Friday, May 29, 2015

Nedarim 4 – Or perhaps, “Do not delay” does not apply?

For the past two pages we were discussing why the prohibition of “Do not delay” applies to a Nazir. We even found a special case when it would apply – when one says, “I will be a Nazir before I die.”

However, is that even true? After all, the laws of Nazir are an unusual innovation not found in other parts of the Torah. What is unusual? – The fact that one can complete his vow of a Nazir by offering only one of the three required sacrifices; this is not ideal, but acceptable. You might have thought that just as the laws of a Nazir are more lenient here, so too they are more lenient in regards to the “Do not delay” requirement. For that we have to rely on the rule of similarity: vows and Nazir are similar; as such, all laws of vows apply to the Nazir.

On the other hand, maybe applying the rule of similarity is an overkill? Perhaps a simple rule of “context” would work? “Context” means if we find a law in one case, it applies to all other similar areas. For example, the father can annul a vow of his daughter. Therefore, he should be able annul other similar vows, such as if she wants to be a Nazir (technically, “Nazirah”). – No, that logic would not work: vows are stricter in that they have no limit, but a usual Nazir is for thirty days. So maybe that's why father needs the power to annul a vow but not a Nazir vow. Thus, we are back to using the rule of similarity.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nedarim 3 – Do not delay

On the previous page we were left with the question, why the teacher sometimes chooses to explain the concepts out of order, while sometimes he does explain them in the order of introduction. The answer is that the teacher loves complicated and non-obvious derivations, and prefers to explain them first.

Just as one can vow not to eat, drink, or use an object, so one can vow to become a Nazir, so that he won't drink wine, cut his hair or go to a cemetery. The laws of vows and of Nazir are parallel: one should not violate his vow nor should he delay it.

However, how can one violate a “do not delay” to become a Nazir? All the time that he is not a Nazir, he is not, and there is no requirement to become one. And once he vows to be a Nazir, he is, and he is not delaying anything.

This situation can be found when he says, “I will be a Nazir before I die.” Since he does not know when he will die, he should become a Nazir immediately, because he might die the next moment. All the time that he does not become a Nazir, he violates the “do not delay” prohibition. This is similar to the one who says to his wife, “Here is your divorce (Get) an instant before I die.” If for example she is married to a Kohen, she is immediately prohibited to eat the Kohen's portion (terumah) since he may die the very next moment, and it would come out that she ate terumah illegally.

Art: A seated Peasant eating a Meal by German School

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nedarim 2 – What is a vow?

A man can vow against eating meat, for example, and then he will become liable for eating it, as if it were non-kosher. He can use the words, “I am making a vow (neder),” but he can also say “This is prohibited to me as a sacrifice (“korban”). He can use a synonym, such as “konam” instead of a “korban.” Finally, he can say an incomplete vow, such as “I am separated from you” or “I am distanced from you,” and as a results he will not be able to derive any benefit from his fellow who was the subject of his vow.

The same rule applies for oaths as well. But how is an oath different from a vow? – Vow is usually directed at an object (bread), but oath talks about the person's action (eating this bread).

For the next ten pages we will discuss incomplete vows, and now the Talmud discusses why the teacher chose to discuss incomplete vows, which were mentioned last, and not synonyms, which were mentioned first. The example of different word sequences are brought from all areas of law, such as adornments which woman can wear on Shabbat, flour sacrifices in the Temple, and the laws of inheritance.

Art: Making bread by Frank Bramley

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ketubot 109 – The girls should be supported

The second of the two judges promulgating decrees was Admon. However, some of his seven decrees were hotly contested. Here is one example.

By Torah law, when a man dies, only his sons get a portion in his inheritance, but not his daughters. The Sages changed this in favor of the daughters: if there is enough money in the estate, the daughters are supported until they marry or grow up, and the sons divide the rest of the inheritance; but if there is not enough money, then the daughters are supported from whatever there is, and the sons can go begging.

Admon argued: just because they are males, they should lose all? Rather, divide the estate equally! – but the Sages still did not agree, and their logic was that the boys can looks for sustenance easier than the girls.

Another example: if the father of the bride promised money to his son-in-law as dowry but defaulted, the son-in-law can insist on his rights and say that he is no marrying until the promise is paid – or until the bride's hair turn white.

Admon suggested that the bride should argue thus: “I could understand this if it was I who promised the money, but it is my father, so what am I to do?” She can then force the groom to either marry her or write her a Get releasing her. This reasoning of Admon was accepted.

Art: The young bride by John Phillip

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ketubot 108 – One who puts his money on the horns of a deer

A husband who goes oversees still has an obligation to provide for his wife. As we learned before, his possessions may even be sold for this purpose.

Imagine that someone else, the husband's benefactor, decided to provide for the wife's upkeep. Even though he thus saves the husband from potential losses, still, when the husband returns, he has no obligation to repay his benefactor. In general, if one pays up his fellow's debt, that fellow does not have to repay for this – this is the opinion of Chanan, one of the two judges whom we met before.

Other Sages (who, incidentally, were sons of High Priests) disagree and require the husband to reimburse the benefactor. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai concurs with Chanan and expresses it thus: “The benefactor is like one who puts his money on the horns of a deer” (where he is likely to never see it again).

Art: Deer In A Landscape by Johannes Christian Deiker

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ketubot 107 – The husband went on a trip, leaving his wife penniless

Imagine that the husband went on a trip, leaving his wife penniless - or, at least, this is what she claims. In this case, she comes to court, asking the court to start selling the husband's property, to provide for her support.

One of the two judges whom we mentioned above as promulgating beneficial decrees, by the name of Chanan,  ruled that she will have to swear afterwards, when she comes to collect her Ketubah payment. However, right now she does not have to swear about her claim and is provided with sustenance. Others disagreed, but Chanan's law was accepted.

But in general, do we really provide for sustenance by selling the estate? – If he left not on good terms, we can believe that he left her nothing. But normally, does a man leave his house empty? – For these reasons, Shmuel ruled that the court does not give her sustenance. What about the ruling of Chanan? Even those who disagreed with Chanan only argued about an oath, but not about sustenance, can we assume that Shmuel is wrong? – No, Shmuel will tell you that Chanan was talking about a special case where there is a rumor that the husband died. Then we can give her sustenance, but not in the normal case.

Rav, however, disagreed with Shmuel: there is no reason to suspect the wife, and sustenance is given her, even including money for fragrances.

Art: In the estate by Boris Kustodiev

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ketubot 106 – Influence of the judge

A certain man brought a basket of cheap small fish to Rav Anan, a righteous man. Rav Anan, who was a judge, said “I am not taking your fish, and I am disqualified from judging your case.” The man said, “Giving a present to a righteous man is like bringing the best sacrifice in the Temple, please accept.” Rav Anan, having disqualified himself from the case anyway, accepted the gift. Still, this is what happened.

Rav Anan sent the man to Rav Nachman's court, saying that he, Rav Anan, was disqualified from judging it. Rav Nachman assumed that the reason was because Ran Anan was a relative of the man, and treated the man with honor. On seeing this, the man's opponent was confused in his arguments and lost the case.

As a consequence, the Prophet Elijah, who used to visit Rav Anan every day, stopped coming. Rav Anan fasted and prayed, and Elijah came back, but now he had a scary appearance, and Rav Anan had to study with Elijah while being hidden in a box. The first set of teachings, before the incident, is called “The Great Book of Elijah,” whereas the second set, after the incident, is called “The Small Book of Elijah,” and the above is the reason.

Art: The Golden Fish by Paul Klee