the Ritual Impurity Of Gentile Wine. However, T. Zav 5:8 and the Talmuds Contain Traditions That Detail the Ritual Impurity Of yen nesek. the Tosefta Takes Up the Topic In Connection With Its Discussion Of the Ritual Impurity Of Idols and Idolatrous Temples In T. Zav 5:6–8:
According to this stam tradition in the Tosefta, the wine of a Gentile causes ritual defilement. However, Gentile wines do not defile uniformly. Here, again, the intention of (p.220) the Gentile plays a key role in determining the degree of ritual impurity attached to Gentile wine. Thus, wine that has certainly been dedicated to an idol (i.e., “certified” yen nesek) conveys a severe impurity in the minimum amount of an olive's bulk. The phrase “severe impurity” most likely indicates an impurity like corpse impurity, defiling by contact, carriage, and overhang. By contrast, ordinary wine, which is prohibited only as a protective measure against actual libation wine, conveys a relatively mild form of (statutory) impurity to liquids only. The distinction drawn here between wine that is dedicated to an idolatrous purpose and ordinary wine that has no sacral use is reminiscent of the distinction between ordinary and sacred slaughter by a Gentile (a distinction hinted at in the Mishnah and made explicit in the Bavli). Both wine and slaughter derive their impurity from their connection to idolatry and not from the defiling touch of a ritually impure Gentile.
An idol is impure like a dead creeping thing and its appurtenances also, as it is said “You shall utterly abominate it” (Dt 7:26). R. Akiva says, “it is like a niddah, as it says ‘Cast them out as a niddah’ (Isa 30:22)—just as a niddah defiles by carriage, so does an idol.” He who puts his head and the greater part of his body into a temple of idolatry is defiled. Clay utensils which he placed in the contained airspace of a temple of idolatry are defiled. The stools and chairs, the greater part of which he put into a temple of idolatry, are defiled. Wine which one saw a Gentile offer as a libation, if in the amount of an olive's bulk, conveys a severe impurity. If not [in the amount of an olive's bulk] it defiles liquids only. Ordinary wine of a Gentile, while prohibited on account of yen nesek, defiles liquids only. 11
Amoraic sources—both Palestinian and Babylonian—move away from the position expressed anonymosly in the Tosefta. Palestinian amoraim label the view a minority opinion and attribute it to R. Yehudah b. Bathyra, who was known to have a stringent view of the ritual impurity of idolatrous sacrifices (see above): 12
In addition, Palestinian amoraim appear to emend the tradition in the direction of leniency:
R. Assi [PA 3] said R. Yohanan [PA 2] said in the name of R. Yehudah b. Bathyra [T 2]:
“There are three kinds of wine:
libation wine, from which it is prohibited to derive any benefit and of which an olive's bulk causes severe impurity;
ordinary wine of Gentiles, from which it is likewise prohibited to derive any benefit and a quarter [log] of which causes defilement to liquids.
wine [of an Israelite] that had been deposited with a Gentile, which must not be drunk, but the benefit of it is permitted.” (b. AZ 30b)
The tradition appears here in the name of R. Yohanan, and the impurity ascribed to yen nesek is relatively mild. Rather than the corpse impurity of t. Zav 5:8 and b. AZ 30b, yen nesek is said to defile like a sherets, a relatively mild form of ritual impurity. The unusual phrase “severe impurity of a sherets” indicates that this tradition is an attempt (a rather awkward one at that) to emend the older tradition seen in the Tosefta. To the phrase “a severe impurity” the words “of a sherets” (which is not at all severe) have been added. Furthermore, it is said that ordinary wine does not defile at all. Thus, the Palestinian amoraic sources attest to increased leniency regarding the ritual impurity of Gentile wine. A tannaitic tradition, attributing severe impurity to yen nesek and mild impurity to ordinary Gentile wine, is represented as a minority view, and a more lenient emendation of the older tradition is put forward by R. Yohanan.
