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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 23a

and the Rabbis passed wearily to and fro 'twixt sun and shade.1  Said Botnith, the son of Abba Saul b. Botnith, to him, 'Did you vow in order that the Rabbis should thus wearily pass from sun to shade and from shade to sun?' 'No,' replied he. Thereupon they absolved him.

R. Ishmael son of R. Jose had a vow for absolution. He went before the Rabbis, who asked him, 'Did you vow bearing this in mind?' 'Even so,' replied he. 'Or this?' 'Yes.' This was repeated several times. A fuller, seeing that he was paining the Rabbis, smote him with his basket.2  Said he, 'I did not vow to be beaten by a fuller,' and so he absolved himself. R. Aha of Difti objected to Rabina: But this was an unexpected fact, as it had not occurred to him that a fuller would smite him, and we learnt: An unexpected fact may not be given as an opening?3  — He replied: This is not unexpected, because scoffers4  are common who vex the Rabbis.5


Dilling Exhibit 171
    Abaye's wife had a daughter. He declared, '[She must marry] one of my relations,' and she maintained, 'one of mine'. So he said to her: '[All] benefit from me be forbidden to you if you disregard my wish and marry her to one of your relations.' She went, ignored his desire, and married her to her relation. [Subsequently Abaye] went before R. Joseph [for absolution], who asked him: 'Had you known that she would disregard your wish and marry her to her relation, would you have vowed?' He answered, 'No,' and R. Joseph absolved him. But is such permitted?6  — Yes, and it was taught: A man once imposed a vow on his wife not to make the festival pilgrimage [to Jerusalem]; but she disregarded his wish, and did go. He went to R. Jose [for absolution], who said to him, 'Had you known that she would disregard your wish and make the journey, would you have imposed the vow on her?' He answered, 'No,' and R. Jose absolved him.


GEMARA. But since he says, 'Every vow which I may make in the future shall be null,' he will surely not listen to him8  and not come to [eat with] him? —

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. In an endeavour to find grounds for absolution.
  2. The Rabbis appear to have held open session.
  3. V. infra 64a. The tact must have been in existence, when the vow was made, but overlooked. If, however, it occurred only subsequently, it cannot be a ground for absolution.
  4. Apikora (pakar) etymologically should mean a loose, unbridled person. Its phonetic similarity phonetic similarity to Epicurus, the philosopher, stamped it with the meaning of sceptic, heretic, and that is its probable meaning in Sanh. XI, 2, where an apikoros is excluded from the world to come. The definition given in the Gemara, 99b, viz., one who is scornful of the Rabbis, which is the same as it bears here, was in all probability an extension of its meaning, due to feuds between the Rabbis and some sections of the people.
  5. And as their adherents naturally try to punish them, the incident could have been anticipated, and therefore is not regarded as unexpected
  6. The vow itself providing cause for absolution.
  7. The friend.
  8. This too is an example of a vow of incitement, v. Gemara.

Nedarim 23b

The text is defective, and this is what was taught: He who desires his friend to eat with him, and

Dilling Exhibit 172
    after urging him, imposes a vow upon him, it is 'a vow of incitement [and hence invalid]. And he who desires that none of his vows made during the year shall be valid, let him stand at the beginning of the year and declare, 'Every vow which I may make in the future shall be null.1  [HIS VOWS ARE THEN INVALID,] PROVIDING THAT HE REMEMBERS THIS AT THE TIME OF THE VOW. But if he remembers, he has cancelled the declaration and confirmed the vow?2  — Abaye answered: Read: providing that it is not remembered at the time of the vow. Raba said, After all, it is as we said originally.3  Here the circumstances are e.g., that one stipulated at the beginning of the year, but does not know in reference to what. Now he vows. Hence, if he remembers [the stipulation] and he declares: 'I vow in accordance with my original intention', his vow has no reality. But if he does not declare thus, he has cancelled his stipulation and confirmed his vow.

R. Huna b. Hinena wished to lecture thereon [sc. anticipatory cancellation] at the public session. But Raba remonstrated with him: The Tanna has intentionally obscured the law,4  in order that vows should not be lightly treated, whilst you desire to teach it publicly!

The scholars propounded: Do the Rabbis disagree with R. Eliezer b. Jacob or not?5  And should you say that they differ, is the halachah like him or not?6  — Come and hear: For we learnt: If one says to his neighbour,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. This may have provided a support for the custom of reciting Kol Nidre (a formula for dispensation of vows) prior to the Evening Service of the Day of Atonement (Ran.). The context makes it perfectly obvious that only vows, where the maker abjures benefit from aught. or imposes an interdict of his own property upon his neighbour, are referred to. V. J.E. s.v. Kol Nidre. Though the beginning of the year (New Year) is mentioned here, the Day of Atonement was probably chosen on account of its great solemnity. But Kol Nidre as part of the ritual is later than the Talmud, and, as seen from the following statement about R. Huna h. Hinena, the law of revocation in advance was not made public.
  2. Since, when vowing. he knows of his previous declaration, he obviously disregards it. as otherwise he would not vow at all.
  3. The received text is correct.
  4. By giving a defective text. This implies that here, at least, the lacuna is not accidental, due to faulty transmission, but deliberate; cf. p. 2, n. 3.
  5. But regard this as a binding vow.
  6. Since the Mishnah teaches it as an individual opinion.