Torah Sparks

United Synagogue (USCJ) is proud and delighted to bring you Torah Sparks, with insights and learning materials on the Parasha (Torah portion) of the week. Torah Sparks is produced by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Each week there will be a Dvar Torah - a discussion on some aspect of the reading, by CY faculty, alumni and friends; a Vort - a short thought from Chasidic rebbes or other thinkers about some point in the text; and Table Talk - questions to stimulate discussion on the Parsha around the Shabbat table. Torah Sparks is available here on the Conservative Yeshiva's Shiurim Online Beit Midrash website, as well as by subscription to weekly graphical emails. Please select the Parasha you would like to see - it will display articles from each year. A printable PDF is linked at the end of each week's presentation.


Introduction to Nedarim

Introduction to Nedarim   Tractate Nedarim deals with vows.  It is found in Seder Nashim because the section of the Torah that deals most extensively with vows (Numbers 30:2-17) discusses a husband’s right to break his wife’s vows.  Usually, the word “neder” or vow in the Bible refers to a voluntary sacrificial offering (see for […]

Nedarim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Nedarim begins by clarifying the validity of substitute words used for vows.  Also mentioned in this mishnah are different types of vows, all of which are mentioned in the Torah.  The second part of the mishnah deals with the validity of certain statements as oaths.    Mishnah One […]

Nedarim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss the various substitutes for vows. All of the cases here are words that sound like the normal word used for taking a vow, or a typical substitute.  Interestingly, there is a debate in the Talmud over the source of these substitutes.  R. Yochanan […]

Nedarim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The normal way of making a prohibitive vow is for a person to say that a certain something is like a sacrifice, a “korban”, which is forbidden to him.  Our mishnah talks about various ways in which a person can make a valid vow without actually saying the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first three sections of this mishnah teach that instead of stating “korban” a person can name different types of sacrifices and his vow will still be effective. The final section of the mishnah teaches that a person can make parts of his body forbidden to other people. […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction The final two chapters of Nedarim discuss a father’s and husband’s right to annul the vows of their daughters or wives.  Whereas the release of vows, the topic of the previous chapter, is not mentioned in the Torah, chapter 30 of Numbers discusses the father/son’s right to annul […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss the ability of fathers and husbands to annul their daughters’ or wives’ vows.   Mishnah Two 1)                     If the father dies, his authority does not pass over to the husband. a)                                           If the husband dies, his authority passes over to the father. 2)                     […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches that while a full husband cannot annul vows his wife made before their marriage, a betrothed husband who annuls her vows jointly with her father has the ability to do so.   Mishnah Three If one vowed as a betrothed woman, and then was divorced […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction As we mentioned in yesterday’s mishnah a father and husband jointly annul the vows of a betrothed girl who has not yet reached majority age.  Furthermore, at this point the husband may annul vows that she took before she was betrothed.  Once she is married, no one, neither […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction In Mishnah Ketubot 5:2 we learned that a girl who was betrothed and then reached majority age has 12 months during which she prepares herself for marriage. During this time he prepares himself and the wedding as well.  A widow or a divorcee receives thirty days.  If the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah discusses a yavam’s rights to annul the vows of a woman who is awaiting yibbum or halitzah with him.  To remind ourselves briefly, if a husband dies without children his wife is liable for either yibbum (levirate marriage) or halitzah (the release from levirate marriage) with […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Our mishnah discusses whether or not a husband can uphold or annul vows that his wife will take in the future.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     If a man says to his wife, “All vows which you may vow from now until I return from such and such a […]

Nedarim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Numbers 30:6, 9 imply that the husband or father must annul their wives’ or daughters’ vows on the day on which they heard of them.  Our mishnah explains how this day is calculated.   Mishnah Eight The annulment of vows is the whole day. This may result in […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction Numbers 30:14 states, “Every vow and every sworn obligation of self-denial may be upheld by her husband or annulled by her husband.”  From this verse the rabbis conclude that only vows which are of “self-denial” can be annulled.  Furthermore, vs. 17 states, “These are the laws that the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 10

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Ten   Introduction At the end of the previous mishnah we learned that a girl who leaves her husband’s domain even for one moment does not return to have her vows annulled by this same husband.  Our mishnah teaches that the same is true for a girl who leaves her father’s […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 11

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Our mishnah returns to discuss the category of vows made between the couple (“between him and her”) the type of vow that in general the husband has a right to annul.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     [If she vows,] “Konam the benefit that I derive from my father or […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 12

