The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.
This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris, The Lewy Family Foundation, and Marilyn and Edward Kaplan
The Mishnah (20b) teaches that if a man says hareini nazir and his wife agrees, saying va-ani – “I am, as well,” the husband can choose to be mefer (annul) her acceptance of the status of nezirut, even though his own commitment remains intact. If, however, a woman says hareini nezirah – “I accept upon myself the rules of a nazir” – and her husband says in response va-ani – “I am, as well,” the husband can no longer annul his wife’s vow of nezirut, and they will both become nezirim.
At first, the Gemara tries to use this ruling to conclude that once such a neder (vow) has been approved by the husband, he cannot change his mind because he would essentially be annulling his own neder. That is to say, once he erases the neder made by his wife, it will become clear that his own statement of va–ani no longer refers to a meaningful commitment and his commitment to nezirut will disappear, as well. After some discussion, however, the Gemara explains that there is a different rule that is applicable in this case. In fact, we do not consider the husband’s statement as merely accepting nezirut himself, rather we understand it to be an emphatic approval of his wife’s statement – so emphatic that it cannot be undone.
The Ran in Masechet Nedarim (21b) explains that the statement that he made – va-ani – is seen as a statement of emphatic approval, as if he said “I approve of your neder forever.” By accepting personal nezirut we understand him to be saying that he is so comfortable with the idea of nezirut that he is willing to accept it upon himself. Had he, in fact, desired to reject his wife’s vow, we would have anticipated that he would have clearly said that he was accepting nezirut upon himself even as he was forbidding his wife from keeping her vow.
The Mishnah on our daf introduces a case where a woman accepts the laws of nezirut on herself, and then proceeds to perform acts that are forbidden to a nazir (drinking wine, coming into contact with the dead). According to the Mishnah, if her husband is mefer (annuls) her vow – based on his powers as described in Bamidbar (30:9) and throughout Masechet Nedarim – she will not be punished, although Rabbi Yehuda rules that she will receive makkat mardut – Rabbinic lashes.
Just as someone who transgresses a biblical prohibition is liable to receive malkot – lashes – as punishment, the Sages instituted malkot for a variety of transgressions, as well. The Talmud Yerushalmi and the Geonim list a number of practical differences between these two punishments –
- Biblical malkot have a prescribed number – 39 – which are given under strict medical supervision. Makkat mardut have no limit; they are given until the transgressor offers contrition and commits himself to refrain from the transgression in the future.
- While biblical malkot are given only for specific, active transgressions based on the ruling of the courts, makkat mardut apply to a wide variety of things, including neglecting mitzvot asei (positive commandments) and rabbinic prohibitions.
Rav Saadiah Gaon argues with this and rules that makkat mardut are no more than 13 lashes, and Tosafot suggest that they are modeled on the biblical punishment and are limited to 39 lashes. Some of the rishonim suggest that not all makkat mardut are created equal – depending on the severity of the act and the need to discourage its repetition, makkat mardut may be either harsher or less severe than biblical malkot.
The simplest interpretation of the term mardut is that it is from the word mered – rebellion or uprising – that this is the punishment given to someone who is rebelling against Jewish law or Jewish practice (see the commentaries to I Shmuel 20:30).
The Mishnah on our daf discusses a case where a woman accepts the laws of nezirut on herself, and then sets aside an animal for the sacrifice that she will bring upon completing her nezirut. According to the Mishnah, if her husband is mefer (annuls) her vow – based on his powers as described in Bamidbar (30:9) and throughout Masechet Nedarim – the status of the sacrifice will depend on a number of factors:
If the animal belonged to her husband, it can simply be returned to the flock.
If the animals belonged to her:
- The chatat (sin offering) is left to die, since the chatat cannot be used for any other purpose.
- The olah can be brought as a voluntary olah
- The shelamim is brought as a voluntary shelamim sacrifice, but it must be eaten the same day, like the shelamim of a nazir.
If she had put aside money for the sacrifices, if she had not designated them for specific sacrifices, the money become a nedava – it is either given to the Temple for general sacrifices or else she brings olot. If she had designated the money for specific sacrifices, those that can be brought as voluntary sacrifices should go for those purposes; the money designated for the hatat, yelkhu le-Yam HaMelach – should go to the Dead Sea.
When the Talmud mentions Yam HaMelach, the Dead Sea, sometimes the intention is to any salty sea (as opposed to a fresh water lake) while other times it refers specifically to the Dead Sea, known in Talmudic literature as “The Sea of Sodom.” Forbidden object are thrown into the Dead Sea because there are no fishermen or other people who would come across these objects. An additional reason may be that the high concentration of salts in the water of the Dead Sea would dissolve anything that was thrown into it.
We learned on yesterday’s daf that when a sacrifice cannot be brought for its original specific purpose, we try to offer it instead as a similar voluntary korban. Some sacrifices that are set aside in response to a very specific incident – e.g. a korban chatat (a sin offering) – cannot be switched to a general purpose and are left to die.
Our Gemara contrasts the case of a korban chatat with that of an asham, which is also brought to atone for certain specific transgressions. The similarity notwithstanding, the ruling is that in a case where the chatat is left to die, the asham is ro’eh – it is allowed to graze normally until it receives a mum (a blemish) that makes it unfit to be brought as a sacrifice, at which time it can be sold and a voluntary sacrifice can be bought with the proceeds.
The Gemara points out that there is a process involved in declaring the unusable asham an animal that should be ro’eh, after which the status of the animal changes. Rav Huna quotes Rav as teaching that once the animal has been assigned to be ro’eh, it is a kosher korban if it is slaughtered with the intention of being sacrificed as an olah. From this the Gemara concludes that if the animal had not yet been assigned to be ro’eh, the animal could not be brought as a korban olah, and if it is sacrificed with that in mind, it is pasul (rendered unfit).
