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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 3a

Hence there is no fixed rule: sometimes the first clause is explained first, at others the last clause is first explained. Alternatively: abbreviations are explained first, because they [sc. their validity] are deduced by exegesis.1  Then let these be stated first? He [the Tanna] commences indeed with substitutes, since these are Scriptural,2  and proceeds to explain abbreviations, which are inferred by interpretation only.3  This harmonises with the view that substitutes are merely the foreign equivalents [of the word korban].4  But what can be said on the view that they are forms expressly invented by the Sages for the purpose of making vows?5  — Now, are abbreviations mentioned at all; were you not compelled to assume a defective text? Then indeed place abbreviations first. Thus: All abbreviations of VOWS have the validity of VOWS, and ALL SUBSTITUTES FOR VOWS HAVE THE VALIDITY OF VOWS. These are the abbreviations: IF ONE SAYS TO HIS NEIGHBOUR … And these are the substitutes: Konam, konas, konah.6

Now, where are abbreviations written? — When either a man or a woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow [lindor neder] of a nazirite [nazir le-hazzir];7  and it has been taught: Nazir le-hazzir is to render substitutes and abbreviations of neziroth as neziroth.8  From this I may infer only the law of neziroth; whence do we know that it applies to other vows too? This is taught by the verse: When either a man or a woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a nazirite to the Lord:9  here ordinary vows are compared to neziroth and vice versa.10  Just as in neziroth abbreviations are equally binding, so in the case of other vows; and just as in other vows, he who does not fulfil them violates the injunctions: He shall not break his word,11  and Thou shalt not delay to pay it,12  so in neziroth. And just as in other vows, the father can annul those of his daughter and the husband those of his wife, so with neziroth.

Wherein does neziroth differ? Because it is written nazir lehazzir! But [in the case of] vows too it is written, lindor neder;13  then what need is there of analogy? — If the text were neder lindor just as 'nazir le-hazzir', it would be as you say, and the analogy would be unnecessary,' since however, 'lindor neder' is written, the Torah spoke in the language of men.14  This agrees with the view that the Torah spoke in the language of men; but he who maintains that the Torah did not speak in the language of men,15  to what purpose does he put this 'lindor neder'? — He interprets it to deduce that abbreviations of vows are as VOWS, and then neziroth is compared to vows; and as to 'nazir le-hazzir' he interprets it as teaching

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. But not explicitly stated in the Bible.
  2. I.e., their validity is explicitly stated in the Bible.
  3. When stating the law in general terms there is a preference for that which is best known; hence, substitutes, being explicitly taught, are first mentioned. But when going into details, the Tanna prefers to deal first with the lesser known.
  4. Hence their validity may be regarded as explicitly stated in the Bible, since it obviously does not matter in which language a vow is taken.
  5. V. infra, 10a.
  6. V. infra 9a.
  7. Num. VI. 2.
  8. Sc. equally binding.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Since they are coupled together. This method of exegesis is known as hekkesh.
  11. Ibid. XXX, 3.
  12. Deut. XXIII, 22.
  13. Lit., 'to vow a vow — likewise a pleonastic form.
  14. The point is this: The usual grammatical form is for the verb to precede its cognate object. Hence, when this order is reversed, as in nazir le-hazir, one may directly infer something from the unusual order. When it is observed, however, nothing can be inferred.
  15. So that every pleonasm, even if in accordance with the general idiom, gives an additional teaching.
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Nedarim 3b

that one nazirite vow falls upon another.1  Then he who maintains that the Torah spoke in the language of men, and interprets 'nazir le-hazzir' as teaching the validity of abbreviations of neziroth, whence does he learn that a nazirite vow can fall upon another? If he agrees with the view that a nazirite vow does not fall upon another, it is well; but if he agrees with the view that it does, whence does he know it? — Let Scripture say, li-zor [the kal form]; why 'le-hazzir' [the causative]? That you may infer both from it.2  In the West3  it was said: One Tanna deduces [the validity of] abbreviations from 'lindor neder'; whilst another deduces it from [the 'phrase], he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.4

The Master said: 'And just as in other vows, he who does not fulfil them violates the injunctions, he shall not break his wad, and thou shalt not delay to pay it, so in neziroth.' Now, as for 'he shall not break his word' as applying to [ordinary] vows, it is well: it is possible e.g., if one says, 'I vow to eat this loaf', and does not eat it; he violates the injunction, 'he shall not break his word'. But how is, 'he shall not break [his word],' possible in the case of neziroth.? For, as soon as one says, 'Behold, I am a nazir' he is one; if he eats [grapes], he is liable for, nor eat moist drapes or dried;5  if he drinks [wine], he violates, he … shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes.6  — Raba answered: It is to transgress two [injunctions].7  How is 'thou shalt not delay to pay it,' referring to neziroth, conceivable? [For] as soon as one says 'Behold, I am a nazir', he is one; if he eats [grapes], he transgresses, 'neither' shall he … eat moist grapes or dried?' — When one says: 'when I wish, I will be a nazir'.8  But if he says, 'when I wish', the injunction 'thou shalt not delay' does not apply?9  — Said Raba: E.g., if he says, 'I must not depart this world before having been a nazir,' for he becomes a nazir from that moment.10  For this is similar to one who says to his wife: 'Here is your divorce, [to take effect] one hour before my death,' where she is immediately forbidden to eat terumah.11  Thus we see that we fear12  that he may die at any moment: so here13  too, he becomes a nazir immediately, for we say, Perchance he will die now.

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. A nazirite vow for an unspecified period means for thirty days. If one who is already a nazir takes a nazirite vow, it is binding, and becomes operative when the first ends. Thus he translates: a nazir can take a vow le-hazir, to become a nazir after his present vow terminates, v. infra isa.
  2. The heavier form le-hazzir implies intensity, therefore it is interpreted as meaning something additional to what might be inferred from the kal li-zor, which itself being pleonastic allows us to infer something not explicit in the verse.
  3. I.e., the Palestinian academies.
  4. Num. XXX, 3: this embraces every form in which a vow can be made.
  5. Ibid. VI, 3.
  6. Ibid. [It is assumed that the injunction 'he shall not break his word' can apply only to a case where the vow is nullified by his action, e.g., where he vows to eat and he does not eat, but not where he, for instance, vows not to eat and he does eat, where the vow has not been nullified but transgressed: and similarly in the case of a nazir.]
  7. [Raba extends the scope of the injunction to include cases where the oath is transgressed: and thus by drinking wine he transgresses 'he shall it drink', in addition to 'he shall not break his word'.]
  8. If he postpones becoming a nazir, he violates, 'thou shalt not delay etc'.
  9. Since there is no vow until he so desires.
  10. Not actually, but in the sense that he must assume his naziriteship without delay lest he dies the next moment.
  11. V. Glos.
  12. Lit., 'we say'.
  13. In the case of a nazirite.
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