THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) "I AM A NAZIR FROM FIGS"
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that if a person accepts upon himself to become
a Nazir from dried figs, according to Beis Shamai he becomes a Nazir, while
according to Beis Hillel he does not become a Nazir. Rebbi Yehudah says that
according to Beis Shamai, he does not become a Nazir but he *does* become
prohibited from figs because of a *Neder*. The Gemara discusses the reasoning
behind the rulings of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. The Gemara says that the
opinions of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel depend on the views of other Tana'im,
such as Rebbi Meir, who says that a person does not say words for no purpose.
TOSFOS cites a Tosefta that refers to this Machlokes between Beis Shamai and
Beis Hillel as a Machlokes regarding whether "Kinuyei Kinuyim" work for
Nezirus. Tosfos then cites a Yerushalmi that explains that the word
"Deveilah" is a Kinuy of a Kinuy for wine, because people call figs "Tirosh,"
a word that is also used for wine.
Why does our Gemara give a completely different explanation for the Machlokes
between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel? How can our Gemara be reconciled with
ANSWER: First we must review our Gemara's approach to the Machlokes between
Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. Since the approach of our Gemara is complicated,
we will summarize our Gemara's understanding of the Machlokes in the Mishnah,
according to the view of Tosfos.
The statement, "I am a Nazir from figs," can be interpreted in one of four
(a) It could be an illogical, meaningless statement, since everyone knows
that a Nazir refrains from wine and not from figs. The Gemara explains that
we do not interpret his statement this way, since a person does not willingly
make a meaningless statement. Both Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel agree to this
principle. Therefore, we must look for another meaning for his words.
(b) It is possible that the person intended to make himself a Nazir when he
says the first two words, "Hareini Nazir" ("I am a Nazir"), but he
immediately changed his mind and, in order to repeal his Nezirus in a subtle
way without explicitly retracting his words, he ends his statement by saying
that he will be a Nazir "from figs," thereby rendering his first statement
(of acceptance of Nezirus) meaningless, since a person cannot be a Nazir from
figs. His statement now is not meaningless; the beginning of the statement
was an acceptance of Nezirus, and the end of the statement served to refute
his acceptance of Nezirus by adjusting it within the period of "Toch K'dei
Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel both accept this as a valid interpretation of the
person's statement, but they argue regarding the outcome of such a statement.
Beis Hillel maintains that a person may change his mind within "Toch K'dei
Dibur" and therefore he is not a Nazir, since he immediately retracted his
statement. Beis Shamai, however holds that a person cannot retract his oath
of Nezirus, and therefore the person is a Nazir and is prohibited from wine.
However, there are still other ways to interpret his statement.
(c) Perhaps the person wants to accept Nezirus, and he is just making his
statement in an unusual manner ("she'Lo k'Derech ha'Misnadvim"). This is not
considered making a meaningless statement, since he indeed intends for this
statement to make himself into a Nazir, even though the words ("from figs")
at the end of his statement are not adding anything. (Why, then, did he add
those words? Perhaps he meant to say, "If I would be able to make myself a
Nazir who is prohibited from eating figs, I would do so. But since the only
type of Nazir the Torah recognizes is one who is prohibited from grape
products, therefore I will become a Nazir who cannot eat grape products.")
This is the classic case of a person using a strange wording for a Neder, in
which Rebbi Shimon says that the Neder is not valid, since the odd statement
does not clearly convey that he wants to become a Nazir. The Chachamim, who
argue with Rebbi Shimon, maintain that such a statement is a valid oath, even
though it is odd. (This is the way the Gemara originally interprets the
argument between Rebbi Shimon and the Chachamim, and it conforms to
Chizkiyah's explanation on 9b.)
