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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim
MISHNAH. IF ONE VIEWS BY HEREM,1 AND THEN SAYS, 'I VOWED ONLY BY A FISHING NET',2 BY KORBAN, AND THEN SAYS, I VOWED ONLY BY ROYAL GIFTS',3 [IF HE SAYS] BEHOLD! [I MYSELF] 'AZMI BE A KORBAN',4 AND THEN STATES. 'I VOWED ONLY BY THE EZEM [BONE] WHICH I KEEP FOR THE PURPOSE OF VOWING';5 [IF ONE SAYS,] 'KONAM BE ANY BENEFIT MY WIFE HAS OF ME, AND THEN DECLARES, I SPOKE ONLY OF MY FIRST WIFE, WHOM I HAVE DIVORCED (IF NONE OF THESE [VOWS] DO THEY REQUIRE TO SEEK ABSOLUTION.6 BUT IF A REQUEST FOR ABSOLUTION IS PREFERRED, THEY ARE PUNISHED AND TREATED STRICTLY: THIS IS THE VIEW OF R. MEIR, BUT THE SAGES SAY: THEY ARE GIVEN AN OPENING [FOR REGRET] (IN OTHER GROUNDS.7 AND THEY ARE ADMONISHED SO THAT THEY DO NOT TREAT VOWS WITH LEVITY.
GEMARA. This is self-contradictory: You say, OF NONE OF THESE VOWS DO THEY REQUIRE TO SEEK ABSOLUTION; and then you continue: IF A REQUEST FOR ABSOLUTION IS PREFERRED, THEY ARE PUNISHED AND TREATED STRICTLY?8 — Said Rab Judah, This is its meaning; OF NONE OF THESE VOWS DO THEY REQUIRE TO SEEK ABSOLUTION. This applies however only to a scholar;9 and when 'am ha-arez10 applies for absolution, he is punished and treated strictly. Now 'TREATED STRICTLY' is well: it means that we do not suggest an opening for regret.11 But how are they punished? — As it was taught: If one vowed neziroth and then violated his vow: his case is not examined unless he observes his vow for the full period that he had violated it: this is the view of R. Judah. R. Jose said: This applies only to short neziroth [i.e., thirty days]; but in the case of a long period of neziroth, thirty days are sufficient.12 R. Joseph said: Since the Rabbis have decreed, his case is not to be examined, if a Beth din13 does attend to it [before time], it does not act right [and must be reprimanded]. R. Aha b. Jacob said: It is banned.14
BUT THE SAGES SAY: THEY ARE GIVEN AN OPENING [FOR] REGRET etc. It was taught: Never make a practice of vowing, for ultimately you will trespass in the matter of oaths,15 and do not frequent an 'am ha-arez, for eventually he will give you tebalim;16 and do not associate with a priest, an 'am ha-arez, for ultimately he will give you terumah to eat;17 and do not converse much with women, as this will ultimately lead you to unchastity.18 R. Aha of the school of19 R. Josiah said: He who gazes at a woman eventually comes to sin, and he who looks even at a woman's heel will beget degenerate children. R. Joseph said: This applies even to one's own wife when she is a niddah.20 R. Simeon b. Lakish said: 'Heel' that is stated means the unclean part, which is directly opposite the heel.
It was taught: [And Moses said unto the people, fear not: for God is come to prove you,] that his fear may be before your faces:21 By this is meant shamefacedness; that ye sin not22 — this teaches that shamefacedness leads to fear of sin: hence it was said23 that it is a good sign if a man is shamefaced.24 Others say: No man who experiences shame25 will easily sin; and he who is not shamefaced — it is certain that his ancestors were not present at Mount Sinai.
R. Johanan b. Dahabai said: The Ministering Angels told me four things: People are born lame because they [sc. their parents] overturned their table [i.e., practised unnatural cohabitation]; dumb, because they kiss 'that place'; deaf, because they converse during cohabitation; blind, because they look at 'that place'. But this contradicts the following: Imma Shalom26 was asked: Why are
Nedarim 20bthy children so exceedingly beautiful? She replied: [Because] he [my husband] 'converses' with me neither at the beginning nor at the end of the night, but [only] at midnight; and when he 'converses', he uncovers a handbreadth and covers a hand breadth, and is as though he were compelled by a demon. And when I asked him, What is the reason for this [for choosing midnight], he replied, So that I may not think of another woman,1 lest my children be as bastards.2 — There is no difficulty: this refers to conjugal matters;3 the other refers to other matters.
R. Johanan said: The above is the view of R. Johanan b. Dahabai; but our Sages said: The halachah is not as R. Johanan b. Dahabai, but a man may do whatever he pleases with his wife [at intercourse]: A parable; Meat which comes from the abattoir, may be eaten salted, roasted, cooked or seethed; so with fish from the fishmonger.4 Amemar said: Who are the 'Ministering Angels'? The Rabbis. For should you maintain it literally, why did R. Johanan say that the halachah is not as R. Johanan b. Dahabai, seeing that the angels know more about the formation of the fetus than we? And why are they designated 'Ministering Angels'? — Because they are as distinguished as they.5
A woman once came before Rabbi and said, 'Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he overturned it.' Rabbi replied: 'My daughter! the Torah hath permitted thee to him — what then can I do for thee?' A woman once came before Rab and complained. 'Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he overturned it.' Rab replied; Wherein does it differ from a fish?6
And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me.9 R. Levi said: This refers to children belonging to the following nine categories: children of fear,10 of outrage, of a hated wife, one under a ban,11 of a woman mistaken for another,12 of strife,13 of intoxication [during intercourse], of a mentally divorced wife,14 of promiscuity, and of a brazen woman.15 But that is not so: for did not R. Samuel b. Nahmani say in the name of R. Jonathan: One who is summoned to his marital duty by his wife will beget children such as were not to be found even in the generation of Moses? For it is said, Take you wise men, and understanding [and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you];16 and it is written, So I took the chiefs of your tribes, wise men and known17 but 'understanding' is not mentioned.18 But it is also written, Issachar is a large-boned ass;19 whilst elsewhere it is written, And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the titles?20 — [It is virtuous] only when the wife ingratiates herself [with her husband].21
MISHNAH. FOUR TYPES OF VOWS HAVE THE SAGES INVALIDATED;22 VIZ., VOWS INCENTIVE, VOWS OF EXAGGERATION, VOWS IN ERROR, AND VOWS [BROKEN] UNDER PRESSURE.23 VOWS INCENTIVE: E.G., IF ONE WAS SELLING AN ARTICLE AND SAID, KONAM THAT I DO NOT LET YOU HAVE IT FOR LESS THAN A SELA''; AND THE OTHER REPLIED, KONAM THAT I DO NOT GIVE YOU MORE THAN A SHEKEL —
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