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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 19a

Abaye said to him: How have you explained [the Mishnah] 'A doubt in neziruth is ruled leniently' — as being R. Eliezer's view? Then consider the latter clause: Doubtful first-borns, whether of man1  or beast,2  whether clean or unclean — the claimant must furnish proof [that they are first-borns].3  And it was taught thereon: They may neither be sheared nor put to service!4  — He replied: Why do you compare innate sanctity5  with man-made sanctity?6  But if there is a difficulty, it is this: Doubtful fluids,7  in respect of becoming unclean [themselves], are unclean; in respect of defiling others, they are clean:8  this is R. Meir's view, and R. Eliezer agreed with him. But is it R. Eliezer's opinion that in respect of becoming unclean [themselves] they are unclean? But it was taught, R. Eliezer said: Liquids have no uncleanness at all [by Scriptural law]; the proof is that Jose b. Joezer of Zeredah9  testified10  that the stag locust11  is clean [i.e., fit for food], and that the fluids12  in the [temple] slaughter-house are clean?13  Now, there is no difficulty according to Samuel's interpretation that they are clean [only] insofar that they cannot defile other liquids, but that nevertheless they are unclean in themselves; but according to Rab, who maintained that they are literally clean [even in respect of themselves], what can be said?14  But [answer thus]: One [the Mishnah in Toharoth] teaches R. Judah's view; the other [our Mishnah] gives R. Simeon's. For it was taught: [If one says,] 'Behold! I will be a nazir,' if this stack contains a hundred kor,'15  and he goes and finds it stolen or destroyed: R. Judah ruled that he is not a nazir: R. Simeon, that he is.16

Now, R. Judah is self-contradictory. Did he say that one does not place himself in a doubtful position?17  Then a contradiction is shewn: R. JUDAH SAID: AN UNSPECIFIED REFERENCE TO TERUMAH IN [JUDEA IS BINDING, BUT NOT IN GALILEE, BECAUSE THE GALILEANS ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE TERUMAH OF THE TEMPLE-CHAMBER. Thus the reason is that they are unfamiliar,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. If, e.g., a woman gave birth to twins, a male and a female, and it is not known the head of which appeared first (this being legally regarded as birth). If of the male, he is a firstborn; but if of the female, the male is not a first-born even if he subsequently issued first.
  2. If, e.g., two cows calved, one a male and one a female, one a firstling and one not; and it is not known whether the male is the firstling. Only male firstlings belong to the priest.
  3. I.e., if the priest claims the firstling or redemption money for the first-born.
  4. Just as certain firstlings. (v. Deut. XV, 19). How then can this be the view of R. Eliezer, who holds that when in doubt the animal is not regarded as consecrated?
  5. Lit., 'sanctity that comes of itself', v. B.M. (Sonc. ed.) pp. 26ff.
  6. In the former case a rigorous view is naturally taken. But when man consecrates, he has in mind only that which certainty comes within the terms of his consecration.
  7. E.g., if an unclean person, whose touch defiles liquids. put his hand into a vessel, and it is not known whether he actually touched the liquid there or not.
  8. They do not defile them.
  9. I Kings XI, 26.
  10. On the historic occasion, when as a result of a dispute between R. Gamaliel and R. Joshua, the former was temporarily deposed from the Patriarchate, and R. Eliezer b. 'Azariah appointed in his stead. An examination was then made of scholars' traditions, which were investigated and declared valid or otherwise, v. 'Ed. (Sonc. ed.) Introduction, XI.
  11. Heb. Ayil, of doubtful meaning.
  12. The flow of blood and water.
  13. Even by Rabbinical law. Since the general uncleanliness of liquids is rabbinical only, it was not imposed upon liquids in the temple slaughter house, so as not to defile the flesh of sacrifices. The language of this testimony is Aramaic, whereas all other laws in the Mishnah are couched in Hebrew. Weiss, Dor, I, 105, sees in this a proof of its extreme antiquity; v. A.Z. (Sonc. ed.) pp. 181ff for further notes.
  14. It may appear that this difficulty arises in any case. But if the Mishnah, 'an uncertain vow of neziruth', is not R. Eliezer's ruling, it can be answered that though the entire law of the uncleanness of liquids is rabbinical only, he is nevertheless stringent in a case of doubt. But if the Mishnah agrees with R. Eliezer, so that though neziruth and vows in general are Biblically binding, he is lenient in case of doubt, how can he treat liquids strictly, when the law is merely rabbinical?
  15. A measure of capacity: 36.44 litres in dry measure; 364.4 litres in liquid measure. J.E. 'Weights and Measures'.
  16. Lit., 'R. Judah permits. R. Simeon forbids'.
  17. I.e., he meant to be a nazir only if it certainly contained that measure.
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Nedarim 19b

