TALMUD. The 16th Massekhet -Nedarim

An Introduction to the Tractate:Masechet Nedarim is connected with a number of other Talmudic tractates, including Nazir, Shavu’ot and Arakhin. The similarity among these tractates is that all of them deal with obligations that stem not from a Torah obligation, but from a commitment that the person accepted upon himself. On one level, Nedarim is a general category of oaths that encompasses all of the other cases. Interestingly, while Masechet Nazir follows Nedarim in Seder Nashim, Shavu’ot is in Seder Nezikin and Arakhin is in Kodashim. Although Nedarim focuses on a narrow set of laws, it is placed in Seder Nashim because the biblical source deals with vows made by women (see Bamidbar 30:3), even though the tractate deals with all types of vows:

http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=855

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91 Responses to TALMUD. The 16th Massekhet -Nedarim

  1. Nedarim 51a-b

    Our Gemara describes the difficult relationship that Rebbe ? Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi ? had with one of his closest students, Bar Kappara. From the stories in the Gemara it appears that Bar Kappara was an incorrigible comic who refused to stop even upon Rebbe’s request. It appears that Rebbe ? who carried himself with great seriousness and dignity, to the extent that he was called “Rabbenu ha-Kadosh,” our holy Rabbi ? did not want to engage in levity. The Maharsha explains that Bar Kappara believed that it was a great mitzvah to bring joy to people generally, and specifically to those who were, by their nature, somber and serious.

    Among the specific incidents that are mentioned by the Gemara, one takes place at the wedding reception of Rabbi Shimon, Rebbe’s son. Bar Kappara asked Rebbe a series of questions, which were actually riddles related to the meaning of words in the Bible, and he succeeded in refuting all of his answers. Bar Kappara agreed to tell Rebbe the answers only if Rebbe would dance before him and have his wife serve him wine. Although Bar Kappara’s intent may have been to add to the levity of the affair, the Gemara reports that Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi’s son-in-law, ben Elasah, was so offended by the spectacle that he and his wife left the wedding.

    Bar Kappara was one of the last tanna’im, a student of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi (Rebbe) and a friend of Rabbi Hiyya. We are never told his first name, although some suggest that his father was Rabbi Elazar ha-Kappar, who died before he was born, and that he, too, was named Elazar. He was knowledgeable in both Torah (authoring a collection of baraitot known as Mishnat bar Kappara) and in general knowledge, which is why he was sent on several occasions as the Jewish emissary to the Roman government. Almost all of the first-generation amora’im in Israel were his students. He was known as a satirist with a healthy sense of humor, and even offered critique that extended to Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nassi and his family, which may explain why ? his close relationship with Rebbe notwithstanding ? he did not receive Rabbinic ordination until after Rebbe’s death.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=905

  2. Nedarim 52a-b

    Our Mishnah teaches that a person who takes a vow that he will not drink wine is allowed to eat food that has wine mixed into it, even if he can taste the wine. If, however, when he took his neder he said “I vow that I will not taste this wine,” if enough fell into the food that the taste of the wine can be discerned, then he would not be allowed to eat it.

    The Ran explains that in this case we follow the language of the neder as it was expressed. If his vow prohibited wine, we understand that his intention was to forbid the drinking of the wine itself and not wine in food, even if there was enough to leave a taste of wine in the food. If, however, the statement that he made prohibited tasting wine, we must interpret his intention as relating even to the taste of wine.

    The Sha”kh in the Shulhan Arukh rules that this is true in the case of an ordinary person who takes a vow to refrain from drinking wine. If, however, the person who takes the vow is someone who does not like the taste of wine and makes the neder for that reason, then even if he said that he would refrain from drinking wine ? and says nothing about the taste of the wine ? we will interpret his vow to apply to the taste of wine. Rav Ephraim Navon, in his book Mahane Efra’im, rejects this distinction and argues that we only seek an interpretation of his words if his statement is inherently unclear. In this case, we will simply accept the simple meaning of his neder.

    Some of the commentaries have a different reading of the Gemara. According to them, the second case is different from the first not because of an emphasis on taste, but rather because the person taking the vow specified “this wine” rather than wine in general. Once the person specifically prohibited “this wine” it becomes like any other forbidden food and cannot be consumed if there is even a small taste of it.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=906

  3. Nedarim 53a-b

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that anything that is known by a shem levai ? a qualifying name ? will not be included in a general vow. For example,

    someone who takes a vow not to drink wine would be allowed to drink apple wine

    someone whose neder prohibits them from using oil would be allowed to use sesame oil

    someone who takes upon himself not to eat vegetables can eat “vegetables of the field” (i.e. vegetables that grow wild and are not farmed)

    An object gets a shem levai when an additional word is added to clarify and distinguish it from the normal use of the word. In the first two cases mentioned in our Mishnah, for example, plain use of the word “wine” means wine made from grapes, not wine made from any other fruit, and plain use of the word honey means bee honey, not honey made from dates. The baraita that appears in our Gemara makes clear, however, that the basic definitions of terms depends, to a large extent, on normative word usage in a given place. Thus, in the Mishnah, the plain meaning of the word “oil” is oil made from olives, not from sesame. Yet this is true only in Israel, where the Mishnah was written. In Babylon, the simple meaning of “oil” was sesame oil, and olive oil was seen as having a shem levai.

    This distinction is made not only with regard to differences in place, but also regarding differences in time. As we learned in the Mishnah, under ordinary circumstances, non-cultivated vegetables are not considered “vegetables” as far as nedarim are concerned. During the shemittah year, however, when planting is forbidden and the only available vegetables are those that grow wild, it is the yerek ha-sadeh ? the vegetables of the field ? that take on the simple meaning of “vegetables” when someone mentions them in a vow.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=907

  4. Nedarim 54a-b

    When someone takes a vow not to eat meat, what is included in his statement?

    Our Gemara quotes a baraita which teaches that aside from fish and locusts (which are kosher), all other meat would be included in the vow. This means poultry as well as parts of the animal that ordinarily are not eaten. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel argues that only ordinary meat would be included in the neder. According to this ruling, not only would the flesh of poultry, fish and locusts be permitted, but the innards of the animal (e.g. its liver, heart, etc.) would also be excluded from the prohibition that the person accepted on himself. The baraita concludes with the enigmatic statement made by Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel that kravayim (innards) are not meat, and those who eat them are not humans.

    Not only in Talmudic times, but even until relatively recently, the internal organs of an animal were not considered edible under ordinary circumstances. At best, the innards of the animal were viewed as being “lower grade” in comparison with the main parts of the animal that were eaten ? the muscular part, and, to a lesser extent, the fat of the animal. This applies not only to the windpipe, but even to the liver and spleen, heart, lungs and other inner organs, which were eaten only by poor people who could not afford to purchase regular meat. Traditional “Jewish foods” that are made from these parts of the animal were either made specifically by the poor, or were specially prepared for particular needs (e.g. for someone who was ill).

    The baraita continues with an even more difficult statement made by Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel ? “Those who eat them (i.e. kravayim), like meat; regarding purchase, they are not human.” This difficult line is simply removed from the Gemara by many commentators. Rashi explains that Rabbi Shimon concedes that for those people who eat these parts of the animals, their vow against eating meat will apply here, too. Nevertheless, someone who pays full price for such meat has removed himself from the normative community.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=908

  5. Nedarim 55a-b

    The Mishnayot on our daf (=page) continue the discussion about word definitions.

    How are we to understand the intention of someone who takes a vow not to eat grain? While Rabbi Meir rules that grain includes other milled products, such as pol ha-mitzri (which the Talmud Yerushalmi identifies as vigna luteola, a type of legume), the Hakhamim limit such a statement to the five types of grain (oats, barley, wheat, spelt, and rye).

    How are we to understand the intention of someone who takes a vow not to wear clothing? The Mishnah rules that such a person can wear sackcloth, a curtain or a blanket in order to cover himself because they are not considered normal items of clothing.

    At the same time, a person who takes a vow not to put on wool will not be permitted to wear woolen clothing, but can drape bundles of wool on his shoulders, since we interpret his statement as referring to traditional woolen clothing only.

    Rabbi Yehudah points out that we need to examine the circumstances in order to properly assess the man’s intention when he took the vow. Thus, someone who is exhausted, having been hauling bundles of wool all day, who says “I will not put on any wool” will be allowed to wear woolen clothing, but will not be allowed to carry any more wool.

    Rabbi Yehudah’s teaching obligates us to examine a person’s words and take into consideration the need to interpret a plain statement within the context in which it was said, thus recognizing that sometimes it will limit ? or even change ? their meaning.

