1) AGADAH: HIS WIFE WILL NOT DIE FOR HIS SIN OF "BAL TE'ACHER"
QUESTION: The Gemara concludes that the verse, "v'Hayah Becha Chet" -- "It shall be a sin for you" (Devarim 23:22), teaches that the prohibition of Bal Te'acher (delaying the fulfillment of a Neder) affects only the transgressor and not his wife.
TOSFOS (DH Ela Im Ken) adds that when the Gemara in Shabbos (32b) says that one's wife may be punished if he fails to fulfill his Neder, it refers only to a situation in which the husband never fulfills his Neder. If he eventually fulfills it, his wife will not be punished for his delay.
The Midrash relates that Rachel Imenu died on the way to Eretz Yisrael because Yakov Avinu delayed the fulfillment of his pledge to bring a libation of oil (Nisuch Shemen) to the Mizbe'ach in Beis-El. Many years earlier, when he left Eretz Yisrael to travel to the house of Lavan, he vowed to offer a libation on the Mizbe'ach upon his return (Bereishis Rabah 81:2, Vayikra Rabah 37:1, Tanchuma Vayishlach 8, Zohar Bereishis 175a; see also Rashi to Bereishis 35:1). Yakov Avinu eventually fulfilled his Neder (before Rachel died), as the Torah relates (Bereishis 35:6-7).
The Midrash clearly implies that Yakov Avinu's wife died as a result of his transgression of Bal Te'acher, even though he eventually fulfilled his Neder. How is the Midrash to be reconciled with the Gemara here? (KOHELES YAKOV (Rav Algazi); CHIDA in NITZOTZEI OROS to the Zohar loc cit.)
(a) The PERASHAS DERACHIM (Derush #3, DH uva'Zeh Yuvan; see also PARDES YOSEF, end of Bereishis 35:1) explains that the Midrash indeed argues with the Gemara (see TOSFOS DH mid'Ben, and SEFAS EMES here). The Tana'im of the Midrash maintain that transgressing the prohibition of Bal Te'acher does affect one's wife, as the Midrash states explicitly (in Vayikra Rabah loc cit.): "One who vows and delays his vow buries his wife."
(b) The KLI CHEMDAH (beginning of Vayishlach) suggests that the Midrash does not argue with the Gemara. Rather, Rachel Imenu died during childbirth, a life-threatening condition (as the Gemara mentions in Shabbos 32a). Since the attribute of strict justice is manifest at life-threatening moments, Rachel was unprotected from the ramifications of her husband's transgression of Bal Te'acher. Under normal circumstances, however, one's wife is not punished for her husband's sin of Bal Te'acher alone. (The Kli Chemdah offers another, intricate answer ("Pilpul").)
(c) An original solution may be suggested based on the words of the MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Vayetzei 31:13; see also Meshech Chochmah to Vayishlach 35:8). In his Neder (Bereishis 28:22), Yakov Avinu promised that upon his safe return he would offer Nesachim on the same "Matzeivah" that he had set up on his way to Lavan. When he finally returned, however, Hash-m told him to erect a new "Mizbe'ach" and not to use the original Matzeivah (Bereishis 35:1 and 7).
The Torah forbids making a Matzeivah today because it is something which Hash-m "has come to despise" (Devarim 16:22). Rashi explains that although the Avos built Matzeivos and brought offerings upon them, the practice became despicable to Hash-m when the idol-worshippers imitated the practice and adopted it for the service of their idols. Consequently, one may make only a Mizbe'ach and not a Matzeivah. A Mizbe'ach is comprised of several stones, while a Matzeivah is comprised of a single stone.
Perhaps the idolaters adopted the practice of building a Matzeivah after they saw Yakov build his Matzeivah for Hash-m when he was on his way to the house of Lavan. This explains why Yakov Avinu was permitted to make a Matzeivah when he left Eretz Yisroel but he was not permitted to use it upon his return. By the time he returned 22 years later, the building of Matzeivos had become a common practice among idolaters. (The verse which mentions the building of a Matzeivah in the context of Yakov's return is merely a flashback to Yakov's initial journey to Lavan; see Ramban and Seforno there.)
