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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 22a

"If her mother had not seen something shameful1  in her [behaviour], she would not have put her under a vow without cause" — would you have vowed?' On her replying in the negative, he absolved her. The grandson of R. Jannai the Elder2  came before him Said he to him, 'Had you known that [when you vow] your ledger3  is opened [in heaven] and your deeds examined — would you have vowed?' On his giving a negative reply, he absolved him R. Abba said: Which verse [teaches this]? After vows cometh examination.4  But though R. Jannai proposed this as a ground for absolution, we may not do so.5  Nor do we suggest the following, which Rabbah b. Bar Hanah related in R. Johanan's name: What opening did R. Gamaliel give to a certain old man? Thee is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise is health.6  He who speaketh [a vow] is worthy of being pierced by the sword, but that the tongue of the wise [i.e., absolution] health. Nor do we suggest the following, viz., what was taught, R. Nathan said: One who vows is as though he built a high place,7  and he who fulfils it is as though he sacrificed thereon. Now the first [half] may be given as an opening,8  but as for the second, Abaye maintained: We suggest [it]; Raba said: We do not suggest [it]. This is the version of the discussion as recited by R. Kahana. R. Tabyomi reported it thus: We may not suggest the latter half;9  but as for the first, — Abaye maintained: We suggest [it]; Raba said: We do not. The law is that neither the first [half] nor the second may be proposed.

Nor do we suggest the following dictum of Samuel, Viz., Even when one fulfils his vow he is called wicked. R. Abba said: Which verse [teaches this]? But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.10  And [the meaning of] forbearance is learnt from forbearance as expressed elsewhere. Here it is written, But if thou shalt forbear to vow, and there it is written, There the wicked forbear from insolence.11  R. Joseph said: We too have learnt so. [If one says:] 'As the vows of the righteous,' his words are of no effect. [But if he says:] 'As the vows of the wicked,' he has vowed in respect of a nazirite vow and a sacrifice.12

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: He who loses his temper is exposed to all the torments of Gehenna,13  for it is written, Therefore remove anger from thy heart,' thus wilt thou put away evil from thy flesh.14  Now 'evil' can only mean Gehenna, as it is written, The Lord hath made all things for himself yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.15  Moreover, he is made to suffer from abdominal troubles, as it is written, But the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind.16  Now what causes failing eyes and a sorrowful mind? Abdominal troubles.

When 'Ulla went up to Palestine,17  he was joined by two inhabitants of Hozai,18  one of whom arose and slew the other. The murderer asked of 'Ulla: 'Did I do well?' 'Yes,' he replied; 'moreover, cut his throat clean across.'19  When he came before R. Johanan, he asked him, 'Maybe, God forbid, I have strengthened the hands of transgressors?' He replied, 'You have saved your life.'20  Then R. Johanan wondered: The Lord shall give them there an infuriated heart21  refers to Babylon?22  'Ulla replied, 'We had not yet

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'something best left alone'.
  2. Lit., 'the son of the daughter'. Var. lec.: Jannai Rabbah, the Great. He was a Palestinian amora of the first generation (second and third generation); to be distinguished from Jannai the Younger, a Palestinian amora of the fourth generation.
  3. The notion that there is a Heavenly ledger in which man's doings are recorded (cf. Aboth, III, 20) is probably connected with the idea of the Book of Life, in which are inscribed on the Judgment Day of New Year those who are to be granted life for the ensuing year (cf R.H. 15b). The Sefer Hasidim (13th century) observes that God is in no need of a book of records: 'the Torah speaks the language of man', i.e., figuratively. Cf Aboth, (Sonc. ed.) p. 12, n. 9.
  4. Prov. XX, 25.
  5. Because it terrifies one too much, and makes him ready to express a regret which he may not feel.
  6. Ibid. XII, 18.
  7. For sacrifice — this being forbidden since the building of Solomon's Temple.
  8. Merely building a high place without sacrificing is not so heinous all offence, and therefore the suggestion is not so terrifying.
  9. All agreeing that it is too frightening.
  10. Deut. XXIII, 23.
  11. Job III, 17. Thus forbearing being employed of the wicked in the latter verse, its use in the former shews that he who vows is also so dubbed.
  12. Supra 9a.
  13. V. p. 19, n. 6.
  14. Ecc. XI, 10.
  15. Prov. XVI, 4. This is understood to mean Gehenna.
  16. Deut. XXVIII, 65.
  17. 'Ulla was a Prominent Palestinian amora of the latter part of the third century and the beginning of the fourth. He frequently visited Babylonia, in pursuance of the general policy of maintaining intellectual intercourse between these two great centres, and his learning was very highly esteemed there; Bacher, Ag. Bab. Amor. pp. 93-97.
  18. [Or Be'Hozae, the modern Khuzistan, province S.W. Persia, Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien, pp. 204ff.]
  19. Fearing that disapproval would endanger his own life; moreover, he wished to hasten his death.
  20. The action was excusable, being in self-defence.
  21. Ibid.
  22. How then could one Jew become so angry with another in Palestine as to slay him?
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Nedarim 22b

