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Interpreting Nedarim

Nedarim (6:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 8 days ago

The sixth perek opens by explaining that if one makes a neder preventing himself from consuming food that is mevushal (cooked), the neder would not include tzli (roasted food) or shaluk (overly cooked or stewed food). The Tifferet Yisrael explains that this is because we interpret nedarim according to how people use the terms expressed in the neder. In other words, people do not use the term mevushal to refer to tzli or shaluk. The perek continues with other cases where we interpret nederim in the same manner.

The Gemara opens by citing a Beraita where R' Yoshiya argues that tzli is also covered by this neder. He cites the following pasuk (Divrei HaYamim II 35:13) not as proof, but rather as a hint to this position: "and they cooked (va'yevashlu) the [korban] pesach as required". Since the korban pesach can only be roasted, yet the pasuk used the term va'yevashlu, tzli must also be covered by that term.

The Gemara continues by suggesting the debate between our Mishnah and the Beraita is whether we interpret the nedarim according to how people speak or how the terms are used in the Torah. The Gemara continues that everyone agrees that the nedarim are interpreted according to how the words are used in common speech. The Mishnah and Beraita only differ, because in the location of the Tana in our Mishnah the bishul was used exclusively for cooked food, whereas in R' Yoshiya's area, it was also used to refer to roasted food.

There are several questions that may be asked. Why was the pasuk that R' Yoshiya cited only a hint and not a proof? If he agrees that nedarim are not interpreted according to pesukim, what was the purpose of bringing the pasuk at all? Finally, R' Akiva Eiger asks why R' Yoshiya cited a pasuk from Divrei HaYamim when he could have cited a pasuk from the Torah in parashat Re'ei that discusses the korban pesach: "u'vishalta ve'achalta".

The Achronim provide various answers to the last question that point to different deficiencies. For example, the Tifferet Yisrael explains that that pasuk could be understood as referring to the korban chagigah that was consumed just prior to the korban pesach. We however, will explore an approach that answers all the questions at once.

The Netziv in his Meromei Sadeh deals with these questions and concludes based on the opinion of the Tosfot. Importantly, the Netziv adds that this understanding explains why the pasuk acted only as a hint both according to the initial assumption of the Gemara and the final conclusion.

The Tosfot (55a, s.v. matnitin) explains that divrei ha'yamim was written using common speech and not Torah language. Consequently, in our Gemara a pasuk from divrei ha'yamim specifically was chosen. Given that understanding, according to the initial assumption of the Gemara that R' Yoshiya maintained the we interpret Nedarim according to how the terms are used in the Torah, this then explains why the pasuk from Divrei HaYamim was not a solid proof. Similarly, even according to the Gemara's conclusion, that R' Yoshiya agrees that we assess a neder according to common speech, the pasuk is still not a solid proof since the way language is used changes. Consequently, R' Yoshiya admits that, despite being suggestive, how language was used during to time of Divrei HaYamim cannot be used a strong proof in the times of the Mishnah.1


1 The Netziv continues that according to the Yerushalmi, R' Yoshiya maintains that we do interpret nedarim according to the language used in the Torah. Importantly, in the Yerushalmi, R' Yoshiya uses the pasuk from Devarim as support.

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