Counseling an Idolater to Avoid Divine Retribution – Bava Basra 4


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The Gemora asks: How could Bava ben Buta give advice to Hurdus, seeing that Rav Yehudah has said in the name of Rav, or alternatively, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, that Daniel was punished only because he gave advice to Nevuchadnezzar, as it is written: Nevertheless, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; redeem your sins through charity and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if there may be a lengthening of your tranquility etc. And later on it is written: All this came upon the King Nevuchadnezzar, and afterwards it is written: At the end of twelve months etc.?

The Gemora answers: Either you can say that this does not apply to a slave, who is under obligation to keep the Torah’s commandments, or you can say that an exception had to be made in the case of the Temple which could not have been built without the assistance of Royalty.

The Gemora asks: How do we know that Daniel was punished? Shall I say that it is from the verse: And Esther called to Hasach, who, as Rav has told us, was the same as Daniel? This is a sufficient answer if we accept the view of those who say that he was called Hasach because he was “cut down” (chatach) from his greatness. But according to the view of those who say that he was called Hasach because all affairs of state were “decided” according to his counsel, what answer can we give?

The Gemora answers that he was thrown into the den of lions.

The Meiri writes that one who constantly sins, his iniquities are so great that the ability to repent is removed from him. This is why one should not divulge to them the appropriate ways of penance, for these people are not supposed to escape the Divine punishment. This is why Daniel was punished, for without solicitation, he proffered advice to Nevuchadnezzar, as to how to escape Hashem’s anger.

The Yad Ramah adds that this prohibition applies only to an idolater who is oppressing a Jew – one is forbidden from counseling him to perform mitzvos or dispense charity to the poor in order to evade retribution for their sins. It emerges that it would be permitted to offer such advice to an ordinary idolater.

However, it is evident from the Rambam that he maintains that it is forbidden to give any positive counsel to an idolater, as long as he remains steadfast in his evil ways.