R. Abbahu [PA 3] in the name of R. Yohanan came [and said]:
“There are three types of wine—
wine which one saw a Gentile offer certainly as an idolatrous libation defiles with the severe impurity of a sherets;
ordinary wine of Gentiles [which is] prohibited and does not defile.
[wine of an Israelite that] has been deposited with him [i.e., a Gentile] with one seal must not be drunk, but the benefit of it is permitted.” (p. AZ 2:3, 41b)
(p.221) Babylonian amoraim do not refer to the ritual impurity of Gentile wine at all. Indeed, whereas Babylonian amoraim view Ps 106:28 as a source for the prohibition of yen nesek, they make no mention of the ritual impurity of yen nesek (b. AZ 29b):
From the mention of idolatrous sacrifices and libation wine in Dt 32:38, the Bavli deduces a general equivalency between idolatrous sacrifices and idolatrous wine libations. But this equivalency consists in the fact that both are prohibited rather than impure. Just as idolatrous sacrifices are prohibited (according to the rabbinic interpretation of Ps 106:28), libation wine is also prohibited. 13
Whence do we deduce [the prohibition of] wine?
Rabbah b. Abbuha [BA 2] said: From the verse “Who did eat the fat of their sacrifices and drink the wine of their drink‐offering” (Dt 32:38)—just as [idolatrous] sacrifice is prohibited as to deriving any benefit, so also their wine is prohibited.
But whence do we deduce the prohibition of a sacrifice itself?
From the verse “They joined themselves to Baal‐Peor and ate of the sacrifices of the dead” (Ps 106:28)—just as anything relating to the dead is prohibited for any benefit, so also [idolatrous] sacrifices are prohibited.
According to Alon ( 1977 ), the various types of impurity ascribed to idols are that of a sherets, that of a niddah or scale disease (which he elides into one, despite their many differences), and that of a corpse. He claims that these three types of ritual impurity correspond to the three types of impurity ascribed to Gentiles. We have seen that only one form of impurity is consistently applied to Gentiles: zav impurity. By contrast, zav impurity is not ascribed to idols; 14 nor, for that matter, is corpse impurity. Alon's evidence for the ascription of corpse impurity to idols is the tradition attributed to R. Yehudah b. Bathyra in b. AZ 32b, b. Hul 13b, and b. AZ 48b. In this tradition, R. Yehudah b. Bathyra is said to regard idolatrous sacrifices as communicating impurity by overhang, on analogy with a corpse. Alon asserts that it would be illogical to regard idolatrous sacrifices as more defiling than idols and so we may assume that R. Yehudah b. Bathyra held that idols defile like a corpse. Alon's deduction does not follow. The impurity of idolatrous sacrifices is a matter or exegesis, not logic. Ps 106:28 sets up an analogy from which R. Yehudah b. Bathyra derives the impurity of idolatrous sacrifices by overhang, and we may not assume anything about his view of idols on the basis of that particular, circumscribed exegesis. Alon is correct when he notes that the Yerushalmi interprets Ps 106:28 as referring to idols rather than idolatrous sacrifices (p. AZ 3:6, 43a = p. Shab 9:1, 11d). However, the Yerushalmi explicitly rejects the claim that Psalms 106:28 analogizes idols to corpses in order to teach that idols defile by overhang. Instead, the verse establishes the analogy with a corpse in order to teach that idols defile in the minimum amount of a lentil's bulk. (p.222)
(1.) T. AZ 6:2 further states that even a house designated for an idol defiles those who enter it, like a temple of idolatry. This impurity is waived in certain extreme circumstances, an indication that it is a rabbinic extension of the law.
(2.) This statement holds for the ritual impurity of intact idolatrous temples. The ritual impurity of the rubble of a collapsed idolatrous temple is different, and the dispute between R. Akiva and the sages is said to apply to the rubble of a temple—it defiles like a dead, creeping thing (the sages) or like a menstruant (R. Akiva).
(3.) The first claim concerning the shadow is taken up below.
(4.) This view is found anonymously in t. AZ 6:8 also.