    Some say that Rabbi Yehudah is not arguing with the other Sages of the Mishnah, but rather he is simply pointing out that their ruling applies only in simple, straightforward situations. In more complicated situations we are obligated to consider the context in which the neder was made.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=909

  6. Nedarim 56a-b

    The Mishnah teaches that a person who vows not to enter a city can enter its tehum, or boundary (the 2,000 amot ? cubits ? that surround the city and are considered related to the city with regard to travel on Shabbat), but not the area immediately surrounding it (iburah ? the 70 amot closest to the city). At the same time, someone who vows not to enter a house only prohibits entry from the agaf ? where the door closes ? inwards to the house.

    When the walls of a house are thick, we will often find a situation where there will be a large amount of space in an entranceway, due to the fact that the place where the door is hinged to the wall ? the agaf ? is closest to the interior of the house. It is clear that if the door is located on the outer part of the agaf, the entire entranceway will be considered part of the house; our Mishnah is teaching how we should view the entranceway when it is separated from the house by the door.

    The last rule of the Mishnah is notable not because of the area in the house that is forbidden, but because of the area outside the house that remains permitted. Even if the door is in the middle of an entranceway, the outer part will not be considered part of the house for the purposes of this vow. In this the house is very different from the city, where an area outside the city is viewed as being part of the city with regard to this halakhah. Furthermore, this stands in contrast to other areas of halakhah ? for example, the holiness of the Temple and Jerusalem ? where sometimes the area of entrances like doorways and windows are considered to have the kedushah of the inside.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=910

  7. Nedarim 57a-b

    According to Jewish law, the fruit of a newly planted tree cannot be used for the first three seasons. During that time any fruit that is produced is orlah and is prohibited. In the fourth year the fruit is neta revai which must be brought to Jerusalem and eaten in a state of ritual purity. Only in the fifth year will the fruit be permitted to be used normally.

    Our Gemara brings the ruling of Rabbi Abahu quoting Rabbi Yohanan according to whom this same rule will apply even if a “younger” branch bearing fruit is grafted on an “older” branch (one that is already more than five years old) ? even in a case when the fruits continued to develop and grew more than 200 times their original size (under ordinary circumstances, if orlah gets mixed in with more than 200 times permissible fruit, the orlah will become nullified from a halakhic perspective).

    Most of the commentaries limit this ruling to a case where the grafted branch already had fruits on it at the time it was attached to the “older” tree. According to the Rashba, if the “younger” branch was empty of fruits at the time it was grafted on to the “older” tree, we would view it as part of the tree and its fruits would be permitted.

    Grafting trees is done in a number of ways, and it is an important part of agricultural work. When a farmer wants to improve or diversify the produce growing on his trees, one of the most common methods to use is grafting, where a branch is connected into ? or onto ? a mature tree of a similar kind. In our case, the Gemara uses the expression yaldah she-sibkhah bi-zekenah ? when a young branch is connected with an older tree. Sibkhah implies complication or confusion, which may indicate that this case is not a normal situation of grafting ? which is called harkavah ? but perhaps a case where the branch remained partially connected to its original tree at the time of grafting, and was not removed from it until it had become fully integrated with the older tree.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=911

  8. Nedarim 58a-b

    During the Sabbatical year, fruits that grow are hefker ? ownerless ? and available to all ? men and beasts. As long as the fruits are available on the trees, a person can pick them to eat immediately, or to store for later use. Once the harvest season for a particular fruit is over, and that type of fruit is no longer available on the trees, there is an obligation of bi’ur ? of “cleaning out” the fruit.

    According to the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah, at the time of bi’ur the person who is storing fruit must remove it from his property and declare it to be hefker. At that time it can be taken and eaten by anyone. The Rambam understands that bi’ur means destruction, and that the fruits of the Sabbatical year can only be eaten as long as they are available in the fields. After that time, the fruits are forbidden and must be destroyed.

    Our Gemara contrasts things that are considered davar she-yesh lo matirin (something that is forbidden today, but will become permitted at a later time) and things that are davar she-en lo matirin (something that is forbidden forever). In the latter case the concept of bittul (nullification when mixed with a larger volume of permitted food) applies, while in the former case, bittul does not apply (since it will become permitted simply with the passage of time, there is no pressing reason to employ the rules of nullification). Thus, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Shimon who lists forbidden foods ? like terumah (tithes) and kilei ha-kerem (grape vines and grain that grew together as a forbidden mixture) ? that are nullified when mixed with larger amounts of permitted foods, since they are all davar she-en lo matirin. On the other hand, such things as tevel (produce that is forbidden because it has not yet been tithed, which will be permitted after tithing) or hadash (grain that is harvested before Pesach that is forbidden until after the first day of Pesach when the korban ha-omer is brought) are considered davar she-yesh lo matirin and will not become nullified.

    With regard to Sabbatical fruits, Rabbi Shimon is quoted by the Gemara as saying that they are considered a davar she-yesh lo matirin that cannot become batel (nullified). This explanation works well according to the Ramban, who believes that after the time of bi’ur the fruits can become permitted by declaring them ownerless. According to the Rambam, who believes that such fruits become forbidden forever, we will have to interpret the case like the Ran, who suggests that Rabbi Shimon must be referring to the time prior to bi’ur, saying that any mixture that includes shmittah fruits must be eaten before that time.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=912

  9. Nedarim 59a-b

    On yesterday’s daf (=page) we learned of the distinction between things that are considered davar she-yesh lo matirin (something that is forbidden today, but will become permitted at a later time) and things that are davar she-en lo matirin (something that is forbidden forever). In the latter case, the concept of bittul (nullification when mixed with a larger volume of permitted food) applies, while in the former case, bittul does not apply (since it will become permitted simply with the passage of time, there is no pressing reason to employ the rules of nullification). Our Gemara questions whether something that is forbidden because of a vow can be considered a davar she-yesh lo matirin on the basis of the fact that a person can undo the vow by consulting with a rabbi and questioning the assumptions that he made while taking the neder, or vow (a method referred to by the Gemara as being sho’el on the neder).

    While the Gemara considers the possibility that a neder should be considered a davar she-yesh lo matirin, as we learned on yesterday’s daf, it is clear that terumah is not considered a davar she-yesh lo matirin even though if a person believes that the produced was tithed in error he can go to a rabbi and be sho’el on the tithing. The Gemara distinguishes between the two by quoting Rabbi Natan who rules that someone who takes a neder is compared to a person who builds a forbidden altar and when someone fulfills his neder it is as though he brought a forbidden sacrifice on it. Thus, Rabbi Natan considers it a mitzvah to annul one’s vows, while it is certainly not recommended for a person to annul his tithes.

    Rashi explains that in the case of nedarim, even though the vow is still in force, since it is a mitzvah to be sho’el we consider it as though it had already been annulled. The Rosh understands the reasoning as being that we work with the assumption that the neder will be annulled, so we consider it a davar she-yesh lo matirin.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=913

  10. Nedarim 60a-b

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that a person who vows not to drink wine “today” only needs to refrain from drinking wine until nightfall. In the Gemara, Rabbi Yirmiyah rules that the Mishnah’s ruling notwithstanding, in such a case the person must go to a rabbi to be sho’el on his neder (to request that the vow be annulled).

    The Shittah Mekubetzet and others write that Rabbi Yirmiyah is not explaining the Mishnah, rather he is adding an additional injunction to the basic law; according to the Mishnah, there would be no need to be sho’el on the neder at nightfall. The Rashba writes that even Rabbi Yirmiyah would agree that in a case where a person vows to fast for the day, he can begin eating at nightfall, since it is clear that the person’s intention was to fast only until nightfall.

    Two reasons are presented by the Gemara in explanation of Rabbi Yirmiyah’s ruling:

    1.Rav Yosef says that it is a rabbinic injunction that is applied because we are afraid that a person may confuse a case of taking a vow “today” with a case where a person vows to refrain from drinking wine “for one day.” According to the Mishnah, taking a vow not to drink wine “for one day” obligates the person to keep the neder for a 24 hour period.

    2.Ravina quotes Rav Yosef as saying that Rabbi Yirmiyah is following the ruling of Rabbi Natan who believes that making nedarim and keeping them is equivalent to building a forbidden altar and sacrificing on it (see yesterday’s daf). Thus, even if the vow was fulfilled, we still recommend that it be annulled by a rabbi.

    According to many of the rishonim (Tosafot, the Rosh, the Rashba, the Ran), Ravina is not disagreeing with Rav Yosef’s original explanation, rather he is adding a further reason for Rabbi Yirmiyah’s ruling. The Rosh and Ran add that according to this explanation, if the neder that was made was a mitzvah, there would be no need to annul it.
    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=914

  11. Nedarim 61a-b

    In an attempt to define terms and the length of time that a vow must be kept, the Mishnah on our daf (=page) distinguishes between “until the summer” which means until the summer begins, and “until the summer passes” which means until the summer is over.

