Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Following the Majority

The Beraisa states (Nedarim 52a): If someone makes a vow not to have oil in Eretz Yisroel, he is permitted to have sesame oil and not olive oil. In Babylon, he may not have sesame oil but he can have olive oil. In a place where both are used, he is forbidden to have both.

The Gemora asks: This is obvious! The Gemora answers: The case is where most people use one kind of oil. One might think that the vow is considered like the usage of most people. This is why the Beraisa tells us that he is forbidden to both oils, because a doubt regarding a prohibition is judged stringently.

The Ra”n explains what we would have thought: Even though there is a minority that makes use of the other kind, there is a possibility that his intention might have been even from those.

The Lechem Mishna asks: Why don’t we follow the majority? Why, in all matters of prohibition, we issue a ruling based upon the majority?

He explains: If it would be a certainty that the vower was referring to the oil used by most people, we would definitely rule that that the vow takes effect only upon that type of oil. However, here he used a language which may include both types of oil, therefore, there is an assumption that he is excluding himself from the majority. We therefore rule stringently and forbid him on both types of oil, since his language can include both.

The Netziv answers that we only follow the majority in cases where the minority is in conflict with the majority. However, here, the minority is not in contradiction with the majority, since he may have intended for both. We therefore rule stringently and forbid him on both types of oil.