Talmud

"In many respects, the Talmud is considered as the most important book in Jewish culture and is the central pillar supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice of Jewish life..." Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

Nedarim 41a-b: The Repercussions of Illness
05/12/2022 - 11th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Still in the context of the discussion of bikur holim our Gemara mentions some of the repercussions of illness. The Gemara brings Rav Yosef's warning that someone who becomes ill can forget his learning, and then reports that Rav Yosef himself forgot his learning after a serious illness, and it was his student, Abaye, who took it upon himself to remind Rav Yosef of his previous teachings. The Iyun Ya'akov suggests that Rav Yosef's example is a particularly powerful one since Rav Yosef is known in the Gemara by the soubriquet "Sinai," implying that he had a vast store of knowledge and knew all that was taught on Mount Sinai. The Gemara continues with the story of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who developed thirteen different approaches to every halakha and shared seven of them with his student, Rabbi Hiyya. When Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi became ill and forgot his teachings, Rabbi Hiyya successfully reminded him of those approaches that he had learned. It turned out that a certain laundryman had overheard Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi while he was developing his approaches and was able to share them with Rabbi Hiyya, who was then able to re-teach them to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The Gemara records that when Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi met the laundryman again, he credited him with having reestablished these teachings. Rav Sherira Ga'on explains that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's "approaches" were essentially the different versions of oral traditions that were brought before him. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's success was in clarifying each of these versions and editing them into the work that we know as the Mishna. There are a number of different illnesses that directly affect the brain itself - aneurisms, meningitis, etc. Such diseases are likely to cause severe damage to brain function, to the extent that even total amnesia may result. Other diseases, too, may cause similar damage, even though they are not connected directly with the brain. Measles, for example, or whooping cough, can also cause brain damage. Such situations can cause damage to the sensory centers and even to thinking and recognition, which can bring about partial or total memory loss.
Nedarim 40a-b: Visiting the Sick, Part 2
04/12/2022 - 10th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Continuing with the discussion about bikur holim which began on yesterday's daf, our Gemara presents the teaching of Rav Sheisha brei d'Rav Idi that one should not visit an ill person during the first three hours of the day or the last three hours of the day - de-la leisah da'atei min rahamei - so that he will not be diverted from [praying for] mercy. This is explained by the Gemara as follows: during the first three hours of the day he feels better; the last three hours of the day, the illness becomes stronger. Generally speaking, body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, with relatively lower temperatures in the morning and the highest temperatures in the evening. These changes become more pronounced when someone is ill, particularly with an infectious disease, when temperatures can become markedly higher at night. Often times this rise in temperature indicates a strengthening of the illness. After a night of rest, however, we often find that the natural resistance of the body strengthens, although as the patient tires during the day, we can anticipate a relapse the following evening. Thus we find that it is not uncommon that during the morning hours the patient feels better and at night he feels worse. Most of the commentaries explain Rav Shesha brei d'Rav Idi's rule as stemming from a concern with prayer. During the morning hours when the patient feels better, a visitor may feel that there is no need to pray on the patient's behalf; during the evening hours when the patient's condition worsens, the visitor may feel that the ill person is beyond help and thus may not choose to pray. The Rambam, however, suggests that the rule is based on the time that the guest will (or will not) be in the way, since the morning and evening hours are the times that the family will naturally be tending to the patient.
Nedarim 39a-b: Visiting the Sick
03/12/2022 - 9th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Mishna (38b) discusses whether a person who has taken a vow not to derive benefit from another can sit or stand in the other person's presence if the other person is ill and he is fulfilling the mitzva of bikur holim. This leads our Gemara to discuss various aspects of this mitzva. The baraita teaches that there is no limit to bikur holim. Although Rav Yosef suggests that this means that there is no limit to the reward that a person gets for fulfilling the mitzva of visiting the sick, Abaye counters that this is true of all mitzvot. Rather, Abaye suggests that even a gadol (an adult or a great person) can visit a katan (a child or a lesser person); Rava teaches that it is appropriate for a person to visit his ill friend even 100 times a day. The point of this teaching, according to Abaye, is that even though we find that with regard to some mitzvot (returning lost objects, for example), if performance of the mitzva may cause embarrassment, one is not obligated in the mitzva, this is not the case regarding the mitzva of bikur holim. We never view visiting the sick as belittling the visitor. Rabbi Aha bar Hanina teaches that a person who visits an ill friend takes with him one-sixtieth of the illness. In response to the question, "In that case shouldn't we arrange for 60 people to visit every sick person?" Rabbi Aha explains that each subsequent visitor removes only one-sixtieth of what is left, so the illness cannot be eradicated by visitors. Furthermore, this would only be true if the visitor is ben gilo. The Maharsha suggests that the expression one-sixtieth is a somewhat generic term used in order to indicate "a very small amount," since in areas of halakha that amount is generally considered to be negligible. With regard to the definition of ben gilo, Rashi suggests that it means someone who is his age, while the Ran says that it is someone who was born under the same constellation. In the Midrash Vayikra Rabba it is presented as someone who "loves him like himself," which matches the interpretation offered by the Meiri - that it refers to someone whose visit lifts the spirit of the ill person because he is so happy to see him.
Nedarim 38a-b: Qualities of a Prophet
02/12/2022 - 8th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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What qualification does a person need to be a prophet? Our Gemara brings a statement taught by Rabbi Yohanan, who says that by using Moshe as an archetype we learn a prophet must be:
  • Gibor - mighty
  • Ashir - wealthy
  • Hakham - wise
  • Anav - humble
The Gemara then continues by quoting Biblical passages indicating that Moshe Rabbeinu had each one of these qualifications. The Ri"af points out that there is a clear source from Sefer Devarim (18:15) which alludes to the fact that all prophets are modeled after Moshe: navi mi-kirbekha me-ahekha kamoni yakim lekha HaShem - that God will establish a prophet from among the Jewish people who is "like me." The Rosh explains that this means that only someone with these qualities will receive permanent prophetic capabilities, but it does not preclude someone who lacks these qualities from receiving a single prophetic message, like Hagar (see Bereshit 21:17-19) or Lavan (see Bereshit 31:24). With regard to the qualifications themselves, the Rambam appears to interpret all of them within the context of spiritual qualities, i.e. the gibor is a person who can control his impulses and the ashir is a person who is satisfied with what he has. This approach follows the explanations presented by the Mishna in Pirkei Avot. The Ran disagrees and accepts the Gemara for its simple meaning, which is certainly the way the continuation of the Gemara reads. He explains that aside from the highly developed spiritual qualities that a prophet must have in order to communicate with God, he also must possess qualities that will encourage the populace to listen to his message. This requires him to have such qualities as wealth, strength, and, according to the Midrash (as well as one variant reading of our Gemara), physical height and presence (ba'al komah).
Nedarim 37a-b: Teaching Torah on Shabbat
01/12/2022 - 7th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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It is surprising to learn that teaching Torah on Shabbat should be restricted in any way. Nevertheless, our Gemara quotes a baraita according to which tinokot lo korim ba-tehilah be-Shabbat, ela shonim be-rishon - children should not be taught to read a new section on Shabbat, although they can review something that they have already learned. The typical method of teaching that was practiced in Talmudic times was that the teacher would teach a passage to his students and review it with them until they were able to read it on their own. They would also add explanations appropriate to the age of the student. After the children learned how the passage should be pronounced properly, together with its explanation, they would review it over and over again (shonim be-rishon, shonim ba-sheni) until they learned it by heart. Only then would they continue on to the next passage. We can well understand that the very first interaction with the passage was the most difficult one, while subsequent review sessions - even the very first one, i.e. shonim be-rishon - became easier and easier. Although Tosafot suggest that the reason to restrict an initial presentation of a lesson on Shabbat is because of a concern with oneg Shabbat - that the child will find the lesson tedious and will be upset on Shabbat - the simple understanding of the Gemara is that our concern is with payment: the salary that the teacher will be paid for his work on Shabbat. If the teacher is getting paid for teaching proper pronunciation of the pasuk, the main "work" is getting the student to grasp the basics of the passage - i.e. the first presentation - while subsequent repetition is merely review.  (There is another opinion that the teacher is getting paid more for his babysitting). Rashi suggests that the point of the baraita is to allow the first review, which is permissible and would not be considered to be payment for work on Shabbat, but certainly subsequent review would be permitted, as well.
Nedarim 36a-b: Mitzva Motivation
30/11/2022 - 6th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The commandment to bring a korban Pesah says, "seh le-beit avot" (see Shemot 12:3), which appears to mean that a single sacrifice is brought for every family. Nevertheless, Rabbi Zeira teaches that this does not mean that all family members, including small children, are automatically included in the sacrifice by the Torah. Our Gemara points to a Mishna in Massekhet Pesahim that supports this ruling. The Mishna (Pesahim 89a) teaches that when a father tells his children "I will slaughter the korban Pesah on behalf of whoever gets to Jerusalem first," the child who reaches the city first is credited with the sacrifice for himself, but his siblings are ultimately included as well. While it is clear from this Mishna that children are not automatically included, the Gemara questions how the other children can be included at all. The rule is that the only people who participate in a korban Pesah are those who had arranged to do so in advance. If the animal was already slaughtered for sacrifice, how can the children be included? The Gemara responds that in this case the father was simply trying to encourage his children to be enthusiastic and hurry to perform the mitzva. Tosafot and the Ran conclude from this discussion that children who are under bar and bat mitzva age are not obligated to participate in the korban Pesah, and none of the rules of the sacrifice apply to them. Thus, the rule that they need to arrange to be participants in this specific korban does not apply to them, and they can eat it even if they were not included. Some point out that the Gemara in Pesahim offers an alternative explanation for the Mishna; it suggests that the children under discussion are adult children who are obligated in the sacrifice. According to that approach, the father would certainly have needed to include his children in the sacrifice before it was slaughtered, and that he, in fact, did so. The suggestion is that the father did not disclose this to his children however, and in the interest of encouraging their enthusiasm, made them think that only the child who arrived in Jerusalem first would merit participation in the korban.
Nedarim 35a-b: Birth Control
29/11/2022 - 5th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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One of the basic sources in the Talmud that deals with issues of birth control appears on our daf. Rav Beivai taught a baraita before Rav Nahman. Three categories of women may use a mokh (an absorbent cloth) while engaged in marital relations - a minor, a pregnant woman and a nursing woman. The minor, because she might become pregnant and as a result might die. In Massekhet Yevamot (12b) Rav Beivai's explanation continues:
A pregnant woman may use a mokh because she might cause her fetus to degenerate into a sandal (a formless creature); and a nursing woman, because she might have to wean her child prematurely, which may result in its death. What is the age of such a minor? From the age of eleven years and one day until the age of twelve years and one day. One who is under or over this age must carry on her marital intercourse in the usual manner. This is the opinion of Rabbi Meir. The hakhamim say that all women should carry on marital intercourse in the usual manner, and heaven will have mercy on them (i.e. no harm will come to them), based on the passage that states (Tehillim116:6) "HaShem preserves the simple."
The rishonim differ as to how to understand this baraita and what its implications are for the halakha. According to Rashi, the discussion is whether a woman can insert a physical barrier into her vaginal canal as a means of birth control. Rabbi Meir's position is that a woman who has reason to fear that pregnancy will result in a danger to her or to her unborn child is permitted to do so, although it would be forbidden to other women. Tosafot and others reject Rashi's explanation, arguing that inserting a mokh during relations would be forbidden. They suggest that the mokh is an absorbent cloth that is inserted following sexual relations in an attempt to remove the semen. According to Rabbi Meir, a minor as well as a pregnant or nursing woman would be obligated to use this mokh in an attempt to keep a potentially dangerous pregnancy from developing (a method that is recognized today as being of limited use, if any), while other women would be permitted to do so.
Nedarim 34a-b: A Prohibited Loaf of Bread
28/11/2022 - 5th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Our Gemara relates that Rava received the following question about a neder, from Rav Hiyya bar Avin:
What is the law if a person says to his friend, "I forbid you from deriving any benefit from my loaf of bread," and then gives him that loaf as a present? Should we assume that the person who took the vow only meant to forbid the loaf of bread while it was his, and when he transferred it into his friend's possession, the effect of the vow was over, or should we say that the neder remains in effect throughout?
