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Nedarim refer to vows through which one makes objects forbidden to themselves or other people. The way this is normally done is by declaring that the object is forbidden like a korban. We learn in the first Mishnah that other declarations can be defined as a neder even if the terminology was not as expected. The first of these is the yad, where the expression is cut short prematurely. The second is the kinui which is the focus of this issue.
The second Mishnah provides examples of kinuim. The first is that instead of stating that the object is forbidden like a korban, the term konam, konach or konas was used instead. The Bartenura explains that these terms are from other languages that have the same meaning as korban. Since people use these terms to refer to a korban, the neder would take effect.
The Gemara (10a) however records a debate regarding kinui nedarim. R' Yochanan understands, like the Bartenura above, that these are terms from other languages. R' Shimon ben Lakish however explains that these were extra terms that the Chachamim introduced to qualify as a neder. The Chachamim preferred these terms to be used in place of "korban". The Gemara explains that the concern was that one would say korban la'Hashem, as is frequently written in the Torah, or simply say la'Hashem, thereby using Hashem's name in vain.
The Rashash (10b) explains, based on this, that the practical difference between these two understandings is whether one is ideally allowed to use the term korban when making a neder. According to R' Shimon ben Lakish, the substitute kinui should be used instead.
The Tosfot (2a) however ask that according to R' Shimon ben Lakish it appears that the nedarim would only be binding on a rabbinic level. That being the case, how then can we have the concept of kiniuim for a nazir. A nazir would bring korbanot and the end of his nezirut. If it is only binding rabbinically, then this nazir would be bringing regular animals and not required korbanot into the azara! The Tosfot therefore explains that R' Shimon ben Lakish's explanation would only apply to nedarim and not to kinui nezirut.
The Ran (2a) however asserts that R' Yochanan and R' Shimon ben Lakish agree that kinuim are binding biblically*.* Even though, according to R' Shimon ben Lakish, these terms were introduced by the Chachamim to be binding, it should be no worse than words for another language. Words in other languages are adopted by consensus, consequently terms introduced by rabbinic consensus should be no different. Why do the Tosfot disagree?
Focusing now on R' Yochanan, the Rishonim ask that if kinuim are terms used in other languages, why did the Mishnah select these three terms? The Ran explains that it is obvious that words in other languages that mean korban would be binding. The terms in the Mishnah are distortions of a Hebrew words. They were adopted and used by other nations even though they are not native to that language. Considering that these are corrupted terminology, one might think that the neder would not be binding. The Mishnah teaches that since they are nevertheless used, it would qualify as a neder.
The Tosfot however explains that the difference between the terms used in this Mishnah and other one is that these terms are binding even if one does not understand their meaning. Why? The Chidushei R' Shmuel (1:7) answers based on the law of Shema. The Bi'ur Halaha (62:2) explains that, even though one could recite Shema in other languages, that would only be true if they understood what they were saying, and it was in a location that the language was used. That requirement does not apply for lashon ha'kodesh. The difference is that while other languages have meaning by common agreement, lashon ha'kodesh has essential meaning. Returning to nedarim, the difference between the listed kiniuim is that they have the force of lashon ha'kodesh (even though distorted) consequently they would be binding even if not understood.
Perhaps then we can use to explain why above, according to the Tosfot's understanding of R' Shimon ben Lakish the terms or only binding rabbinically. If these are Hebrew terms introduced by the Chachamim, then it is indeed worse the words from another language, since they lack the inherent meaning to make them binding on a biblical level.
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