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.

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Oath to Fulfill a Mitzvah

The Ran and Rosh (Nedarim 8a) argue whether an oath to fulfill a mitzvah is binding in the sense that one would be in violation of “desecrating his word” for not keeping his promise. Ran understands that an oath on a mitzvah is not binding for the purpose of being liable for a korban, but is binding, and if he transgresses the mitzvah, he has violated the prohibition against desecrating his word. The Rosh seems to understand that it is not binding at all. This is also the opinion of the Ramban brought by Reb Akiva Eiger.

Reb Avi Lebowitz points out that based on this understanding, they also argue as to what the novelty of Rav Gidal’s teaching is. The Ran understands that the oath is binding and therefore obviously not an oath taken in vain, so the novelty is that one is encouraged to make these types of oaths (even those who generally refrain from taking oaths), for it will inspire him to fulfill the mitzvah. But, according to the Rosh that the oath is not really binding, the novelty is simply that by making such an “oath,” it is not an automatic violation of an oath taken in vain, since it at least accomplishes a function of encouraging the person to fulfill the mitzvah.

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Yitzchak's Blessing

Rav Chanin said in the name of Rav (Nedarim 7b) : One who hears his fellow utter Hashem’s name in vain is obligated to excommunicate him; otherwise, he himself is fit to be excommunicated. The Gemora explains the rationale behind this: For wherever the unnecessary utterance of the Divine Name is prevalent, poverty will be prevalent, and poverty is regarded as death. (Thus we see the severity of Hashem’s Name being mentioned in vain.)

Using this Gemora, Reb Shlomo Kluger explains the following verse [Breishis 27:23]: And he did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like the hands of his brother Esav, and he blessed him.

What caused Yitzchak to bless him? What is the connection between the observation that his hands were hairy like Esav and the blessing?

He explains: Wherever the unnecessary utterance of the Divine Name is prevalent, poverty will be prevalent. Up until this moment, Esav did not regularly utter the Name of Hashem. Therefore, Yitzchak had no need to be concerned about Esav becoming poor. However, now that he heard “his hairy son” using the Name of Hashem, he decided that it was time to bless him.

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Yosef's Success

It is written [Breishis 39:3]: And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and whatever he (Yosef) did, the Lord made prosper in his hand. Rashi comments: The name of Heaven was frequently in his mouth.

The Sheiris Yaakov explains Rashi: The Gemora (Nedarim 7b) states: Rav Chanin said in the name of Rav: One who hears his fellow utter Hashem’s name in vain is obligated to excommunicate him; otherwise, he himself is fit to be excommunicated. The Gemora explains the rationale behind this: For wherever the unnecessary utterance of the Divine Name is prevalent, poverty will be prevalent, and poverty is regarded as death. (Thus we see the severity of Hashem’s Name being mentioned in vain.)

Since Yosef commonly used Hashem’s Name, he should not have been successful; nevertheless, his master saw that Hashem was with him and made Yosef successful.

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The Ra”n Elucidated - Daf 7

Rulings – The Gemora left several issues unresolved. The Ran rules that regarding kiddushin, since it is an uncertainty relevant to a Biblical law, we must rule stringently and there would be yados. The Ramban and the Rashba rule similarly regarding charity and in respect to pe’ah. This is based upon the principle that we rule stringently regarding all matters of doubt which are relevant to a Biblical prohibition. The Ran disagrees with their ruling regarding charity and pe’ah because these are monetary matters; the question of the Gemora was if the money or produce designated belongs to the poor people, and therefore, we should rule leniently. The money must remain by the original owner unless there is a proof that he relinquished his rights to it. He also rules that there are no yados by hefker because it is a money matter, and hence we rule leniently. His final ruling is that there is no yados by a designation for a bathroom. He explains that the designation would only be effective on a Rabbinical level, and on all doubts that are relevant to a Rabbinical prohibition, the principle is that we rule leniently.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kiddushin Declaration

Rav Papa inquired (Nedarim 6b): Is there a yad for kiddushin or not (A man may betroth a woman by saying, “You are hereby betrothed to me.” What is the halacha if he makes a partial declaration? Do we compare kiddushin to nedarim or perhaps there is a distinction between the two; a vow is strict that it takes effect with merely a declaration, but kiddushin requires an action as well?)