    The Hebrew word for summer is kayitz. It should be noted that in Hebrew (although not in other related languages) the word kayitz has another meaning, which is similar, but not identical. See II Shmu’el 16:1-2, where the term is used to mean specifically the period of the fig harvest. These two meanings intersect inasmuch as figs are harvested during the summer (see Yeshayahu 28:4). Unlike other fruits, figs are harvested by a simple cutting motion (to cut in Hebrew is liktzotz) that removes the fruit from the tree.

    In truth, our Mishnah is referring to the fig harvest. Thus we find that the kayitz begins when the fruit is collected in baskets and it ends when the maktzu’ot are folded up. What exactly the folding of the maktzu’ot means is the subject of some discussion among the rishonim.

    Most rishonim (Rashi, the Ritva and others) suggest that it mean that the knives used for harvesting are stored away. Some suggest that they were foldable knives, which is why they are referred to in that way.

    The Arukh explains that the figs were strung together when they were dried. The strings of figs are called ketzi’ot, and folding the maktzu’ot refers to the completion of this process.

    The Rambam, both in his commentary to the Mishnah and in his Mishneh Torah, explains that maktzu’ot are the mats on which the figs were dried. Folding up the mats was an indication that the season was over and that they were being stored for next year.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=915

  12. Nedarim 62a-b

    In his Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Talmud Torah 3:10-12), the Rambam states in very strong terms that a Torah scholar cannot rely on his study as a means of support, rather that he should work to support himself. Among the proofs that he brings for this ruling (see his commentary on the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 4:7) is a story that appears on our daf (=page).

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf, once the maktzu’ot were put away, the fig harvest was considered to be over. Our Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches how at that point, figs that were left in the field were considered to be ownerless and could be taken and eaten by anyone. Based on this ruling, Rabbi Tarfon was once out walking in the field, and ate some leftover figs, as was the halakhah. The owner of the field, who had been plagued by a thief throughout the year, did not recognize Rabbi Tarfon, and, seeing someone eating his remaining figs, believed him to be the thief. He pounced upon Rabbi Tarfon and put him in a sack, planning to throw him in the river. Upon realizing his precarious situation, Rabbi Tarfon moaned aloud “Woe to you, Tarfon, that this man will kill you.” When he realized that it was a Sage, Rabbi Tarfon, in his sack, the man left him and ran away.

    The Gemara brings Rabbi Abahu who quoted Rabbi Hanania ben Gamliel as saying that from then on Rabbi Tarfon felt bad that he had made use of his name and his title (i.e. he had made use of the Torah) to save himself, when he could have offered to pay the man instead.

    Based on this exchange, the Rambam concludes that we can see how even in desperate straights the Sages felt it inappropriate to make use of the Torah for mundane purposes.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=916

  13. Nedarim 63a-b

    We have already been introduced to Rabbi Yehudah’s teaching (see daf, or page, 55) that a person’s neder must be evaluated both by the words that are used as well as by external indicators of the person’s intentions. In our Mishnah we find this idea presented by Rabbi Yehudah in the context of time. For example, if a person vows to drink no wine ad she-yehei ha-Pesach ? “until Passover will occur” ? we interpret it to mean that he will refrain from wine until the night of the seder. Given that a person is obligated to drink wine at the seder, we assume that he did not intend for his vow to extend to that night. Rabbi Yehudah’s son, Rabbi Yossi, adds another case. If a person vows to refrain from eating garlic ad she-tehei Shabbat ? until Shabbat will occur ? he is allowed to eat garlic on Friday night, since that is the common practice.

    The novelty in Rabbi Yehudah’s position is that although the expression ad she-yehei is usually understood to mean until the end of the time that is mentioned, in these cases we will interpret the neder based on external evidence of his intentions, rather than on the usual meaning of the words. Both the Rambam and the Ramban suggest that Rabbi Yehudah disagrees with the position stated in the earlier Mishnah, which would insist that a vow’s meaning be determined by common word usage. The Ramban explains that Rabbi Yossi goes one step further in suggesting that Rabbi Yehudah’s rule applies not only when the vow would affect a mitzvah (like drinking wine at the seder) but even when it was just a minhag ? an established tradition ? like the case of eating garlic on Friday nights.

    During Talmudic times (as well as afterwards) it was considered Jewish tradition to eat garlic. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 82a) offers a list of the many health benefits accrued by eating that vegetable. Cooked garlic was understood to increase sperm, which is why it was traditional to eat on Friday nights when marital relations are encouraged. In fact, eating garlic is listed as one of the ordinances established by Ezra ha-Sofer.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=917

  14. Nedarim 64a-b

    The ninth perek (=chapter) of Masechet Nedarim deals with the various ways that a vow can be annulled by a Jewish court or by a hakham (an ordained rabbi). One of the methods used by the court is a petah ? an opening ? that the rabbi might find by suggesting that the individual who made the neder may not have been aware of some mitigating circumstance when he took the vow. If he admits that with that knowledge he would never have vowed, the hakham can declare the vow to have been taken in error and declare it null and void.

    One of the questions addressed here is whether a situation that is nolad ? one that did not exist at the time that the neder was made ? can be used as a petah. For example, can a person who vows that he will derive no benefit from a certain individual ask to have the neder annulled if it turns out that he becomes a sofer? In such a case we find a dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and the Hakhamim. Rabbi Eliezer believes that nolad can be used as a petah, while the Hakhamim rule that it cannot.

    The term sofer is used in the Gemara in a number of different ways. One meaning of sofer is a Torah scholar who is knowledgeable in the books of the Torah, as we find in the title carried by Ezra ha-Sofer. The Sages borrow this term when they refer to their own works, calling rabbinic ordinances divrei soferim. According to this definition, the argument of the man who took the vow was that he would not have wanted to distance himself from a person who became a Torah scholar, particularly because the scholar was sought after in the community.

    Another way the term sofer is used is to indicate a person’s profession as a scribe. Aside from writing tefillin or mezuzot, a scribe also wrote deeds, contracts, etc. for the court or for individuals. As such, it is likely that the person who took the vow may need his services at some point.

    Finally, a sofer might be the title of someone who teaches children. In any case, it would be commonplace for a person to need the services of a sofer.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=918

  15. Nedarim 65a-b

    Our Gemara brings a baraita saying that someone who has taken a vow that affects his friend should only arrange to annul the vow in that person’s presence. Two explanations for this rule are offered by the Talmud Yerushalmi:

    1.

    hashad ? suspicion. When the person does not keep the neder, he will be suspected of ignoring his vow.

    2.

    bushah ? embarrassment. We want the person who took the vow to be careful with his words, so we insist that he put himself in an embarrassing situation should he want to avoid keeping the neder.

    The commentaries point out that according to the first reason, it would be enough to simply inform the other party that the neder is no longer valid; although according to the second reason, he must do it in front of the other party.

    The Gemara offers two sources for this rule:

    1.

    The story of Moshe who takes leave of his father-in-law and returns to Egypt. The passage (Shemot 4:19) describing Moshe’s conversation with God is understood to include an instruction to first return to Midyan to arrange for permission to leave.

    2.

    The story of King Zidkiyahu who had vowed to remain loyal to Nebuchadnezzar and broke his word (see II Divrei Ha-Yamim 36:13).

    According to the Gemara, the specific commitment that King Zidkiyahu made was to keep a secret. He had once seen Nebuchadnezzar eating a live rabbit. Nebuchadnezzar was embarrassed to be seen behaving this way and made Zidkiyahu take an oath not to reveal it. Zidkiyahu could not contain himself, so he went to the Sanhedrin and arranged to have his vow annulled. Nebuchadnezzar took Zidkiyahu before the Sanhedrin (see II Melakim 25:6), which is understood to mean that Nebuchadnezzar approached a Jewish court and asked whether Zidkiyahu had been given permission to break his vow. When Nebuchadnezzar asked whether this could even be done without the knowledge of the other party, the Sanhedrin removed their pillows from beneath themselves (as understood from Eikhah 2:10) and admitted their error.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=919

  16. Nedarim 66a-b

    One possible petah ? i.e. grounds for annulment of a neder ? that is presented by the Mishnah is Shabbat ve-Yamim Tovim. For example, a person who vows to refrain from eating meat can annul the vow if he agrees that he did not realize the problems that would ensue from his neder on Shabbat and holidays, when it is accepted that everyone eats meat.

