MISHNAH. R. ELIEZER SAID: ONE MAY SUGGEST TO A MAN AS AN OPENING [FOR ABSOLUTION]1 THE HONOUR OF HIS FATHER AND MOTHER BUT THE SAGES FORBID.2 SAID R. ZADOK: INSTEAD OF GIVING THE HONOUR OF HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, LET US SUGGEST THE HONOUR OF THE ALMIGHTY AS AN OPENING.3 IF SO, THERE ARE NO VOWS.4 BUT THE SAGES ADMIT TO R. ELIEZER THAT IN A MATTER CONCERNING HIMSELF AND HIS FATHER AND MOTHER THEIR HONOUR IS SUGGESTED AS AN OPENING. R. ELIEZER ALSO RULED: A NEW FACT5 MAY BE GIVEN AS AN OPENING; BUT THE SAGES FORBID IT. E.G., IF A MAN SAID, 'KONAM THAT I BENEFIT NOT FROM SO AND SO, AND HE [THE LATTER] THEN BECAME A SCRIBE,6 OR WAS ABOUT TO GIVE HIS SON IN MARRIAGE,7 AND HE DECLARED, 'HAD I KNOWN THAT HE WOULD BECOME A SCRIBE OR WAS ABOUT TO GIVE HIS SON IN MARRIAGE, I WOULD NOT HAVE VOWED;' [OR IF HE SAID,] 'KONAM, IF I ENTER NOT THIS HOUSE,' AND IT BECAME A SYNAGOGUE, AND HE DECLARED, HAD I KNOWN THAT IT WOULD BECOME A SYNAGOGUE, I WOULD NOT HAVE VOWED: R. ELIEZER PERMITS IT,8 BUT THE SAGES FORBID IT.
GEMARA. What is meant by THERE ARE NO VOWS? — Abaye said: If so, Vows are not properly revoked.9
Original footnotes renumbered.
- Lit., 'open for man'.
- V. p. 61, n. 7. Since vows are discreditable (v. supra 9a), to make them is to cast a reflection upon one's parents.
- One dishonours God by committing anything unworthy.
- The Talmud discusses the meaning of this. According to our text, this is still R. Zadok's speech, and a refutation of R. Eliezer. But Ran, Tosaf. and Asheri read: They (the Sages) said to him: If so, there are no vows. On this reading. R. Zadok agrees with R. Eliezer, but goes beyond him, whilst the Sages maintain that even on R. Eliezer's view, one could not go so far as to suggest the honour of God as an opening, for if so, there are no vows. But, as is evident from the Mishnah, they disagree with R. Eliezer too.
- Lit., 'newly-born', 'unexpected'.
- I.e., a school teacher, whose services the maddir might require for his child; others: a notary, whose services might be essential to him.
- And the maddir wished to take part in the festivities.
- As an opening for absolution.
- Because a vow can be annulled only on grounds, which, when suggested, need not necessarily make him regret his vow, in which case when he is moved to repent, it is to be assumed that his repentance is genuine. But when it is suggested to him that by vowing he dishonoured God, no person is so impudent as to maintain that he would have vowed notwithstanding, even if he would have done so; consequently, his vow is not properly revoked.
Raba explained: If so no one will seek a Sage's absolution for his vow.1
We learnt: BUT THE SAGES ADMIT TO R. ELIEZER THAT IN A MATTER CONCERNING HIMSELF AND HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, THEIR HONOUR IS SUGGESTED AS AN OPENING. Now, as for Abaye, who explains [it as meaning], if so, vows are not properly revoked, it is well: here, since he has been [so] impudent, he is impudent.2 But on Raba's explanation. Viz., if so, none will seek a Sage's absolution for his vow, why is such an opening suggested to him here?3 — I will tell you. Since all [other] vows cannot be annulled without a Sage,4 it may be offered as an opening here too.5
R. ELIEZER ALSO RULED: A NEW FACT MAY BE GIVEN AS AN OPENING, etc. What is R. Eliezer's reason? — R. Hisda said: Because Scripture saith, [And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt:] for all the men are dead [which sought thy life].6 But death was a new fact:7 this proves that a new fact is given as an opening. What then is the reason of the Rabbis? — They argue thus: Did these men die? Surely R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Wherever nizzim [quarrelling] or nizzawim [standing] is mentioned, the reference is to none but Dathan and Abiram?8 But, said Resh Lakish, they had become poor.9
R. Joshua b. Levi said: A man who is childless is accounted as dead, for it is written, Give me children, or else I am dead.10 And it was taught: Four are accounted as dead: A poor man, a leper, a blind person, and one who is childless. A poor man, as it is written, for all the men are dead [which sought thy life].11 A leper, as it is written, [And Aaron looked upon Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said unto Moses …] let her not he as one dead.12 The blind, as it is written, He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.13 And he who is childless, as it is written, Give me children, or else I am dead.14
Original footnotes renumbered.
- Since God's honour may apply to all vows, if such is suggested, every person will annul his vow himself, and thus the solemnity of vows be destroyed.
- For obviously, if he has been so impudent as to make such a vow, he is sufficiently brazen not to offer regard for his parents' honour as a ground for absolution, unless he has genuinely repented of having acted so contumaciously toward them.
- Since one can thus annul his own vow.
- This not being accepted as a ground in other vows.
- On account of other vows, it will be the practice to apply for absolution to a Sage, and that will be adhered to even in such an isolated ease as this, which is an exception to the general rule.
- Ex. IV. 19: the Talmud states below that Moses had vowed to Jethro not to return to Egypt, on account of the men who sought his life, and now God absolved Moses of his vow on the grounds that they were dead.
- I.e., one that arose subsequent to Moses' vow.
- Cf. Ex. II, 13: And when he went out on the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together (nizzim), with: That is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against (hizzu. of which nizzim is a participle) Moses against Aaron. Cf. also, Ex. V, 20: And they met Moses and Aaron, who (sc. they) stood (nizzawim) in the way, with Num. XVI, 65. And Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood (nizzawim) etc. The similarity of language leads to the assumption that the same people are referred to in all cases, viz., Dathan and Abiram Now, it was on their account that Moses fled from Egypt, and God told him that they were dead. But they reappear in Korah's rebellion. Hence the statement that they were dead cannot be taken literally.
- Lit., 'they had descended from their property'. V. supra p. 16, n. 3 Now, though impoverishment was also a new fact, yet since it is of common occurrence (here regarded as more likely than death, as he left them, presumably, in good health), the Rabbis regard it as one which might be foreseen, and therefore a legitimate ground for absolution.
- Gen. XXX, 1.
- V. n. 2.
- Num. XII, 10-12.
- Lam. III, 6: this is interpreted: he hath set me in dark places, just as the blind, who are accounted as long since dead.
- Possibly the inclusion of the poor and childless was directed against the early Christian exaltation of poverty and celibacy.