The Me’iri quotes two opinions about when the asham becomes an animal that is ro’eh – either when the treasurer of the Temple declares it to be so, or else when it is turned over to the shepherd who is told of the animal’s special status, and the need to keep track of when the animal developed a mum. Once the animal has been assigned to be ro’eh, it is no longer an asham, and if it is brought as a voluntary olah sacrifice, it will be kosher. The problem with sacrificing the animal prior to its change of status is simply that an asham cannot be brought as an olah.
As we learned, the Mishnah (24a) distinguished between two cases when money was put aside for a nazir‘s sacrifices and then it turned out that there was no need to bring those sacrifices (e.g. a woman accepted upon herself to be a nezirah, and when her husband found out he was mefer (annulled) his wife’s vow). If the money was set aside for the sacrifices without specifying which money was for which korban, then the money should be used for voluntary olot sacrifices; if the money was set aside with specific sacrifices in mind, each of them should be used for a similar korban on a voluntary basis (i.e. not for the sacrifices of a nazir), except for the chatat – the sin offering – which must be destroyed.
Our Gemara brings the teaching of Rav Huna in the name of Rav who claims that this distinction is true regarding money that was set aside. If, however, an animal was set aside then it will always be clear which sacrifice it is for.
The simplest explanation of this ruling is that since each of the different korbanot sacrificed by a nazir is brought from a different animal, we can know exactly which sacrifice the nazir had in mind: the chatat (sin offering) is a female animal, the olah is a male and the shelamim is a two year old ram. Thus if circumstances prevent the sacrifices from being brought at the end of the nezirut the chatat will be left to die, while the olah and shelamim will be brought as a voluntary olah and shelamim.
Tosafot argue that this cannot be the intention of Rav Huna in the name of Rav, since this ruling can be understood from the Mishnah. Rather Tosafot suggest that we are dealing with a case where the animal that was set aside clearly cannot be brought as the korban of a nazir, e.g. he set aside several parim – cows – that cannot be brought as one of the sacrifices. The ruling is that we must see these animals as having been set aside to pay for all of the sacrifices, and since each of them includes a portion of the chatat sacrifice we will have to let these animals die – similar to the ruling that money set aside for a chatat that cannot be brought must be thrown into the Dead Sea.
We have been discussing cases where an animal was set aside to serve as a sacrifice and that sacrifice can no longer be brought (e.g. a woman’s nezirut was annulled by her husband, or the owner of a sin offering dies before it is brought). In such cases, can the sacrifice be switched for another purpose? We have seen that although in some cases it might be switched to a similar korban, in cases of chatat – of a sin offering – it cannot be switched.
Our Gemara quotes a baraita that understands the word korbano – his sacrifice – (see Vayikra 4:23) to limit a chatat so much that even if someone’s father dies, leaving an unsacrificed korban chatat, the son cannot make use of the animal for his own sin offering. Although this may appear to be obvious, given the fact that no sin offering can be switched from one to another, Rabbeinu Peretz suggests that we may have thought that there was an exception in the case of a son, who not only receives an inheritance from his father, but actually steps into his father’s place with regard to many halakhot. We may have thought, therefore, that by sacrificing the chatat we view the son’s korban as though it had been brought by his father.
In the course of this Gemara we learn that the word korbano actually appears three times in the section on sin offerings (see Vayikra, chapter 4, pesukim 23, 28 and 32), and none of them are essential for the laws of the korban chatat itself. From this the Gemara derives three halakhot that emphasize the need for the sin offering to be uniquely his and no one else’s. He cannot use a korban set aside by his father, he cannot use a korban even if it was set aside for a similar type of transgression and finally he cannot use money set aside by his father for purchase of a different chatat.
In many communities today Orthodox women wear wigs in order to cover their hair in public. Some suggest that the source for this tradition is from today’s daf.
The Mishna teaches that in a case where a woman has completed her nezirut and begins bringing the sacrifices that conclude her time as a nazir, her husband can no longer object to her nezirut and be mefer (annul) her vow of nezirut. He can do so, however, if she is bringing sacrifices after having become temei’ah (ritually defiled) and is returning to her status as a nezirah, since he can argue that her refraining from wine affects their relationship. Rabbi Meir argues that even if the nezirut is over the husband can object, arguing that he can reasonably claim that having a wife with a shaven head is unpleasant for him.
The Gemara explains the disagreement between Rabbi Meir and the Tanna Kamma as an argument about whether wearing a pe’ah nochrit – a wig – is acceptable. The Tanna Kamma is comfortable with a pe’ah nochrit, while according to Rabbi Meir the husband can object to a wig since it is zuhama – it is dirty.
Rashi explains the idea of zuhama according to its usual meaning – it gets dirty. Since during Talmudic times the techniques of connecting the hair to the covering that is placed on the head were not well developed, it was impossible to properly brush and wash the wig, and they often became dirty. Tosafot point out that even in settings where there was a lack of hygiene, her husband was more likely to object since this dirt was not a natural part of the woman’s body. The Me’iri claims that in this case, zuhama might refer to the fact that the wig could not be brushed and combed well, and its unkempt look may have been unpleasant to her husband. Finally, the Rosh suggests that the very idea of a woman wearing someone else’s hair may have been objectionable to her husband.
In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit www.steinsaltz.org or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
Like this article?
Sign up for our Shabbat Shalom e-newsletter, a weekly roundup of inspirational thoughts, insight into current events, divrei torah, relationship advice, recipes and so much more!