Nedarim - Daf 25

  • If a person swears according to his own intent

Ravina asked Rav Ashi on the previous Daf, why the declaration of having seen multitudes is considered an exaggeration, when perhaps the one who vowed saw an anthill, called them ‘like those who left Egypt,” and thereby swore truthfully? Rav Ashi answered that people swear according to how they are naturally understood, and not according to their own private meaning. The Gemara challenges this from a Baraisa, which teaches that when a person swears in court, he is told: הוי יודע, שלא על תנאי שבלבך אנו משביעין אותך אלא על דעתינו ועל דעת בית דין - “Know that you are not swearing according to some condition in your mind, rather according to our and the court’s understanding.” Is this not to preclude a private intent, such as having given wooden chips to his lender which he has termed “coins,” whereby he can claim he swore truthfully as having paid “coins”? This implies that if not for the warning, it is assumed a person does swear according to his own understanding of the words he uses. The Gemara answers that the above warning was meant to preclude trickery, like the incident of “the cane of Rava.” A borrower who needed to swear to have paid, filled a hollow cane with coins and handed it to the unsuspecting lender at the time of his shevuah, and was thereby able to truthfully swear that he had given coins to the lender. The furious lender smashed the cane, and the coins spilled out, showing how he had technically sworn truthfully.

  • The shevuah administered by Moshe Rabbeinu

The Gemara attempts again to prove that a person may swear according to his own private intention. When Klal Yisroel swore to accept the Torah in Arvos Moav, Moshe Rabbeinu warned them: הוו יודעים, שלא על דעתכם אני משביע אתכם אלא על דעתי ועל דעת המקום - “Know that I am not having you swear according to your own intent, rather according to my intent and Hashem’s intent.” Was this not to preclude their calling an idol by the name “god” and then swear with the intent to follow its command? This implies that if not for Moshe’s statement, people do swear according to their own understanding!? The Gemara answers that idols are actually called gods in the Torah, so it is a naturally acceptable meaning of the terms that Moshe had to preclude from. After the Gemara rejects numerous other terms that Moshe could have utilized to avoid the above warning, the Gemara asks that he could have told them to swear to keep the laws of idolatry and the entire Torah, or to keep all six hundred and thirteen mitzvos. The Gemara agrees that he could have used these terms but chose the simplest method.

  • נדר שהותר מקצתו הותר כולו

In the next Mishnah’s listing of cases of נדרי שגגות - unintentional nedarim, it states: ראה אותן אוכלין תאנים, ואמר הרי עליכם קרבן - He saw people eating his figs, and he said, “They are forbidden like a korban to you!” ונמצאו אביו ואחיו והיו עמהן אחרים  - and they were found to be his father and brothers (against whom he would not have made the neder), and others were with them. Beis Shammai say that although the figs are permitted to his relatives, they are forbidden to the others. Beis Hillel disagree and say they are permitted to everyone, since the neder was partially void, regarding his father and brothers. The Gemara quotes another application of this concept, in a Mishnah about one who made a neder forbidding some food, such as meat or wine, on himself, which states: פותחין בשבתות ובימים טובים - we can make an opening for him with Shabbos and Yom Tov, asking him if he would have made the neder if he had known it is forbidden to afflict oneself on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Originally, they said:  אותן הימים מותרים ושאר כל הימים אסורים  - Those days, referring to Shabbos and Yom Tov, were permitted, and the rest of the days of the year are forbidden, until Rebbe Akiva came and taught:  נדר שהותר מקצתו הותר כלו– A neder that is nullified in part is nullified in its entirety.