Mefula Samuch L’Ish

Nidah (5:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

The Mishnah teaches us about the laws that apply to girls and boys at various ages below twelve and thirteen years respectively. One Mishnah (5:6) discussed the novel law that applies to a girl and boy in their twelfth and thirteenth years (prior to turning twelve and thirteen). The Mishnah teaches that if the minor makes a neder (vow) in that year, one must assess if the minor fully understood “for Whom she made the neder”. If the minor demonstrates a satisfactory level of understanding then the neder is binding on a biblical level (see Bamidbar 6:2). The Mishnah then adds that “we recheck [her] the entire twelfth year.” What is the meaning of the Mishnah and what is it teaching that we would do not already know?

The Gemara (Nidah 45b) explains that the Mishnah had to teach that there is a requirement to continually assess whether she understands when making nedarim throughout the year. In many halachic contexts a month is considered a year. Therefore if she failed in our assessment in the first month, one might have thought that no further checking would be required. Rashi explains that one might have thought that the chazakah is formed in the first month and none of her further nedarim would be considered till she turned twelve.

The Mishnah Achrona question the above explanation of the Gemara. How could the Gemara explain that one might think that such a leniency could be based on the chazakah formed in the first month of the twelfth year? Firstly, there is a principle that one cannot rely on a chazakah if it is possible to check and clarify the matter – as in our case. Furthermore, it is a bad chazakah as it is likely to change. There is a good possibility that as she develops during the year her intellect will mature.

Based on these difficulties the Mishnah Achrona cites the Rambam’s version of the Gemara which is the complete opposite understanding. He explains that one might have thought that if she passed the test then no further checking would be required and all her nedarim would be binding. The Mishnah therefore teaches that even if in the beginning of the year she has passed the test, nevertheless checking is required for the remainder of that year. The Meiri explains that we are concerned that the earlier result was successful by chance.

The Meiri indeed combines both understandings. In other words, irrespective of her past performance, whether pass or fail, the Mishnah requires continual checking during that year.


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