Rava responds that it is obvious to him that the loaf of bread remains forbidden. Several of the commentaries raise an obvious question. By definition, forbidding someone to benefit from an object that belongs to you should prohibit transferring ownership of the object to that person, since by taking possession of it he is clearly deriving benefit from it. In his Keren Ora, Rabbi Yitzhak mi-Karlin explains that the simple interpretation of forbidding benefit from a loaf of bread is that it becomes prohibited to eat. Therefore the Gemara takes for granted that the loaf can be given as a present to the person about whom the neder was made. The discussion in the Gemara is whether the prohibition against eating the loaf remains in force even after the bread has been transferred out of the possession of the person who took the neder and into the possession of the person about whom the neder was made. Rabbi Avraham min HaHar suggests that the continuation of the Gemara effectively deals with this question. The Gemara raises the question of whether the loaf of bread would remain forbidden if it had been stolen by another and was no longer in the possession of the original owner - the implication being that if such a transfer of ownership would effectively permit the loaf, perhaps receiving it as a present would accomplish that, as well.
Nedarim 33a-b: Benefits Related to Food
27/11/2022 - 4th of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Many nedarim are made as reactions to arguments between people, when the person taking the vows wants to punish his friend, or influence him to change his behavior. Forbidding his friend from deriving benefit from him is an expression of his attempt to accomplish this. In creating such a neder, the person who takes such a vow has one of two options
  • He can forbid his friend from benefiting from him in any way;
  • He can forbid his friend from deriving any benefit related to food or eating.
These are the issues that the fourth perek of Massekhet Nedarim focuses on. The first Mishna (32b) discusses the differences that exist between forbidding food and forbidding all types of benefit. According to the Mishna, someone who forbids food also becomes limited from lending his friend utensils in which food can be prepared, like a sieve or sifter, a mill-stone or an oven. The Gemara on our daf questions why such utensils should be forbidden, since they are not food in-and-of themselves, and the amoraim suggest that the language of the neder apparently included more than just food. Rava suggests that the neder must have been stated in such a way that any benefit that could lead to eating was forbidden. Reish Lakish suggests that this neder forbade benefiting "from your food" which he understands to include a broader list of prohibitions. The Gemara rejects Reish Lakish's approach, arguing that such a statement may mean benefiting from food in a different way - that he is forbidding even a situation of chewing food, such as someone who chews wheat kernels for the purpose of putting them on a wound. Chewed wheat kernels that are placed on the skin create a sort of bandage, whose outer layer hardens and acts as a protective element that keeps the wound clean. It also appears that some of the chemicals in wheat (like Vitamin E), combined with saliva help heal the wound while protecting it from infection.
Nedarim 32a-b: The Mitzva of Milah
26/11/2022 - 3rd of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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Perhaps the most universally accepted commandment in the Jewish community is the mitzva of brit milah - circumcision. Our Gemara brings a number of explanations of this phenomenon, quoting Sages that suggest that brit milah is equated with all of the other mitzvot (based on Shemot 34:27) or that the world exists only because of the merit of this covenant (based on Yirmiyahu 33:25). Two other Sages that comment on the uniqueness of the mitzva of milah are:
  1. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi who points to the biblical Abraham who followed all of the commandments of God, yet is called tamim - pure or perfect - only after his circumcision (see Bereshit 17:1), and
  2. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korha who points to the strange malon story (see Shemot 4:24-26) where it appears that for all of his merits, Moshe is to be killed because he was lax in fulfilling the commandment of milah on his own son.
Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi disagrees with the approach put forward by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korha, arguing that it impossible to suggest that Moshe would have avoided performing this mitzva. He suggests that Moshe deserved punishment mipnei she-nitasek ba-malon tehilah - because he first took care of the lodging arrangements. This explanation also appears in the Talmud Yerushalmi which says that he was punished because he did not immediately tend to the milah and concerned himself with the physical concerns of his hotel arrangements. Some of the commentaries point out that this approach apparently does not accept the story that is related in a number of midrashim, which tell of a promise made by Moshe to his father-in-law, Yitro, the High Priest of Midian, agreeing that his first-born would not receive a brit, because were that the case then Moshe should have been punished for his willingness to accept an agreement that rejects milah entirely, and not for the relatively small matter of postponing it while traveling.
Nedarim 31a-b: Those Who Rest on Shabbat
25/11/2022 - 2nd of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Mishna teaches that someone who vows not to benefit from people who rest on Shabbat cannot derive benefit from Jews or from Kutim. The term Kutim refers to the nations (not all of whom were truly Kutim, as there were people from other nations, as well) that were exiled to the Land of Israel by the kings of Assyria who were interested in populating the land after they had removed the Israelite people from it. According to Sefer Melakhim (see II Melakhim, chapter 17), these nations converted to Judaism because of their fear of lions that had begun attacking them (from which derives the term gerei arayot - "lion converts"), but they continued worshiping their gods at the same time. Upon the return of the Jews to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, decedents of the Kutim, were active in trying to keep the returnees from rebuilding the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Even so, there were families - including members of the kohanim - who intermarried with the Samaritans. During the following years there were continued tensions between the two communities, and Yohanan Hyrcanus led his troops into battle against the Samaritans and destroyed the temple that they had built on Har Gerizim. Nevertheless, there were also periods of cooperation, such as the period of the Bar Kokheva rebellion. As is clear in our Gemara, the attitude of the Sages towards them differed, although after a period of time a final conclusion was reached and they were ruled to be treated as non-Jews, due to their continued involvement with different types of idol worship. It is important to note that the Gemara in Yevamot concludes that while a beit din should not accept potential converts whose reason for converting is anything other than a sincere desire to join the Jewish People, nevertheless, if such a person does undergo a full conversion process they are considered Jewish according to halakha. It is possible that the Kutim did not fall into that category because they continued with their idolatrous practices even at the moment of their conversion. Nevertheless, today, the Samaritans living in Israel are no longer idol worshipers, and there has been some level of acceptance of them into the larger Jewish community.
Nedarim 30a-b: Those With Dark Heads
24/11/2022 - 1st of Kislev, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Mishnayot in our perek offer a list of common expressions that are to be understood according to their accepted meaning. For example, someone who says "I vow not to benefit from anyone who lives on dry land (yoshvei yabashah)" is understood to mean that he will derive no benefit from anyone - even if they are professional sailors whose home is on the sea - since every human being is considered a land dweller. If he says, "I vow not to benefit from anyone who the sun sees (ro'ei ha-hamah)" he cannot derive benefit even from blind people, because they, too are seen by the sun. One interesting case is where a person vows not to benefit from people with dark heads (shehorei harosh) which is understood to obligate him to avoid benefiting from men (even if they are bald or white haired), but permits him to benefit from women and children. The Gemara explains that the term is understood as referring specifically to men because women always keep their hair covered and children never keep their hair covered. Men, who sometimes cover their hair and sometimes do not, are the ones who fit into this category. What is clear about this expression is that this is not an actual description of a group of people, but a general expression that refers to men. In fact, we find in early Babylonian literature that the term shehorei harosh was a popular colorful expression that meant "males." It is likely that usage was borrowed in other neighboring cultures and languages, as well. The fact that the Gemara mentions in passing that men sometimes keep their hair covered and sometimes do not would appear to support the position of those who believe (like the Gra, the Maharshal and others) that Jewish men are not obligated to cover their heads, and do so for reasons of tradition, not for reasons of halakha. Others argue that this Gemara is not a proof for that position, since the Gemara can be understood as saying that men do not cover their hair completely, in contrast to women for whom complete hair covering is viewed as laudatory if not obligatory.
Nedarim 29a-b: A Transfer to God
23/11/2022 - 29th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
According to Jewish law, transfer of ownership requires a kinyan. Such kinyanim are often representative in nature, for example when money is exchanged or the object is handed over, or symbolic in nature such as a kinyan halipin where a different object is handed from one party to the other, symbolizing the transfer. What is clear, however, is that a simple verbal agreement without a formal kinyan will not effect the transfer. Our Gemara introduced us to the idea that amirato la-gavoha ke-mesirato le-hedyot - a verbal statement giving something to God is the equivalent of actual transfer in ordinary cases. In other words, when consecrating something to the Temple, once a person states clearly that a given object is to be donated, the transfer of ownership has taken place and cannot be rescinded. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains this rule based on the passage la-Shem ha-aretz u-melo'ah - the entire world and all that it contains belongs to God. Thus when a person makes a statement that a particular object is to be transferred into His possession, it is as though He can take possession of it immediately, wherever it may be found. The Meiri illustrates the concept by suggesting that it is conceptually a kinyan hatzer - an act of possession that takes place when an object comes into my yard and I desire to own it. Since the entire world is God's "backyard" it moves into His possession immediately. The Rosh offers a different approach, comparing the verbal statement handing something over to God to a neder which takes effect simply by force of an oral commitment. This approach is helpful to understand the position of those who apply the rule amirato la-gavoha ke-mesirato le-hedyot not only to objects consecrated to the Temple, but to general situations of charity, as well.
Nedarim 28a-b: The Tax Collector
22/11/2022 - 28th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna (27b) teaches that there are cases where a person can take a neder in order to protect his interests, and the halakha recognizes that this vow was taken in order to deceive and is not a true neder. The specific cases in the Mishna are situations where a person takes a vow that the merchandise in his possession is teruma or belongs to the king. This is done in order to keep haragin (people who may kill you and take your money), haramin (robbers) and mokhsin (tax collectors) from taking valuables from them. With regard to tax collectors, our Gemara points to Shmuel's ruling that dina d'malkhuta dina - that we must follow the rules of the government - and questions how the Mishna can accept that a person may lie to avoid paying taxes. Two answers are suggested by the Gemara:
  1. Shmuel is quoted by Rav Hinnana in the name of Rav Kahana that this is only true in the case of a tax collector who does not follow the rule of law, but takes as much as he sees fit.
  2. Rabbi Yannai suggests that our Mishna is talking about a self-appointed tax collector, who is not operating with government approval.
The situation of a mokhes - a tax collector - was different in Talmudic times than it is today. In those days (and in some places this was true until fairly recently) the right to collect taxes was leased by the government to individuals who would then collect taxes in the name of the government. The individual who purchased this right from the government would then assign others to collect the taxes and pay him a percentage of the receipts. There was a lot of room for cheating and dishonesty given the situation was that tax collection was a business, and the more that was collected, the more profit was made. Thus, the mokhes could choose to forgive the debts of his friends and relatives entirely, choosing to collect more than was appropriate from those people with whom he did not have a relationship. It is for this reason that the Talmud often presents the mokhes as equivalent to a robber.
Nedarim 27a-b: Circumstances Beyond One's Control
21/11/2022 - 27th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna on our daf deals with the case of nidrei onasin, which, as we learned (on daf 21) do not need to be annulled. The example suggested by the Mishna is a case where a person makes a neder obligating someone to come and join him in a meal, but then the invited guest or one of his children becomes ill or cannot cross the river to attend the meal. Rava explains that this ruling is based on a general principle of the Talmud called anoos rahamana petarei - someone who cannot perform an obligation for reasons that are beyond his control is exempted by God. Our Gemara points out, however, that there are other cases of onasin in which we do not apply the rule of anoos rahamana petarei. An example is the case of a conditional divorce in which a man writes a get to his wife that says, "This will be your bill of divorce if I do not return within 30 days" and at the end of the 30 days the husband is stranded on the wrong side of the river with no ferry to take him across. Even though he is shouting, "I have arrived! I have arrived!" we do not consider him to have come back and the divorce goes into effect. The Gemara explains that being stranded on the wrong side of the river with no available ferry to take him across was an ones that should have been anticipated and made part of the conditions of the divorce. Since it was not done that way, we do not consider it to be a true ones. The ferry to which the Gemara refers here is called a ma'abera - a small boat or raft that took people across the river. Such ferries usually made several crossings every day, with a group of people each time. Generally speaking, it was not worthwhile for the owner of the ferry to cross the river with just one passenger, and people needed to wait until the boat filled up before it would set sail. When the rivers were wide and deep - as was the case in Babylon - there was no other way to cross the river aside from these ferries, and if the boat was on the opposite bank of the river it may have even been possible that the boat's captain would not realize that someone was waiting on the other side of the river for him. Thus, problems of crossing the river should have been taken into account by someone who made a condition to return by a certain time.
