Consider it Done

Nedarim (8:7) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 years ago

The Mishnah (8:7) discusses two cases where the neder can be stopped without the need for a Chacham. The first is where one made neder against deriving any benefit from his friend, unless his friend's son collected a gift from him. The Mishnah teaches that the neder can be brought to an end by his friend declaring that, "your stipulation is only that I receive honour – consider it as if I have received the honour". The Bartenura explains that the response is to be understood that it is an honour for him to support his son himself. The Mishnah continues by presenting the same case reversed: one who made a neder preventing his friend from deriving any benefit from him unless that friend gives a gift to his son. In that case there is a debate whether the neder can be stopped in a similar manner. R' Meir maintains that the neder is binding until the gift is given. The Chachamim however maintain that the one who made the neder can end it by declaring that he considers it now as if he received the gift. The question we shall try to address is why R' Meir argues in the second case, but not in the first.

The Tosfot Yom Tov cites the opinion of the Ran who explains that even though R' Meir is recorded as the dissenting opinion only in the second case, he argues in the first one as well. The Tosfot Yom Tov adds that this is also how the Yerushalmi understands the debate.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however first cites the Tosfot who maintain that R' Meir only argues in the second case. They explain that it is common for one who is offered a gift as a sign of honour to declare that he receives more honour in declining the gift. Consequently, in the first case, everyone agrees that the neder can be stop in this manner. However, it is not common for one who demands something to then retract and declare that it is considered as if he has received it. This explains why the second case is debated.

The Rashba also differentiate between the two cases. In the first case, the intention of the neder's condition was that his friend received honour. Being offered the gift demonstrates that this person is important. When the friend then declines the gift, not needing it despite the offer, his importance is further magnified. Consequently, the condition that the friend is honoured, is fulfilled. The second case is not as clear. The one how made the neder wanted to profit from the gift. (The Rashba explains that the son referred to in the condition is dependant on him.) If he later no longer needs it, and forgoes this "debt", it is debatable whether it can be considered as if he received anything and if the condition of the neder is really fulfilled. Consequently, it is only in the second case that R' Meir and the Chachamim argue.

Based on this explanation of the Rashba, the Beit Meir elaborates on what is behind the debate in the second case. The Beit Meir cites the Pnei Yehoshua who explains when mechila (forgoing) works and when it does not. In the case where one is owed something that was stolen from him, he can forgo it. This is because it can be considered is if he received it and gave it back to the thief. In contrast, a kohen cannot forgo terumah because the terumah was never in his possession.

The Beit Meir explains that the second case in our Mishnah appears to parallel the case of terumah. The gift demanded was never in the possession of the one that made the neder. Consequently forgoing it cannot be considered as if he received anything and the neder would not have been fulfilled. The Beit Meir explains that this is the logic behind R' Meir's position. The Chachamim however maintain that the world of nedarim is different. In this case, forgoing the original demand does not need to be considered equivalent to receiving it; it is enough for it to be "as if" it was received. This is because with nederim we go by the intention of the one that made the neder. According to the Chachamim, since in the second case he wanted to profit, and now no longer requires it, it is "as if" it was received and that is enough to fulfil the condition of the neder.

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