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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 80a

Again, if she said, 'Konam be the pleasure of bathing to me for ever, if I bathe [once]', and the reason he can annul is because what can she do? if she bathes [once], the pleasure of [subsequent] bathing is forbidden her; if not, she becomes repulsive; whilst R. Jose maintains that she need not bathe, her repulsiveness being of no concern to us. But if so, it should be taught thus: R. Jose said: This condition involves no self-denial? — Hence she must have vowed, 'Konam be the pleasure of bathing to me for ever, if I bathe to-day,' R. Jose maintaining that the disfigurement of one day's [neglect of bathing] is not disfigurement.
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Nedarim 80b

You have explained, 'IF I BATHE': how is 'IF I DO NOT BATHE' meant? Shall we say that she vowed, 'The pleasure of bathing be forbidden me forever, if I do not bathe to-day, 'why does she need annulment — let her bathe! — Said Rab Judah: [It means] that she said, 'The pleasure of bathing be forbidden me for ever, if I do not bathe in the water of steeping.'1  Then by analogy, 'IF I DO NOT ADORN MYSELF' means, 'If I do not adorn myself with naphtha': but that renders her filthy!2  — Said Rab Judah, She vowed, 'The pleasure of bathing be forbidden me for ever, if I bathe to-day, and I swear not to bathe [to-day]'; 'the pleasure of adornment be forbidden me for ever, if I adorn myself to-day, and I swear not to adorn myself [to-day]'. Rabina said to R. Ashi: If so, the Mishnah should state, THESE ARE THE VOWS and oaths! — He replied: Learn, THESE ARE THE VOWS and oaths. Alternatively, oaths too are included in vows, for we learnt, [if one says,] As the vows of the wicked, he has vowed in respect of a nazirite vow, a sacrifice and an oath.3

Now, did the Rabbis rule that bathing involves self-denial when one refrains therefrom? But the following contradicts it: Though all these are forbidden,4  kareth5  is incurred only for eating, drinking and performing work. But if you maintain that in refraining from bathing there is self-denial, then if one bathes on the Day of Atonement he should be liable to kareth?6  — Raba answered: In each case our ruling is based on the Scriptural context. In reference to the Day of Atonement, where it is written, Ye shall afflict your souls,7  something whereby affliction is there and then perceptible [is implied];8  whereas [to refrain from] bathing is not an immediately perceptible affliction. But of vows, where it is written, Every vow and every binding oath to afflict the soul,9  something which leads to affliction [is indicated],10  and not to bathe [for a long time] results in affliction.

One ruling of R. Jose contradicts another of his: With respect to a well belonging to townspeople, when it is a question of their own lives or the lives of strangers,11  their own lives take precedence;12  their cattle or the cattle of strangers, their cattle take precedence over those of strangers; their laundering or that of strangers,13  their laundering takes precedence over that of strangers. But if the choice lies between the lives of strangers and their own laundering, the lives of the strangers take precedence over their own laundering. R. Jose ruled: Their laundering takes precedence over the lives of strangers.14  Now, if to (refrain merely from] washing one's garment is a hardship in R. Jose's view,

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., the water in which flax was steeped; such water is foul and noisome, and it is an act of mortification to bathe therein.
  2. Surely 'adorn' would not be used in that sense!
  3. V. supra 9a.
  4. Viz., eating, drinking, etc., on the Day of Atonement.
  5. V. Glos.
  6. Since kareth is the penalty for not 'afflicting one's soul' — i.e., undergoing mortification; Lev. XXIII, 29.
  7. Ibid. XVI, 29.
  8. E.g., abstention from food.
  9. Num. XXX, 14.
  10. That follows from the infinitive.
  11. The well being the sole source of supply, sufficient only for the townspeople or for strangers, but not for both.
  12. They have a prior right thereto.
  13. The water being used for laundering purposes.
  14. In his opinion there is great self-denial in wearing unlaundered linen.
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