but if they were familiar [therewith], it would be binding?1  — Raba answered: In the case of the stack he holds that since doubt is graver than certainty, one will not put himself into that doubtful position. For if he is a certain nazir, he may shave2  and offer his sacrifice, which may be eaten, but if he is a doubtful nazir, he may never shave.3  R. Huna b. Judah asked Raba; But what if he said, 'Behold! I will be a lifelong nazir'?4  He replied; Even then, a lifelong nazir, his doubt is graver than his certainty; for a certain nazir lightens the burden of his hair and offers three animals,5  but not so a doubtful nazir. But what if he said, 'Behold! I will be a Samson nazirite'?6  — He replied: A Samson nazirite was not included.7  Said he to him: But R. Adda b. Ahabah said: A Samson Nazirite was taught?8  He replied; If it was taught, it was taught.9

R. Ashi said: That [the Mishnah in Toharoth] gives the view of R. Judah quoting R. Tarfon.10  For it was taught: R. Judah said on the authority of R. Tarfon: Neither is a nazir, because neziroth must be expressed with certainty.11  If so, why particularly if the stack was stolen or destroyed?12  — To shew how far-reaching is R. Simeon's view, that even if it was stolen or destroyed, he still maintains that one places himself in a doubtful position.

R. JUDAH SAID: AN UNSPECIFIED REFERENCE TO TERUMAH IN JUDEA etc. But if they were familiar therewith, it would be binding, which shews that the doubt is ruled stringently. Then consider the last clause: UNQUALIFIED ALLUSIONS TO HARA MIM IN JUDEA ARE NOT BINDING BUT IN GALILEE THEY ARE, BECAUSE THE GALILEANS ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH PRIESTLY HARAMIM. But if they were familiar, they would be invalid: thus in doubt we are lenient? — Abaye answered: The last clause is the view of R. Eleazar b. R. Zadok. For it was taught: R. Judah said: An unspecified [reference to] terumah in Judah is binding. R. Eleazar son of R. Zadok said: unspecified [references to] haramim in Galilee are binding.

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Though it would still be doubtful to which he referred.
  2. On the expiration of his term of neziroth.
  3. Because this must follow his sacrifices. But being a doubtful nazir, he cannot offer any at all, lest he be not one, in which case the animal, having been wrongfully designated as a nazir's sacrifice, is hullin (q.v. Glos.), which may not be brought to the Temple Court.
  4. Here the doubt cannot he more stringent than the certainty, as the term never expires, and since R. Judah draws no distinction in neziroth, his ruling must apply even to such.
  5. V. Nazir, 4.
  6. V. ibid. In which case his hair may never be cut.
  7. The term nazir may include a lifelong nazir, but not a Samson nazir, which would require special mention.
  8. [I.e., that R. Judah declares that he is not a nazir even in the case of a Samson nazirite vow (Ran).]
  9. I cannot answer it.
  10. But not his own view.
  11. This refers to the following case: If two persons were walking together, and one said: 'I will be a nazir, if the man who is coming towards us is one'; whereupon the other said: 'I will be a nazir if he is not', the vow is binding upon neither, because of the element of doubt in each when it was made, v. Naz. 34a.
  12. Even if the stack is intact and contains the stipulated measure, the vow of neziruth is invalid, since when it was taken it was unknown.
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