    The Mishnah teaches that at first this was understood to be dispensation, which would allow the person to eat meat only on Shabbat and Yom Tov, even as the neder remained in effect on other days. Then Rabbi Akiva came and taught she-ha-neder she-batlah miktzato, batlah kulo ? when part of a vow is dispensed with, the entire neder becomes annulled. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains this based on the pasuk (=verse) in Bamidbar (30:3), according to which a person must keep everything that he expresses as a neder. Once he is not keeping part of it, however, he does not need to keep any of it.

    The Ritva explains the case of the Mishnah as one where, at the time of the neder, the person believed that his neder would not apply to Shabbat and Yom Tov. Once he is made aware of the fact that it will apply to those days as well, he uses that information as a petah to annul the vow. The Me’iri suggests that the case of the Mishnah is one where the person took the neder without thinking through all of the repercussions and without realizing that during the period of his vow there would be days when he could not keep the neder. Thus, the petah is that, had he realized that such days were included, he would never have taken the vow. Furthermore, argues the Me’iri, we may be dealing with a situation where the person does not realize that he is obligated to eat on Shabbat and holidays, and when that is clarified to him, he declares that he would not have taken such a neder in the first place.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=920

  17. Nedarim 67a-b

    The previous perek (=chapter) of Masechet Nedarim focused on hatarat nedarim ? annulment of a vow by appealing to a hakham or a Jewish court of law. The tenth perek, which begins on our daf (=page), turns its attention to hafarat nedarim ? annulment of vows taken by a woman while she is living in her father’s house or in her husband’s house. According to the Torah (see Bamidbar 30:4-9) if a woman takes a vow, either her father or her husband has the right to annul it if he chooses to do so on the same day that he becomes aware of it. Our perek focuses specifically on a case where the woman is engaged to be married, but is still living in her father’s house.

    The first Mishnah in the perek teaches us that in such a case only the combined efforts of the father and the husband will effectively annul the neder.

    The engaged woman whose case is under discussion is referred to as a na’arah me’orasah. A na’arah is a girl from the time that she is twelve years old ? or, more specifically, a girl who has seen signs of physical maturity at about that age ? until she is twelve and a half. When she is twelve and a half, she becomes an independent adult ? a bogeret ? at which time she is no longer considered to be in her father’s charge at all. While she is a na’arah, however, her father is still in charge of her with regard to several halakhot, e.g. the father can arrange a marriage for her.

    As noted above, the situation of a na’arah me’orasah is that she is partially in her father’s charge, by dint of her age, and partially in her husband’s charge, by dint of their engagement (while we have translated eirusin as “engagement,” in halakhah it is actually the first stage of marriage, that will be completed with nesu’in). The commentaries point out that our Mishnah describes the “upper limit” of this law ? that until she is twelve and a half, her father will play a role in hafarat nedarim together with her husband; after that time the role reverts solely to her husband. Nevertheless, a girl who is younger than twelve who is engaged will also be subject to hafarah through the combined efforts of her father and husband, assuming that her cognitive abilities have developed to the extent that she understands the meaning and significance of a neder.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=921

  18. Nedarim 68a-b

    We learned on yesterday’s daf (=page) that a na’arah me’orasah ? a twelve year old girl who is engaged ? can have her vows annulled through the joint agreement of her father and her husband. Although the rules of hafarat nedarim that appear in Sefer Bamidbar (30:4-9) discuss the father’s right to annul vows and the husband’s right to annul vows, this specific case is not mentioned. What is the source for this law?

    The Gemara offers a number of possible sources for this. On our daf we find a teaching from the bet midrash of Rabbi Yishma’el which suggests that the source is the very last pasuk (=verse) in the parashah (Bamidbar 30:17). The passage concludes ben ish le-ishto, ben av le-bito bine’urehah bet avihah ? that these rules of hafarat nedarim apply to situations “between a husband and wife, between a father and daughter, while she is living in her father’s house.”

    Rashi explains that this closing passage is totally unnecessary, since the Torah clearly stated the relationships earlier. Thus we must conclude that this discusses a new case – na’arah me’orasah. Since we find the father and husband mentioned together, we must conclude that they partner in this case.

    The Ran explains that Rabbi Yishma’el does not perceive the end of this pasuk ? bine’urehah bet avihah ? “while she is a na’arah in her father’s house” ? as a concluding phrase, but rather as a new case: that of a na’arah me’orasah.

    The Rit”z quoted in the Shittah Mekubetzet also bases his approach on the concluding words bine’urehah bet avihah, asking “why would the Torah limit the case to a situation where she is a na’arah in her father’s house?” Rather we must conclude that this is pointing to a unique case where the married woman is still perceived as being in her father’s house ? the case of a na’arah me’orasah.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=922

  19. Nedarim 69a-b

    We have been discussing the rules of hafarat nedarim ? the right of a girl’s father or a woman’s husband to annul her vows upon hearing them. The halakhot that appear in Sefer Bamidbar (30:14-16) consider two other possible reactions: either silence, or hakamat ha-neder ? affirming that the vow should take effect. In both of these cases ? i.e. if the father or husband hears the neder and does nothing for the day, or else says “yes, I want that neder to take effect,” the vow can no longer be removed by the father or the husband.

    We have already seen that nedarim can also be annulled by another method ? hatarat nedarim, where the person who took a vow approaches the Jewish court or a single ordained Rabbi and does she’ela, asking that the neder be annulled because of a mistaken impression at the time that the vow was taken. In our Gemara, Rava asks whether the concept of she’ela can be applied to a case of hakamat ha-neder or hafarat ha-neder.

    Rashi explains that Rava’s original question was whether the father or the husband who affirmed the neder can approach a rabbi and explain that the affirmation was mistaken. This would be possible because hakamah can be seen as a type of neder and thus can be treated like one. Rabbi Elazar mi-Metz offers an alternative approach to the question, explaining that the reference is to the girl or the wife who took the neder. Can she approach the court or a sage and ask to have her vow annulled after it was affirmed by her father or by her husband? Should we say that their approval simply makes this a vow like any other, or does the Torah give them the power to affirm the neder such that it is now a stronger obligation than a standard vow, and she will no longer be able to have it annulled due to its affirmation?

    In conclusion, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Yohanan as ruling that one can be sho’el on hakamah but not on hafarah.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=923

  20. Nedarim 70a-b

    Choosing to become a nazir (i.e. to refrain from drinking wine, cutting one’s hair or coming into contact with the dead) is essentially a type of neder (=vow). Thus, a woman who accepts upon herself to be a nezirah can have her statement annulled by her father or husband if they object to it on the day that they hear of it, just like any other case of neder. Our Gemara quotes a baraita that rules that in a case where a woman says hareini nezirah ? “I accept upon myself the rules of a nazir” ? and her husband says in response va-ani ? “I am, as well,” the husband can no longer annul his wife’s vow of nezirut.

    At first, the Gemara tries to use this ruling to conclude that once a neder has been approved by the husband, he cannot change his mind and do hafarah on the neder (annul the vow) later that day, since a hakamah (a statement of support for the vow) that has been made cannot be changed. The Gemara explains, however, that there is a different rule that is applicable in this case. In fact, we do not consider the husband’s statement as merely accepting nezirut himself, rather we understand it to be an emphatic approval of his wife’s statement.

    The Ran explains that the statement that he made ? va-ani ? is seen as a statement of approval, as if he said “I approve of your neder forever.” In this case, it appears that his statement expresses his approval. By accepting nezirut himself we understand him to be saying that he is so comfortable with the idea of nezirut that he is willing to accept it upon himself. Had he, in fact, desired to reject his wife’s vow, we would have anticipated that he would have clearly said that he was accepting nezirut upon himself even as he was forbidding his wife from keeping her vow.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=924

  21. Nedarim 71a-b

    We have been discussing cases where the father or the husband have the right to annul the vows of their daughter or their wife by the power of hafarah, or, alternatively, they can make a statement that is mekim ? upholds ? the neder (=vow). On yesterday’s daf (=page) we learned that a statement of approval can be made indirectly, by agreeing to take a similar neder on themselves, for example.

    Our Gemara asks what effect divorce might have on the neder? Is it also a statement of approval, or perhaps it is an unrelated event that will have no effect on the vow whatsoever. The Gemara explains that this question is important for deciding the issue of the couple that divorces and remarries the same day. If we view the divorce as a statement of support, then even after they remarry he cannot annul the vow. If the divorce is no worse than remaining silent, then he will still be able to annul the vow once they remarry.