(5.) Büchler ( 1926 :65) also presents these two options, stating that the reason for the ritual impurity of an asherah is either that the tree was worshiped or an idol was placed under its (p.284) branches, in which case it is basically a heathen temple (an equation that appears explicitly in t. AZ 6:8, as we have seen, and t. Nid 6:16). However, Büchler sees the idol's ability to defile by overhang as evidence that some authorities attributed impurity to an idol (and not just idolatrous sacrifices, in the view of R. Yehudah b. Bathyra) on analogy with a corpse. This is incorrect. The idol's ability to defile by overhang is probably derived on analogy with scale disease, as we have seen. No rabbinic text states explicitly that an idol defiles by overhang like a corpse. Indeed, the idea that it might do so on the basis of the analogy suggested by Ps 106:28 is not only nowhere found, but also is explicitly rejected in p. Shab 9:1, 11d, and b. Shab 83b.
(6.) Although contracting levitical impurity is not generally prohibited by biblical law, its avoidance is desirable.
(7.) Either because the asherah is itself worshiped and so conveys defilement by its shadow or because it houses an idol that generates impurity by overhang.
(8.) I return to this view below.
(9.) The Bavli presents two alternative applications of a tradition attributed, in two different versions, to R. Yohanan and does not adjudicate between them. Despite the lack of finality, in both of the proposed applications of R. Yohanan's teaching, the conclusion is reached that sitting beneath the shade that corresponds to the height of the tree does not defile.
(10.) The cited passage from b. AZ 48b was transferred to b. AZ 32b, which discusses the prohibition of meat brought forth from a place of idolatrous worship. There is clear evidence of the secondary nature of the passage at that location. First, the statement that it is impossible that some idolatrous sacrifice did not take place seems oddly redundant as an explanation of the prohibition of an idolatrous sacrifice. Furthermore, R. Yehudah b. Bathyra's tradition proves the impurity of sacrifices, not their prohibition, and so better fits the context of AZ 48b, which discusses the impurity generated by an asherah, than b. AZ 32b, which discusses the prohibition of idolatrous sacrifices.
(11.) Following the manuscripts. This text is very corrupt and the p.e. omits several passages.
(12.) We cannot, of course, determine with certainty whether or not the historical R. Yehudah b. Bathyra held such a view. However, the attribution of ritual impurity to yen nesek would be in line with his view of idolatrous sacrifices as ritually impure (b. AZ 32b, 48b). On the other hand, it may be because of the latter view that later authorities found it easy to attribute to him the former view.
(13.) This sugya is cited by Klawans ( 1995 :307) as evidence of the rabbinic view of yen nesek as prohibited by Torah law even though its ritual impurity is rabbinic. However, the rabbis use the term “Torah law” (i.e., biblical law) to refer to laws contained in or derived from the five books of Moses. All other laws are “rabbinic law,” in the sense of nonbiblical law. Thus, derivation of the prohibition of yen nesek from a verse in Psalms does not indicate that in the rabbis' view the prohibition is biblical. Indeed, on b. AZ 34a, it is asserted that the prohibition of yen nesek is rabbinic rather than biblical.
(14.) Only one text, m. Pes 9:1, draws a connection between idols and zav impurity, citing the law of the second Passover in Num 9:10, according to which those defiled by corpse impurity or on a long journey must observe the second Passover. The gemara at p. Pes 9:1, 36c, then considers other impure persons: “One suffering flux impurity or scale disease impurity must observe the second Passover. They declared that the impurity of idolatry is like flux impurity and scale disease impurity.” The impurity of idolatry is said to be analogous to flux and scale disease impurity but only for the purpose of this law, which is to say that like the zav or scale diseased person, the idolater [we may assume he desists from his idolatry in a timely fashion], must observe the second Passover. The passage does not mean that the idolater conveys corpse impurity like a zav or scale diseased person or that he must undergo ritual purification. It simply means that as regards the observance of Passover, the law for the (reformed) idolater is assimilated to the law for a zav or scale diseased person—he must observe the second Passover.