The Gemora explains the case: A man said to a woman, “You are hereby betrothed to me,” and then he said to another woman, “And you.” Do we say that he is saying to her “And you, too,” and based upon this partial declaration, kiddushin would take effect with her. Or, perhaps, he is saying to her, “And you have seen that I married the first woman,” and kiddushin will not take effect? The Gemora leaves the matter unresolved.

Reb Chaim Brisker analyzes Rav Papa’s inquiry: Was he uncertain regarding the words “and you,” if that constitutes a language for kiddushin or not? Or, perhaps, it certainly is a valid expression for kiddushin; Rav Papa inquired regarding someone who uses this language. Is his intention to effect kiddushin or not? Reb Chaim concludes that the Gemora’s doubt is regarding the language, for if the question would be in respect to his intent, there would be a simple solution: Ask him! Reb Shimon Shkop explains the uncertainty of the Gemora to be referring to the man’s intention, and not in respect to the language.

The Avnei Miluim maintains that kiddushin cannot take effect without the man’s declaration of betrothal. Reb Boruch Ber states that the husband’s declaration is an integral part of the kiddushin acquisition. The witnesses are required to hear his declaration. It is insufficient for the witnesses to merely recognize his intent for kiddushin and observe as the man presents the woman with an object worth at least a perutah.

The Steipler Gaon, however, disagrees and holds that the husband’s declaration of betrothal is not necessary to effect a kiddushin. His declaration is only needed for the sake of revealing to us his intent for kiddushin. Accordingly, the Steipler is greatly troubled by our Gemora. What difference would it make if there is a yad for kiddushin or not; it is only their intentions that are the necessary component to effect a kiddushin? If they say that they were intending for kiddushin, what is lacking?

He answers that although it is not necessary to hear the husband’s declaration, it is necessary to hear from him that he intends to perform a kiddushin. Kiddushin will not take effect because he intended to perform a kiddushin, if that intent remained in his heart and it was not verbalized. However, if we can gauge from his words that he undoubtedly intended for kiddushin, the kiddushin will be valid. Rav Papa inquired: Are there yados by kiddushin? If there are yados, then his partial declaration is regarded as a full one; we could then determine that he certainly intended for kiddushin. However, if there are no yados by kiddushin, his declaration remains a partial one; we then, cannot ascertain with any degree of certainty that he intended for kiddushin. The Gemora leaves this matter unresolved.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Ra"n Elucidated - Daf 5

Inconclusive Partial Declarations - The Gemora concluded that the following is the explanation behind Shmuel’s statement: Since the vower said, “in that which I will eat from you,” or “in that which I will eat from you,” he is forbidden. However, if he only said, “I am vowed from you,” there is no prohibition whatsoever. What is the rationale for this? If he says, “I am vowed from you,” perhaps he only meant that he does not want to talk with him. If he says, “I am separated from you,” perhaps he meant that he does not want to conduct business with him. If he says, “I am distanced from you,” perhaps he meant that he does not want to stand within four amos of him. (These expressions are all regarded as an inconclusive yad since it is far from evident what his intention was; therefore, the vow is totally ineffective.)

The Ran explains that since his declaration can be understood in two different fashions, the vow does not effect at all. A vow can only be valid when its meaning is clear. Therefore, he is not prohibited to derive pleasure from his fellow, nor is he forbidden to talk with him.

The Ran cites an alternative explanation in the Gemora. One who declares, “I am vowed from you,” is prohibited from conversing with his fellow. One who states, “I am separated from you,” is prohibited from engaging in business with his fellow. One who vows, “I am distanced from you,” is prohibited from standing within four amos of him.

The explanation is that in respect to these prohibitions, his partial declarations are considered conclusive. When the Gemora states that this is an example of a partial declaration that is inconclusive, it is referring to the vow in respect to deriving benefit from his fellow; however; in respect to these other prohibitions, it is regarded as conclusive. The declaration of “I am vowed from you” clearly means that he does not wish to converse with his fellow.

