Sunday, 19 July 2015

Nedarim 57: Time Based Vows, Questions About Produce

A new Mishna teaches us about a number of items that are considered konam after a vow.  Each of the three 'sections' includes a number of different cases.  In all cases, the vows regard the concept of time.  How can one make a vow about something - an item, an action, a date - that does not yet exist, though it will exist in the future? 

One of these regards a wife's handicraft, which is used to describe any item that is produced by her hands.  The Mishna suggests that the husband should vow upon her hands and what they create.  Because her hands exist, the vow is valid.  This is compared with vows about produce that are annuals versus produce that are perennials.  The Mishna reminds us to be very specific with our vows; without the particulars, one should assume that the vow applies very generally.  This applies to a husband's vow regarding benefiting from his wife's prepared food until a certain time.  We are reminded that without being specific, a husband can forbid himself from eating his wife's food for a very long time.  Our Mishna also discusses vows that block one's wife from 'visiting her father's house' during a specific time period.  The Mishna ends with a discussion about who should be punished, the husband or the wife, regarding a husband's vow that specifically stipulates her action or inaction.  Has she caused him to profane (Numbers 30:3)?

The Gemara questions the idea of benefiting from an onion that was uprooted during the Sabbatical year, Shemita, but was not replanted until the eighth year.  What if it were an onion of teruma, sanctified for the priests, that was replanted in the eighth year? The rabbis consider the onion's growth: it is permitted only if it's growth exceeds its original state.  

The rabbis ask the same question regarding a tree branch that is orla, within its first three years, that is grafted onto an older vine.  Even if the new growth produces excessive fruit, any fruit that grew prior to the grafting is forbidden.  

I find it fascinating to learn that sibcha, grafted trees produce permitted fruit.  In an orchard and even in clothing, one is not to mix different kinds.  Why would it be that the grafting of two different trees and the production of new varieties of fruits might be permitted?  This is one of those teachings that remind me of the rabbis' strict adherence to Torah text beyond all else.  If there is not Torah law forbidding a practice, it is up for grabs (at least in Talmudic times).

Our daf ends with a discussion of those very rules just mentioned.  If an onion is planted in a vineyard and the vineyard and onion are uprooted, the onion remains forbidden.  The rabbis question how new growth from replanted onions might neutralize the prohibition of the first, forbidden onion.  Is this due to a ruling about a stringency? 

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