He replied. One who swears, swears in our sense, and we do not think of an ant nest. Now, does one never swear in his own sense? But it was taught: When an oath is administered, he [the man swearing] is admonished: 'Know that we do not adjure you according to your own mind, but according to our mind1 and the mind of the Court.' Now, what does this exclude? Surely the case of one who gave [his creditor] checkers [tokens in game] and [mentally] dubbed them coins; and since he is admonished, 'according to our intention,' it follows that [otherwise] one may swear in his own sense? — No. It excludes such an incident as Raba's cane. A man with a monetary claim upon his neighbour once came before Raba, demanding of the debtor, 'Come and pay me.' 'I have repaid you,' pleaded he. 'If so,' said Raba to him, 'go and swear to him that you have repaid.' Thereupon he went and brought a [hollow] cane, placed the money therein, and came before the Court, walking and leaning on it. [Before swearing] he said to the plaintiff: 'Hold the cane in your hand'. He then took a scroll of the Law and swore that he had repaid him all that he [the creditor] held in his hand.2 The creditor thereupon broke the cane in his rage and the money poured out on the ground; it was thus seen that he had [literally] sworn to the truth.3
But even so, does one never swear in his own sense? But it was taught: Thus we find that when Moses adjured the children of Israel in the plains of Moab, he said unto them, 'Know that I do not adjure you in your sense, but in mine, and in that of the Omnipresent', as it is written, Neither with you only etc.4 Now what did Moses say to Israel? Surely this: Lest you transgress my words5 and then say. 'We swore in our own sense'; therefore he exhorted them: [swear] in my sense. What does this exclude: surely the naming of idols 'god'? This proves that one does sometimes swear in his own sense. — No. Idols too are called 'god', as it is written, And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment.6 Then let him adjure then, to fulfil the commands? — That might imply the commands of the King. Then let him adjure then, to fulfil all the commands? — That might imply [the precept of] fringes,7 for a Master said, The precept of fringes is equal to all the [other] precepts of the Torah.8 But why did not Moses simply adjure the Israelites to fulfil the Torah?9 — Because that would imply one Torah only.10 Then why not adjure then, to fulfil the Toroth?11 — That might mean the Torah of the meal-offering, the Torah of the sin-offering, the Torah of the trespass-offering.12 Then why not impose an oath to fulfil the whole Torah? — The whole Torah might mean merely to refrain from idolatry, as it was taught: Idolatry is so grave a sin that the rejection thereof is as the fulfilment of the whole Torah. Then why not impose an oath to observe the prohibition against idolatry and the whole Torah; or to fulfil the six hundred thirteen precepts? — Moses used a general expression without troubling [to enumerate details].13
OR IF I DID NOT SEE A SERPENT LIKE THE BEAMS OF AN OLIVE-PRESS. Is this impossible? Was there not a serpent in the days of King Shapur14 before which thirteen stables of straw were laced, and it swallowed then, all?15 — Samuel answered: He meant 'as smooth as a bean, etc.' But are not all serpents smooth? — We speak [of one who declared that] its back was smooth [not on]y the neck].16 Then let him [the Tanna] state 'smooth'? — He thereby informs us in passing that the beams of the olive-press must be smooth. How does this affect the law? — In respect of buying and selling: to tell you that if one sells the beams of an olive-press. the sale is valid only if they are smooth, but not otherwise.17
Original footnotes renumbered.
- [In Shebu. 29b. the reading is 'the mind of the Omnipresent'.]
- In his (the debtor's) possession i.e., all that he claimed of him.
- Hence the exhortation is needed to exclude such oaths, as the defendant may really believe that be is swearing truly. But no person regards his oath as true when he mentally attaches a particular meaning to his words.
- Deut. XXIX, 13; i.e., not merely according to your thoughts.
- [So BaH. cur. edd. 'lest you do something'.]
- Ex. XII, 12.
- Num. XV, 38.
- Because it is written, and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord. Ibid. 39.
- Instead of imposing an oath against idol worship, which, as shewn, is ambiguous.
