Thoughts on Nazir 62
In yesterday’s daf, Nazir 62, a few thoughts.
״אִישׁ כִּי יַפְלִא״ בַּעֲרָכִין לְמָה לִי? אֶלָּא הַאי ״אִישׁ״, מִיבְּעֵי לֵיהּ לְאֵיתוֹיֵי מוּפְלָא סָמוּךְ לְאִישׁ.
The Gemara now restates its question: In that case, why do I need the phrase “when a man shall clearly utter a vow” stated with regard to valuations? Rather, this term, “man,” does not include gentiles, but is necessary to include a minor one year before he or she reaches majority. If a minor takes a vow one year before coming of age, and shows a clear understanding of his statement, the vow takes effect. This individual is included in the halakhot of valuations as well.
I’ve always thought it obvious, but I haven’t seen it expressed or appreciated. The derasha seems to be working as follows. Usually, ish designates an “adult” male, 13 years old. However, we darshen not just the extraneous word איש but the full phrase אִישׁ כִּי יַפְלִא as “an ish who is (defined as) one who is clever”, can think things through. Thus, a muflah hasamuch le’ish comes as much from yafli as from ish.
אָמַר רַב אַדָּא בַּר אַהֲבָה: לְאֵיתוֹיֵי גּוֹי גָּדוֹל, דְּאַף עַל גַּב דְּגָדוֹל הוּא — אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לְהַפְלוֹת.
Rav Adda bar Ahava said: The verse is referring to all vows, and serves to include, i.e., to teach, the halakha of a type of adult gentile, who although he is an adult he does not know how to clearly utter a vow. The verse teaches that his vows are invalid, as derived from the phrase “when a man shall clearly vow.” Vows of a gentile are valid only if he can express them clearly.
There are two Sages names Rav Ada bar Ahava. The earlier one, a student of Rav, may be too early for this sugya. The later one, a student of Rava associated with Mechoza, fits better here as Abaye and Rava also seem to be present.
לְאֵיתוֹיֵי יָדַיִם שֶׁאֵינָן מוֹכִיחוֹת. דְּאִיתְּמַר: יָדַיִם שֶׁאֵינָן מוֹכִיחוֹת, אַבָּיֵי אָמַר: הָוְיָין יָדַיִם. רָבָא אָמַר: לָא הָוְיָין יָדַיִם. לְאַבָּיֵי נִיחָא. אֶלָּא לְרָבָא, מַאי אִיכָּא לְמֵימַר?
The Gemara answers: This verse serves to include the case of one who vowed by means of ambiguous intimations, i.e., he expressed only part of the formula of the vow, so that his meaning is unclear. As it was stated that amora’im had a dispute with regard to this issue: With regard to ambiguous intimations, Abaye said that they are considered intimations to vows, and the vows take effect, and Rava said that they are not considered intimations to vows, and the vows do not take effect. According to the opinion of Abaye, this answer works out well, as the phrase “when a man shall clearly utter,” serves to include all pronouncements indicative of vows, even ambiguous intimations. However, according to the opinion of Rava, what is there to say?
I’m somewhat confounded by this derasha. Associating it with יָדַיִם שֶׁאֵינָן מוֹכִיחוֹת seems arbitrary, unless I am missing something. The other derashot at least have some semantic connection between the words and the laws.
Rav Steinsaltz notes a flipping of Abaye and Rava:
I suppose this is because it is better to have the gemara work, at this stage, according to Rava, rather than Abaye. We should compare with other sugyot to see who really said what.
That we are suggesting Abaye vs. Rava also places the Talmudic Narrator of this passage at some time after them.
מַאי טַעְמָא? דְּאָמַר קְרָא: ״לְהָרַע אוֹ לְהֵיטִיב״, מָה הֲטָבָה רְשׁוּת — אַף הֲרָעָה רְשׁוּת. יָצָא לְהָרַע לַאֲחֵרִים — שֶׁאֵין הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ.
What is the reason for this? It is as the verse states with regard to oaths: “Or if anyone swear clearly with his lips to do evil, or to do good” (Leviticus 5:4). Just as the “good” mentioned in this verse is referring to a voluntary action, so too the “evil” is voluntary, e.g., if he takes an oath not to derive benefit from an item. This excludes a slave, whose oath or vow would cause evil to others, as it is not in his power to affect his master adversely. Therefore, his statement is invalid. Here too, as the owner will suffer if his slave’s diet is restricted, a slave may not accept a vow or an oath upon himself.
The target here is the Canaanite slave, but the inspirational idea is that one should realize that taking on a stringency can negatively impact others. That is the same driving force behind a husband nullifying his wife’s vows. I’m reminded of Rav Yisrael Salanter, father of the mussar movement:
He was also quoted as saying, “It is prohibited to enhance your mitzvot at the expense of others.” One day Rabbi Salanter was hosted by a rich man. When he performed the ritual hand-washing before the meal, he used a sparing amount of water. He was asked, “Doesn’t the Torah say it is praiseworthy to wash with a lot of water?” He answered, “I can only do that in my own home. Here, however, I must consider the needs of the servant who must carry the buckets of water.”
When attending large dinners, Rabbi Salanter also hurried to finish eating quickly in consideration of the waiters and other workers, who had to wait until the end of the meal to go home. “Justice, justice you shall pursue in order that you may live in and inherit the land.”
Finally, once again, we have an Abaye / Rava swap. I discussed an earlier one here:
In our sugya, we first have Rav Sheshet answer a question, then gemara attack it, then ela amar Rava, then the gemara attack that answer, and finally ela amar Abaye. Rav Steinsaltz notes that in manuscripts and elsewhere, the first Rava becomes Abaye. According to this, we have two ela amar Abaye in a row. In other words, either Abaye emends his own words, or the Talmudic Narrator does so on his behalf.
Here is the image, with printed texts having Rava and then Abaye, and manuscripts having Abaye in both places.
Meanwhile, as Rav Steinsaltz notes, the Bach emends the second instance of Abaye to Rava:
What is happening here is that the gemara appears to conclude / rule in accordance with the final explanation given, that only by Nazir need the master explicitly demur. For typical vows and oaths, it doesn’t take hold at all.
And, we have a general principle that the halacha is like Abaye over Rava only in yal kegam. And this is not one of the six.
To resolve this contradiction, the easiest thing to do is flip Rava and Abaye, or else have both from Abaye.
(I have my own explanation of yal kegam - that this is only when they are the only two disputants, and they each talk to one another to prove their case, and the gemara explicitly concludes with a “hilcheta” or a “tiyuvta” like Abaye over Rava. That is the purpose of the mnemonic. Not that in all other cases, we must rule like Rava. In fact, there are many gemaras, including some noted by Rishonim, where we rule like Abaye that are not part of yal kegam.)
Because of lectio difficilior, Abaye and then Rava is unlikely. It is either Abaye / Abaye or, perhaps the printed text has what to rely upon, and it should be Rava followed by Abaye.
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