    The Ran explains that a divorce may be considered approval of the vow, since the husband recognizes that once they are divorced the vow will remain in effect. Therefore from his actions we must conclude that he desired his wife to keep the neder. Another approach is to say that the divorce shows that he dislikes her and leads to the conclusion that he is perfectly comfortable with the fact that she will remain obligated by her vow.

    The Rosh points out that our Gemara’s emphasis on the fact that they might remarry the same day teaches that once the day is over it is clear that he has lost the ability to annul the vow, even if they remarry. This contrasts with the opinion of the Talmud Yerushalmi which rules that whenever the husband cannot perform hafarah because of an outside impediment, that time is not considered to be significant with regard to this halakhah, and he will retain the ability to do hafarah at a later date.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=925

  22. Nedarim 72a-b

    On yesterday’s daf (=page) we learned that the Gemara is unsure as to whether divorce effectively expresses the husband’s desire to uphold the vow made by his wife. The Gemara on our daf brings a series of statements in an attempt to clarify this issue. For example, the Gemara points out that there is a straightforward Mishnah later on in Masechet Nedarim (89a) that teaches that when a woman takes a vow, gets divorced and then remarries all on the same day, her husband cannot annul the vow any longer. This would seem to indicate that the act of divorce is considered to be an expression of approval on the part of the husband. The Gemara rejects this conclusion by pointing out that the case on daf 89a is dealing with a case of a woman who was divorced following nesu’in ? a full, complete marriage ? while the case under discussion in our Gemara is a marriage that has only reached a stage of erusin ? engagement that begins a marital relationship. In the case of a full marriage, the husband cannot annul vows that were taken prior to the completion of the marriage, while a husband can do so when the couple is still in a relationship of erusin.

    In conclusion, the Gemara does not successfully find a source text to answer its original question about the effect of divorce in our case. Because of this, most of the rishonim perceived the question as being left as a safek ? questionable ? and following the dictum safek de’oraita le-humra, that questionable issues on a Torah level must be treated stringently, rule that the husband will not be able to annul the vow should they remarry later in the day.

    The Rashba disagrees and argues that a statement made by Shmu’el earlier in the Gemara clearly shows that he believes that divorce should be treated like silence, and that it does not affect the neder (=vow) at all. Thus, should the couple remarry, the husband would be able to annul his wife’s vow. The Rashba explains that the Gemara knew throughout that this was Shmu’el’s opinion, and was simply searching for support from a Mishnah or a baraita. Even though such support was not found, still we can accept Shmu’el’s ruling on this issue.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=926

  23. Nedarim 73a-b

    We have learned that the Torah gives the power to a man to annul vows taken by his wife or daughter ? hafarat nedarim ? if he expresses his opposition to them on the day that he hears of them. Our Gemara asks whether a man who is married to two women can perform this hafarah for both of them at the same time. (It is important to remember that the Torah permits a man to marry more than one woman, and the common practice today limiting marriages to a single wife developed at a historically late period with the ordinances of Rabbenu Gershom Me’or ha-Golah in the 10th century.) Specifically, the question is whether the Torah’s comment that the father can annul her neder ? hayni avihah otah (Bamidbar 30:6) ? means specifically the vow of a single individual or can it be understood more broadly.

    In response to this question, Ravina quotes a baraita regarding the halakhah of sota ? a woman suspected of having engaged in an affair who is tested by drinking the “bitter waters” prepared by the kohen in the Temple. The baraita teaches that two women who were both suspected of inappropriate behavior were not brought to the Temple to drink at the same time. The Tanna Kamma (=first) says that this is mipnei she-libah gas be-havertah ? because she is more brazen because she is with her friend. Rabbi Yehudah says that it is true simply because of the Torah’s statement ? ve-hishkah ? “she should be given to drink” (Bamidbar 5:27) which is stated in the singular.

    Ravina’s intention in quoting this baraita is not completely clear. According to the Rosh he is simply pointing out that we find a disagreement between the tanna’im about whether a word that is stated in the singular must be understood as limiting the halakhah to just one person or not. An alternative view is presented by the Ramban, who understands the baraita as teaching that the singular truly limits the halakhah to just one individual, and that there is no real disagreement in the baraita ? Rabbi Yehudah emphasizes the biblical passage, while the Tanna Kamma offers a logical reason for the halakhah that appears in the Torah.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=927

  24. Nedarim 74a-b

    We have learned that a husband can be mefer (annul) the vows made by his wife. The Mishnah on our daf (=page) discusses whether his brother, the yavam, can play that role in the event that he dies without children (see the introduction to Masechet Yevamot for an explanation of the rules of yibum ? levirate marriage.) The Mishnah teaches that this is a disagreement among the tanna’im, and the Gemara explains that the focus of the disagreement is whether the concept of zikah is accepted or not.

    The word zikah is a noun that expresses a theoretical relationship or connection, which – in its original meaning – indicates that one person is tied to another in some way (in modern Hebrew, for example, the word azikim means handcuffs or restraints). The Sages used the term less for its literal meaning and more to express a legal or emotional tie between people.

    According to the opinion that zikah does not exist, the relationship between the yavam and the yevamah (=widow) is that described in the Torah ? the widow cannot marry out of the immediate family without undergoing the ceremony of halitzah. According to those who believe that zikah exists, however, we view the yavam and yevamah as being engaged, and possibly to actually be married with regard to certain halakhot.

    The Gemara in Masechet Yevamot (18a) suggests that according to Rav Yehudah the zikah is so strong that even if the woman dies, the potential yavam will not be allowed to marry her relatives, since we view it as though there was a relationship between them that was similar to marriage. The Talmud Yerushalmi, however, brings an opinion that even if you accept the concept of zikah, in the event that the yevamah dies, it becomes clear that the yibum relationship is never completed and the zikah is retroactively annulled. Thus the surviving yavam would be permitted to marry the dead woman’s relatives.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=928

  25. Nedarim 75a-b

    As we have learned, when a woman takes a vow, it can be annulled ? mufar by her father while she is living in his house, or by her husband once she is married. Similarly, the father or the husband can be meikim the neder, i.e. he can state his approval of the vow, which will solidify her obligation to fulfill it.

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that all agree that there is no significance to a statement made by a man who tells his wife in advance that he affirms all vows that she takes for the foreseeable future. If, however, he tells her in advance that he is annulling all of her nedarim, Rabbi Eliezer rules that he has the ability to do so, while the Hakhamim disagree, arguing that he only has the ability to annul her vows after he hears that she has accepted them. Rabbi Eliezer explains his position by pointing out that the ability to annul an existing vow that has already been made would seem to be more powerful than blocking a neder that has not yet come into force. If the husband has the power to annul a vow we can assume that he certainly has the power to keep it from taking effect.

    Why is it so obvious to all that the husband cannot voice his approval before a neder is taken?

    Rashi explains simply that a non-existent entity cannot be dealt with. Since the wife has not yet taken any nedarim, there is nothing for the husband to take issue with.

    Most of the rishonim (the Rosh, Tosafot, Me’iri and others) suggest that since there are certainly nedarim that the husband will want to annul, we cannot allow his blanket approval to take effect.

    The Ran argues that the reasoning put forward by Rabbi Eliezer in the Mishnah indicates why this case will not work. As opposed to his argument regarding hafarat nedarim, the fact that a person can affirm an already existing neder in no way indicates that he will be able to do so for a neder that has not yet been made.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=929

  26. Nedarim 76a-b

    We have learned that the ability of a woman’s father or husband to do hafarat ha-neder ? to annul her vow ? is limited to the day on which he heard that the vow had been taken (see Bamidbar 30:15-16). The Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that the vow can be annulled “all day.” What is less clear is how to define the day. A baraita brought by the Gemara has the Tanna Kamma (=first) permitting hafarah until nightfall of the day, while Rabbi Yossi b’Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Elazar b’Rabbi Shimon rule that there is a 24 hour period after the husband or father hears of the neder, during which he can be mefer.

    The example brought by the Mishnah is a case where the woman took her neder on Friday night. Following the opinion of the Tanna Kamma, the man has all night Friday and throughout Shabbat to be mefer. Once Shabbat is over, the opportunity for hafarah is lost.

    It is clear that the case of Shabbat is merely an example; the same halakhah would be true if the neder was taken on a normal weekday. The example of Shabbat is used to clarify the rule that the day is defined by the normal halakhic day, where the night is seen as a single unit with the day that follows it and not with the day that precedes it. Tosafot ha-Hadashim point out that it is particularly important to emphasize this halakhah with regard to nedarim, since ? as we have learned previously ? many of the rules of nedarim parallel the rules of kodashim ? of objects that are consecrated to the Temple. The rules of kodashim are unique in that the night is considered part of the previous day in many cases, and it is essential to clarify that nedarim do not follow this pattern.

