Vegetables and Gourds

Nedarim (7:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

The seventh perek opens with a debate regarding one who makes a neder against yerek (vegetables) and whether they are permitted to eat gourds. The Chachamim permit him, while R’ Akiva disagrees. The Chachamim reason that a person sent to purchase vegetables would double check with the sender if all that were available were gourds. The need for confirmation suggests that gourds were not included in the term vegetables at that time. R’ Akiva counters this reasoning arguing that the fact that the messenger had to even check implies that gourds might be included in the term vegetables. If, all that was available was meat for example, the messenger would have no doubt and would not need to check. The doubt in the messenger mind, according to R’ Akiva, is enough to prohibit the gourds in this case of nedarim.

The Gemara asks that gourds are never referred to by the term yerek (rather pri adama), so why would R’ Akivaprohibit them? Ulla explains that the neder was against yarkei kedeira (pot vegetables). Unsatisfied the Gemara suggests that such terminology might only include, e.g. onion and garlic that are added for flavour. The Gemara then explains that the neder was for yerek hamitbashel be’kedeira (vegetables cooked in pots). Rashi explains that since gourds are also cooked in pots, the extra terms might include gourds.

The Gemara continues with Abaye explaining that according to R’ Akiva, if the person then ate a gourd he would not be liable to lashes.

The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that there appears to be a contradiction in the Rambam’s rulings. In the Rambam’s commentary to the Mishnah he states that the halacha follows the opinion of the Chachamim; in other words, gourds would be permitted. In the Mishnah Torah (Nedarim 9:6) however, the Rambam rules that any item that a shaliach would need to confirm with his sender whether it is included in his instruction is included in a neder. The example is if one made a neder against basar, since a shaliach would be uncertain whether fish is included in basar, fish would be included in the neder. This reasoning appears to be in line with the opinion of R’ Akiva in our Mishnah.

Later (10) the Rambam does rule that if one makes a neder against yerek, he is permitted to eat gourds, which appears to be consistent with the opinion of the Chachamim. The Kesef Mishnah however explains that the Rambam does indeed rule like R’ Akiva, yet as the Gemara explained R’ Akiva would agree if the neder was from yerek; recall that the debate was regarding yerek hamitbashel be’kedeira. Therefore we are appear to have a contradiction between what the Rambam rules in his commentary in the Mishnah that the halacha is like the Chachamim and what he rules in the Mishnah Torah, that the halachais like R’ Akiva.

The Chatam Sofer (Nedarim 54a) notes that the Rambam omits Abaye’s ruling that one is not liable for lashes if he eat gourds in our case. With this in mind, the Chatam Sofer suggest that the Rambam had a different reading of our Gemara. Instead of it saying “amar Abaye” (said Abaye) the Rambam had “Abaye amar”. This small alteration means that at that point Abaye was not adding an additional point, but arguing with the first explanation. Abaye argued that there is no difference whether the neder was from “yerek”, “yarkei kedeira” or “yerek hamitbashel be’kedeira”. He instead answers the initial question of the Gemara, that yerek never refers to gourds, differently. R’ Akiva in general maintains that anything that a shaliach would need to confirm about is included in the neder on a biblical level and punishable with lashes. Consequently, even though yerek would never be associated with gourds, since a shaliach would nonetheless double check, R’ Akiva is stringent in this specific case to prohibit gourds on a rabbinic level.

The Chatam Sofer notes that there are therefore two debates between the Chachamim and R’ Akiva. The first is the general debate regarding items that shaliach would confirm about and whether they are included in a neder on a biblical level. In this debate, the halacha is like R’ Akiva as the Rambam rules in the Mishnah Torah. The second debate is more specific and is regarding our case. As already mentioned, in the case R’ Akiva holds that the gourds or only rabbincally prohibited while the Chachimim permit them. In this case the Rambam rules like the Chachimam as explained in his commentary and as ruled in the Mishnah Torah (9:10) regarding one who is make a neder against yerek.

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