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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 21a


GEMARA. FOUR VOWS HAVE THE RABBIS INVALIDATED etc. R. Abba b. Memel said to R. Ammi: You have told us in the name of R. Judah Nesi'ah:2  Which Tanna holds this view? — R. Judah, who said on the authority of R. Tarfon: Neither is a nazir, because neziroth must be expressed with certainty.3  Raba said: You may even say, The Rabbis. Does the Mishnah teach, both [subsequently] agreed — it teaches, BOTH ARE AGREED.4

Rabina asked R. Ashi: If he demanded more than a se'ah, and the other offered less than a shekel5  is it a [valid] vow, or still a matter of incitement?6  — He replied. We have learnt this. If one was urging his neighbour to eat in his house, and he answered: 'Konam if I enter your house,' or 'if I drink a drop of cold water', he may enter his house and drink cold water, because he only meant eating and drinking in general.7  But why? Did he not state, a drop of cold water? Hence this is the usual manner of speech.8  Thus here too: this is the usual manner of speech!9  — He said to him:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. A sela' _ two shekels _ four denarii.
  2. R. Judah, the Prince II.
  3. 19b. Thus here too, in the case of the incentive vow, since the two parties are dependent upon another, the vow is invalid.
  4. Thus, neither meant the vow seriously at all; but the conditional vow of neziroth was really meant.
  5. [I.e., the vendor demanded a sela' and a perutah (v. Glos.) and the buyer offered a shekel minus a perutah (Ran).]
  6. Since each was so exact, it may be that the sum was literally meant by both, and the vow likewise.
  7. But did not intend his words literally.
  8. For emphasis stating 'a drop of water', when in reality something substantial was meant.
  9. For emphasis: but neither meant his words literally, hence the vow is invalid.
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Nedarim 21b

How compare? In the case of cold water, 'the righteous promise little and perform much';1  but here, It is really doubtful whether he [the vendor] implied that he would take less than a sela', and [the buyer] that he would give more than a shekel,2  and it is [a vow of] incitement, or perhaps, each spoke literally, and it is a valid [vow]? This problem remains unsolved.

Rab Judah said in R. Assi's name: For these four vows [formal] absolution must be sought from a Sage. When I stated this before Samuel, he observed: The Tanna teaches, FOUR VOWS HAVE THE SAGES INVALIDATED,3  yet you say. absolution must be sought from a Sage! R. Joseph reported this discussion in the following version: Rab Judah said in R. Assi's name: A Sage may remit only such [vows] as are similar to these four. Thus in his view mere regret is not given as an opening [for absolution].4  A man once came before R. Huna [for absolution]. He asked him: 'Are you still of the same mind?' and he replied 'No!' Thereupon he absolved him. A man once came before Rabbah son of R. Huna, who asked him: 'Had ten men been present to appease you just then, would you have vowed?' On his replying 'No!' he absolved him. It was taught: R. Judah said: We ask him, 'Are you still of the same mind?' If he answers, No!' he is absolved. R. Ishmael son of R. Jose said on his father's authority: We say to him: 'Had ten men been present to appease you just then, would you have vowed?' If he replies in the negative, absolution is granted.

(Mnemonic: Assi and Eleazar, Johanan and Jannai).5

A man once came before R. Assi. He asked him: 'Do you now regret [that you ever vowed]?' and he replied, 'Do I not?' Thereupon he absolved him.6  A man once came before R. Eleazar. He said to him, 'Do you desire your vow?'7  'He replied: 'Had I not been provoked, I certainly would not have desired aught.' 'Let it be as you wish,' answered he. A woman who had subjected her daughter to a vow8  came before R. Johanan. Said he to her, 'Had you known that your neighbours would say of your daughter,

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. When the would-be host urged him to partake just a little, he understood that a full meal was intended, and therefore made the vow in the terms he did, meaning, however, to debar himself only from a substantial meal.
  2. Both intending to compromise on three denarii.
  3. I.e., they have no binding power at all.
  4. A definite reason for absolution is necessary, based on a fact which was unknown when the vow was made; consequently, it may be regarded as having been made in error. But if the only reason for cancellation is that the vower regrets it, absolution cannot be granted, v. infra 77b.
  5. A mnemonic is a short phrase or a string of words or letters each consisting of catchwords of statements or incidents, strung together as an aid to the memory.
  6. (He holds that mere regret is accepted as ground for revoking a vow, contrary to the view of Rab Assi in the name of Rab Judah, the author of this ruling here being Rabbi Assi, a Palestinian Amora as distinct from the former, who was a Babylonian. (Ran).]
  7. Ran: I.e., have you no regret that you ever made the vow except that you wish that it be no longer valid from now, in which case absolution cannot be granted. Rashi: 'Did you fully desire to vow, i.e., were you calm and composed, vowing with full deliberation' this seems more plausible.
  8. Not to benefit from her mother.
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