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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 9a


GEMARA. But perhaps he meant thus: 'I do not vow as the vows of the wicked?' — Samuel answered: The Mishnah refers to one who said, 'As the vows of the wicked behold I am,' [or] '[I take] upon myself,' [or] '[I am debarred] from it': [which means,] 'Behold, I am a nazir,' [or] 'I take upon myself [the obligation] to offer a sacrifice,' [or] 'I [am debarred] by an oath [to derive any benefit] therefrom. Behold, I am a nazir': but perhaps he meant, 'Behold, lam to fast'? — Said Samuel: That is if a nazir was passing in front of him.2  'I am [debarred] by an oath [to derive any benefit] therefrom.' But perhaps [hemennu] [from or of it] means 'that I am to eat of it'? — Said Raba: It means that he said, '[I am debarred] from it not to eat it.' If so, why state it?3  — I would argue, But he has not explicitly taken an oath!4  Hence we are informed [otherwise].5

[IF HE SAYS], 'AS THE VOWS OF THE RIGHTEOUS,' etc. Which Tanna recognises a distinction between a vow and a freewill offering:6  shall we say, neither R. Meir nor R. Judah? For it was taught: Better it is that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay.7  Better than both is not to vow at all: thus said R. Meir. R. Judah said: Better than both is to vow and repay.8  — You may even say that it is R. Meir:

To Part b

  1. I.e., his vow is valid in respect of these. This will be explained in the Gemara.
  2. So he meant, 'such as he'.
  3. Since it is obvious.
  4. Hence it is not an oath.
  5. [The meaning of the Mishnah would be accordingly: If a nazirite is passing by and a man noticing him says. 'Behold, I am as he who makes the vows of the wicked', (meaning the nazirite, who in a sense is regarded as a sinner; v. infra 10a); or if a man with a beast before him says, 'I take upon myself as the vows of the wicked', or, with a loaf of bread before him, says. 'From it as the vows of the wicked', he becomes respectively a nazirite; Is obliged to bring a sacrifice; and is forbidden to eat of the loaf, each utterance being treated as an abbreviation of a vow (Ran).]
  6. In making a vow to offer a sacrifice, one says, 'Behold, I will bring a sacrifice'; since he may forget to do so, it is considered wrong to make a vow. But a freewill donation is declared thus: 'Behold, this animal is for a sacrifice'. Since the animal has already been put aside for the purpose, there is no fear of forgetfulness.
  7. Eccl. V, 4.
  8. Thus neither draw a distinction between a vow and a freewill-offering.
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Nedarim 9b

R. Meir spoke only of a vow, but not of a freewill-offering. But the Mishnah states: AS THEIR FREEWILL-OFFERINGS, HE HAS VOWED IN RESPECT OF NAZIR AND A SACRIFICE?1  — Learn: HE HAS made a freewill-offering IN RESPECT OF NAZIR AND A SACRIFICE. Now, wherein does a vower differ, that he is not [approved]: because he may thereby come to a stumbling-block?2  But a freewill-offering too can become a stumbling-block?3  — [He does as] Hillel the Elder.4  For it was taught: It was said of Hillel the Elder that no man ever trespassed through his burnt-offering;5  he would bring it as hullin6  to the Temple court, then sanctify it, and put his hand upon it7  and slaughter it. That is well in respect of a freewill-offering of sacrifices; but what can be said of a freewill-offering of neziroth?8  — It is as Simeon the Just.9  For it was taught: Simeon the Just said: Only once in my life have I eaten of the trespass-offering brought by a defiled tear. On one occasion a nazir came from the South country, and I saw that he had beautiful eyes, was of handsome appearance, and with thick locks of hair symmetrically arranged. Said I to him: 'My son, what [reason] didst thou see to destroy this beautiful hair of thine?'10  He replied: 'I was a shepherd for my father in my town. [Once] I went to draw water from a well, gazed upon my reflection in the water, whereupon my evil desires rushed upon me and sought to drive me from the world [through sin]. But I said unto it [my lust]: "Wretch! why dost thou vaunt thyself in a world that is not thine, with one who is destined to become worms and dust?11  I swear12  that I will shave thee off [his beautiful hair] for the sake of Heaven."' I immediately arose and kissed his head, saying: 'My son, may there be many nazirites such as thou in Israel! Of thee saith the Holy Writ, When either a man or a woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a nazirite, to separate themselves unto the Lord.13

R. Mani demurred: Wherein does the trespass-offering of an unclean nazirite differ, that he did not eat [thereof]: because it comes on account of sin? Then he should not have partaken [of] all trespass-offerings, since they come on account of sin? Said R. Jonah to him, This is the reason: When they regret [their evil deeds], they become nazirites, but when they become defiled, and the period of neziroth is lengthened,14  they regret their vow, and thus hullin is brought to the Temple court.15  If so, it is the same even with an undefiled nazir too?16  — A clean nazir is not so, for he [previ ously] estimates his will-power, [and decides] that he can vow.


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  1. Rashi: this implies that it is stated as a vow. Asheri: the use of both terms together, FREEWILL-OFFERINGS and HE HAS VOWED proves that the Tanna of our Mishnah recognises no difference between them.
  2. By forgetting to fulfil his vow.
  3. Because when an animal has been dedicated, it may not be put to any use; in a momentary forgetfulness, however, one may use it.
  4. 'Elder' (Heb. zaken) does not necessarily refer to age, but was a title of scholarship; cf. Kid. 32b; Yoma 28b; J.M.K. III, beginning of 81c.
  5. By putting it to secular use after dedication.
  6. Non-holy, v. Glos.
  7. Lev. I, 4: And he shall put his hand upon the lead of the burnt-offering.
  8. Since the possibility of violating one of the laws of neziroth constitutes a stumblingblock.
  9. So the text as emended by Ran. — One who takes the vow of a nazirite in such circumstances as those related by Simeon the Just need not fear a stumbling-block. Scholars differ whether he is identical with Simeon I (310-291 or 300-270 B.C.E.) or Simeon II (219-199 B.C.E.). v. Ab. (Sonc. ed.) p. 2, n. 1.
  10. V. Num. VI, 18.
  11. Meaning himself. In thus apostrophising his lust he did not ascribe any persona], independent identity to it, as is evident from the context.
  12. Lit., 'by the service' (of the Temple).
  13. Num. VI, 2. A nazirite vow made for such reasons may be regarded as the vow of the righteous. Simeon the Just's refusal to partake of these sacrifices must be regarded as a protest against the growing ascetic practice of taking vows to be a nazirite, — usually a sign of unhappy times; Weiss, Dor, I, 85, v. Nazir (Sonc. ed.) p. 13.
  14. Since they must recommence their neziroth; v' Num. VI, 12.
  15. Actually, of course, the animal would be consecrated; but it is as though it were hullin, since their neziroth, on account of which the sacrifice is brought, was not whole-hearted.
  16. He may regret the vow before the expiration of his term.
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