24b----------------------------------------24b

1) "SHEVU'OS HAVAI" -- MEANINGLESS OATHS

QUESTION: The Gemara says (according to our Girsa) that although "Nidrei Havai (meaningless Nedarim) are Mutar, Shevu'os Havai are Asur." According to the Girsa of the RAN and others, the Gemara says that "just as Nidrei Havai are Mutar, so, too, Shevu'os Havai are Mutar."

The Gemara (according to both Girsa'os) asks for an example of a Shevu'as Havai. Abaye suggests that a Shevu'as Havai is when one says, "[I hereby make a] Shevu'ah that I saw on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim." Rava rejects Abaye's example: it is obvious and "Lamah Li l'Meimar" -- why does the Beraisa need to teach that such a Shevu'ah is Asur (or Mutar, according to the alternate Girsa)? Instead, Rava asserts that the case of a Shevu'as Havai to which the Beraisa refers is when one says, "All of the fruit in the world should be forbidden to me with a Shevu'ah if I did not see on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim." That is, he makes a contingency Shevu'ah that will take effect only if he did not see what he claims to have seen.

Rava's case apparently is not as obvious an example of a Shevu'as Havai as Abaye's, since the Gemara does not ask the same question on Rava's case that Rava asks on Abaye's. Why, though, is Rava's example of a Shevu'as Havai less obvious than Abaye's? If it is obvious that a Shevu'ah "that I saw on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim" is forbidden because a person does not exaggerate when he utters a Shevu'ah (as opposed to the way he exaggerates when he makes a Neder), and since he certainly did not see "k'Olei Mitzrayim" his Shevu'ah was made in vain (and constitutes a Shevu'as Shav which is forbidden), then it is equally obvious in Rava's case of a Shevu'as Havai that the Shevu'ah will take effect to prohibit the fruit! Likewise, according to the other Girsa, if it is obvious that Abaye's case of a Shevu'as Havai is Mutar because a person exaggerates when he makes a Shevu'ah just as he exaggerates when he makes a Neder, it is equally obvious that in Rava's case the Shevu'ah will not take effect and the fruit will not be Asur because the person was merely exaggerating!

In truth, although according to the Girsa of the RASHBA, RAN, and ROSH, Rava asks Abaye that his case of a Shevu'as Havai is obvious ("Lamah Li l'Meimar"), some Rishonim do not have this Girsa (RITVA, RABEINU AVRAHAM MIN HA'HAR). The ME'IRI explains that they do not have this Girsa because their Girsa in the Beraisa states that Shevu'os Havai are Mutar, and thus it is not at all obvious that saying "Shevu'ah that I saw on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim" is Mutar and is not a Shevu'as Shav. After all, the Mishnah in Shevuos (29a) states that saying "Shevu'ah that I saw a snake like the beam of an olive press" is a Shevu'as Shav. Why, then, does Rava ask that it is obvious that such a Shevu'ah is Mutar and is not a Shevu'as Shav? For this reason, these Rishonim did not have this question in the Gemara.

However, according to the Girsa in the Beraisa that Shevu'os Havai are Mutar, there is a more general question. How is the Beraisa to be reconciled with the Mishnah in Shevuos (29a) that says that such a Shevu'ah is a Shevu'as Shav and is Asur? (Rava and Abaye there also argue about the nature of the Shevu'ah.)

ANSWERS:

(a) There are three basic approaches in the Rishonim to explain Rava's question on Abaye's case and to explain why Rava's case is not as obvious as Abaye's, according to the Girsa that Shevu'os Havai are Mutar.

1. The ROSH explains that although a person exaggerates when he makes a Neder, he does not exaggerate when he makes a Shevu'ah. Hence, in Rava's case, when a person makes a Shevu'ah to prohibit all of the fruit in the world to himself if he "did not see on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim," one might have thought that the Shevu'ah takes effect and the fruit becomes Asur, and the Shevu'ah is not attributed to exaggeration. One might have thought that the Rabanan were stringent to make the fruit Asur because of the severity of making a Shevu'ah with the name of Hash-m.

The RASHBA adds that because of the severity of making a Shevu'ah with the name of Hash-m, when one makes a contingency Shevu'ah to prohibit fruit he does not exaggerate. (That is, the person himself does not intend to exaggerate, and not that the Rabanan were stringent.) Therefore, Rava teaches that such a Shevu'ah does not take effect and his words are attributed to exaggeration.

