I will eat, I will not eat

Shevuot (3:9) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 months ago

As we continue to learn about the types Shevuot (oaths), one Mishnah discusses a case that combines two different types. The Mishnah (3:9) explains that if one made a shevuah to eat a particular loaf of bread, then followed it with a second shevuah not to eat it, then the first shevuah is considered a shevuat bitui and the second is considered a shevuat shav. The shevuat bitui we discussed last week. In order not to violate this shevua he must eat some of the bread. The second shevua is a shevuat shav – a shevua taken in vain – and is violated immediately. This is because he is making a shevua not to fulfil a mitzvah (of satisfying the shevuat bitui).

The Tosfot (29b, s.v. shevua) however asks that each shevuah should be considered a shevuat bitui. The first shevuah was termed "she'ochel" (that I will eat). We learnt previously that if someone made a shevuah "she'lo ochel" (that I will not eat) then the shevua is violated if one ate a kezayit (size of an olive). By extension, the first shevuah implies that he will eat a kezayit from the bread. The second shevuah, "she'lo ochlena" (that I will eat it), is understood that he will not eat the entire loaf. Consequently, the two shevuat do not contradict one another; he can certainly eat a kezayit amount from the loaf and not eat the entire loaf. Why then is the second sheuvah a shevuat shav?

The Tosfot suggest that there is a difference between a shevuah "she'ochel" and "she'lo ochel". In other words, a shevua "she'ochel" means that one wants to the eat the entire loaf. Consequently following this shevua with a shevua "she'ochlena" contradicts the first shevua.

Given that "she'ochel" is the compliment of "she'lo ochel", why should the amount for the first be the entire loaf, while the second be a kezayit from it? The Tosfot R' Akiva Eiger explains that when one makes a shevua "she'lo ochel" the shevua applies to every ke'zayit of that loaf, consequently eating a kezayit's amount violates the shevua. When one makes a shevua "she'ochel' it similarly applies to every kezayit. Consequently, it is only when he eats every kezayit – the entire loaf – that the shevua is fulfilled.

What then is the difference between shevua "she'ochlena" and a shevua "she'ochel" if both imply the entire loaf? R' Akiva Eiger explains that the difference is found if the loaf was partially burnt. Since "she'ochel" applies to every kezayit, he must eat every kezayit available to be consumed. "She'ochlena" however obligates one to eat the entire loaf. Since part of the loaf was burnt, he can no longer eat the entire loaf and is not required to eat that which remains.

The Tifferet Yisrael provides a different answer to Tosfot's questions. He explains that the meaning of she'ochel is understood by the context. Even if normally it would imply a kezayit, since it this case it was followed with the opposite shevuah, if he really intended that his first shevua be understood as meaning only a kezayit amount, then he should have been more explicit.

Interestingly the Tosfot HaRosh cites the Ramah that has the opposite explanation. He explains the she'ochel always implies a kezayit. When he follows it with "she'lo ochlena" it implies that he is referring to the same quantity in the first shevua. She'lo ochlena only implies the entire loaf when the shevua is made on its own with the loaf resting in front of him.

The Tosfot HaRosh however answer the Tosfot's question while maintaining the original assumptions about the amounts implied by each shevua - the first shevua implies he will eat a kezayit while the second implies he will not eat the entire loaf. The Tosfot HaRosh explains that even though for a such a shevuah one would not be chayav to bring a korban until they ate the entire loaf, it is still forbidden to eat a small amount of it (see last week's article on chatzi shiur). Consequently, the second shevua is indeed in conflict with the first.

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