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Twelve Introduction One of the thorniest problems in halakhah is that a woman may not initiate divorce.  If a woman is stuck in a bad marriage and wants to be divorced, it is difficult, if not impossible, for her to force her husband to divorce her and still receive her ketubah.  […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah is the continuation of Rabbi Yose’s opinion, begun in yesterday’s mishnah.  Yesterday Rabbi Yose said that if the wife vows not to adorn herself or not to bathe the husband cannot annul because these are not considered vows of self-denial.  In our mishnah Rabbi Yose provides […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of the mishnah continues to discuss which vows a husband may annul.  The second section of the mishnah discusses a person who swears that priests and Levites may not derive benefit from him.   Mishnah Three 1)                     [If she vows], “Konam, that which I benefit […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first part of the mishnah discusses a woman who vows not to provide benefit for either her own or her husband’s father or brother.  The second part discusses a woman who vows not to provide benefit for her husband himself.    Mishnah Four 1)                     [If she vows,] […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah teaches that if a husband/father annuls a vow of his wife/daughter but is mistaken with regard to who vowed, what type of vow they took or what was being prohibited, he must annul the vow again in order for it to be annulled.    Mishnah Five […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah teaches that a vow that has been partially annulled is not annulled at all.  We should note that this is a different rule than that which we saw with regard to the releasing of vows done by a sage.  There we saw that according to Rabbi […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Yesterday we learned that if when the husband/father annulled his wife/daughter’s vow he did not have full comprehension of who vowed, what type of vow they took, or what they prohibited, he must annul it again.  Generally the vow may be annulled only on the day that the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah discusses a situation in which a man is under a vow not to provide any benefit to his son-in-law.  The mishnah teaches how the father may give money to his daughter without allowing his son-in-law to receive benefit. We should note that this mishnah probably more […]

Nedarim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 9

Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The Torah states that a widow and a divorcee’s vows are binding. This ruling is seemingly obvious, for a widow and a divorcee do not have any husband who could possibly annul their vows.  In order to prevent the Torah from being obvious, the mishnah finds situations in […]

Nedarim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with vows that are not binding.  The second and third sections deal with vow that are semi-binding.   Mishnah One 1)                     And these [vows] are not binding:   a)                                           [One who says] “What I eat of yours shall be unconsecrated”; “As the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah compares vow formulas with oath formulas.   Mishnah Two 1)                     [If he says,] “A korban should be what I do not eat of yours”; “By a korban! If I eat of yours”; “What I do not eat of yours should not be a korban to me”—the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to draw distinctions between vows and oaths.   Mishnah Three 1)                     There is a vow within a vow, but not an oath within an oath. 2)                     How is this so? a)                                           If one declares, “Behold, I will be a nazir if I eat [this thing]”; […]

Nedarim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with cases where it is unclear whether the person vowing used something which can be dedicated to the Temple in the vow formula, in which case the vow is binding, or whether he used something else, in which case the vow is not binding.   […]

Nedarim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who makes a vow using language that would normally be valid for a vow, and then subsequently claims that he had an intention which would make the vow invalid. Most of these cases involve puns.  In order to emphasize the puns, which […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction The first four mishnayoth of this chapter deal with vows that use valid language but are nevertheless not valid because the person did not really intend for his vow to be valid.  The first category is one who vowed in order to give himself or someone else more […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction According to the Talmud, the Samaritans descend from a group of non-Jews brought to Samaria (the north of Israel) by the Assyrians, see II Kings 17.  They are called by the rabbis Cutheans because many of them came from Cuta. There is a debate in the Talmud whether […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This long mishnah actually contains several mishnayoth.  The first part begins with a definition of the terms “Children of Noah” and “Children of Abraham”.  The second part deals with vows not to benefit from Israelites and the third part deals with vows not to benefit from the uncircumcised […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first section of the mishnah illustrates vows of exaggeration and the second illustrates vows that were made in error.   Mishnah Two 1)                     Vows of exaggeration: a)                                           If one says, “Konam if I did not see on this road as many as departed from Egypt”;  “If I […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah begins to discuss vows broken under pressure.  There are actually two types of such vows.  Our mishnah discusses the first type, whereby a person made a fully valid vow, but then due to circumstances beyond his control, was not able to keep the vow.   Mishnah […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses the second types of “forced vows”, those made under coercion.  While all rabbis agree that one is allowed to make a false vow in order to protect oneself or one’s property, Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel disagree with regard to some of the details.   […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with situations in which a person might attempt to take a vow to prevent either his saplings or his garment from being destroyed.  In this case a person dedicates them to the Temple.  Generally, when someone dedicates something to the Temple, if it can be […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah and the remainder of the chapter deal with a person who vowed that he would not benefit from a certain type of person.  These mishnayoth provide definitions who are those types of people.   Mishnah Six He who vows [not to benefit] from seafarers, may benefit […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who swears that he will not receive benefit from a type of people whom he calls “those who see the sun”.   Mishnah Seven He who vows [not to benefit] from those who see the sun, is forbidden [to benefit] even from […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah teaches that one who vows not to benefit from “the black-haired” is forbidden to benefit from all men, but not from women and children.    Mishnah Eight He who vows [not to benefit] from the black-haired may not [benefit] from the bald or the gray-haired, but […]

