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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 28a

EXCEPTING THAT SUSTAINED BY AN OATH;1  BUT BETH HILLEL MAINTAIN: EVEN SUCH ARE PERMISSIBLE.2  BETH SHAMMAI RULE: HE MUST NOT VOLUNTEER TO VOW;3  BETH HILLEL RULE: HE MAY DO SO. BETH SHAMMAI SAY: [HE MAY VOW] ONLY AS FAR AS HE [THE MURDERER, ETC.] MAKES HIM VOW; BETH HILLEL SAY: EVEN IN RESPECT OF WHAT HE DOES NOT MAKE HIM VOW. E.G., IF HE [THE ROBBER] SAID TO HIM, SAY: KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT MY WIFE HAS OF ME'; AND HE DECLARED, 'KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT MY WIFE AND CHILDREN HAVE OF ME,' — BETH SHAMMAI RULE: HIS WIFE IS PERMITTED, BUT HIS CHILDREN ARE FORBIDDEN; BETH HILLEL RULE: BOTH ARE PERMITTED.

GEMARA. But Samuel said, The law of the country is law?4  — R. Hinena said in the name of R. Kahana in the name of Samuel: The Mishnah refers to a publican who is not limited to a legal due.5  The School of R. Jannai answered: This refers to an unauthorised collector.

OR THAT IT BELONGS TO THE ROYAL HOUSE, EVEN IF IT DOES NOT. How does he vow? — R. Amram said in Rab's name: By saying, 'May all the fruits of the world be forbidden me, if this does not belong to the royal house.' But if he said, 'may they be forbidden,' all the fruits of the world are forbidden to him.6  — He adds, to-day. But if so, the publican will not accept it! — He mentally stipulates 'to-day,' but makes no explicit reservation; and though we [normally] rule that an unexpressed stipulation is invalid,7  it is different when made under duress.

BETH SHAMMAI MAINTAIN: ONE MAY MAKE ANY FORM OF VOW … BUT BETH HILLEL RULE THAT EVEN SUCH ARE PER MISSIBLE. BETH SHAMMAI RULE: THE OWNER MUST NOT VOLUNTEER TO VOW; BETH HILLEL RULE: HE MAY DO SO. BETH SHAMMAI SAY: HE MAY VOW ONLY AS FAR AS HE [THE MURDERER] MAKES HIM VOW; BETH HILLEL SAY: EVEN IN RESPECT OF WHAT HE DOES NOT MAKE HIM VOW. E.G., IF HE [THE ROBBER] SAID TO HIM, SAY: KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT MY WIFE HAS OF ME'; AND THE OWNER DECLARED, 'KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT MY WIFE AND CHILDREN HAVE OF ME — BETH SHAMMAI RULE: HIS WIFE IS PERMITTED, BUT HIS CHILDREN ARE FORBIDDEN; BETH HILLEL RULE: BOTH ARE PERMITTED.

R. Huna said: A Tanna taught: Beth Shammai maintain: He must not volunteer with an oath; Beth Hillel say: He may volunteer even with an oath. Now, in the view of Beth Shammai, only with an oath may he not volunteer, but he may volunteer a vow. But we learnt: BETH SHAMMAI RULE: THE OWNER MUST NOT VOLUNTEER TO VOW. Moreover, he may merely not volunteer an oath, but he may vow with an oath [if requested]; but we learnt, BETH SHAMMAI MAINTAIN: ONE MAY MAKE ANY FORM OF VOW, EXCEPTING THAT SUSTAINED BY AN OATH? — The Mishnah deals with a vow, to shew how far-reaching is Beth Shammai's ruling;8  whilst the Baraitha treats of an oath, to shew the full extent of Beth Hillel's view.9

R. Ashi answered, This is what is taught: Beth Shammai say, There is no absolution for an oath; and Beth Hillel say, There is absolution for an oath.10

