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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 15a

a person may be lax with respect to a condition, but he is observant of an actual prohibition.1  We learnt: [IF ONE SAYS,] 'KONAM IF I SLEEP, IF I WALK, IF I SPEAK, etc. How is it meant? If literally, 'if I sleep,' is such a vow valid? But it was taught: There is greater stringency in oaths than in vows, for oaths are valid with respect to things both abstract and concrete, but vows are not so; and sleep is an abstract thing! But if he said, 'Konam be my eyes sleeping,'2  then, if he states no time-limit, is he permitted to go on until he violates the injunction, he shall not break his word?' But R. Johanan said: [If one says,] 'I swear not to sleep for three days', he is flagellated and may sleep immediately.3  But if it means that he says, 'Konam be my eyes sleeping tomorrow, if I sleep to-day4  — surely you say that a person is observant in respect of an actual prohibition?5  Hence it is obvious that he says, 'Konam be my eyes sleeping to-day, if I sleep tomorrow. Now, if he did not sleep that first day, how can the injunction, he shall not break his word6  apply, even if he slept on the second? Hence it surely means that he did sleep, thus proving that he is permitted to do so. This refutes Rab Judah! When is this stated? If he happened to sleep on the first day.7  Rabina said: After all, it is as taught,8  yet how can he shall not break his word apply? — By Rabbinical law.9  But can the Biblical injunction apply by Rabbinical law?10  — Yes. Even as it was taught: Things which are permitted, yet some treat them as forbidden, you must not permit them in their presence, because it is written, he shall not break his word.11

We learnt: [If one says to his wife, 'Konam be] that which you benefit from me until Passover, if you go to your father's house until the Festival',12  if she went before Passover, she may not benefit from him until Passover. Now, only if she went before Passover is she forbidden, but not otherwise?13  — R. Abba answered: If she went before Passover, she is forbidden and is flagellated;14  If she did not go, she is merely forbidden. Then consider the second clause: After Passover, she is subject to he shall not break his word. Now if she did not benefit before Passover, how can the injunction apply? Hence it is obvious that she did benefit, which proves that this is permitted,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Thus, where the second day is merely a condition for the first, we fear that even after having slept on the first, he may do so on the second too, hut where the second day is the subject of the actual vow, we do not fear that having slept on the first he will disregard the prohibition of the second.
  2. Since the konam falls upon the eyes, the vow is valid, eyes being concrete.
  3. Because it is impossible to keep awake three consecutive days. Therefore his oath is inherently vain (v. Shebu. 25a); hence he is punished, and the oath is invalid.
  4. It cannot mean that he simply said, 'konam be my eyes sleeping to-day', as in that case it is obvious; hence the stipulation must be assumed, and the meaning of the Mishnah will be that he must take heed not to sleep on the first day, lest he sleep on the second too, and thereby violate the injunction, for on any other meaning the Mishnah is superfluous.
  5. So there is no reason for refraining from sleeping that day, since he will observe his oath on the next.
  6. Num. XXX, 3.
  7. Despite the prohibition for which very reason he may not sleep on the first.
  8. Literally, viz., 'konam if I sleep'.
  9. Though by Biblical law the vow is invalid, since sleep is abstract, the Rabbis declared it binding, and therefore the injunction holds good.
  10. Lit., 'is there (the transgression) he shall not break in a Rabbinic (law)'.
  11. When one is accustomed to treat a thing as forbidden, it is as though it were subject to a vow. Thus, though the prohibitive force of custom is Rabbinical only, the Biblical injunction applies to it.
  12. 'The Festival', without any further determinant, always refers to Tabernacles, six months after Passover.
  13. Though the condition extends to Tabernacles, we do not fear that she may yet violate it after Passover: this refutes Rab Judah.
  14. If she benefits from him.
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Nedarim 15b

thus refuting Rab Judah! — [No.] That Mishnah teaches that if she benefited, she is involved in, 'he shall not break his word'.

We learnt: [If one says to his wife, 'Konam be] that which you benefit from me until the Festival, if you go to your father's house before Passover': if she goes before Passover, she may not benefit from him until the Festival, but is permitted to go after Passover. [Thus,] if she goes, she is forbidden, but not otherwise?1  — Raba answered: The same law applies that even without going she is forbidden. But if she goes, she is forbidden [to benefit], and receives lashes [if she does]; if she does not go, she is merely forbidden.

An objection is raised: [If he says,] 'This loaf [of bread be forbidden] to me to-day, if I go to such and such a place to-morrow: if he eats it, he is liable to an injunction, 'he shall not go'!2  — Does he [the Tanna] teach: he may eat it — [surely] he teaches, 'if he eats it' so that if he eats it he is under the injunction not to go.3  [The Baraitha continues:] If he goes, he violates the injunction, he shall not break his word.4  But there is no [clause] teaching that he goes [on the second day]: this contradicts Rab Judah!5  — R. Judah answers you: In truth, he could teach, he goes: but since the first clause teaches, 'if he eats', not being able to teach.'he eats'.6  the second clause too teaches, 'if he goes

IF ONE SAYS TO HIS WIFE, KONAM IF I COHABIT WITH YOU.' HE IS LIABLE TO [THE INJUNCTION,] HE SHALL NOT BREAK HIS WORD. But he is obligated to her by Biblical law, as it is written, her food, her raiment, and her marriage rights he shall not diminish?7  — It means that he vows, 'The pleasure of cohabitation with you be forbidden me': thus he surely denies himself the enjoyment of cohabitation.8  For R. Kahana said: [If a woman says to her husband,] 'Cohabitation with me be forbidden to you,' she is compelled to grant it, since she is under an obligation to him. [But if she says,] 'The pleasure of cohabitation with you be forbidden me,' he is forbidden [to cohabit]. Since one may not be fed with what is prohibited to him.9


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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Though by going any time before Passover, subsequent to having benefited from her husband, the vow is violated. This contradicts Rab Judah.
  2. This too refutes Rab Judah, since he may eat the loaf on the first day.
  3. But actually this is forbidden.
  4. Num. XXX, 3.
  5. For if he may not eat the loaf on the first day. the Baraitha should teach such a clause on the assumption that he did not eat it.
  6. For it cannot be taught that he may eat — this being Rab Judah's opinion.
  7. Ex. XXI, 10. How then can he free himself by a vow?
  8. Hence his vow is valid, since it falls primarily upon himself.
  9. So here too. Where the husband or wife make a vow, depriving the other if his or her rights, it is invalid. But if the vow deprives its maker from the enjoyment of his or her privileges, it is valid, though the other is affected thereby too.
  10. An alternative is: 'By the sacrifice (i.e., I swear by the sacrifice) I will not eat of yours.' [On this interpretation, the declaration is a form of oath taken by the life of the korban which is not binding. V. supra 13a, (Ran).]
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