According to this explanation, one may propose that had Yakov Avinu returned earlier to fulfill his Neder he might have been able to pour oil on the Matzeivah, because the idolaters had not yet adopted the practice. In the time that he delayed, the idolaters began to use Matzeivos in their idol-worship, and, as a result, he was unable to fulfill his Neder in its entirety (since he could not make a Matzeivah). His wife was punished not because he delayed his Neder, but because he was unable to fulfill it in its entirety.
2) ONE WHO HAS NO MONEY TO GIVE TO THOSE WHO ASK
QUESTIONS: The Gemara concludes that the verse, "v'Hayah Becha Chet" -- "It shall be a sin for you" (Devarim 23:22), teaches that the prohibition of Bal Te'acher (delaying the fulfillment of a Neder) affects only the transgressor and not his wife. One might have thought that his wife should die for that sin just as one's wife dies when people ask him for money and he has none to give them, as Rebbi Eliezer derives from a verse in Mishlei. The verse of "v'Hayah Becha Chet" teaches that a wife does not die because of her husband's transgression of Bal Te'acher.
(a) To what situation does Rebbi Eliezer refer when he says that a man's wife dies when he has no money to give to those who ask?
(b) Why should a woman die because of her husband's sins?
(a) RASHI and TOSFOS disagree about what Rebbi Eliezer means when he says that a man's wife dies when he has no money to give to those who ask.
1. RASHI in Zevachim (29b, DH Mevakshin) says that Rebbi Eliezer refers to one who stole money or other property. When the rightful owner comes to claim his money, the thief has no money to pay back.
2. TOSFOS (DH Ela Im Ken) says that Rebbi Eliezer refers to a man who pledged to give a donation to charity and failed to fulfill his pledge. Rebbi Eliezer's statement is consistent with the Gemara in Shabbos (32b) which says that a man's wife dies as a result of his violation of his vows (see previous Insight; see also MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM, Sanhedrin 22a, #20).
(b) According to the explanations of both Rashi and Tosfos, why should a woman die because of her husband's sin?
1. RAV CHAIM SHMUELEVITZ zt'l in SICHOS MUSAR (5732, #32, and 5733, #1) explains that the woman is punished only when she also has sins for which she deserves to die. Why, then, does the Gemara attribute her punishment to her husband's sins?
It is known that Hash-m does not punish an individual when the punishment will significantly affect those who are close to him and who are not deserving of punishment themselves. The Gemara here means that Hash-m punishes the man by causing his wife to die as punishment for her sins when he is also guilty of a severe sin. Rebbi Eliezer derives from the verse in Mishlei that the sin of violating one's vow is enough to make a man deserve the anguish of losing his wife.
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz also explains why the punishment of the death of one's wife is a fitting punishment for the transgression. He explains that there never exists a situation in which a person "has no money" to pay back his debts. A person who acknowledges that he owes money will always find a way to pay. If one refuses to acknowledge his debt, it is a sign that he does not feel that he is a Ba'al Chov, a debtor. The punishment for this is that his wife is punished for her sins and he has to suffer the consequences. The reason his wife is taken from him is because the most important person to whom a person is indebted is his wife. It is his wife who ceaselessly stands by his side and serves as his devoted helpmate in life. A man who demonstrates a lack of a sense of indebtedness to others who help him in his business affairs is also likely to lack appreciation for his wife as well. Hash-m therefore does not prevent his wife from being punished for her sins and being taken away from him.
2. The SHITAH MEKUBETZES in Zevachim suggests another explanation. He says that Rebbi Eliezer refers to a man who tells his creditors that he cannot pay his debts with the property that he owns because the property is already a lien towards the payment of his wife's Kesuvah. The man's wife supports his claim. She is punished for her involvement in preventing the creditors from collecting their money. (See also BEN YEHOYADA to Sanhedrin 22a and Insights to Zevachim 29:2.) (Y. Montrose)
3) THE OMISSION OF THREE KORBANOS FROM THE BERAISA OF "BAL TE'ACHER"
QUESTION: The Gemara cites a Beraisa which derives the prohibition of Bal Te'acher from the verses, "When you make a Neder... do not delay in fulfilling it.... That which comes out of your mouth you must observe and do, just as you vowed to Hash-m your G-d..." (Devarim 23:22-24). The Gemara learns from the words "to Hash-m your G-d" that Bal Te'acher applies to Korbenos Chata'os, Ashamos, Olos, and Shelamim. The Gemara earlier (end of 4a) cites another Beraisa which adds Bechor, Ma'aser (Ma'aser Behemah), and the Korban Pesach. Why does the Beraisa here omit these three Korbanos?