    In his commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam offers an alternative reason for the choice of Shabbat as an example of hafarat nedarim. The Rambam explains that the Mishnah takes the opportunity to teach an additional halakhah that might not be obvious ? that hafarat nedarim can be done on Shabbat.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=930

  27. Nedarim 77a-b

    As we learned on yesterday’s daf (=page), the Mishnah (76b) notes that hafarat nedarim ? the annulment of a vow taken by a woman by her father or her husband ? can be done on Shabbat. Our Gemara brings a Mishnah from Masechet Shabbat (157a) that reiterates this rule, adding that hatarat nedarim ? annulment of a vow by a Jewish court or Rabbi ? is only performed on Shabbat if it is a neder that affects Shabbat itself. Hafarat nedarim can only be done on the day that the father or husband hears of the neder, so if it is limited only to nedarim that are connected to Shabbat, then the opportunity to do hafarat nedarim would be lost. This is not the case with regard to hatarat nedarim, which has no such limits. The Gemara points out that according to the opinion in the Mishnah that hafarat nedarim can be done for the 24 hours following the neder, if there would be time to do hafarat nedarim after Shabbat then we would also limit hafarat nedarim on Shabbat only to those cases where the neder interferes with Shabbat.

    Which rule of Shabbat is it that would limit the types of nedarim that can be annulled on that day?

    According to the Ran, since hatarat nedarim appears to be a court decision, we would prefer to avoid doing it on Shabbat. The Ran adds an idea that is found in the Talmud Yerushalmi ? that since there is no limitation of the times that a neder might be annulled by the courts, there is no pressing need to do it on Shabbat, so we recommend doing it after Shabbat is over.

    The Rambam appears to connect this rule with the words of the prophet that prohibit memtzo heftzekhah ve-daber davar, which forbids speaking about weekday matters on Shabbat (see Yeshayahu 58:13). Thus on Shabbat, only things that are tzorkhei shamayim ? heavenly things ? like issues essential for Shabbat, are discussed.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=931

  28. Nedarim 78a-b

    We have been discussing two methods of annulling vows ?

    1.hafarat nedarim ? the annulment of a vow taken by a woman by her father or her husband

    2.hatarat nedarim ? annulment of a vow by a Jewish court or Rabbi.

    These two methods work with different rules (e.g. hafarat nedarim is only on the day that the father or husband hear of the neder; hatarat nedarim only can be performed if the person who took the vow expresses regret that he took the neder) and the father or husband only have the power of hafarah, while the Rabbi only has the power of hatarah.

    The same baraita that teaches this halakhah, points out the parallel language (gezera shavah) of ve-zeh ha-davar that is used with regard to the laws of nedarim (Bamidbar 30:2) and the laws of shehutei hutz (Vayikra 17:2). The laws of nedarim are presented to rashei ha-matot ? the heads of the tribes ? while the laws of bringing sacrifices outside of the area of the Temple are presented to Aharon the high priest, his sons and the Children of Israel. This leads Rav Aha bar Ya’akov to conclude that aside from the power that a single Rabbi to perform hatarat nedarim, a group of three simple Jews can also play that role.

    While it is easily understood that by expanding the rules of hatarat nedarim beyond the leaders of the tribes we can conclude that even simple Jews can participate in the annulment of vows, it is less clear how the Gemara learns that we specifically need three such people. Rashi suggests that since three groups are mentioned:

    1. Aharon,

    2. Aharon’s sons,

    3. the children of Israel

    we can conclude that you need three. The obvious problem with this is that two of these three categories are written in the plural, and we should need more than three! Rabbi Avraham min ha-Har suggests that Aharon and his sons Elazar and Itamar (since Nadav and Avihu died earlier) are the model for the three person tribunal, and the reference to the Children of Israel teaches that we do not need an ordained Rabbi or judges. The Ran suggests simply that once we see the need for more than a single individual, we turn to the model of a Jewish court which needs three participants.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=932

  29. Nedarim 79a-b

    The eleventh perek (=chapter) of Masechet Nedarim which begins on today’s daf (=page) continues the discussion of hafarat nedarim ? the ability of a woman’s father or husband to annul a vow taken by her ? and specifically of which nedarim can be annulled. From a close reading of the passages in Sefer Bamidbar (30:10-14) the Talmudic Sages conclude that a man cannot annul any neder taken by his wife, rather his power is limited only to vows that affect the personal relationship between husband and wife ? bein ish le-ishto ? or nedarim that are considered vows that make her suffer ? innuy nefesh.

    The first Mishnah of the perek opens with the words eilu nedarim she-hu mefer ? these are the vows that he has the power to annul. While the Rosh, the Ran and others understand that the Mishnah refers to both the husband and the father, the Rambam believes that these limitations only apply to the husband; the father has wide-ranging powers to annul any of his daughter’s vows with no limitations. The first opinion follows the Talmud Yerushalmi, which teaches that the Torah connects the laws of the husband and the father (see Bamidbar 30:17).

    At first glance it would appear that the nedarim that the husband annuls because they affect personal relations between husband and wife (beino le-veinah, in the terminology of the Gemara) refer to issues of intimacy that will affect marital relations. Nevertheless, the Ramban and his students point out that this concept is broad enough to encompass other issues of their relationship, i.e. vows that will cause discord or strife in their relationship. This explanation is particularly important according to those rishonim who disagree with the Rambam and apply these rules not only to husband and wife, but to father and daughter, as well.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=933

  30. Nedarim 80a-b

    We have learned that the only vows that a husband has the ability to annul are nedarim that affect the personal relationship between husband and wife ? bein ish le-ishto ? or nedarim that are considered vows that make her suffer ? innuy nefesh. How do we define innuy nefesh? The examples offered by the Tanna Kamma (=first) in the Mishnah are vows that would keep a woman from bathing or perfuming herself, while Rabbi Yossi limits them only to cases where the woman would suffer some physical lack, like if she were to have to stop eating certain foods.

    Our Gemara questions whether the inability to bathe should be considered innuy nefesh, since we find that on Yom Kippur ? a day on which the Torah commands us to suffer innuy nefesh (see Vayikra 23:27) ? only people who eat, drink or perform work will suffer the punishment of karet (being cut off from the community) for desecrating the day. Since bathing, while forbidden, is not punishable, it would seem that it is not truly a situation of innuy nefesh. Rava answers that the Torah distinguishes between the requirement for immediate innuy nefesh on Yom Kippur and the long-term innuy nefesh implied in a neder. Innuy nefesh of Yom Kippur involves activities that cause suffering within a relatively short period of time, like eating and drinking. A person can go for a relatively short period of time without bathing and it will not create a situation of innuy nefesh. Over time, however, it certainly will create such a situation.

    According to the Gemara in Masechet Yoma (74b) the source for limiting the punishment of karet for innuy nefesh on Yom Kippur solely to eating and drinking, is based on the way the passages (Vayikra 23:29-31) read. We find that the term va-ha’avadeti et ha-nefesh is placed immediately after the stated punishment of karet, and this juxtaposition is understood to limit the punishment only to innuy nefesh that have the potential to lead to loss of life. Those include eating and drinking, but not bathing.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=934

  31. Nedarim 81a-b

    Does Judaism believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness?

    In the context of the discussion on whether a vow to refrain from bathing is considered innuy nefesh ? suffering of the soul ? the Gemara quotes a statement made by the Sages of Israel: take care with regard to arbuvita (dirt or filth), be careful with habura (a learning partner) and be sensitive to the children of the poor, because they will be the ones from whom Torah will come.

    The term arbuvita appears to mean dirt, although some interpret it to mean a mixture, that is to say, when a person’s hair or clothing are dirty or soiled. Different manuscripts offer variant readings of this word (e.g. harfifuta or arpufita) whose meanings are not clear. Nevertheless they seem to indicate that this is a unique word for filthy conditions, perhaps a situation where things begin to get stuck together because of the dirt.

    Filthy conditions oftentimes contain ideal environments for diseases of different kinds. The Gemara refers to arbuvita d’reisha ? a filthy head ? which may describe a situation where a person will scratch his head because it itches, and then will unknowingly transfer bacteria to his eyes, causing eye disease and possibly blindness. Dirt on the skin can enter the body through superficial cuts, contaminating the blood by transferring fungi or bacteria into the body.

    The term habura is understood by most of the rishonim as referring to the importance of a study partner, since joint study will help a person from persisting in errors. Another suggestion is that it refers to the group in which a person places himself. A person who spends significant time with any group of people will be influenced by them ? for positive or for negative.

