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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim
It was taught: He who is forbidden to benefit from his neighbour can have the vow absolved only in his [neighbour's] presence.1 Whence do we know this? — R. Nahman said: Because it is written, And the Lord said unto Moses, In Midian, go, return into Egypt, for all the men are dead which sought thy life.2 He said [thus] to him: 'In Midian thou didst vow; go and annul thy vow in Midian.' [How do we know that he vowed in Midian?] — Because it is written, And Moses was content [wa-yo'el] to dwell with the man;3 now alah4 can only mean an oath, as it is written, and hath taken an [alah] oath of him.5
And also against King Nebuchadnezzar he rebelled, who had adjured him by the living God.6 What was [the nature of] his rebellion? — Zedekiah found Nebuchadnezzar eating a live rabbit.7 'Swear to me,' exclaimed he, 'not to reveal this, that it may not leak out!' He swore. Subsequently he grieved thereat, and had his vow absolved and disclosed it. When Nebuchadnezzar learned that they were deriding him, he had the Sanhedrin8 and Zedekiah brought before him, and said to them, 'Have ye seen what Zedekiah has done? Did he not swear by the name of Heaven not to reveal it?' They answered him, 'He was absolved of his oath.' 'Can then one be absolved of an oath?' he asked them. 'Yes,' they returned. 'In his presence or even not in his presence?'9 — '[Only] in his presence,' was their reply. 'How then did ye act?' said he to them: 'why did ye not Say this to Zedekiah?' Immediately, 'The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence.'10 R. Isaac said: This teaches that they removed the cushions from under them.11
MISHNAH. R. MEIR SAID: SOME THINGS APPEAR AS NEW FACTS, AND YET ARE NOT [TREATED] AS NEW;12 BUT THE SAGES DO NOT AGREE WITH HIM.13 E.G., IF ONE SAYS, 'KONAM THAT I DO NOT MARRY SO AND SO, BECAUSE HER FATHER IS WICKED,' AND HE IS [THEN] TOLD, HE IS DEAD, OR, HE HAS REPENTED; 'KONAM, IF I ENTER THIS HOUSE, BECAUSE IT CONTAINS A WILD DOG, OR, 'BECAUSE IT CONTAINS A SERPENT,' AND HE IS [THEN] INFORMED, THE DOG IS DEAD, OR, THE SERPENT HAS BEEN KILLED, THESE ARE AS NEW FACTS, YET ACTUALLY NOT [TREATED] AS NEW FACTS. BUT THE SAGES DO NOT AGREE WITH HIM.14
GEMARA. 'KONAM, IF I ENTER THIS HOUSE, BECAUSE IT CONTAINS A WILD DOG, etc.' But if it died, it really is a new fact?15 — Said R. Huna: It is as though he conditioned his vow by this fact. R. Johanan said: He was told, 'He has already died,' or, 'already repented.'16
R. Abba objected: [If one Vows,] 'Konam that I do not marry that ugly woman, whereas she is beautiful; 'that black[skinned] woman,' whereas she is fair; 'that short woman,' who in fact is tall, he is permitted to marry her. Not because she was ugly and became beautiful [after the vow], black and turned fair, short and grew tall, but because the vow was made in error. Now, as for R. Huna, who explained it, It is as though he conditioned his vow by this fact, it is well: he [the Tanna] teaches the case of one who makes his vow dependent upon a fact, and the case of an erroneous vow. But according to R. Johanan, who explained [this Mishnah as meaning] that he had already died or repented,1 why teach [two instances of erroneous vows]? This is a difficulty.
MISHNAH. R. MEIR ALSO SAID: AN OPENING [FOR ABSOLUTION] MAY BE GIVEN FROM WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE TORAH, AND WE SAY TO HIM. 'HAD YOU KNOWN THAT YOU WERE VIOLATING [THE INJUNCTIONS]. THOU SHALT NOT AVENGE, THOU SHALT NOT BEAR A GRUDGE AGAINST THE CHILDREN OF THY PEOPLE. THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF.2 OR THAT THY BROTHER MAY LIE WITH THEE;3 OR THAT HE MIGHT BECOME POOR AND YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PROVIDE FOR HIM,4 [WOULD YOU HAVE VOWED]?' SHOULD HE REPLY, 'HAD I KNOWN THAT IT IS SO, I WOULD NOT HAVE VOWED,' HE IS ABSOLVED.
GEMARA. R. Huna son of R. Kattina said to the Rabbis:5 But he can reply. Not all who become poor fall upon me [for support]; and as for my share of the [general] obligations, I can provide for him together with everyone else?6 — He replied: I maintain, He who falls [upon the community] does not fall at the beginning into the hands of the charity overseer.7
MISHNAH. A WIFE'S KETHUBAH8 MAY BE GIVEN AS AN OPENING [FOR ABSOLUTION]. AND THUS IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT A MAN VOWED NOT TO BENEFIT FROM HIS WIFE.9 AND HER KETHUBAH AMOUNTED TO FOUR HUNDRED DENARII.10 HE WENT BEFORE R. AKIBA, WHO ORDERED HIM TO PAY HER THE KETHUBAH [IN FULL]. SAID HE TO HIM, 'RABBI, MY FATHER LEFT EIGHT HUNDRED DENARII, OF WHICH MY BROTHER TOOK FOUR HUNDRED AND I TOOK FOUR HUNDRED: IS IT NOT ENOUGH THAT SHE SHOULD RECEIVE TWO HUNDRED AND I TWO HUNDRED?' — R. AKIBA REPLIED: EVEN IF YOU SELL THE HAIR OF YOUR HEAD YOU MUST PAY HER HER KETHUBAH. HAD I KNOWN THAT IT IS SO,' HE ANSWERED, I WOULD NOT HAVE VOWED.' THEREUPON R. AKIBA PERMITTED HER [TO HIM].11
GEMARA. Is then movable property under a lien for the kethubah?12 — Abaye said: [It refers to] real estate worth eight hundred denarii. But the hair of his head is mentioned, which is movable property! — It means thus: Even if you must sell the hair of your head for your keep.13 This proves that the debtor's means are not assessed?14 — Said R. Nahman son of R. Isaac: [No].
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