According to Beis Hillel, we have already seen that there is one way to
interpret his words in which he will not be a Nazir. Therefore, even though
there is a possibility that he has this intention in mind and he does mean to
make himself a Nazir, nevertheless we are in doubt as to his true intention,
and thus we apply the rule of "Safek Nezirus l'Hakel" so that he is not a
However, if Beis Shamai were to rule like Rebbi Shimon that an odd statement
cannot be valid to make one into a Nazir, then he should rule in the case of
the Mishnah that the person is not a Nazir since it is possible that he had
this intention in mind, and "Safek Nezirus l'Hakel!" The Gemara explains that
indeed Beis Shamai holds like the Chachamim who argue with Rebbi Shimon and
say that an odd statement is valid to make a person a Nazir. (This answers
the question of the GILYON HA'SHAS, 9b.)
(This interpretation of the person's statement is only possible according to
Rebbi Meir, who says that a person does not make meaningless statements.
According to the Chachamim, who hold that a person does make meaningless
statements, it is much more logical to assume that the entire statement is
meaningless than to assume that he is making such an odd statement of
Nezirus. This is evident from TOSFOS (9b, DH Lav and DH Michdi). This is why
Rebbi Yehudah in the Mishnah asserts that the person did *not* make a
Nezirus; Rebbi Yehudah holds that a person *does* say meaningless words, and
therefore he does not want to interpret the statement as an strangely-worded
(d) A fourth possibility is that the person wants to make a Neder prohibiting
figs upon himself, and he is just making his Neder in an unusual manner
("she'Lo k'Derech ha'Misnadvim"). Again, this is not considered making a
meaningless statement, since he indeed intends for this statement to make a
Neder. Tosfos adds that the word "Nazir," when used in such a context, means
"separated from" and not Nezirus, for otherwise his statement would not have
any implication of Neder since there would be too much missing from it.
Again, according to this interpretation as well, the Machlokes of Rebbi
Shimon and the Rabanan would apply to determine whether he becomes prohibited
from figs or not.
Why does Beis Hillel not consider this statement to be a Safek Neder because
of this possible interpretation of the statement? We know that the rule with
regard to Nedarim is that "Safek Nedarim l'Hachmir!" For this reason the
Gemara concludes that Beis Hillel must hold like Rebbi Shimon, that a
strangely-formulated statement of Neder is not a valid Neder. (TOSFOS, DH
Why, though, does the Gemara not suggest a more basic answer? That is,
perhaps Beis Hillel holds that the word "Nazir" cannot be interpreted to mean
"separated from," and therefore there is no implication of Neder at all.
This, in fact, must be the reason why Beis Shamai -- according to the Tana
Kama of our Mishnah who argues with Rebbi Yehudah -- does not interpret the
person's statement as a Safek Neder, even though he holds that odd statements
*are* valid (like the Chachamim who argue with Rebbi Shimon)!
The answer is that the Gemara prefers to explain Beis Hillel without having
him argue with Rebbi Yehudah, who says that "Nazir" can be interpreted as
"separated from," a Lashon of Neder. Beis Shamai, according to the Tana Kama,
though, certainly argues with Rebbi Yehudah. (See a similar suggestion with
regard to another question in ARZEI HA'LEVANON, #18.) This is also the reason
why Chizkiyah, later in the Gemara, assumes that Beis Hillel does not hold
like the Chachamim who argue with Rebbi Shimon.
This is the essence of the Machlokes between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel,
according to Tosfos. This is why Beis Shamai considers it a valid oath of
Nezirus even when one says he is a Nazir from figs, or a Nazir from using a
certain door (Mishnah, 10a).
When the Tosefta says that Beis Hillel argues with Beis Shamai whether a
Kinuy of a Kinuy may be used for Nezirus (see also Nedarim 10b), it means to
say that there is a *fifth* way of interpreting the statement, "I am a Nazir
from figs." It is possible that the person is using the word "figs" as a
reference to grapes (either because of the Yerushalmi that says that figs are
called "Tirosh," or because of the logic of the Bavli on 10a then people
confuse fruits with other fruits). The Tosefta is teaching that Beis Hillel
does not accept that as a valid interpretation, since the word "figs" does
not have a strong enough connotation of "grapes." Beis Shamai argues with
this as well and says that there *is* a strong enough connotation that figs
means grapes. However, even if it did not have that connotation, or if a
person says "I am a Nazir from *meat*" (like the case on 10a), Beis Shamai
would still say that it is a valid Nezirus, and that is why our Gemara offers
the explanation discussed above for the Machlokes between Beis Shamai and
2) MAKING A NEZIRUS AND A NEDER WITH A SINGLE STATEMENT
QUESTION: According to one version of Rebbi Nasan's Beraisa, when a person
says "I am a Nazir from figs," Beis Shamai says that he is both a Nazir, and
he has a Neder (prohibiting him from figs).