Why, though, does the same not apply to Abaye's case? In Abaye's case, too, one might have thought that when a person says, "Shevu'ah that I saw on this road the amount of people that left Mitzrayim," the Shevu'ah should be considered a Shevu'as Shav and be Asur because a person does not exaggerate! The answer is that when Abaye says that this Shevu'as Havai is Mutar, he does not mean that one is permitted to make such a Shevu'ah; rather, he means that there is no punishment of Malkus for one who makes such a Shevu'ah ("Mutaros" in the Beraisa means "Peturos"). (RASHBA and RITVA. They apparently maintain that it is not logical that one should be permitted l'Chatchilah to make a Shevu'ah with the expression of an exaggeration.)

Rava asks that it is obvious that one is not punished with Malkus in such a case, because even if the Rabanan were stringent when one makes a contingency Shevu'ah to make fruit prohibited, the Rabanan would not have gone so far as to punish a person with Malkus merely for making a Shevu'ah that he saw "the amount of people that left Mitzrayim." (Similarly, according to the Rashba who says that one uses exact wording and does not exaggerate, Rava argues that one will not use exact wording when doing so will cause him to get Malkus.)

The Mishnah in Shevuos which says that a Shevu'as Havai is Asur refers to a person who, after making his Shevu'ah, affirms his words and insists that he meant his words to be understood literally. He is then held to his word, and thus his Shevu'ah is a Shevu'as Shav. (This explanation similar to the Yerushalmi cited by the Ran earlier (21a).)

2. The RITVA explains that when Rava says that Shevu'os Havai are Mutar, he refers to the status of the fruit which he made contingent on whether or not what he said was true. One certainly is Asur to make such a Shevu'ah, though, because it is a Shevu'as Shav, as the Mishnah in Shevuos (29a) says. Why, though, is it a Shevu'as Shav if he was merely exaggerating?

The Ritva says that any Shevu'ah which is not binding, which does not take effect to prohibit or obligate, is a Shevu'as Shav. Here, since the fruit remains Mutar (since it is assumed that he was exaggerating when he said that he saw "the amount of people that left Mitzrayim"), the Shevu'ah effected nothing and therefore it is a Shevu'as Shav. (The Ritva seems to maintain that a Shevu'ah cannot be used to prove that one saw something (other than when one gives testimony in Beis Din), because such a Shevu'ah has no practical effects. Hence, even if he does not exaggerate and he says what he actually saw, the Shevu'ah would be a Shevu'as Shav.) Alternatively, it could be that the Ritva means that only when the Shevu'ah is expressed with an exaggeration and does not serve to prove exactly what he saw does it serve no purpose and is a Shevu'as Shav. However, if one makes a Shevu'ah to prove what he saw exactly without exaggeration, even though the fruit does not become Asur the Shevu'ah served its purpose in proving what he saw. When he exaggerates, however, the Shevu'ah cannot prove the truthfulness of what he claims that he saw, because he really did not see what he says that he saw! (See also NIMUKEI YOSEF.)

3. The RAN explains that there is a difference between a Shevu'ah "that I saw the amount of people that left Mitzrayim" and a Shevu'ah "that I saw a snake like the beam of an olive press." When one swears he saw "the amount of people that left Mitzrayim," he is referring to a number and clearly is exaggerating. He saw a lot of people and is merely embellishing what he saw. In contrast, his statement that he "saw a snake like the beam of an olive press" is not an exaggeration but pure nonsense.

Accordingly, Abaye explains that a Shevu'as Havai is Mutar because it is an exaggeration. Hence, only a Shevu'ah that he "saw the amount of people that left Mitzrayim" is Mutar. In contrast, when one says that he "saw a snake like the beam of an olive press," it is Asur, just as the Mishnah in Shevuos says, because it is clear that he is not exaggerating but that he is saying nonsensical words.

Rava asks that is obvious that such a case of a Shevu'as Havai (exaggeration) is Mutar. Rather, he explains that one makes a contingency Shevu'ah, prohibiting fruit if he did not see what he claims to have seen. The case of Shevu'as Havai that is Mutar is when one claims to have seen "a snake like the beam of an olive press," and when Rava says that the Shevu'ah is "Mutar" he means that the fruit is Mutar even though the Shevu'ah is a Shevu'as Shav. One might have thought that the person wants to make the fruit Asur so that his Shevu'ah not become a Shevu'as Shav, and therefore the Beraisa must teach (according to Rava) that the fruit is not Asur, and the Shevu'ah remains a Shevu'as Shav.