    Finally, the call for sensitivity to children of the poor is a statement that they too must be educated. The Ran suggests that their humble beginnings make them particularly deserving students, and given their circumstances they will not be distracted by other pursuits as are the children of the wealthy.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=935

  32. Nedarim 82a-b

    The Gemara brings an example of a woman who takes a vow not to eat two loaves of bread. It turns out that refraining from eating one would not be a situation of innuy nefesh (suffering), while refraining from the other one would be innuy nefesh. Should her husband choose to do hafarah (cancellation) of the neder (=vow), will it affect both loaves or only the single one that constitutes innuy nefesh? (Remember that a husband is limited in his ability to do hafarah only to situations where the neder affects the relationship between husband and wife or one where the woman who takes the vow would suffer innuy nefesh were she to fulfill it.) Rav Yehudah quotes Shmuel as ruling that once one of the loaves is released from the vow, the other one is, as well. Rav Assi quotes Rabbi Yohanan as ruling that only the one that constitutes innuy nefesh is annulled, the other remains in force.

    The question raised by the rishonim is how Shmuel can suggest that the husband can remove the neder that does not involve innuy nefesh ? a power that he does not possess? Several approaches are offered in response to this question:

    One suggestion is that with regard to issues of innuy nefesh, once part of a neder is cancelled, the entire statement is rendered meaningless.

    Another approach is that although our perception is that one loaf is desirable and missing out on it would be innuy nefesh while the other one is less desirable and is not considered innuy nefesh, still there is some level of innuy nefesh in losing out on the ability to eat the second one, as well.

    The question on Rabbi Yohanan is presented in the other direction. Given the principle neder she-hutar miktzato, hutar kulo ? a vow that is partially permitted becomes totally permitted ? how can Rabbi Yohanan suggest that half of the woman’s neder remains in force? Rashi suggests that this principle applies only to a situation where the vow is hutar ? is annulled by a Rabbi. Only in that case is the neder cancelled retroactively and is perceived as never having taken effect. When a husband objects to a neder and is meifer, it only removes the part of the neder that is considered innuy nefesh, leaving the rest still intact.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=936

  33. Nedarim 83a-b

    On yesterday’s daf (=page) we learned that the principle of neder she-hutar miktzato, hutar kulo ? a vow that is partially permitted becomes totally permitted ? only applied to hatarat nedarim, when the vow is annulled by a Rabbi. When a husband objects to a neder (=vow) and is meifer, it only removes the part of the neder that is considered innuy nefesh (=suffering), leaving the rest still intact. The Gemara on our daf brings the case of a woman who accepted upon herself to be a Nazerite who cannot drink or eat grape products, cannot cut her hair and cannot come into contact with a dead body, which would make her become ritually defiled. The baraita teaches that if her husband objects to her having taken on this neder of nezirut, she is freed of her obligation, and even if she is unaware of it and drinks wine or touches a dead body, she will not be held liable. The question presented by the Gemara is: if the husband only cancels nedarim of innuy nefesh, perhaps we must assume that he has only annulled her vow with regard to drinking wine, but other rules of nezirut (e.g. eating grape peels or seeds) should still remain in force?

    Rav Yosef’s response is ein nezirut la-hatza’in ? a person cannot be a partial nazir.

    The Maharit explains that the rules that apply to nazir do not fit into normal categories of issur heftza ? that the objects are forbidden ? or of issur gavra ? that the person is prohibited from doing a certain action. The rules of nazir are situational in that a person who finds themselves in the situation of being a nazir is obligated to keep the rules of nezirut, similar to the rules that apply to a Jewish king or High Priest. Thus it is clear that a person who enters into the situation of a nazir must keep all of the rules that apply to a nazir. In the event that a woman accepts this status, and it is cancelled by her husband by means of hafarah, it cannot remove specific rules that apply to the nazir, rather it undoes the entire status of the woman, removing from her all of the obligations that come with that status.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=937

  34. Nedarim 84a-b

    The Mishnah (83b) teaches that in a case where a person takes a vow that kohanim and levi’im cannot derive any benefit from him, the priests and Levites can take the terumah and ma’aser (tithes) that are due to them, even against the will of the one who made the vow; the tithes, after all, do not really belong to him ? they belong to the families of the priests and Levites. If, however, the person says that specific kohanim or levi’im cannot derive benefit from him, then those priests and Levites should not take tithes from him, but rather should allow others to do so.

    The Gemara wants to suggest that this halakhah can shed light on a general question discussed in numerous places in the Talmud ? tovat hana’ah mamon or tovat hana’ah eino mamon?

    The concept of tovat hana’ah is a sense of benefit that has a real monetary value (not a mere sense of pleasure for having done something) that can be associated with it. This can be evaluated by answering the question ? is this something that a person can get paid to do? Specifically in our case, the owner of the field who is dividing up his tithes among kohanim and levi’im of his choosing can be approached by someone who is willing to pay him to give the tithes to specific people. Do we view this as an intrinsic part of the value of the item, or is it, at best, a side benefit that has no specific significance?

    The Talmud Yerushalmi brings a disagreement as to whether a person is allowed to accept tovat hana’ah payment in the case of tithes. All are in agreement, however, that if such a payment can be made, it must be made by a third party and not by the recipient himself, since such an arrangement would be hillul kodashim ? a desecration of the tithes.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=938

  35. Nedarim 85a-b

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) teaches that there is a difference of opinion in a case where a woman takes a neder that she will not perform those activities that a woman is obligated to perform for her husband based on their agreement in the ketubah (see Ketubot 59 for a list of these activities).

    The Tanna Kamma (=first) rules that there is no need for hafarah (the husband to annul the vow) since there is an existing obligation that she cannot shirk simply because of her neder.

    Rabbi Akiva rules that he must be mefer the neder, since we fear that she may do more than she is obligated to do.

    Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri also feels that there must be hafarah, arguing that if he does not do so, then in the event of divorce she will become forbidden to him.

    The approach taken by most of the rishonim is based on the Gemara in Ketubot (66a), which explains that the disagreement among the tana’aim is centered around the question of who “owns” the wife’s work that is done over-and-above the basic requirement.

    According to the Tanna Kamma, all of her efforts belong to her husband, so there is no concern that he will get more than he deserves. Therefore there is no need for hafarah.

    According to Rabbi Akiva, the extra effort belongs to the woman. He is, therefore, concerned that she will do more than she is obligated to do and that her husband will receive benefits that are forbidden to him. Therefore he requires the husband to annul the vow.

    Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri essentially agrees with the Tanna Kamma, but he raises a different concern ? unless the vow is annulled, once the marriage is over the neder will come into play, and any and all of her efforts will be forbidden to her husband.

    The Ran in Ketubot asks why we should be at all concerned with what may happen at some point in the future. The general approach to this obvious question is that we are concerned that leaving such a vow active will limit the possibility that the couple can remarry in the event of a divorce.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=939

  36. Nedarim 86a-b

    We have already learned that a father or a husband can annul the vows taken by a daughter or wife through a process known as hafarah.

    What information does the father or husband need to have when he does the hafarah? How accurate does it have to be?

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) discusses three cases of misinformation:

    1.

    1.
    when someone thinks that his daughter took the neder, but, in fact it was his wife (or vice versa)

    2.

    when he thought she had accepted upon herself to be a Nazarite, but, in fact, she had accepted an obligation to bring a sacrifice (or vice versa)

    3.

    when he thought that she had vowed to refrain from eating figs, when, if fact, her vow forbade her from eating grapes (or vice versa)

    In all of these cases, the hafarah ? which was done in error ? needs to be repeated once the actual situation is clarified.

    Our Gemara suggests that the source for this halakhah is the passage (Bamidbar 30:9) yani otah ? that he objects specifically to her vow ? which indicates that he knows who made it. The Sifra learns it from an earlier pasuk (=verse, see Bamidbar 30:5) ve-he-herish lah ? that he remained silent for her neder specifically ? again, indicating that he must know the identity of the person who made the neder. While some commentaries say that we extend the rule regarding the identity of the person taking the vow to the other cases as well, the Ri”d suggests that it is only in the first case that we need a biblical source. The other two cases need no source, since the father (or husband) clearly reacted to a different neder than the one that was made.

    Some of the aharonim ask why we even need a source for the first case ? after all, the reaction was an erroneous one! Why should we need a pasuk to teach us that something done in error has no meaning?