(The Rosh challenges this explanation, for how could the Gemora prove from here that an inconclusive partial declaration is not regarded as a yad? We could say that the reason there is no prohibition in respect to deriving benefit is because his expression is clearly indicative that he does not mean that; he does mean, “I will not converse with you,” and for that reason, he is prohibited from talking with him.)

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His possessions, but not himself - Nedarim Daf 5

Reb Akiva Eiger writes that it would seem from the language of the Ran that when one declares, “I am vowed to you,” he is only prohibiting himself from deriving benefit from his fellow’s possessions, but he would be permitted to derive benefit from the fellow himself. Reb Akiva Eiger wonders as to why this should be the case. Shouldn’t everything be included? (Sefer Beis Arazim says that the Ran could be understood to mean that all benefits are forbidden. As a matter of fact, the Ran in Kesuvos states explicitly that all pleasures are forbidden, even if it does not involve the fellow’s possessions.)

Shalmei Nedarim answers that the expression, “to you” connotes “from something that belongs to you.” The possessions of a person belong to him; his body does not. This is why the vower would be permitted to derive benefit from the fellow, provided that he is not benefiting from his possessions.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Drinking Wine by Kiddush

The Gemora (Nedarim 4a)explains that the novelty of a chatas nazir is that it cannot be pledged to be brought as a vow. When we asked earlier that this is a trademark of all chatas offerings, it is possible to answer that all other chatas offerings are obviously not brought because they are pledged, as they are obligated to be brought to atone for a sin. However, why is a korban chatas of a nazir brought? [One might therefore have thought the prohibition of delaying vows does not apply to it, which is why the hekeish is needed.]

The Gemora asks: The korban chatas of a woman who gives birth is also not brought for a sin that she committed, but nonetheless we know the prohibition for delaying vows does apply to her korban chatas. [Why should a korban chatas of a nazir be different?]

The Gemora answers: Her korban chatas is still different than that of a nazir, as it enables her to eat kodoshim (korbanos, which she was unable to eat beforehand and is a mitzvah).

The Meiri asks: Doesn’t the chatas offering of a nazir help him that he is now permitted to drink wine?

Tosfos and the Ran answer that drinking wine is a voluntary act, and it is not a mitzvah like the eating of kodoshim.

However, we can ask: What about the mitzvah of drinking wine for kiddush and havdalah? The Gemora Pesachim (106a) derives from the verse Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it that there is an obligation to recite kiddush over a cup of wine. Accordingly, we should say that a nazir’s bringing of the korbanos is similar to that of a woman who gave birth; he is bringing the korban in order to be permitted to partake in the mitzvah of drinking wine for kiddush?

The Meiri answers: The mitzvah of drinking the wine for kiddush is only a Rabbinical one, and the korban is not coming for that.

Tosfos explains that although there is a Biblical obligation to recite kiddush with wine, the obligation that the one who recites the blessing should drink the wine is only Rabbinical.

Reb Koby Shapiro in the Hebrew Midrashiya states that there may be a practical difference in halacha whether the mitzvah of drinking the wine is a Biblical one or merely Rabbinical.

It is ruled upon in Shulchan Aruch that a woman is Biblically obligated in the mitzvah of kiddush on Shabbos. Accordingly, she would be allowed to discharge a man of his obligation by reciting the kiddush for him.

The Acharonim raise the following question: When a man comes home from Shul Friday night, he has already fulfilled his Biblical obligation of kiddush in the Shemoneh Esrei of ma’ariv. He still has a Rabbinical obligation to recite the kiddush over a cup of wine. His wife, on the other hand, who did not daven ma’ariv, still has a Biblical obligation to recite kiddush. How can the man, who only has a Rabbinical obligation discharge his wife of her Biblical obligation?

Some answer that she should recite vayechulu prior to kiddush.

Reb Akiva Eiger answers that there is no concern here because of the principle that one who has fulfilled the mitzvah can nevertheless discharge an obligation for someone who did not yet fulfill the mitzvah. This works because every Jew is a guarantor for another. Some Acharonim are not satisfied with this answer because they say that a woman is not included in this guarantee for each other.