Nedarim 26a-b: Dangerous Onions
20/11/2022 - 26th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
One example of nidrei shegagot that do not need to be annulled (see daf 21) is someone who says "I take a neder to refrain from eating onions, since onions are bad for the heart." Upon being informed that one type of onion - batzal kuferi - are good for the heart, the person will be permitted to eat all types of onions. The potential danger involved in eating onions is described by the Gemara in Eiruvin (see Eiruvin daf 29) as relating to the leaves of the onion, which are potentially dangerous and cannot be used. In that Gemara a baraita is brought which teaches that onions should not be eaten because of "the snake that is in it." The baraita continues with a story that Rabbi Hanina ate half an onion with half of the "snake" that was in it and became ill to the extent that he was close to death. His peers then prayed on his behalf and he recovered, since the generation needed his teaching and leadership. The "snake" that the Gemara understands to be the danger lurking in the onion is subject to much speculation. The Ritva suggests that it is a worm that is found in the leaves of the onion that is potentially lethal. According to most traditions, however, it refers to a sprouting onion, which looks very much like a snake. It is difficult to come to a clear conclusion regarding the Gemara's contention that eating onions generally, or their leaves specifically, presents a danger, since experience shows that onions are eaten with no ill effects. Nevertheless, onions contain the oil compound Allyl propyl disulfide (C3H5S2C3H7). Ingestion of even relatively small amounts of raw onions can, theoretically, cause toxicity that affects hemoglobin - the protein in red blood cells that carries iron, which binds to oxygen, which is carried through our bodies. People with specific sensitivity may even be in danger of death.
Nedarim 25a-b: Rava's Cane
19/11/2022 - 25th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
One of the things that the Sages demanded of someone taking an oath is that they must mean what they say. The person is told that his statement must conform to the simple meaning of the words that he says without any secret meanings or intentions. This was done in order to avoid situations like the one the Gemara calls kanya d'Rava - Rava's cane. Two people were arguing. One claimed that he had lent money to the other; the second one claimed that the loan had been repaid. Rava ruled that the borrower had to swear that he had repaid the money. The borrower went home, hollowed out a stick, and placed all of the money that he owed into the stick. He returned to the courtroom leaning on the hollow cane and volunteered to hold a Sefer Torah and swear that the money had been returned. He asked the lender to hold the cane, ostensibly so that he could hold the Torah. Taking the Torah in his hand he said, "I have returned all of the money that I borrowed from this man; he now has them in his possession." The lender - knowing that this claim was untrue - became angry and in his anger broke the cane that was in his hand. It then became clear that the oath taken by the borrower was technically true, even though it was an attempt at trickery. The Ge'onim explain that only in the case of an oath that is required by the Torah would a person hold the Torah in his hands while swearing; in cases where the oath is Rabbinic in nature, there is no need to hold a Torah. Thus, in our case, it would appear that there was no real need for the borrower to hold a Torah while swearing (someone who is a kofer ba-kol - one who denies that he owes anything - is only obligated to swear on a Rabbinic level). The Meiri explains simply that although he was not personally obligated to hold a Sefer Torah in his hands, he wanted to do so, since he needed an excuse to hand the walking stick to the lender.
Nedarim 24a-b: Vows of Exaggeration
18/11/2022 - 24th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We learned previously on daf 21 that there are four types of vows that are not seen as taking effect at all. One example was nidrei havai - vows of exaggeration. The Mishna on our daf offers two examples of nidrei havai:
  • Saying, "If I did not see on this road as many people as those who ascended from Egypt."
  • Saying, "If I did not see a snake as large as the beam of an olive press."
One approach to these cases is that they are two examples of expressions that are hyperbole to demonstrate a point, and are understood not to be taken literally. According to this approach, Tosafot explain that such utterances will only be considered to be nidrei havai if the person actually did see something that he then refers to in an exaggerated manner. If, however, he did not see anything, the neder will be considered to be a full, proper vow. This explanation helps us understand why the Gemara does not bring a case that is discussed in Massekhet Shevuot - that if a person claims to have seen a flying camel it is considered to be a shevu'at shav, or an oath taken for no purpose. Since such a case is impossible, it would not be classified as nidrei havai. Another approach is presented by the Ran, who understands that the two cases presented by the Gemara are actually two separate rules. One is the case of an exaggeration, but the second - as is explained by the Gemara - is a total falsehood. Nevertheless, the Gemara also refers to this case as nidrei havai. This image was taken from the Hebrew edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, page 108. The case of an olive press pole is where one end of a large, heavy pole is placed in a hole in a wall above a basket of olives and weighted down on the other side in such a way that it presses down on them. The olive oil that is squeezed out is collected in a hole in the ground or in special utensils prepared for it. The image of an olive press pole was taken from the Hebrew edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, page 108.
Nedarim 23a-b: Rendering Vows Void
17/11/2022 - 23rd of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Our Gemara teaches that a person who does not want his nedarim to take effect throughout the year should stand on Rosh HaShana and declare "all vows that I take this year should be null and void." The Rosh explains that there is nothing special about Rosh HaShana in this regard; this declaration can be made any day of the year. The Gemara mentions Rosh HaShana simply as a specific day on which this could be done with intent for the upcoming year. Many argue that this Gemara is the source for the tradition of saying the Kol Nidrei prayer - in which we request that all of our vows be annulled - at the beginning of Yom Kippur. The fact that we say it on Yom Kippur rather than Rosh HaShana is not of great significance, given that we have already established that Rosh HaShana was suggested by the Gemara simply as an example. Therefore, Yom Kippur, when all Jews traditionally come to the synagogue, is the most appropriate day to recite this publicly. Furthermore, a day set aside for atonement and forgiveness would seem to be a good day for such a prayer, particularly in light of the fact that Yom Kippur is referred to by the prophet Yehezkel as Rosh HaShana (see Yehezkel 40:1). The efficacy of this tradition is discussed by the various commentaries. The Ge'onim generally reject the idea of a blanket hatarat nedarim (annulment of vows) and did not practice this in their communities. Rav Hai Ga'on suggests that rather than a request for annulment, the congregation should recite the prayer as a request for forgiveness for all those who transgressed vows they had taken. Nevertheless, many follow the position of Rabbeinu Tam, who accepts the ruling of the Gemara as stated and permits a person to make a condition that all vows made during the upcoming year should be declared void. The declaration is made in a public forum in order to make the matter known to all.
Nedarim 22a-b: Opening One's Record Book
16/11/2022 - 22nd of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
One of the methods that a sage makes use of when working with someone who wants to have his neder annulled is called haratah - regret. The sage may point out unintended consequences of the vow and ask the person whether he would have taken the vow had he realized that this is what would develop from it. Responding in the affirmative - i.e. stating that he never would have made such a neder had he realized that - allows the sage to permit the neder. The Gemara relates a series of cases where this was done. One example of such a situation is the story of Rabbi Yannai Sabba's grandson who approached his grandfather and asked him to annul his vow. Rabbi Yannai Sabba asked him whether he would have taken a neder had he realized that his pinekas - in heaven - would be opened. The grandson replied that he would not have done so, and Rabbi Yannai Sabba permitted the neder. According to the Rosh, the concern that the pinkas of a person who made a vow would be opened (i.e., his actions examined) stems from the fact that he violated the advice of the Sages who discouraged taking vows in general. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains it as a criticism that a person is looking to add more prohibitions to himself than are required by the Torah, for are not the Torah 's prohibitions sufficient? The Midrash Tanhuma claims that even Ya'akov Avinu was punished for taking a neder, and that the incident with Dina and Shekhem was the result of his vow.
Nedarim 21a-b: Vows That Do Not Require Dissolution
15/11/2022 - 21st of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In order for a neder to take effect, the individual who is taking the vow must have true intent, and a vow that is uttered without meaning does not obligate the person who made it. Nevertheless, a person cannot simply claim that he did not mean what he said; we always work with the assumption that what a person said is what he meant. Still, the Sages of the Talmud teach that there are some instances where it is clear to all that the person making the neder did not really mean to obligate himself, and in such cases the person is not obligated to keep his word - his vow notwithstanding. The third perek of Massekhet Nedarim opens with a discussion of such cases, which are defined by the Mishna as including four separate types:
  1. nidrei ziruzin - vows made to encourage someone to agree with him (vows of exhortation)
  2. nidrei havai - vows of exaggeration
  3. nidrei shegagot - vows that are unintentional
  4. nidrei onasin - vows that will remain unfulfilled for reasons that are out of the individual's control
Our Gemara brings the opinion of Rav Yehuda quoting Rav Ashi, who requires that a person who made one of these types of nedarim to approach a hakham and ask that he be released from his vow. Shmuel strongly objects to that suggestion, arguing that the Mishna clearly presents these vows as being permitted by the Sages, so it is impossible that they require she'elat hakham - the permission of a rabbi. Some of the commentaries explain Rav Yehuda's position as requiring a pro forma visit to a rabbi to arrange for the vow to be annulled, but in this case the rabbi will not have to make inquiries in order to find a way to permit the neder, since the circumstances themselves indicate that the neder does not stand. Others explain that on a biblical level there is no need to end the neder, but Rav Yehuda believes that there is a rabbinic requirement to do so. The Ritva argues that even Rav Yehuda only required this of amei ha'aretz - unlearned people - who we want to discourage from taking vows lightly.
Nedarim 20a-b: Proper Marital Behavior
14/11/2022 - 20th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Our Gemara begins by discussing the difficulties caused by taking nedarim lightly and segues to a discussion of other things that must be taken seriously. Several of the issues discussed have to do with appropriate behavior when men interact with women, including a discussion of propriety during marital intercourse. the Gemara quotes Rabbi Yohanan, who teaches that the cases mentioned below are a da'at yahid - they only are the view of Rabbi Yohanan ben Dehavai:
Rabbi Yohanan ben Dehavai said: The Ministering Angels told me four things: People are born lame because their parents "overturned their table" [i.e., practiced unnatural cohabitation]; dumb, because they kiss "that place"; deaf, because they converse during relations; blind, because they gaze at "that place".
Rabbi Yohanan ben Dehavai's views notwithstanding, the Sages rule that the halakha does not follow Rabbi Yohanan ben Dehavai, rather a man may do whatever he pleases with his wife during sexual relations. The Gemara continues by quoting Ameimar, who said:
Who are the 'Ministering Angels'? The Rabbis. For if we understand it literally, why did Rabbi Yohanan say that the halakha does not follow Rabbi Yohanan ben Dehavai, given that the angels know more about the formation of the fetus than do we? And why are they designated 'Ministering Angels'? - Because they are as distinguished as they.
According to some opinions, Talmud scholars are considered as distinguished as angels because they wore unique clothing that made them stand out from the rest of the people. Such clothing was popular amongst the scholars of Bavel, but was not worn in Israel. According to Rashi, the scholars were distinguished in that they wore a tallit with tzitzit at all times. This clothing was the clothing of the angels, as is clear from Sefer Daniel, where the angel is referred to as ha-ish lavush ha-badim - the man clothed in linen (see Daniel 12:7).
Nedarim 19a-b: Kosher Grasshoppers
13/11/2022 - 19th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As a tangent to a different discussion the Gemara brings a baraita that quotes Yosei ben Yo'ezer as ruling that an eil kamtza is kosher. An eil kamtza is a type of grasshopper. The expression eil kamtza - a "grasshopper ram" - probably refers to the fact that this particular type of grasshopper had a head and antennae that appeared similar to ram's horns. In many languages we find that beetles and insects are called by names of larger animals, for example, the Hebrew word for a ladybug is parat Moshe Rabbeinu - Moses' Cow. Many researchers identify the eil kamtza as the slant-faced grasshopper, which has antennae that are shaped like horns. The Torah lists a number of grasshoppers that are tahor - they are kosher and permissible to eat (see Vayikra 11:21-22). Since the Torah not only offers bodily indications of kashrut, but also gives the names of the grasshoppers that are kosher, the Sages insisted that grasshoppers could only be identified as kosher if there were additional signs that they fell into a kosher category. In many cases there was also an existing tradition with regard to their status. From its description in the Talmud, it appears that the eil kamtza had a different appearance than other kosher grasshoppers, which is why there was a specific need for testimony that would establish its kashrut. Yosei ben Yo'ezer ish Tzereida was the first head of the pairs of scholars who are mentioned at the beginning of Massekhet Avot, a student of Antigonos ish Sokho. At that time, scholars were not given titles and were simply called by their names. According to the Talmud, Yosei ben Yo'ezer, who was a kohen, lived during the period when the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem was made up of Hellenists. He was put to death by his nephew Elkius, who was an evil kohen, and died a martyr's death. He was known as the hasid she-bakehunah - the righteous among the priests - because he was particularly strict about issues of ritual purity. It was he who instituted the Rabbinic ordinance declaring the lands of the Diaspora to be considered ritually defiled. Although he was known for his strict positions in this area of halakha, in other fields he was known to be lenient, so much so that he is sometimes referred to Yosei Sharya - "Yosei, the one who permits."
