Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Within the Period of an Utterance

The Gemora issues a halachic ruling: The halachah is that a statement which follows another statement within the period of an utterance is regarded as if it were made together with the first one except in the case of blasphemy, idolatry, betrothal and divorce (according to the Gemora in Nedarim 87a). [If one commits blasphemy or practices idolatry, and immediately, within the period of utterance, retracts, his retraction is unavailing, and he will still incur the death penalty. If a man betroths a woman or divorces her, and immediately thereafter changes his mind, such withdrawal is invalid.]

The Ra”n (in Nedarim) comments that he doesn’t know why these cases are different and from where did the Rabbis derive this. It would seem, he says, that in regards to other things that are not as serious, when a person does them, he doesn’t do them with absolute intent. Rather, his intention is that he will be able to retract them within the time it takes for an utterance. But these, since they are so serious, a person will not proceed unless he has made up his mind completely, and for this reason, retraction, even within the period of time it takes for an utterance, is not effective.

The Ramban quotes Rabbeinu Tam who says that the halacha that within the time it takes for an utterance is regarded as a single utterance is a decree that the Rabbis made because of a student who is purchasing something and his teacher comes, so that he will be able to greet him. They issued this ruling for all things except for these.

The Ra”n asks: How could they make a decree in respect to nedarim which will permanently uproot something from the Torah in a manner that involves actively doing something?

The Imrei Binah answers according to the Rad”vaz, who says that we are more lenient with respect to nedarim because they can be annulled by a sage. Therefore, the Torah gave the power to the Chachamim to permit a Biblical prohibition, even when it involves actively uprooting it.

Reb Shimon Shkop asks on the Ra”n: If the logic that enables one to retract within the period of an utterance is because he lacks absolute intent, how can this apply to the halacha of rending one’s garments over a death? There is no intention required!

They explain as follows: The principle of “within the time required for an utterance” accomplishes that any act performed can be viewed as continuing for a further amount of time (“the period of an utterance”). Therefore, when he rends his garments and then, within the time required for an utterance, discovers who died, it may be regarded as if he tore his clothes at that time.