The Chasam Sofer answers: It is as if the husband had intention not to fulfill the Biblical obligation of kiddush when he is davening ma’ariv. This way, they are both Biblically obligated in the mitzvah of kiddush.

This entire discussion is based upon the Meiri’s opinion that the mitzvah of drinking the wine is merely a Rabbinical mitzvah. However, if we would hold that there is a Biblical mitzvah to drink the wine of kiddush, then, there would be no discussion, for the husband still has not discharged his own obligation by davening ma’ariv; he still has a Biblical obligation to drink the wine.

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A Vow to Eat & Concern for Death

A Vow to Eat

The Gemora (Nedarim 3b) states: It is understandable how one can violate the prohibition of Not to desecrate his word; if one would invoke a vow that this bread he will eat, and he does not eat it, he has desecrated his word.

How can this be a valid vow; did we not learn previously (2b) that a vow is when one prohibits the object upon himself; a vow to perform an action should have no validity?

Reb Akiva Eiger adds: The Ran cited the opinion of the Ramban who maintains that if one pronounces a vow using the language of an oath (I make a vow not to eat this bread) or he takes an oath using the language of a vow (This bread is forbidden to me by an oath), even though it is not regarded as a basic type of vow, it does take effect on account of being “a handle of a vow.” It is a partial declaration and he will be prohibited from eating the bread. However, that is only if his intention is to prohibit the object upon himself, but it cannot be regarded as a partial declaration of a vow if he is saying that he vows to eat this bread?

He concludes: May Hashem enlighten my eyes.

The Chasam Sofer explains the case as follows: He said, “This bread should be forbidden to me if I do not eat this other bread.” He went ahead and ate the first loaf of bread. The halacha would be that he is obligated to eat the second bread, for if he does not eat it by the conclusion of the day, he would have retroactively desecrated his word by eating from the first one.

Concern for Death

In Shulchan Aruch (O”C 568:3) it is ruled that if one vows to fast a certain amount of fasts, he is permitted to wait until the winter when the days will be shorter.

The Magen Avraham asks: Shouldn’t the halacha be that he is required to fast immediately, for perhaps he might die? He proves that we are concerned for death in respect to a vow from our Gemora.

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The Ra”n Elucidated - Daf 3

Delaying his Nezirus - The Gemora asks (Nedarim 3b): How does one violate the prohibition of Not to delay by nezirus? If one says, “I am a nazir,” he is automatically a nazir! If he eats grapes or drinks wine, he has violated the prohibition of a nazir, but he has not delayed!?

Rava answers: It is applicable in the following case: If one says, “I will not leave this world without becoming a nazir first,” he has an obligation from that moment on to become a nazir. (Since he might die at any moment, he is required to become a nazir immediately; otherwise, he is delaying.)

Rava cites proof to this concept from the following halacha: If a Kohen says to his wife: “Here is your get on the condition that it should take effect one moment before my death,” she is forbidden from eating terumah immediately because we are concerned that he will die the next moment. This same logic applies in this case of nezirus as well. We are concerned that he will die at any moment; therefore, he is obligated to become a nazir immediately.

The Ran explains that there is a distinction between the two cases. If she would eat terumah and her husband wouldn’t die, she has not violated any prohibition. However, he is obligated to become a nazir immediately, and if he does not, he has violated the prohibition against delaying (even though he didn’t die yet). This is because it is as if he said, “It is upon me to become a nazir in a manner that there is no concern that I will not be able to fulfill this vow of nezirus before I die.”

He asks: When an individual makes a vow to bring an offering, he is not regarded as delaying the fulfillment of his vow, unless three festivals have passed. Shouldn’t we allow the person to become a nazir within three festivals; why is he immediately regarded as procrastinating?

He answers: If one vows that he will bring an offering immediately, he is required to bring it immediately. If he procrastinates at all, he is regarded as delaying and he has violated the prohibition against delaying. He is only allowed to wait three festivals if he vowed to bring an offering without imposing any deadline. Here, we interpret his nezirus vow to mean that he wants to become a nazir immediately; any delay will be regarded as violating the terms of his vow.

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