Nedarim 18a-b: When In Doubt
12/11/2022 - 18th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
When discussing nedarim, how clear does a statement need to be in order for a person to become obligated in it? What if the statement that is made can be interpreted in more than one way? Although our Mishna rules that stam nedarim le-hahmir - that we will be stringent with regard to the interpretation of vows - the Gemara quotes a Mishna that states sfeik nezirut le-hakel, seemingly indicating that regarding the laws of a nazir we will tend towards leniency. Since we have learned that nezirut is a type of neder, how are we to understand this contradiction? Rabbi Zeira responds by presenting a baraita that shows a disagreement between tannaim in situations of doubt, and argues that our Mishna and the Mishna about the nazir have two different authors. What if a person sanctifies all of his domestic and wild animals - does this include a koy or not? The Tanna Kamma rules that it does (i.e. he interprets the statement to include unclear situations), but Rabbi Eliezer rules that it does not. Identifying the koy is a difficult task. Even though it is mentioned many times in the Mishna and Talmudic literature, that is not because it is a common animal, rather because its status between a wild and domesticated animal allows it to be a test case for many halakhot. The disagreement as to its identification began in the time of the Mishna, when some of the Sages argued that it is the offspring of a deer or similar animal with a goat. Others claim that it is a unique type of animal - an Ayal HaBar. mouflonThe Ayal HaBar can be identified with the mouflon sheep, which, according to many, is the forerunner of domesticated sheep. It is distinguished by its short hair and grey color; a nimble climber, it lives in mountainous regions, today mainly in uninhabited areas in Europe. It is likely that the clear similarities between a koy and a sheep, together with its being a wild animal, led to the Sages' confusion about its classification. Its name - koy - and even the pronunciation of the name, are themselves the subject of disagreement.
Nedarim 17a-b: A Vow Within a Vow
11/11/2022 - 17th of Cheshvan, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Another difference between nedarim and shevuot is whether you can make two nedarim or two shevuot on the same thing. The Mishna on our daf  teaches that this cannot be done in the case of shevuot, but it can take place in the case of nedarim. The example presented by the Mishna is a person who says, "If I eat I will become a nazir," and then repeats the same statement a second time. In such a case of a vow within a vow, once the person eats he is obligated in nezirut twice. There are two approaches to this rule about neder. Tosafot, the Ran and others argue that it is only in the case of nazir that a neder will take effect twice. In other cases, once a person has declared an object to be forbidden it cannot become "more forbidden" by the person's statement. According to this approach, the unique status of nezirut stems from a gezeirat ha-katuv - a passage in the Torah - nazir le-hazir, which is understood by the Gemara to teach this law. Furthermore, nazir is unique in that the two obligations of nezirut will take effect one after another, unlike ordinary cases of neder where the prohibition would need to affect the object twice in the same way. The Ritva and Rabbi Avraham min HaHar follow the Rambam in arguing that the Mishna means that all cases of neder have this rule. Therefore, if a person states two times that a given object is forbidden to him as a neder - and then eats it - he will be liable for two sets of punishment for breaking his word. This works because of the parallel between neder and korban, which we have noted in the past. Just as a person can obligate himself to bring repeated sacrifices similarly when he says, "This object is to me like a korban," it will take effect more than once. The Ritva explains that the Mishna chose the example of nezirut not because of its unique status, but because the source for this law - the repetition of the words nazir le-hazir - appears in that specific case.
Nedarim 16a-b: A Vow to Abrogate a Mitzva
10/11/2022 - 16th of Cheshvan, 5783
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In continuing our discussion of the differences between a neder and a shevua, the Mishna teaches that nedarim can take effect on mitzvot while shevuot cannot. The example given by the Gemara is that a person who forbids on himself a sukka, a lulav or tefillin will be obligated to fulfill his neder even if he can no longer perform these commandments. If he takes an oath that he will not perform these mitzvot, however, he is still obligated to do them, since ein nishba'im la'avor al ha-mitzvot - a person cannot take an oath to abrogate a mitzva. The explanation offered by Abaye as to why a person can take a neder not to do mitzvot, even as he cannot make a shevua not to do them, fits in with the ideas that we have already learned with regard to these laws. Abayye teaches that the neder - which works - has the man saying "the pleasure derived from sitting in the sukka is forbidden to me," while the shevua - which does not work - has him saying "I swear that I will derive no pleasure from the sukka." Since the Torah commands every man to sit in a sukka, the oath that a man takes to refrain from doing - which aims to create a prohibition on the person - contradicts the Torah's command. This stands in contrast with the person who creates a prohibition on the object - the sukka - which is not an object of mitzva in and of itself. The Talmud Yerushalmi suggests that the difference stems from the foundations of nedarim in the world of kodashim. As we have learned, nedarim are ordinarily expressed in language where the person compares the object of the vow to a holy object, for example, "this meat should be to me like a sacrifice". Just as a sacrifice is forbidden, so this meat becomes forbidden by means of the neder. In our case, since kodashim can take effect on any object - even on objects of a mitzva - similarly nedarim have the power to do so.
Nedarim 15a-b: A Vow Not To Sleep
09/11/2022 - 15th of Cheshvan, 5783
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We have already noted the basic difference between a neder and a shevua that is commented on by the Gemara. While a neder acts on an object (e.g. a person declares that meat is forbidden to him), a shevua acts on the person (e.g. he accepts upon himself a prohibition that will keep him from eating meat). When examining the case of the Mishna (14b) where someone who takes a neder that he will not sleep is understood to be obligated by this pronouncement, the Gemara objects that "sleep" is not an object, and it can only become forbidden by means of a shevua (which will create a prohibition on the person keeping him from sleeping). In response, the Gemara offers the possibility of taking a neder forbidding one's eyes from closing with sleep. In this case, since the neder is made on a specific object (his eyes) the neder will take effect. Still the Gemara points out another difficulty with a vow against sleeping. If the person did not state a specific amount of time that he will not sleep, we know that Rabbi Yohanan teaches with regard to shevuot that a person who takes an oath not to sleep for three days is understood to have taken a false shevua - since it is impossible to go without sleep for 72 hours. Therefore, rather than forcing him to attempt the impossible we punish him immediately (for having made a false shevua) and allow him to sleep whenever he wants. Thus the Gemara is forced to offer an alternative case of neder, where the person in fact did limit the amount of time that he would keep his eyes from sleeping. In theory it is possible for a person to go without sleep for a period of three days if he is constantly prodded and woken by others whenever he begins to doze off. Nevertheless, withholding sleep from someone for that length of time will likely cause long-term physical and psychological damage, which the Talmudic Sages could not condone.
Nedarim 14a-b: A Vow in the Name of the Torah
08/11/2022 - 14th of Cheshvan, 5783
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Our Gemara examines the case of someone who is noder ba-Torah - he makes a vow in the name of the Torah - which is not considered to be a vow. If, however, his vow is made on "what is written in the Torah," then his vow is accepted as a legitimate one. The Ra'avad accepts this Gemara at face value and understands that the discussion is about a neder that is expressed in language that forbids something "the way the Torah is forbidden." Most commentaries (the Rosh and the Ran, for example) argue that the discussion in this case is really about shevuot rather than nedarim. Their argument is that the Torah is not forbidden, so such a vow would make no sense. What we have here is an example of someone who is saying "I swear by the Torah" or "I swear by what is written in the Torah." In a case where a person makes his vow or takes his oath by saying "in the Torah and what is written in it" the Gemara teaches that there is still room to distinguish between a situation where a person is understood to be referring to the physical scroll itself, and where he is referring to the azkarot - the names of God - that are written in it. Here, too, the Ra'avad understands that the person is making a vow in which he compares an object to the names of God that are written in the Torah. Just like the ink is turned into something that is holy - and forbidden - by the act of writing, similarly the object that I am forbidding by means of my vow will become prohibited to me. Most of the other rishonim disagree, arguing that all of the words written in the Torah are considered to have kedushah - holiness - attached to them, and there is no need to specify that it is the azkarot that are being referred to in the vow. Furthermore, the Rashba points out that once written upon, the parchment that makes up the scroll of the Torah is kadosh, as well. Although the Rashba does suggest that the Ra'avad's intention may be that the parchment does not have inherent kedushah, rather that its holiness only derives from the words written on it, the approach of the rishonim in general is to understand that our Gemara is discussing a shevua - an oath - and that the reference to azkarot means that the person is swearing in God's name, which would certainly create a legitimate oath that must be kept.
Nedarim 13a-b: Vows and Oaths
07/11/2022 - 13th of Cheshvan, 5783
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Our Gemara quotes a baraita that compares and contrasts a neder and a shevua. According to the baraita, each of them has a strength that the other does not possess. Specifically, nedarim can be made on mitzvot, as well as on things that are permissible, while shevuot are limited and can be made only on permissible things. On the other hand, shevuot can take effect even on things that have no physical characteristics (davar she-en bo mamash) while nedarim can only take effect on things that have physical characteristics (davar she-yesh bo mamash). Many of the rishonim explain that shevuot can take effect even on a davar she-en bo mamash because a shevua is accepted by the person on himself - the terminology that is used is harei alay ("I accept upon myself"), rather than the wording of a neder, which is harei zo ("That thing should be forbidden") - and the person himself is a davar she-yesh bo mamash. The Ritva suggests a more basic approach, which we have already encountered (see Massekhet Nedarim, daf 2). In a neder, the statement made by the person takes effect on the object - e.g., when a person takes a vow not to eat a certain food, the food is now forbidden. A shevua, on the other hand, takes effect on the person, so that now there is a prohibition on the person to eat the food. It is the difference between an issur heftza - a prohibition on the object - and an issur gavra - a prohibition on the person. In our Gemara, the difficulty is how to understand the Mishna which appears to permit a person to make a neder forbidding him to speak to someone, to help him or to walk with him. Given the fact that a neder must take effect on a davar she-yesh bo mamash, how are we to understand these rulings? Rav Yehuda explains that we must interpret his statement as meaning that he forbids his mouth to speak, his hands to support and his legs to walk. Thus the neder applies to specific parts of the body rather than to the activities.
Nedarim 12a-b: A Vow to Fast
06/11/2022 - 12th of Cheshvan, 5783
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One of the basic rules when making nedarim is that the prohibition that is being created should be compared to another davar ha-nadur - something else whose prohibition stems from a vow. Thus, the classic neder has a person saying "this food is forbidden to me like a sacrifice." Our Gemara teaches that a vow can be made by a person who says "I will not eat meat or drink wine, just like the day that my father died," or, "...just like the day that Gedaliah ben Ahikam was killed," or "...just like the day that I saw Jerusalem destroyed." Shmuel clarifies that this is true if the person took a personal vow not to eat or drink on those particular days. With regard to fasting on a yahrtzeit we find that the Rema in the Shulhan Arukh Yoreh De'ah (402:1) rules that it is a mitzva to fast on such a day, and it is clear that this was a common custom in many countries (see the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 668:8). Even though it was not an obligatory fast, nevertheless the tradition was to be even more careful with regard to a yahrtzeit fast than for minor communal fasts (like Ta'anit Ester, for example). In modern times this tradition has become less prevalent, but a person who does accept it upon himself has taken on a vow of sorts and will be obligated to keep it. Similarly, the Shulhan Arukh rules that it is a mitzva to fast on the anniversary of the day that one's primary teacher (rabbo muvhak) passed away. The day that Gedaliah ben Ahikam was killed is commemorated as a communal fast on the 3rd day of Tishrei. Still, it is viewed as a davar ha-nadur if a person accepted upon himself to refrain from eating on that day. The Rashba and Ran explain that this is because the communal fast is Rabbinic in origin, while a personal vow can create a Biblical obligation, which is a stronger prohibition.