ANSWER: The Gemara concludes that the second Beraisa discusses a situation of "Amar v'Lo Afrish" -- the person promised to bring a Korban but did not designate a specific animal as the Korban. Such a situation can exist only in the case of a Korban Chatas, Asham, Olah, or Shelamim. In contrast, a Bechor becomes Kadosh immediately at birth, regardless of one's verbal commitment to sacrifice the animal. Similarly, in the case of Ma'aser Behemah, the tenth animal becomes Ma'aser immediately as it exits the stable. Therefore, the Beraisa here mentions neither Bechor nor Ma'aser.
The Beraisa here does not mention the Korban Pesach for one of two reasons. According to one opinion earlier (5a), the first Beraisa mentions the Korban Pesach only because it mentions Bechor and Ma'aser (these three Korbanos are always mentioned together). Since the Beraisa here has grounds to omit Bechor and Ma'aser, there is no reason for it to mention the Korban Pesach. According to the other opinion there which says that "Pesach" in the Beraisa refers to the Shalmei Pesach (a Korban Pesach that was lost and then found), the case of "Amar v'Lo Afrish" obviously does not apply because the Korban of Shalmei Pesach was already designated as a Korban.
4) A YEAR WITHOUT THREE "REGALIM"
QUESTIONS: The Beraisa says that one transgresses the prohibition of Bal Te'acher either at the end of one full year or after three Regalim have passed. Rebbi maintains that in a leap year the extra month is not included in the count of one year. Consequently, it is possible to traverse a full year and not encounter all three Regalim. The Rabanan argue that the extra month of a leap year is included in the count of one year, and thus one year always includes three Regalim. The Gemara, in deference to the Tana who does not require the three Regalim to be in order (Pesach, Shavuos, Sukos), seeks to understand how an entire year could pass without experiencing all three Regalim.
(a) The Gemara earlier (5b) says that when a Korban is designated in the middle of a Regel, the second half of that Regel does not count as the first of three Regalim with regard to the prohibition of Bal Te'acher. Why does the Gemara not answer that the case in which a year passes without three Regalim is the case of one who makes a pledge in the middle of a Regel?
(b) The Gemara (beginning of 6b) says that when an animal is sick during the Regel, that Regel does not count as one of the three Regalim with regard to the transgression of Bal Te'acher. Why does the Gemara not answer its question with this case? (TOSFOS, DH Bishleima)
(a) TOSFOS (DH Shanah) answers that while half of a Regel does not count as a full Regel, it still counts as half. Therefore, just before a full year passes one will make up the first half of the Regel; the two halves will combine to complete three full Regalim. (The opinion under discussion does not require the three Regalim to be in order.)
TOSFOS YESHANIM (DH d'Akdeshei) explains that a Regel does not count towards Bal Te'acher until one encounters the beginning of a Regel. Therefore, one who made an oath in the middle of a Regel to bring a Korban transgresses Bal Te'acher upon the beginning of that Regel the next year (which occurs before a full year has passed from the time of his oath). As such, this is not a case of a full year that passes without three Regalim.
(b) TOSFOS and other Rishonim write that the Gemara indeed could have answered with the case of a sick animal. The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN explains that the Gemara wants to teach that there is a case of a full year without three Regalim even when the animal was not sick during a Regel.
The PNEI YEHOSHUA and CHACHAM TZVI (#12) write that when the Gemara (6b) says that a Regel during which the animal is sick does not count as one of the three Regalim with regard to Bal Te'acher, it means that one does not transgress the Mitzvas Aseh to bring the animal on time ("v'Havesem Shamah"). The Gemara here, in contrast, refers to the Lo Ta'aseh of Bal Te'acher. With regard to the Lo Ta'aseh, the passage of three Regalim is merely an indication that too much time has accumulated. Therefore, even if the animal was sick during one or more of those Regalim, as soon as a full year has passed (and thus three Regalim have passed) one is obligated to bring the Korban right away. Only when the animal is still sick when a full year passes does the owner not transgress Bal Te'acher. (For a discussion of this opinion, see SEFAS EMES to Beitzah 19b, DH l'Meikam, and KEHILOS YAKOV (Rav Kanievsky), Rosh Hashanah #7.)