(d) The ROSH explains the Gemara according to the Girsa of our text that Shevu'os Havai are Asur. The Rosh says that the reason why a Shevu'ah is more stringent (and thus the Rabanan prohibited the fruit in the case of a Shevu'as Havai) is due to the severity of making a Shevu'ah with the Name of Hash-m. This is similar to the way the Rosh explains according to the other Girsa (in (a) above). When Abaye says that the Beraisa refers to a case in which one swears that he saw "the amount of people that left Mitzrayim" when it says that a Shevu'as Havai is Asur, Rava asks that it is obvious that such a case is Asur because one does not exaggerate when he makes a Shevu'ah since it involves the Name of Hash-m. Rava explains instead that the Beraisa is teaching that if one makes the status of fruits dependent on whether he truly "saw the amount of people that left Mitzrayim," the fruit becomes Asur (mid'Rabanan).

The ME'IRI and TOSFOS YESHANIM explain in a similar manner, but they imply that the stringency of making a Shevu'ah with Hash-m's Name is a Halachah d'Oraisa. They may follow the view of the SEMAG who writes that when a person makes a Shevu'ah he swears "Al Da'as Acherim," according to the way other people understand his words. This is in contrast to the way he makes a Neder, which he makes according to the way he alone understands the words. This difference is based on the severity of making a Shevu'ah with the Name of Hash-m.

According to this Girsa, the Beraisa is consistent with the Mishnah in Shevuos (29a) that says that such a Shevu'ah is a Shevu'as Shav. Why is it a Shevu'as Shav, when the Rabanan simply could make the Shevu'ah take effect and make fruit Asur to him? It is a Shevu'as Shav because it is impossible to live without eating the fruit in the world, and thus it is like making a Shevu'ah not to sleep for three days, as Rabeinu Tam explains in Shevuos, in which case Beis Din gives him Malkus immediately and he is permitted to sleep.

When the Beraisa here says that Shevu'os Havai are Asur, it means that the fruit should be Asur because of the Shevu'ah, but since he cannot survive with such an Isur he is given Malkus right away for making a Shevu'as Shav (and the fruit is Mutar).

2) CALLING ANTS PEOPLE

QUESTION: Ravina asks that when a person makes a Neder that he "saw the amount of people that left Mitzrayim," why do we assume that he is merely exaggerating and does not intend to make a Neder? Perhaps he means what he says, and he is making a Neder that he saw an anthill with as many ants as the people that left Mitzrayim. He gives the ants the title ("Asik Lehon Shema") of "those who left Mitzrayim."

Why does Ravina suggest that perhaps the person "gave [to the ants] the title" of "k'Olei Mitzrayim"? This term, "k'Olei Mitzrayim," is only a number (600,000)! Ravina should have said that perhaps the person saw this number of ants and called them "as many as Olei Mitzrayim," but not that he "gave them the name" of "Olei Mitzrayim"! (SHITAH MEKUBETZES)

ANSWERS:

(a) The ME'IRI implies that it is not possible that the person means that he saw 600,000 ants, because a person cannot count that many ants. Rather, the Gemara is asking that perhaps he saw ants climbing out of the ground from the direction of Mitzrayim and thus he gave them the name "Olei Mitzrayim." He was not referring to the number of ants.

(b) The SHITAH MEKUBETZES quotes the RABEINU NASAN BAR YOSEF (RNB'Y) (a Talmid of the Ramban) who explains that "Olei Mitzrayim" is not just a number, but it is a number of people, and it means "people as numerous as those who left Mitzrayim." Accordingly it is assumed that before he made a Neder and called the ants "Olei Mitzrayim," he first ascribed to them the name "Olei Mitzrayim." Once they had that name, he made his Neder.

However, if the phrase "Olei Mitzrayim" implies people, why does calling ants "Olei Mitzrayim" help his Neder? Since no one refers to ants in that way, his intent should be considered "Devarim sheb'Lev," thoughts in one's heart which do not take effect at all (until they are verbalized). In all of the cases the Gemara mentions in which a person refers to something by a strange name, the Gemara gives an excuse for why some people refer to that thing with a strange name (for example, some people refer to wooden chips as money because children play with wooden chips as though they are money). If no one refers to ants as "Olei Mitzrayim," how can his Neder in which he refers to ants with that name take effect?

Apparently, Rabeinu Nasan bar Yosef understands that this person was discussing the ants with other people before he made his Neder, and he verbally expressed to them that he calls the ants "Olei Mitzrayim." Hence, afterwards -- when he

uses the phrase "k'Olei Mitzrayim" in his Neder -- we suspect that he is referring back to the designation which he gave to the ants.

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