crossed the Jordan [into Palestine].'

Rabbah son of R. Huna said: He who loses his temper, even the Divine Presence is unimportant in his eyes, as it is written, The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek God,' God is not in all his thoughts.1  R. Jeremiah of Difti2  said: He forgets his learning and waxes ever more stupid, as it is written, For anger resteth in the bosom of fools;3  and it is written, But the fool layeth open his folly.4  R. Nahman b. Isaac said: It is certain that his sins out number his merits, as it is written, And a furious man aboundeth in transgressions.5

R. Adda son of R. Hanina said: Had not Israel sinned, only the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua would have been given them, [the latter] because it records the disposition of Palestine [among the tribes].6  Whence is this known? For much wisdom proceedeth from much anger.7

R. Assi said: Absolution is not granted for8  [a vow in the name of] the God of Israel, except [the following]: 'Konam be any benefit [by the God of Israel] my wife has of me, because she stole my purse or beat my child'; and it was subsequently learnt that she had done neither.9

A woman once came before R. Assi. He asked her, 'How did you vow?' She replied, 'By the God of Israel.' Said he to her, 'Had you vowed by mohi, which is a mere substitute,10  I would absolve you. Now that you did not vow by mohi, but by the God of Israel, I will not absolve you.

R. Kahana visited11  R. Joseph's home. The latter said to him, 'Eat something'; to which he replied, 'No, by the Master of all, I will not taste anything.' R. Joseph answered, 'No, by the Master of all, you may not eat.' Now R. Kahana rightly said, 'No, by the Master of all, etc.' [to strengthen his vow]; but why did R. Joseph repeat this? — This is what he said: 'Since you have said, "No, by the Master of all", you may not eat.'12

Raba said in R. Nahman's name: The law is: Regret may be made an opening [for absolution], and absolution is granted for [a vow made in the name of] the God of Israel.

Raba was praising R. Sehorah to R. Nahman as a great man. Thereupon N. Nahman said: 'When he comes to you, bring him to me.' Now he [R. Sehorah] had a vow for absolution, so he went before R. Nahman, who asked him: 'Did you vow bearing this13  in mind?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Or this?' 'Yes.' This being repeated a number of times, R. Nahman became angry and exclaimed, 'Go to your room!'14  R. Sehorah departed, and found an opening for himself: Rabbi said: Which is the right course that man should choose for himself? That which he feels to be honourable to himself, and brings him honour from mankind.15  But now, since R. Nahman has become angry, I did not vow on this understanding. He thus absolved himself.

R. Simeon son of Rabbi had a vow for absolution. He went before the Rabbis, who asked him, 'Did you vow bearing this in mind?' He replied, 'Yes.' 'Or this?' 'Yes.' [This was repeated] several times,

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Ps. X, 4.
  2. V. p. 214, n. 2.
  3. Ecc. VII, 9.
  4. Prov. XIII, 26.
  5. Prov. XXIX, 22.
  6. But the other books, consisting mostly of the rebukings of the prophets, would have been unnecessary.
  7. Ecc. I, 18; i.e., the anger of God caused Him to send many prophets with their wise teachings. — We learn through error, and sin becomes the occasion of a fuller Revelation by God.
  8. Lit., 'no (request for absolution) is attended to in the case of'.
  9. [This exception is made for the sake of restoring peace in the home.]
  10. V. Mishnah, supra 10a.
  11. Lit., 'happened (to be) at'.
  12. I.e., Even if you desire, because one cannot be absolved from such an oath.
  13. Some fact mentioned.
  14. I cannot absolve you.
  15. V. Aboth II. 2 (Sonc. ed.) p. 12, n. 2 and 5.
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