Nedarim 11a-b: Considered Like Jerusalem
05/11/2022 - 12th of Cheshvan, 5783
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The Mishna (10b) lists as examples a number of expressions that are considered to be statements of a vow. Among them is someone who says "this object should be like Jerusalem (ke-Yerushalayim)," because we consider that to be equivalent to saying that the object should be forbidden, like a sacrifice. The Mishna closes with the statement of Rabbi Yehuda that saying just "Jerusalem" will not be considered a vow. The Gemara offers two approaches to understanding Rabbi Yehuda's position. One possibility is that the entire Mishna is the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, who believes that saying ke-Yerushalayim creates a neder, even though saying just Yerushalayim will not be a neder. The other possibility is that Rabbi Yehuda does not think that Yerushalayim is a meaningful statement in the context of nedarim. Such a statement will only be effective in creating a neder if it is made on something that is specifically brought to Jerusalem for sacrifice. Most of the commentaries (Rashi, the Rosh and others) agree that the question here is whether the walls and towers that encircle Jerusalem were built with Temple funds, which would give them the status of a davar ha-nadur - something that was consecrated to the Temple. According to the opinion that the city itself was not built from holy funds, relating to the city will not create a neder. Tosafot suggest that all parties to this discussion may agree that the city was built from consecrated funds, and the difference of opinion is based on the question of how we interpret the vow made by the individual who invoked Jerusalem. Was his intent to make his vow parallel to the walls of the city, which are a davar ha-nadur and will effectively create a neder, or was his intention to relate to the intrinsic holiness of Jerusalem itself, which is not a davar ha-nadur and will not allow the vow to take effect?
Nedarim 10a-b: The Early Pious Ones
04/11/2022 - 10th of Cheshvan, 5783
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On yesterday's daf we learned that not all the Sages viewed nezirut as desirable, and that only once did Shimon HaTzaddik meet a nazir whose motives he approved of. On our daf, Rabbi Yehuda presents another group that had a specific ideological reason for accepting nezirut. He tells of hasidim ha-rishonim - the early pious ones - who had a strong desire to bring a korban hatat - a sin offering - but could not do so because God always protected them from committing any sin. To solve this problem they accepted nezirut upon themselves, so that they could bring the sin-offering, one of the standard sacrifices brought at the end of the nezirut. Who were these hasidim ha-rishonim? The concept of a hasid in the Talmud is a person on a particularly high religious level, who - in every aspect of his life - goes over-and-above what is required by the letter of the law (as opposed to someone who is scrupulous in his activities and does exactly what is required, who is referred to as a tzaddik). It appears that during the Second Temple era, the hasidim were a loosely organized group. These hasidim were among the first supporters of the Hasmonean rebellion against Greek/Hellenist rule, but were also among the first to abandon the Hasmonean dynastic rule. It is likely that the hasidim ha-rishonim mentioned here and in other places in the Talmud have their roots in this group. According to Talmudic sources, the hasidim ha-rishonim devoted most of their lives to prayer and to developing a relationship with God, and they were careful in both mitzvot ben adam le-havero (between man and his fellow man) and ben adam la-Makom (between man and God). Their desire to bring sin offerings - even though it is clear that not every mitzva applies to every person - is explained by the Rosh as a desire to bring every possible korban.
Nedarim 9a-b: My Evil Inclination Quickly Overcame Me
03/11/2022 - 9th of Cheshvan, 5783
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Does the Torah consider someone who accepts nezirut upon himself to be a holy person who aspires to higher levels of spirituality, or is he in some way a sinner? The Gemara tells of Shimon HaTzaddik who testified that only on one occasion did he agree to partake of the sacrifice of a nazir who became tameh (he was bringing a sacrifice because he accidentally became ritually defiled and broke his nezirut. The Talmud Yerushalmi suggests that he refused to partake of any sacrifices brought by nezirim - even from those who successfully completed their obligations). Once a nazir came to the Temple who was particularly attractive and had beautiful curly hair. Shimon HaTzaddik asked him why he chose to become a nazir, thus obligating himself to cut off his hair at the end of his nezirut. The man explained that he was a shepherd and he chanced to see his reflection in a pool. Taken with his own beauty, the evil inclination tried to overpower him. To protect himself, he accepted a vow of nezirut in order to donate his hair to God. Shimon HaTzaddik accepted this as a legitimate explanation, but otherwise rejected the value of nezirut. The "evil inclination" alluded to by the nazir is understood in a variety of different ways. The Rivan suggests that realizing how good looking he was made him think that he could have his way with women. The Arukh also connects it with sexual behavior, suggesting that seeing how attractive he was made him desirous of homosexual relations. The Maharsha and others argue that this is not necessarily an issue of sensuality, but rather that his appearance gave him the idea that he should abandon his father's flocks since someone of his talents should not remain a simple shepherd. Shimon HaTzaddik is the first sage mentioned in Massekhet Avot. Although we have little information about him, it appears that he was the High Priest at the beginning of Greek rule in Israel and that it was he who welcomed Alexander Mokdon, who conquered the land. He is mentioned in both Josephus and Sefer Ben Sira, which describes how glorious he appeared upon leaving the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
Nedarim 8a-b: A Husband as a Wife's Representative
02/11/2022 - 8th of Cheshvan, 5783
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Our Gemara describes how Ravina's wife took a vow, and Ravina went to Rav Ashi to ask whether he could represent his wife as her shali'ah (messenger) to arrange to have the vow annulled. Rav Ashi responded that he could only do so if there were already three people gathered who could act as judges; otherwise he could not do so. From this story the Gemara reaches three conclusions:
  • A husband can act as his wife's representative to annul a vow.
  • A person cannot act as a judge to annul vows while in the same city as his teacher (since Ravina was not able to annul the vow on his own).
  • It is necessary for three people to have already gathered in order for a husband to represent his wife in this matter.
There are a wide variety of approaches to this discussion in the Gemara. According to the Rambam, a person cannot ordinarily represent someone else when annulling a vow. This was a unique case in which the close relationship between spouses may have allowed Ravina to represent his wife. The response was that, in theory, a husband can represent his wife, but if the judges need to be gathered, then we also ask the wife to appear on her own. Tosafot rule that a person can send someone else to represent him/her to arrange for a vow to be annulled (Rabbeinu Shimshon is quoted as even permitting it to be done in a written request to the court). The question in our case is whether a husband is allowed to represent his wife, or are we concerned that because of his interest in the matter he will perhaps present arguments that his wife neither said nor meant? The response is that a husband can represent his wife, but if there is a need to gather the judges, then our concern rises that the husband may embellish the story in order to make his efforts worthwhile. The Rashbam takes an entirely different approach and suggests that this was not a discussion of a neder but of nidui and is a continuation of the discussion from the previous page.
Nedarim 7a-b: I Am Ostracized From You
01/11/2022 - 7th of Cheshvan, 5783
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One of the expressions of a vow that appears in the Mishna is menudeh ani lekha - "my relationship with you is one of nidui." A nidui is a type of ban, a basic type of ostracism that was used to distance a given individual from the community (more severe levels of excommunication include shamta and herem). The rules and regulations of nidui, including the requirement that someone in this state avoid contact with others as well as punishments that the person is supposed to accept upon himself, are delineated in the third chapter of Massekhet Moed Katan. Nidui can be imposed on someone by the courts for a number of reasons:
  • It can be used as a method of forcing someone to accept the ruling of the court.
  • It can be a punishment for a transgression that the person did.
  • It can be a punishment for a person who belittled or made fun of the court.
  • Sometimes a Sage can put someone into nidui because he feels that the person insulted him.
Depending on the underlying reason for the nidui, we find different methods and different lengths of time necessary for releasing the person from this state. One example brought by the Gemara is taught by R Hanin, who quotes Rav as teaching that someone who hears his friend take God's name in vain must declare that he is in nidui, and that if he does not do so, then he himself will be in nidui. Most of the commentaries understand this as simply using God's name without purpose - even when saying a berakha that is unnecessary. The Ge'onim discuss this at some length, concluding that this holds true even if God's name is said in a foreign language. Others, however, indicate that, in this context, taking God's name in vain refers to a situation of a false oath.
Nedarim 6a-b: Is There Intimation for Betrothal?
31/10/2022 - 6th of Cheshvan, 5783
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We have already discussed the concept of yadot nedarim - a "short form" statement or intimation that creates a vow even though it is not an entirely clear statement. Our Gemara examines the concept of yad in other areas of halakha. Will a yad work in the case of kiddushin - betrothal? When separating pe'a? When giving charity? How clear does the statement need to be in these cases? With regard to kiddushin, there is a basic difference between taking a vow and creating a marriage. While a neder works entirely through a verbal statement, kiddushin needs not only a statement but also an act of marriage - usually the transfer of money or a contract. Will yad work in such a case as well? Some suggest that the only reason yad might work in kiddushin is because it contains an aspect similar to hekdesh - sanctification to the Temple - in that a woman who marries becomes forbidden to all others like hekdesh. This concept, which is included in the very word that is used for marriage in the language of the Sages (kiddushin = hekdesh), is the basis for nedarim, as well, where we find that the object has become forbidden. Rav Avraham min haHar suggests that there is a further reason to suggest that yad will work in the case of kiddushin; since the act of transfer indicates that a serious interaction is taking place between the man and the woman, even a weak statement will be understood. The Ran explains that the continuation of the Gemara, where the possibility of yad in the case of pe'a is discussed, follows this line of reasoning. Thus, even if we reject the use of yad in the case of kiddushin because kiddushin is deemed to be too far removed from kodashim and nedarim, perhaps we can consider the case of pe'a, where the field is set aside for the use of the poor in a manner similar to that of hekdesh.
Nedarim 5a-b: Statements That Are Not Clear
30/10/2022 - 5th of Cheshvan, 5783
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We have already learned that a person can accept a vow on himself by means of yadot nedarim - an abbreviation or "short form" of a neder that is understood to be an expression of a vow. Our Gemara raises the issue of clarity - how clear does such a statement need to be? While all agree that yadayim mokhihot - clear abbreviations - would create a neder, there is a dispute about yadayim she-ein mokhihot - abbreviated statements that are not clear. Thus, according to Shmuel, saying mufrishani mimkha (I am separated from you) or meruhkani mimkha (I am removed from you) will only be understood as a neder if it is followed up with a supporting statement that clarifies that the intent is to actually forbid deriving benefit from the person. This is because he considers these to be yadayim she-ein mokhihot and Shmuel believes that yadayim she-ein mokhihot lo have yadayim - that ambiguous intimations are not considered clear yadayim. Most of the commentaries understand the etymology of the term yadayim to be from the idea of a handle, which allows a person to hold or grasp an object. That is to say that even though the statement that we are calling a yad does not intrinsically have the meaning of a neder, nevertheless it can act as a tool to express a certain idea, just as a handle allows for grasping and controlling something else. A different perspective on this concept is offered by the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishna. He explains that the word yad in this context means a part of something (see, for example, Bereshit 43:34 where the word yad is used in this way). Thus the expression yadayim mean that it is a partial statement, one that does not complete the thought, even as its intent may be possible to determine.
Nedarim 4a-b: Vowing Nezirut in a Cemetery
29/10/2022 - 4th of Cheshvan, 5783
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A closely related concept to nedarim - or becoming obligated by making a vow - is the acceptance of nezirut. When a man or a woman states that he or she desires to accept the status of a nazir the following prohibitions come into play.
  • No drinking wine or eating grapes or their products
  • No cutting hair
  • No contact with dead bodies. This condition is essential, as someone who becomes tameh - ritually impure - by coming into contact with a dead body will need to begin the nezirut anew.