MISHNAH. [IF ONE SAYS,] 'LET THESE SAPLINGS BE KORBAN [I.E., CONSECRATED] IF THEY ARE NOT CUT DOWN'; OR, LET THIS GARMENT BE KORBAN IF IT IS NOT BURNT: THEY CAN BE REDEEMED.11  [IF HE SAYS,] 'LET THESE SAPLINGS BE KORBAN UNTIL THEY ARE CUT DOWN; OR, LET THIS GARMENT BE KORBAN UNTIL IT IS BURNT',

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e. one may not vow, 'may this corn be forbidden me by an oath if' etc.
  2. Weiss, Dor I, p. 185, conjectures that this controversy arose out of Herod's demand that all the members of the nation should swear loyalty to him (Joseph. Ant. 15, 10).
  3. If the murderer does not demand a vow as an assurance, he must not offer to vow of his own accord.
  4. Therefore the publican has a legal claim: why then is the owner permitted to evade payment by a false vow?
  5. Under the Roman Procurators there was a tremendous amount of illegal extortion, particularly of octroi tolls, v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 148.
  6. For if the vow contains no sort of evasion, it is binding whatever its purpose.
  7. Lit., 'words that are in the heart are no words'.
  8. I.e., one may not volunteer even a vow, which is not as grave as an oath.
  9. That one may volunteer even an oath, in spite of its greater gravity.
  10. According to this, the Baraitha does not treat of vows under pressure at all. The Heb. lo yiftah (rendered 'he may not volunteer') will mean: He (the rabbi) must not give an opening for regret, i.e., must not grant absolution.
  11. They are duly consecrated, and must be redeemed before they are permitted for secular use.
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Nedarim 28b

THEY CANNOT BE REDEEMED.1

GEMARA. Let [the Mishnah] teach 'they are consecrated!'2  — Because the second clause must state 'THEY CANNOT BE REDEEMED,'3  the first clause also states, 'THEY CAN BE REDEEMED.

How was the vow made?4  — Amemar answered: By saying, '… if they are not cut down to-day'; and the day passed without their being cut down. If so, why teach it: is it not obvious? — The need for teaching it arises e.g., when a strong wind is blowing.5  But the same is taught with respect to a garment: and does a garment stand to be burnt? — Even so; e.g., when a fire has broken out. So here too [in respect of plants], a strong wind is blowing; and I might think that he thought that they would not be saved, and therefore vowed.6  Hence the Mishnah informs us [that the vow is binding].

LET THESE SAPLINGS BE KORBAN etc. [Can they] never [be redeemed]?7  — Said Bar Pada: If he redeems them, they revert to their sanctity; if he redeems them again, they again revert to their sanctity, until they are cut down.8  When cut down, he redeems them once,9  and that suffices. 'Ulla said: Having been cut down, they require no further redemption.10

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Because a definite limit having been set, even if they are redeemed, they revert to their consecrated state.
  2. Instead of the unusual 'they can be redeemed'. This is the reading of Ran, Asheri, and one view of Tosaf. Rashi's reading, which is that of cur. edd. is, 'let the Mishnah teach "they are consecrated" (in one respect) "and unconsecrated" (in another)'; the meaning of which is, they are consecrated in accordance with his vow', but not so strongly that they cannot be redeemed. This aspect of non-consecration is merely by contrast with the case of the second clause, where, even if redeemed, they revert to their consecrated state. [Tosaf. in name of R. Isaac of Dampierre (Ri.) gives a more satisfactory interpretation to this reading: 'They are consecrated' as long as they are not cut down, and 'unconsecrated' when they are cut down.]
  3. It would be insufficient merely to state that they are consecrated, as the emphasis lies on the fact that redemption cannot release them.
  4. Since ultimately they have to be cut down, how' and when can they become consecrated?
  5. In which case it might be assumed that he never for a moment thought it possible for the saplings to be spared and did not consecrate them with a perfect heart.
  6. But not really meaning it, and so the vow is invalid.
  7. Surely that is impossible, since the vow set a limit to their period of sanctity!
  8. V. p. 82, n. 3.
  9. V. infra.
  10. Since by the term of the vow their consecration lasts only until then.
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