    Rabbi Yitzhak mi-Karlin, in his Keren Orah, explains that such an argument would be true if, for example, he did hafarah thinking that it was his wife who vowed, but had he known that it was his daughter he would not have been mefer. Our Mishnah is talking about a case where he would have been mefer in either case, and we need a source to teach that his first hafarah cannot be relied upon.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=940

  37. Nedarim 87a-b

    Continuing the discussion from yesterday’s daf (=page) about errors related to vows, the Gemara brings a series of baraitot about other cases of error which lead to acts that need to be done over again. The cases deal with a person who mistakenly performed keriyah (tore his clothing in mourning), only to discover that he had done so with the wrong intention (e.g. he was told that his father had died, but it turned out to be his son).

    Nevertheless, there are some cases where even a mistaken keriyah need not be repeated. Rav Ashi teaches that if the mistaken impression is immediately corrected ? tokh ke-day dibur ? then the original act is considered to be significant.

    One baraita deals with a case where an ill person appeared to have died, leading his relatives to perform keriyah, but, in fact, he died only later on. The ruling of the baraita is that the keriyah must be done again after the man’s death.

    The term used by the baraita to describe the man’s condition is nit’alef, a word that in modern Hebrew means “to faint.” From the description in the Gemara, however, it appears that the person in our story was in a situation well beyond a simple swoon. It is more likely that the person described in the baraita entered a comatose state caused by low blood flow to the brain. A situation like this one is often irreversible, and death may follow a short time later. Sometimes, however, a person may recover ? either to resume a normal life, or for a short time before death. On occasion, the loss of brain function in such a state leads to a total absence of reaction to any outside stimulus, which can explain how the people surrounding the sick man could have concluded ? however erroneously ? that he had already passed on.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=941

  38. Nedarim 88a-b

    We have been discussing the ability of a woman’s father or husband to annul her vows through the power of hafarah. What is the halakhah if a woman has no father and is not married? The Torah is clear on this point: once a woman is independent ? that is to say, if she is widowed or divorced ? she is obligated to keep her nedarim and cannot have them removed by hafarah (see Bamidbar 30:10 ? ve’neder almanah u’gerushah…yakum alehah ? “regarding the vow of a widow or divorcee, all that she accepts on herself will remain standing”).

    The Mishnah on our daf (=page) quotes this passage and appears to learn yet another halakhah from it. What if a widow or divorcee were to accept nezirut upon herself on a specific date in the future, and prior to that day, she gets married? Does her new husband have the ability to be mefer her acceptance of nezirut, which has not yet come into effect? The Mishnah teaches that he cannot do so, since the neder was taken at a time when the woman was independent.

    Most of the commentaries understand that the Mishnah sees the pasuk (=verse) quoted above as the source for this halakhah, since there is no need for the Torah to teach that a woman who has neither a father nor a husband must keep her vows; what other possibility is there!? Thus the passage must be teaching a new halakhah: that even when a husband does appear in her house, the nedarim that she took while she was independent cannot be annulled. The Ritva and others, however, argue that the pasuk is not the source for this halakhah, which is derived from normative rules about how nedarim work. According to this view, the passage quoted in the Mishnah is not a source but a lyrical introduction to a parallel halakhah.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=942

  39. Nedarim 89a-b

    As we have learned, a woman’s husband or father can annul her vows through the power of hafarah. What about a case where the woman’s neder will only take effect based on some future event? Can hafarah be done on the vow before it takes effect, or only once it is an actual vow?

    Our Mishnah discusses cases where the woman makes her vow conditional on some other thing. For example, she says “If I follow your instructions, then I vow never to accept benefit from your father” or “If I follow your father’s instructions, I vow never to accept benefit from you.” In such cases, the Mishnah rules that the husband can be mefer even before the condition is fulfilled; our Gemara quotes a baraita that brings Rabbi Natan’s ruling that the husband cannot annul the vow. The approach taken by most of the commentaries is that Rabbi Natan does not believe that the power of hafarah works until the neder is a real one.

    To illustrate Rabbi Natan’s position, the Gemara relates a story about a man who vowed not to derive benefit from anyone in the world if he were to get married before becoming a Torah scholar. The Gemara describes his unsuccessful attempts at learning with the expression rahit be-gapa ve-tovlaya, ve-lo imtzei le-mitnah (literally “he ran with a ladder and a rope, but he could not learn”). Three suggestions are given to explain this expression:

    1.

    Rashi, the Ran and others explain simply that he put all of his efforts into learning, but was unsuccessful.

    2.

    According to the Ritva, Rosh and others he became involved in other work or activities (the Ritva understands tovlaya as “vanities”) and did not become a scholar.

    3.

    The Arukh suggests that despite his hard work to pay his teachers, he was an unsuccessful student.

    In any case, what was this man to do? His well-intentioned vow did not help him become a scholar, but were he to marry, he would no longer be able to derive benefit from others??And according to Rabbi Natan, since the vow would not take effect unless he married, he cannot even approach a Rabbi to annul the vow?!

    The Gemara tells that Rav Aha bar Rav Huna tricked him into getting married, so that the vow would take effect, allowing him to arrange for the vow to be annulled.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=943

  40. Nedarim 90a-b

    Our Mishnah teaches that, originally, if a woman made a statement which indicated that she could no longer live with her husband, the bet din would obligate him to divorce her and pay her ketubah. Later on, the Sages became concerned that a woman who no longer desired to be married to her husband would make one of these claims, so the ruling was changed.

    The following statements are those that were originally deemed sufficient to end a marriage:

    1.

    teme’ah ani lekhah ? the wife of a kohen tells him that she had relations with another man, and even if it was a case of rape, he will have to divorce her

    2.

    ha-shamayim beini le-veinkhah ? literally “the heavens separate us”

    3.

    netulah ani min ha-yehudim ? the woman takes a vow never to engage in relations with any Jewish man

    The suggestions made by the Sages when they rescinded their original ruling were:

    1.

    The woman will have to bring proof that she was raped

    2.

    ya’asu derekh bakasha ? literally “they should make entreaties”

    3.

    The husband should use his powers to annul the vow, at least as it pertains to him (see Bamidbar ch. 30)

    The second claim mentioned in the Gemara – ha-shamayim beini le-veinkhah – as well as the response to it – ya’asu derekh bakasha – are left unclear in the Gemara and are subject to different interpretations by the rishonim.

    Rashi appears to follow the Talmud Yerushalmi and explains that she is claiming that her husband chooses not to engage in sexual relations with her. In the words of the Yerushalmi, her argument is “just as the heavens are far from the earth, so my husband is far away from me.” According to tomorrow’s daf (=page), her claim is that he is incapable of engaging in relations.

    In order to resolve this claim, ya’asu derekh bakasha is understood by Rabbenu Tam to mean that they should engage in prayer (apparently he is working with the explanation that the husband is suffering from a disability that does not allow him to engage in relations). Rashi follows the explanation of the Yerushalmi and Rabbenu Hananel who opine that a meal should be arranged at which the couple will be encouraged to work out their issues. The rishonim point out that the intention is that neither should be forced into any action, but rather that the couple be counseled to work out the differences that exist between them.

    This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud:

    http://steinsaltz.org/learning.php?pg=Daf_Yomi&articleId=944

  41. Nedarim 91a-b

    On yesterday’s daf we learned that, originally, a woman married to a kohen who made a claim that she is forbidden to her husband because she was raped was believed, and her husband would be forced to divorce her. Later on, however, the Sages became concerned that a woman who wanted to get divorced would make an untrue claim, and thus they ruled that a divorce only had to be given if there was proof that the woman had been raped.

    The ensuing discussion in the Gemara brings a number of cases in which circumstances appear to indicate that the wife may have been unfaithful to her husband, but in each case the Sages suggest that we cannot rely on the circumstantial evidence – or even that there are possible indications to support a different interpretation of events.

    The last story describes a man who was in a married woman’s home, apparently with intentions to seduce her. When her husband suddenly came home, the seducer hid in the house, waiting for an opportunity to escape. While in hiding, he saw a snake eat from the vegetables on the table. He then saw the husband reaching to eat from those vegetables; fearing that the snake may have been venomous and may have tainted the food, he leaped out from his hiding place to warn the husband not to eat the vegetables. Rava ruled that the concern shown by the seducer for the husband could be taken as proof that nothing untoward had occurred. The concern raised by the Gemara – that some people find a forbidden act (i.e. an affair with a married woman) more desirable than a permitted one (see Mishlei 9:17) and thus we should worry that the seducer may prefer for the husband to remain alive – is rejected.

    Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh diModinah, in his ha-Boneh (a commentary to the Ein Ya’akov), suggests that we can reach a general moral conclusion from this story: Not only must we judge someone favorably who we don’t know, but even the actions of someone who we have reason to suspect should be looked upon objectively and not cynically.

    In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit http://www.steinsaltz.org or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

    https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_nedarim_91/

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