Ordinarily, nezirut extends for 30 days, unless a different time frame is expressed when the person accepts nezirut. What would happen if a person states that he or she is accepting nezirut even as that person is standing in a cemetery? Our Gemara makes reference to this case, which is the subject of a dispute between Resh Lakish who says that the nezirut does not immediately take effect and Rabbi Yohanan, who believes that it does. Some of the commentaries explain that even according to Reish Lakish, although this nezirut does not take effect, the individual will be obligated to accept nezirut upon himself after the period that he is tameh concludes. This is because his statement is taken seriously and we view it as a commitment, even though it could not take effect in the cemetery. Rabbi Yohanan, on the other hand, believes that the nezirut does take effect immediately. Nevertheless, since the individual is tameh, the nezirut will be suspended for the moment, but it will take effect immediately when the person becomes tahor (ritually pure), without the need for any further statements. Our Gemara quotes Mar bar Rav Ashi who offered an alternative approach to the dispute between Resh Laḳish and Rabbi Yohanan. He understands that both sages agree that the nezirut takes effect immediately, but they disagree with regard to the punishment. Tosafot explain this approach to mean that all agree that the person standing in the cemetery will be punished if he drank wine or cut his hair; the disagreement is whether he will receive punishment for being tameh, given that that was the state he was in at the moment when he accepted nezirut.
Nedarim 3a-b: Obligations of a Vow
28/10/2022 - 3rd of Cheshvan, 5783
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We have already learned that the most basic requirements of nedarim - or becoming obligated by making a vow - are for a person to have clear intent, that he express it in a clear manner. Nevertheless, as the first Mishna makes clear, there is not set formula for taking on a neder, and substitutes - referred to by the Mishna as kinuyei nedarim - or abbreviated formulations - referred to by the Gemara as yadot nedarim - will also create a full obligation. The Gemara on our daf discusses the order in which kinuyei nedarim and yadot nedarim are presented by the Mishna, and suggests that kinuyei nedarim are mentioned first because they are mi-d'oraita (from the Torah), while yadot nedarim, which are learned mi-derasha (derived from a homiletic teaching) are taught afterwards. Tosafot point out that according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, kinuyei nedarim are expressions developed by the Sages for use when making vows, and that effectively both kinuyei nedarim and yadot nedarim are of rabbinic origin. Based on this approach, even though the Gemara finds passages in the Torah to which the concept of kinuyei nedarim is connected, someone who uses such an expression to accept upon himself nezirut, for example, would not bring the sacrifices that a nazir ordinarily brings, even though he will receive the punishment of malkot - lashes - if he breaks the rules of nezirut, albeit only on a rabbinic level. Some commentaries suggest that according to our Gemara, both kinuyei nedarim and yadot nedarim are treated as creating biblical obligations. According to this approach, when our Gemara presented yadot nedarim as being derived mi-derasha, it does not indicate that yadot are rabbinic, rather that they are not clearly written in the Torah. This approach is similar to that of the Rambam who uses the expression mi-divrei soferim - from the words of the scribes - when referring to laws that have biblical weight but are derived from the words of the Torah rather than being written explicitly there.
Nedarim 2a-b: Of Vows and Oaths
27/10/2022 - 2nd of Cheshvan, 5783
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The first Mishna in the massekhet teaches that a person does not need to use a specific formula to make a neder - a vow - but that kinuyim, which are substitutes for the formal language of a vow, will also be effective. This is true in other cases where a person makes a statement that has significance according to the halakha, like taking a shevua - an oath - or accepting the status of a nazir upon oneself. What is the difference between a neder and a shevua? The Gemara explains that in a neder, the statement made by the person takes effect on the object - e.g., when a person takes a vow not to eat a certain food, the food is now forbidden. A shevua, on the other hand, takes effect on the person, so that now there is a prohibition on the person to eat the food. The conceptual distinction between the object (the heftza) and the person (the gavra) has become a popular method of distinguishing in many areas of mitzvot and halakhot. Nevertheless, the basic question that needs to be dealt with is what actual difference is there if a given prohibition is applied to the object or to the person. Several suggestions are put forward by the rishonim: The Ran and Tosafot suggest that in a case where the language is mixed up and a person takes a shevua that an object is forbidden or takes a neder that he will refrain from a given activity, the oath or the vow will not take effect since the statement was an incorrect one. In fact, this very question is dealt with in the Talmud Yerushalmi, and the majority opinion is that a neder cannot use the language of a shevua or vice versa. Not all are in agreement with this conclusion. The Ramban rules that such mistaken language would create an obligation because it would be considered to be yadot nedarim - literally "handles" to a neder - abbreviated forms that create a neder even if the language is not precise.
Ketubot 112a-b: For Love of the Land
26/10/2022 - 1st of Cheshvan, 5783
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Massekhet Ketubot closes with discussions about the wonders of the Land of Israel and how much the Sages loved the land. Among the stories that are related on our daf are the following: When Rabbi Zeira went up to the Land of Israel and could not find a ferry to cross a certain river, he grasped a rope bridge and crossed. Thereupon a certain Sadducee sneered at him: "Hasty people, that put your mouths before your ears, you are still, as ever, clinging to your hastiness." Rabbi Zeira replied. "The spot which Moses and Aaron were not worthy of entering, who could assure me that I should be worthy of entering?" Rabbi Abba used to kiss the rocks of Akko. Rabbi Hanina used to repair its roads. Rabbi Ammi and Rav Asi used to rise from their seats to move from the sun to the shade and from the shade to the sun. Rabbi Hiyya bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust, for it is said in Tehillim (102:15) "For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust." The Gemara on the previous page (110b-111a) related that Rabbi Zeira moved from Babylon to Israel against the ruling of his teacher, Rav Yehuda, who believed that the passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (27:22) forbade anyone from leaving Bavel and returning to Israel prior to the coming of the Messianic age. Rabbi Zeira disagreed, and interpreted that pasuk to be referring specifically to the Temple utensils that had been taken into exile to Babylonia. According to the Rambam, the cliffs of Akko were especially beloved by Rabbi Abba because Akko was the northernmost point in Israel during the Second Temple era. Thus, travelers from Babylon to Israel would first step foot in the Holy Land in Akko. Based on an alternative reading of the Gemara, rather than repairing the roads of Akko, Tosafot argue that Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Asi would weigh the rocks or examine them. When they were found to be heavier (or according to the Midrash Tanhuma, harder), they would then know that they had arrived in Israel. The Arukh attributes this to the passage in Devarim (8:9) that describes the stones of Israel as being iron.
Ketubot 111a-b: Oaths That Bind
25/10/2022 - 30th of Tishrei, 5783
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Based on passages in Shir HaShirim (2:7, 3:5, 8:4), Rabbi Yosei bar Hanina understands that there are three oaths that bind the Jewish people in their relationship with the non-Jewish world:
  1. That the Jews should not return to the Land of Israel be-homah - "like a wall";
  2. That the Jews should not rebel against the nations of the world;
  3. That the nations of the world should not oppress the Jewish people overmuch.
Rashi interprets the first oath to mean that the Jewish people should not return to Israel by force, all together (in fact, some manuscripts have ka-homah, which would indicate "all together"). The Maharsha argues that it refers to the actual building of a wall - which would indicate a rebellion against the ruling nation. Such building could not be done without the permission of the nations that ruled over the land, as took place with the return of Ezra and Nehemia at the beginning of the Second Temple era. Based on his reading of the pesukim in Shir HaShirim, Rabbi Levi believed that each passage implied a double oath. Aside from the three mentioned above, he adds three more:
  1. That the end (ketz) should not be revealed;
  2. That the end should not be pushed off;
  3. That the secret should not be shared with the non-Jews.
Rashi understands that the fifth oath is a warning that sins and transgressions will delay the Messianic end of days, while the Maharsha suggests that it means that the people should not push off the ends of days in their hearts, but that they should believe that the Messiah will come swiftly. There are also a wide variety of opinions regarding the secret that cannot be shared with non-Jews. While Rabbeinu Tam believes that it is the secret of the Jewish calendar and Rabbi Avraham Ya'akov Neimark in his Eshel Avraham suggests that it refers to the oaths that are under discussion, it may not be connected with a religious issue at all. In a mosaic floor that was found in Ein Gedi, a curse is placed on the person who reveals the secret of the city to non-Jews. It is an apparent reference to a security secret; a way to enter the city.
Ketubot 110a-b: the Plight of the Poor
24/10/2022 - 29th of Tishrei, 5783
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In discussing the plight of the poor, who cannot even enjoy improvement in their situation, the Gemara quotes Sefer Ben Sira as saying that "All the days of a poor man are bad," for even Shabbat and the holidays are difficult for him. Furthermore, Ben Sira is quoted as saying, "The nights also. Lower than all the roofs is his roof, and on the height of mountains is his vineyard, so that the rain of other roofs pours down upon his roof and the earth of his vineyard is washed down into the vineyards of others." These statements are based on the passage in Mishlei (15:15), and the quote appears to be additional insights that are attributed to Ben Sira. Sefer Ben Sira is one of the earliest books composed after the closing of the Biblical canon. The book of Ben Sira was held in great esteem, and after its translation into Greek by the author's grandson (in the year 132 BCE in Alexandria), it became widely known even among those who were not familiar with the Hebrew language. Sefer Ben Sira is included as a canonical work in the Septuagint (and therefore is considered such in many other translations of the Bible), and although the Sages chose to view it as one of the sefarim hitzoni'im - books outside of the canon - they quote it in a respectful manner throughout the Talmud, sometimes even referring to it as ketuvim. Still, because of confusion between this work and another one that was known as Alfa-Beta d'Ben Sira, which was a popular - and problematic - work, we find statements in the Gemara forbidding the study of Sefer Ben Sira. For generations Sefer Ben Sira was known only from its translations, but recently parts of it have been found in the original Hebrew (in Masada and elsewhere). Since it was not part of the official Biblical canon it appears that the copyists felt more freedom when working with it and we find several different versions of the same text. When it appears in the Talmud it seems likely that it is being quoted by heart by the Sages, rather than from a written text. The statements quoted in our Gemara, for example, are not found in extant translations or manuscripts of Sefer Ben Sira.
Ketubot 109a-b: A Father's Financial Obligation
23/10/2022 - 28th of Tishrei, 5783
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Yesterday's daf introduced us to a case where a woman's father promises a dowry to his daughter, but then cannot pay his son-in-law. As we saw, in such a case there is a disagreement between the Tanna Kamma and Admon. According to the Tanna Kamma, the wife will remain in limbo forever, while according to Admon - whose opinion is accepted as the halakha - the wife may argue that she is not responsible for her father's financial issues and demand that her husband either accept her or divorce her. Tosafot bring the question that many of the rishonim ask: Why should the woman suffer because her father is not paying? If the father obligated himself, then it should be the responsibility of the court to force him to pay what he owes. The Ritva points out that this question only applies according to those opinions that understand the expression pashat lo et ha-regel to mean that the father refuses to pay. If the father cannot pay because he has no money, the court can hardly force him to pay what he does not have. Still, according to the other approach, why doesn't the court obligate him to pay and solve the problem? This question is especially powerful because of the ruling of Rav Giddel, which we studied earlier, that even verbal agreements on the financial arrangements surrounding a marriage are binding (see Ketubot 102). The Rashbam explains that the agreement is only binding if the wedding took place immediately after it was made, which clearly is not the case in our story. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rav Giddel's ruling applies only to a first marriage, and our Mishna must be talking about a subsequent marriage. One other issue that is raised by the commentaries with regard to this case is whether we consider the father to have fulfilled his agreement if he has no money at all, since he is then viewed by the halakha as an anoos - someone who was forced by circumstance and cannot be held responsible.