3) FOLLOWING ONE'S FIRST STATEMENT WHEN HIS SECOND STATEMENT RETRACTS IT
How can he be a definite Nazir and have a definite Neder at the same time? If
the intention of his statement was to make a Nezirus, then he did not intend
to make a Neder, and if he intended to make a Neder, then he did not intend
to make Nezirus! (When the Beraisa says that he is a Nazir, it cannot mean
that he is a Nazir mi'Safek, because we rule that "Safek Nezirus l'Hakel.")
(a) TOSFOS in Menachos (103a) and the ROSH here explain that Rebbi Yehudah in
our Mishnah holds that the statement, "I am a Nazir from figs," is a Neder
only if the person later explains that he actually meant to make a Neder.
That is what Rebbi Yehudah in the Mishnah means by his statement, "...
*b'Omer*..." -- "*when he says* that they are Asur to me like a Korban."
Rebbi Nasan, then, is saying that according to Beis Shamai, the person could
be *either* a Nazir *or* have a Neder, but not both. If he says later that he
intended to make a Neder, it is a Neder, and if he says that he intended to
make a Nezirus, then it is a Nezirus.
(b) The TOSFOS RID explains that he indeed is a Nazir and has a Neder at the
same time. The reason is because we may assume that he is really making two
statements and not just one: the first statement is "I am a Nazir," and the
second is "*and* [I am Asur] from figs." The Tosfos Rid also explains that
according Rebbi Yehudah in the Mishnah the person automatically has a Neder
and does not have to explain his words.
QUESTION: Rebbi Yochanan says that when a person says, "I obligate myself to
bring a Minchah offering from Adashim (lentils)," he is required to bring a
Minchah offering (from wheat) according to the Chachamim who argue with Rebbi
Shimon. The reason is because we assume that he originally intended to accept
upon himself to bring a Minchah, and he immediately changed his mind, and
since we rule "Tefos Lashon Rishon" (we follow the first of two consecutive,
contradictory statements), his first statement overrides his second
Why do we apply "Tefos Lashon Rishon" in a case where the second statement is
retracting the first statement? TOSFOS earlier (9a, DH Ein Adam Motzi) says
that everyone agrees that we follow the *end* of a person's statement when
his second statement is a retraction of the first, such as "I am a Nazir from
figs" (where "from figs" is retracting his statement "I am a Nazir"). Here,
too, we should say that we follow the end of his statement, since he is
retracting within "Toch K'dei Dibur" his pledge to bring a Minchah offering!
ANSWER: The term "Tefos Lashon Rishon" here appears to be a borrowed phrase.
The Gemara really means that the Tana Kama holds like Beis Shamai, that a
person cannot retract Nidrei Hekdesh or Nezirus, even "Toch K'dei Dibur," and
that is why his first statement remains valid.
Indeed, the Gemara in Menachos (103a), which cites our Mishnah and most of
the Sugya here, explains throughout its discussion that Beis Shamai's
reasoning in our Mishnah is because of "Tefos Lashon Rishon," and there, too,
the Gemara cannot literally mean "Tefos Lashon Rishon." Rather, the Gemara is
using a borrowed term to allude to what our Gemara concludes, that Beis
Shamai says that a person cannot retract even "Toch K'dei Dibur" from
Hekdesh, as the CHIKREI LEV (YD 204) explains as cited by ARZEI HA'LEVANON
(The question of the GILYON HA'SHAS earlier on this Daf applies to this point
in the Gemara.)