- The written Law, but not the Oral law. The former is the Bible, more especially the Pentateuch, while the latter is the whole body of tradition and Rabbinical development thereof. It is generally assumed that the Oral Law was the matter In dispute between the Pharisees, who accepted it, and the Sadducees, who rejected it. Weiss, Dor, I, 116 seq.; Halevy, Doroth, I, 3, 360 seq. denies this ii to, and maintains that the Sadducees were purely a political party that rejected religious teaching altogether, and only later, through force of circumstances, attempted some interpretation of Scripture.
- Pl. of Torah.
- Each of which is referred to a 'torah': Lev. VI, 7, 18; VII, 1.
- The text of the whole passage is in some disorder, the translation is of the text as emended by BaH; for further notes v. Shebu. (Sonc. ed.) pp. 159ff.
- Shapur I, a contemporary of Samuel and King of Persia.
- This question assumes that the comparison is in point of size. — Aruch reads: thirteen hides full of straw'. Rashi in Shebu. 29b explains that it was a man-eating serpent. hot coals were concealed in the straw, and these killed it. [This is reminiscent of the Apocryphal story of Daniel and the Dragon]
- The backs of serpents are not smooth but somewhat scaly, caused by hard folds of skin, v. Lewysohn, Zoologie, p. 234.
- A number of other interpretations have been given to the whole passage. Rashi translates: spotted like a beam. Ran: incised like a beam; and an alternative, based on the Jerusalemi: square like a beam, instead of circular. Asheri inclines to the last interpretation.
MISHNAH. VOWS IN ERROR: [IF ONE SAYS, 'KONAM,] IF I ATE OR DRANK, AND THEN REMEMBERED THAT HE HAD; OR, 'IF I EAT OR DRINK,' AND THEN FORGOT [HIS VOW] AND ATE OR DRANK; [OR] 'KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT WHICH MY WIFE HAS OF ME, BECAUSE SHE STOLE MY PURSE OR BEAT MY CHILD, AND IT WAS SUBSEQUENTLY LEARNT THAT SHE HAD NOT BEATEN HIM NOR STOLEN; ALL THESE ARE VOWS IN ERROR. IF A MAN SAW PEOPLE EATING [HIS] FIGS AND SAID TO THEM, LET THE FIGS BE A KORBAN TO YOU,' AND THEN DISCOVERED THEM TO BE HIS FATHER OR HIS BROTHERS,1 WHILE OTHERS WERE WITH THEM TOO — BETH SHAMMAI MAINTAIN: HIS FATHER AND BROTHERS ARE PERMITTED, BUT THE REST ARE FORBIDDEN. BETH HILLEL RULE: ALL ARE PERMITTED.
GEMARA. It was taught: Just as vows in error are permitted, so are oaths in error.2 What are oaths in error? — E.g., those of R. Kahana and R. Assi. One said, I swear that Rab taught this, whilst the other asserted, I swear that he taught this: thus each swore truthfully according to his belief.
IF A MAN SAW PEOPLE EATING [HIS] FIGS. We learnt elsewhere: The Sabbaths and festivals are suggested as an opening [for regret].3 Before then the ruling was that for those day's the vow is canceled, but for others it is binding; until R. Akiba taught: A vow which is partially annulled is entirely annulled.
Rabbah said: All agree that if he said, 'Had I known that my father was among you I would have declared, "You are all forbidden except my father",' all are forbidden but his father is permitted. They differ only if he asserted, 'Had I known that my father was among you. I would have said, "So-and-so are forbidden and my father is permitted".'4
Original footnotes renumbered.
- Whom he would not have prohibited.
- V. Shebu. 28b.
- E.g., if one made a self-denying vow, the Rabbi may ask him, 'Had you known that this is forbidden on Sabbaths and Festivals, would you have vowed?' Should he answer 'No', he is absolved.
- In the former instance, the second declaration, apart from excluding his father, does not alter the vow at all, since just as he first vowed 'you are all forbidden', so now too. Therefore it is not regarded as even partially annulled. But in the second case, the actual form of the vow is changed from the inclusive you are all forbidden' to the detailed enumeration 'So-and-so are forbidden', even if the enumeration covered all. Because of these two factors, viz., the exclusion of his father and the change in form in respect to the rest, it is regarded as partially annulled. Thus the view of Beth Hillel is in accordance with R. Akiba's dictum, whilst Beth Shammai's decision agrees with the earlier ruling. In many cases we find Beth Shammai adhering to the older view; cf. Weiss, Dor, I, 183.