Ketubot 108a-b: He Stretched His Leg Towards Him
22/10/2022 - 27th of Tishrei, 5783
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The last Mishna on our daf discusses a case in which a man promised a dowry to his son-in-law, but then cannot pay. In such a case we find that the Tanna Kamma and Admon disagree. According to the Tanna Kamma, the wife will remain in limbo forever, while according to Admon - whose opinion is accepted as the halakha - the wife may argue that she is not responsible for her father's financial issues and demand that her husband either accept her or divorce her. The term that the Mishna uses to describe the father's financial plight is pashat lo et ha-regel. This expression, which is the common modern Hebrew term for someone who is bankrupt, literally means "he stretched his leg toward him." There is some discussion among the commentaries in an attempt to explain the etymology of this phrase. Rashi offers two suggestions. One approach is that this indicates disparagement, and that it is as though he is offering him the bottom of his shoe and saying, "take the mud off the sole of my foot, as I will not give you anymore." The other suggestion is that it means "even if you hang me from a tree by my foot I cannot give you anything [because I have nothing to give]." Other possibilities include that it is a statement that, because he has no money, all the man has to offer is one of his limbs. The explanation that many rishonim raise - and that the Ritva presents as the best explanation - is that it means that the father upped and left and is no longer around to make good on his debts. The Meiri offers a variation on this theme by suggesting that it means that the father passed away and therefore cannot pay.
Ketubot 107a-b: Glazed Vessels
21/10/2022 - 26th of Tishrei, 5783
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In a list of halakhic rulings that appears on our daf, the Gemara pronounces that we follow the ruling of Rav Zevid with regard to kunya - glazed pottery. He ruled that glazed vessels are permitted, i.e. they are not absorbent and are thus permitted for use, even if non-kosher food was stored in them, if they are white or black, but are forbidden if they are green. This, however, applies only to those that have no cracks; if they have cracks we must assume that they absorbed the non-kosher food and are forbidden for use. It appears that our Gemara is discussing the common method of covering a simple earthenware vessel - which is porous and therefore considered to be absorbent - with a protective glaze that would keep the vessel from absorbing food or liquid. This is done by pouring the glaze - made from liquid suspensions of various powdered minerals and metal oxides - on the piece and then firing it in a kiln. The quality of the glazing and how well it will keep the pottery from absorbing things depend on the temperature of the kiln and the elements that are used in making the glaze. One of the most popular elements used in glazes - even today - is lead, to which various minerals are added to give the glaze its color. Some types of glaze are more susceptible to cracking, which would allow the pottery to absorb even after being covered with glaze. The different colors of the glaze that are mentioned in our Gemara indicate different methods of sealing vessels, some of which are better or more reliable than others. Some of them give the pottery the qualities of glass and are considered totally sealed, while others are considered to be porous even after undergoing this process.
Ketubot 106a-b: Perverting Justice
20/10/2022 - 25th of Tishrei, 5783
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As we saw on yesterday's daf, our Gemara is discussing issues of bribery and the care that a judge must take to ensure that his decision will be free of any prejudice. One the stories related by the Gemara tells of Rav Anan, who refused to accept a basket of fish from someone who asked him to judge his case. Furthermore, Rav Anan informed the man that he could not act as a judge for him, since the offer of the basket of fish might influence any future decisions that he would make. Nevertheless, after listening to the man's argument that he should be allowed to give the present since giving a present to a Torah scholar is, itself, a mitzva (as a source, the man referred to a present that was given to the prophet Elisha - see II Melakhim 4:42), Rav Anan accepted the present and referred him to Rav Nahman for judgment. When Rav Nahman received the letter from Rav Anan which explained that Rav Anan could not judge this man's case and that he was, therefore, referring the case to Rav Nahman, Rav Nahman assumed that the man must have been related to Rav Anan and that it would be appropriate to hear his case before the other cases that were on his docket. When the other party saw the honor that was being given to this man, he lost his train of thought, did not defend himself well, and lost the case. Although Rav Anan did not mean for this to happen, his response to the man's offer skewed justice, and as a result the prophet Eliyahu, with whom Rav Anan studied on a regular basis, stopped coming to learn with him. Only after fasting and prayer did Eliyahu return, but Eliyahu's presence became so frightening that Rav.Anan had to make a box for himself to stay in while learning. Eliyahu's teachings during that period are known as Seder Eliyahu Zua, while the earlier teachings are known as Seder Eliyahu Rabba. We find many references in the Talmud to Eliyahu studying with the Talmudic sages. In II Divrei HaYamim (21:12) we find a letter sent to King Yehoram of Judah from the prophet Eliyahu, years after he had passed away.  Many quotes in the Talmud that are taken from this work open with the words "Tanna deVei Eliyahu..." referencing the book of interpretations of biblical verses, stories of Jewish history over the generations, and first-person accounts that are presented as Eliyahu's own words.
Ketubot 105a-b: a Bribe or a Fee?
19/10/2022 - 24th of Tishrei, 5783
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It is obvious that a judge cannot take a bribe (see Shemot 23:8). Nevertheless it is somewhat surprising to find that the Gemara forbids a judge to take money from both sides in a trial as payment for his judgment. The Gemara tells of a judge named Karna who accepted payment from both parties and then offered his ruling. The Gemara explains that he was allowed to do this only because he did not take it as payment, but rather as sehar batalah - replacement for the income he would have made during that time. The Gemara explains further that even accepting sehar batalah is usually considered inappropriate; Karna was an exception because he had a job that everyone knew about. He was an expert wine tester, and when he sat in judgment he had a clear loss of income, which he accepted instead from the litigants who came to him to listen to their case. Karna was a first generation amora, a contemporary of Shmuel. Together they welcomed Rav when he arrived in Babylon from Israel. In Massekhet Sanhedrin we learn that the term dayyanei golah - Diaspora judges - refers specifically to Karna, who also edited a collection of baraitot that is called nezikin d'bei Karna. As the Gemara notes, Karna was a professional wine taster who could ascertain which barrels should be used immediately and which would benefit from further aging. With regard to the basic question of our Gemara, many of the commentaries deal with the issue of why it would be forbidden to take payment from both sides when judging a case. The Gemara seems to connect this with bribery, but if a bribe is forbidden because it will lead the judge to favor one side in the case, why would there be a problem taking payment from both sides? On one level, this is seen as an issue of bribery. The Meiri writes that having accepted money from both parties, the judge can no longer offer a true judgment because he is inclined positively towards both of them. On another level the problem is not an issue of bribery, but one of teaching Torah. There is a general principle that Torah should not be shared for a fee. Since it was given by God without cost it should be made available by scholars for free, as well.
Ketubot 104a-b: Between Heaven and Earth
18/10/2022 - 23rd of Tishrei, 5783
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Our Gemara continues with the story of the final days of Rebbe - Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. The Gemara tells that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's colleagues prayed and declared a fast, announcing that it was forbidden for anyone to say that Rebbe had died. The Rivan explains that they wanted to continue their prayers on his behalf and they recognized that a prayer for resurrection of the dead was inappropriate. Therefore they did not permit the announcement of his passing. There was a woman who worked in Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's house who was known for her piety. She went to the roof and prayed as follows: "The upper regions want Rebbe and the lower regions want Rebbe. It should be Your will that the lower regions should prevail over the upper regions." Upon seeing the pain and suffering that Rebbe was experiencing from his illness, the servant changed her prayer to advocate on behalf of the upper regions. When she realized that the Sages would not stop their prayers, she took a jug, an earthen vessel, and threw it down from the roof. The crashing sound that it made distracted the Sages for a brief moment and Rebbe passed away. The simple understanding of the servant's prayer is that the angels in heaven and the scholars on earth were in a contest over Rebbe's soul. The Maharsha offers a different perspective and argues at length that the upper and lower regions represent the soul and the body respectively. Thus, the struggle was between the freedom that the soul sought from the base connection to the body and the perfection that exists when the body and soul are together as one. Breaking the earthen vessel, according to the Maharsha, represents the destruction of the physical body (see Kohelet 12:6).
Ketubot 103a-b: Honoring a Father's Wife
17/10/2022 - 22nd of Tishrei, 5783
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Our Mishna teaches that when a man dies, his children cannot insist that his widow move out of his house, even with a promise to support her. In fact, if she wants to remain, the orphans are obligated to give her a place in the house according to her needs (some say that she has full access to the house, as she did while her late husband was alive), and support her there. In this context, our Gemara tells of various commands that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi gave while on his deathbed. To his children his instructions were: "Take great care with regard to your mother's honor, keep my candle burning and my table set, each in its proper place, and my servants, Josef Heifani and Shimon Efrati should serve me in my death as they did during my lifetime." According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi specifically instructed that his wife should remain in his home, which is a direct connection to our Mishna. Some suggest that he needed to emphasize this point because of the concern that there would be an argument about whether his house, as the home of the Nasi, perhaps had a unique status, and that his wife would not merit remaining in it. The woman that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi refers to as "your mother" was, in fact, a stepmother. Rav Ya'akov Emden points out that we already find in the Torah that a man may refer to his wife as his children's mother, even if she did not give birth to them. When Ya'akov reacts to Yosef's dream where the sun and the moon bow down to him (see Bereshit 37:10), he asks whether Yosef anticipates that his father, mother and brothers would all bow down - yet Yosef's mother, Rachel, had already passed away. The Iyyun Ya'akov suggests that a woman who raised a child may be called his mother even if she is not his birth mother (see Rashi, ibid).
Ketubot 102a-b: Things Acquired Through Words Alone
16/10/2022 - 21st of Tishrei, 5783
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Generally speaking, according to Jewish law, a transfer of property between two parties can only be done by means of a kinyan. Our Gemara teaches us that there are times when a simple, verbal agreement can take the place of a formal kinyan. Specifically, Rav Giddel teaches that when the parents of a couple that is about to be married meet one another and promise to give a certain amount to their son and to their daughter, once the marriage takes place - hen, hen ha-devarim ha-niknin ba-amirah - these are things that are purchased with an oral statement. The Talmud Yerushalmi comments on this law that it is true only if it is the fathers of the bride and groom who are making the promises, but that other relatives cannot effect a kinyan with just a verbal agreement. Furthermore, it would only be true if this was a first marriage. The reason behind these limitations appears to follow the reasoning of Rav in our Gemara's conclusion. The kinyan works in our situation because the unique joy that accompanies the wedding has the ability to give greater power to the statements that are made than would ordinarily be the case. This is only true if we are dealing with parents and a first marriage. The Meiri adds that according to this logic, were the bride and groom themselves to make oral commitments, that should also fall into this category and obligate them to live up to their word. Does the wedding need to take place immediately after the agreement in order for it to create this level of commitment? From the simple reading of the Gemara, it would appear to be so, since the Gemara uses the term amdu ve-kidshu - they got up and married - after the agreement. The Rashbam and the Re'ah both accept this position. The Ritva however, suggests that this expression simply indicates that when the wedding takes place, the oral agreement becomes a final commitment.
Ketubot 101a-b: What a Woman Brings to a Marriage
15/10/2022 - 20th of Tishrei, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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We have already learned about two types of property that a woman brings with her into a marriage, nikhsei melog and nikhsei tzon barzel (see, for example, Yevamot 38):
  • Nikhsei melog (usufruct property) are possessions that remain the property of the woman. While the couple is married, the husband can derive benefit from this property. When the marriage ends, they remain hers, in whatever condition they may be.
  • Nikhsei tzon barzel (guaranteed property) are possessions that become the property of the husband. Their value is written into the ketuba, and in the event that their marriage comes to an end - if the husband dies or if they become divorced - the wife will be reimbursed for the full amount, either from the estate if he died or from him if they divorced.
Where do these terms come from? Some rishonim suggest that the term melog stems from the root m-l-g which means boiling the skin of an animal to remove the hair. Similarly, in our case, the husband "shaves" the profits from the property. Others suggest that it is from the Greek root logos (λόγος), meaning speech or reason, and it is borrowed in our context to mean property that belongs to the husband because of a verbal agreement. Most likely it is a word that has its own independent meaning, perhaps taken from ancient Akkadian, with the meaning of "property brought by a woman to her husband." The words "tzon barzel" have a very clear meaning : literally, "iron sheep," an illustrative metaphor, which is also found in Roman law. It expresses the status of this property, which is like iron cattle to the owners in the sense that they cannot be destroyed since someone - in our case, the husband - has taken full responsibility for them. In yet another way the metaphor is a good one - like iron cattle, these properties do not produce anything of value for their owners; they only keep their value.
