Friday, December 28, 2007

Oath to Study a Certain Tractate

The Gemora (Nedarim 8a) states that when one makes a vow to learn a specific tractate, it is binding even in regard to a korban, and it is not regarded as a vow to fulfill a mitzvah. The reason is that since the Torah does not explicitly indicate an obligation to learn any more than just kerias shema in the morning and evening, the vow is completely binding on anything beyond what is explicitly stated in the Torah.

The Reshash asks that since one is not obligated to learn that specific tractate, the vow should be binding to learn that specific tractate? Actually, the Ritva uses this approach to understand what the Gemora is saying. Since one can fulfill their obligation with some other type of learning i.e. kerias shema, or any other tractate, therefore, when he makes a vow on a specific tractate, it is fully binding.

Tosfos writes that even if one makes a vow not to learn something specific, the vow is binding. Reb Avi Lebowitz cites Reb Moshe (Dibros Moshe heora #43), who explains that Tosfos cannot be understood to be saying that one is not obligated to learn all sections of Torah, because both the obligation of knowing Torah and the obligation of constantly learning Torah actually requires a person to learn all sections of Torah every day. While it may be impossible to do so, there is still technically an obligation on every single aspect of Torah. Therefore, Tosfos can only be explained like the Ran that the obligation to learn every section of Torah is not stated explicitly. Based on this, the Rosh and Ramban would hold that a vow not to learn even a specific or obscure section of Torah on any particular day would not be binding at all.