I read that unlike idols owned by non-Jews which can be annulled, ones owned by Jews cannot be annulled as such. Why is this? I have read a good deal of it from the Avodah zarah but I’m not exactly sure if this was simply the opinion of some or the final agreed upon judgment. Also, if this indeed the case which rabbi was it that came up with such a decree or otherwise interpreted it as such. (There’s so much dissection in the writings it’s kind of overwhelming).
Thank you for your question. It is true, sometimes reding the text can get confusing, but that is what we are here for… to help out.
The source for the rule that a gentile can annul an avoda zara but not a Jew is based on the oral Torah which was handed down from generation to generation from Sinai. This is why it is written in the Mishna of Tractate Avoda Zara 52b. As the Mishna was the oral tradition, handed down from Sinai in a written form. The Rabbis ( Tractate Avoda Zara 51a) also saw a reference to it in the written Torah, as it is written in the Torah with regard to the Idols of the seven nations “Pesilei Elohayhem tisrifun b’aish” lit. what was nullified from their idols should be burned in the fire”, from here the Rabbi saw that the written torah that the idol of a gentile can be nullified. Additionally the end of that verse says “vl’okachta loch”, that you may take it for yourself and use it, meaning that after the gentile nullified his idol the Jew may use it. In contrast the idol of a Jew, even if he didn’t make it in order to worship it cannot be nullified. This the Talmud (Avoda Zara 51a) also saw this in the verse referring to a Jew that worships idols “v’som basoser” – “and it is put in hiding”. The sages saw from this that the idol of a Jew must be buried, which inferences that nullifying it doesn’t help. Note: An avoda zara that was acquired from a gentile, is the subject of discussion among the rabbis if the prohibition against nullifying it is biblical or rabbinic.
I hope this makes things clearer.