Ketubot 100a-b: Selling at the Market
14/10/2022 - 19th of Tishrei, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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When a man dies and leaves an estate, and his heirs are not old enough to take charge of the financial affairs, it is the responsibility of the courts to step in and ensure that the value of the property is preserved. Thus, Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that metaltelin - moveable property (as opposed to real estate) - should be evaluated and sold immediately so that it will not deteriorate and lose value. Rav Hisda is quoted as saying that it should be sold in the market. The Gemara explains that there is really no disagreement. Shmuel's ruling is when the market is far, while Rav Hisda is talking about when the market is close. Rashi explains that the reference to the market means that it should be sold on the market day, and when the Gemara rules that we distinguish between a close market and a far-away market, the question is one of time - will the market day be taking place sooner or later? The Rambam understands that it is a question of distance, and the Gemara is distinguishing between a close-by market and a market that is far away. To illustrate this rule, the Gemara tells of amoraim who had been appointed as guardians to look after the property of orphans. Rav Kahana, for example, chose to wait to sell the alcoholic beverages that were part of Rav Mesharshiyya's estate, arguing that if he waited for the holidays, even though the drinks would deteriorate somewhat - nafal beh itzatzta - nevertheless he anticipated being able to get a better price because of the many people who would be purchasing such drinks. Rashi interprets itzatzta as oxidation, and understands that the concern was a lessening of the quality of the beverage, which would be made up by the rising prices. To this day, cheaper wines have a tendency to develop a sour taste, and over time the chemical process will turn the wine into vinegar. Rabbeinu Gershom, quoted in the Arukh, takes an entirely different approach, suggesting that the word itzatzta, or, as he has it, utza, means a monetary loss. He explains that Rav Kahana recognized that at the holiday season there would be a greater supply of alcoholic beverages available, and prices would drop. Nevertheless, the availability of other items to purchase at a discount made it worthwhile to wait until that time.
Ketubot 99a-b: Property Values
13/10/2022 - 18th of Tishrei, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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The Jewish court has the ability to sell properties owned by an estate in order to pay debts owed by the individual who passed away. This includes outstanding loans, payment of the ketuba, etc. Generally speaking this was done by means of an announcement that the court has properties for sale - effectively a public auction - which would invite people to come and view the properties, establishing their value. Under certain circumstances, such as selling to feed the widow or to arrange for her burial, a sale of estate property may take place without such an announcement. Similarly there were places where it was commonplace for the court to arrange the sale of property without such an announcement. Our Mishna discusses a case where the sale took place without such an announcement, and a significant error is made. According to the Tanna Kamma, if the error was a sixth of the value of the property, the sale is automatically nullified because of the law of ona'ah. According to Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, however, Jewish courts have the strength to effect a sale, even if the discrepancy is a sixth of the actual value of the property. The law of ona'ah, which is based on the passage in Vayikra (25:14), is understood by the Sages to forbid overcharging or undercharging someone from the market price. As long as the discrepancy is less than one-sixth of the price, the sale stands and the excess must be returned; if the discrepancy reaches one-sixth of the price, the entire transaction is cancelled. The Mishna continues and teaches that if an announcement of the auction was made, then even a wide discrepancy would not cancel the deal - property worth 100 can be sold for 200 or property worth 200 can be sold for 100. According to the Ramban, the Mishna mentioned these specific numbers because even in the case of an auction there are limits to the error that is acceptable, and a larger discrepancy would cancel the sale.
Ketubot 98a-b: A Widow's Support
12/10/2022 - 17th of Tishrei, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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We have already learned that a widow is entitled to mezonot - support for purchase of food - until such time as she collects her ketuba. During this time, she does not necessarily receive a daily stipend, rather she can sell her late husband's property in order to support herself. In our Gemara, Rava's son Rabba asked Rav Yosef whether a woman who sells her late husband's land in order to have money to feed herself will be obligated to take an oath in court. Rashi understands that the oath under discussion is a question of whether the widow may have taken more money than she deserved. Tosafot explain that she is being asked whether she is certain that she sold the property at its true value and not at a discount. Given that she is only permitted to sell it in the presence of three people, some ask why there would be any need for her to take an oath. The Ramban answers that the need for three people is only when establishing the value of the property. Once the value of the property has been established, the widow searches for buyers, and it is possible that she will find someone who is willing to pay more than the estimated price. It would then be necessary for her to swear that she did not take more money than she was permitted to, something that she would not have needed to do had the estimate and sale taken place under the supervision of the courts. The Ramban then offers a different approach to the need to take an oath in this case. He argues that the oath discussed in our Gemara is the same oath that we always make the widow take before collecting her ketuba from the orphans - that she did not receive any payments from her husband towards the ketuba payment while he was still alive. Such an oath is necessary because we assume that the orphans do not know the details of their father's business, so anyone who comes with a claim against the estate cannot collect without taking such an oath. The Gemara's question in our case is whether the widow needs to take this oath before she sells any of the property, or, perhaps, she can first sell property for her needs, and only take the oath at a later time.
Ketubot 97a-b: Calling Off a Sale
11/10/2022 - 16th of Tishrei, 5783
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The main focus of the eleventh perek of Massekhet Ketubot is the ability that a widow has to collect what is owed to her from her late husband's estate. Generally speaking there are two monetary claims that a widow has on the estate:
  1. Mezonot - support for purchase of food
  2. Ketuba - payment of the monies promised in the wedding contract
A widow is entitled to mezonot until such time as she collects her ketuba. Once the ketuba is paid, the heirs to the estate have no other obligations to her. While she receives mezonot from the estate, she does not need to go and receive a stipend on a daily basis, rather she has the right to sell her late husband's property in order to support herself. In the context of this discussion, the Gemara raises a general question dealing with assumptions that are made at the time of a sale. What if a person sells property because he needs the money for a certain project or purchase, and then discovers that the project or purchase has fallen through. Can he insist on calling off the sale of his property with the claim that it was a mistaken sale? The Gemara brings a number of cases that can act as possible sources for a ruling on this question, concluding with the statement that the seller can call off the deal if it turns out that he did not need the money from the sale. Rashi limits this rule to situations where it was clear to all parties involved that the sale was only taking place because of the particular need that the seller had at that time. Most of the rishonim follow the position presented by Rav Hai Ga'on that even that case will fall into the category of devarim she-ba-lev and cannot impact on a sale. According to Rav Hai Ga'on, the Gemara's question is in a case where the seller clearly states at the time of the sale that his intention was to do something specific with the proceeds, but did not make it a condition of the sale. It is only in such a case that we can allow the sale to be cancelled.
Ketubot 96a-b: A Working Relationship
10/10/2022 - 15th of Tishrei, 5783
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
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When a woman is widowed, she continues to be supported by the heirs to her late husband's estate, in exchange for her work. Rabbi Yosei bar Hanina teaches that she is obligated to do all the work that she performed while her husband was alive, except for personal things like washing his face, hands and feet. In the context of this discussion, the Gemara raises the issue of similar types of service that a student does for his teacher. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taught: A student should perform any service for his teacher that a slave does for his master with the exception of removing his shoes for him. Rava explains that this is only true in a place where the student is not known, and may be thought to be a slave; otherwise it would be appropriate to remove his teacher's shoes. Rav Ashi rules that even in a place where the student is not known, if he wears tefillin he can perform such service, since the tefillin clearly indicate that he is not a slave. Sources in both the written Torah and the Talmud make it clear that shoes were considered contemptible. Entering a holy place with shoes is forbidden by the Torah (see Shemot 3:5, among other places). Striking someone with a shoe, or throwing a shoe at someone, was a form of great insult (see Tehillim 60:10). Thus, removing someone's shoes for them was something that only a slave would be asked to do. Wearing tefillin, however, is the antithesis of this. Aside from being a positive commandment in which slaves are not obligated, tefillin also are considered to have a unique element of honor attached to them. For example, the passage in Yehezkel (24:17) where the prophet is commanded to continue wearing his glory on his head is understood by the Sages to refer to tefillin.
Ketubot 95a-b: Collecting On a Loan
09/10/2022 - 14th of Tishrei, 5783
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We learned earlier that a creditor can collect from real estate owned by the borrower, even if it had subsequently been sold to a third party. Our Gemara points out that this is only true if the borrower had no other property available from which one could collect. If, however, such property was available - even if it was ziburit (i.e. low-quality real estate, and loans are usually collected from higher quality land) - collection must be made from there, and properties already purchased by others cannot be used to collect the loan. In the case where the purchaser made sure to leave some real estate available to pay off loans, but that land became ruined, can the creditor still collect from the lands that had been sold by the borrower? The Gemara argues that it is common practice for the courts to allow collection to be made from fields that have been sold, even if the purchaser made sure that there were other lands available for collections. Even in such cases, the purchaser takes on some level of risk - and presumably gets a better price for the field than he would have if the field was totally risk-free. The example presented by the Gemara is a case where a man gave a pardes - an orchard or vineyard - to his creditor for ten years, with the expectation that the produce of the land would pay off the loan over a ten-year period. After five years the field stopped producing, and the court allowed the creditor to collect from another piece of land to collect his remaining debt.
Ketubot 94a-b: The Discretion of the Judges
08/10/2022 - 13th of Tishrei, 5783
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What should be done if a field is sold, or given as a gift, to two people? The Gemara describes a case where two people claim ownership of a piece of land, and each has a signed contract with the same date of sale on it. In such a case we find a disagreement between Rav, who says that the field should be divided between them, and Shmuel, who says shuda d'dayni - it is left to the judges to decide as they see fit. In discussing the ruling, the Gemara tells the story of Rami bar Hama's mother, who wrote a contract giving all of her possessions to Rami. Later that day she wrote another contract, and in this one she gave all of her possessions to another son, Mar Ukva bar Hama. Rami bar Hama took the case to Rav Sheshet, who ruled that Rami was the owner of the property; Mar Ukva went to Rav Nahman, who ruled that it all belonged to Mar Ukva. When these two Sages met, Rav Sheshet explained that he ruled in favor of Rami, who received his contract first. Rav Nahman rejected that ruling, arguing that the contracts were written on the same date and the time of day they were written was not apparent. He followed Shmuel's ruling of shuda d'dayni and felt that the mother's true intention was to give her possessions to Mar Ukba. When Rav Sheshet argued that his ruling, too, should be considered shuda d'dayni, Rav Nahman rejected it on two counts: Rav Sheshet's original reasoning was not shuda d'dayni but an issue of time. Only judges - dayyanim - can decide shuda d'dayni. This last statement of Rav Nahman is questioned by many of the rishonim. Rav Sheshet was known to be one of the great scholars during the time of the amoraim. Why should he be excluded from performing shuda d'dayni? Rashi explains that it is a technical matter. Only official dayyanim can rule on shuda d'dayni, and for all of his knowledge, Rav Sheshet never received that title. According to the Re'ah, specifically in the area of money matters, Rav Nahman was the acknowledged expert. The Meiri points out that Rav Sheshet was blind, and a blind person cannot play the role of judge, except in cases where both parties agree to accept his ruling.
Ketubot 93a-b: If a Man Had Three Wives
07/10/2022 - 12th of Tishrei, 5783
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How do partners divide profits - and losses - on their investments? The Mishna on our daf deals with that question in the context of a similar question about wives with different size ketubot - e.g. one of them is owed 100 maneh, one 200 maneh and one 300 maneh. According to the Mishna, if the estate has only 100 maneh available for payment, all of the women share equally. If there are 200 maneh available, the two women with larger ketubot receive 75 maneh each, and the woman with the smallest ketuba receives 50 maneh. If there are 300 maneh available, the woman with the largest ketuba receives 150 maneh, the woman with the middle-sized ketuba receives 100 maneh, and the woman with the smallest ketuba receives 50. The Mishna goes on to say that in partnerships, this same rule would apply. Although the Gemara limits this rule to very specific cases, Rav Sa'adia Ga'on argues that there is a straightforward explanation for the Mishna's division of the monies that are owed. He explains that the money in the estate that is available for payment up to the value of each ketuba must be divided equally between the women, while money that is available over and above each woman's ketuba is divided up based on the percentage that each woman has owed to her. Therefore:
  • If there is only 100 maneh, which is the value of the smallest ketuba, all the women share equally.
  • If there are 200 maneh, the woman with the smallest ketuba receives one-third of the first hundred plus one-sixth of the second hundred (=50 maneh), while the other two women share equally in the remainder.
  • If there are 300 maneh - the size of the largest ketuba - then the women will all receive their shares according to the percentages that are coming to them; each receives half of what is owed to her.