Nedarim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Nedarim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah deals with someone who swore not to receive benefit either from those born or from those who are to be born.                            Mishnah Nine One who vows [not to benefit] from those born may [benefit] from those to be born; from those to be born, […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah and the subsequent mishnayoth discuss what is prohibited to a person who is under a vow not to benefit from his fellow.  Note that these types of vows can be initiated by either party:  Reuven may swear that Shimon may not benefit from Reuven’s property and […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah and the remainder of the chapter teach what a person can do with/for his friend, even though he is under oath not to give any benefit to him.   Mishnah Two If one is under a vow not to benefit from his neighbor, [his neighbor] may […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss what Shimon may do for Reuven who has sworn not to receive benefit from him. The first part of the mishnah discusses certain mitzvoth which might cost money.  The second part deals with feeding those whom the person who cannot receive benefit has […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction The mishnah deals with several types of benefit that Shimon must refrain from giving Reuven who has sworn (or been sworn by Shimon) not to receive benefit from him.   Mishnah Four 1)                     If one is forbidden to benefit from his neighbor, and he pays him a visit […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction During the sabbatical (seventh) year, the produce that a person’s fields grow is legally ownerless and therefore anyone can enter anyone else’s fields and eat what he wishes.  Our mishnah teaches about prohibitive vows and the sabbatical year.    Mishnah Five 1)                     He who is forbidden by vow […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first section continues to discuss prohibitions applicable to a person who cannot derive benefit from another because of a vow.  The second section is a digression from the topic of our chapter.   Mishnah Six 1)                     He who is forbidden by vow to benefit from his neighbor […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with a situation in which Shimon is forbidden by a vow from receiving benefit from Reuven, yet is in need of financial help and Reuven wants to help him.  The mishnah provides legal fictions by which Shimon may derive benefit from Reuven without actually transgressing […]

Nedarim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah deals with a situation where Shimon who may not benefit from Reuven, is walking on the road with Reuven and Shimon runs out of food to eat.  The question is, how can Reuven give food to Shimon without breaking the vow?    Mishnah Eight 1)                     If […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction In the time of the Mishnah, people’s homes opened into jointly possessed courtyards.  The custom was to use the courtyard for various purposes, including cooking, grinding wheat and raising chickens.  However, each resident could prevent the others from using the courtyard for such purposes. Our mishnah discusses a […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.  It again deals with the question of joint ownership of courtyards.   Mishnah Two If a man from the street was forbidden by vow to benefit from one of them, he may not enter the courtyard. Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction In the previous mishnayoth we learned rulings regarding entering a courtyard for someone who by vow is prohibited from receiving benefit from his neighbor.  In this mishnah we learn the rules regarding other types of property:  a bath-house, an olive press, a house and a field.   Mishnah […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction The point of this mishnah is to teach the status of people who may not benefit from one another vis a vis public property.  There are two types of public property mentioned in our mishnah and explained in the following mishnah.  The first is property which belongs to […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah explains the categories mentioned at the end of the previous mishnah.  It also discusses how people can avoid some of the difficult consequences of being forbidden to derive benefit from one another.   Mishnah Five 1)                     What are the things that belong to those that came […]

Nedarim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah discusses a subject already dealt with in 4:8, how a person who cannot benefit from another person may nevertheless derive benefit from him by there being a third party intermediary.  Our mishnah teaches that when Reuven gives the property to Levi so that Shimon who cannot […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction As I previously explained, when we interpret what the one who swore intended by his vow, we interpret his words according to the normal way in which people talk.  Our mishnah and those that follow explain how certain vows are to be interpreted based on this principle.   […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 10

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that one who vows to abstain from certain foods may still have other foods that have the same name, if they also have an accompanying name.  Today’s mishnah teaches that one who vows to abstain from certain other foods, may nevertheless also be […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who vows not to eat food which goes into a pot.  The mishnah relates to two such types of food; 1)  food that is totally boiled in the pot; 2)  food that is lightly cooked in a pot and is finished cooking […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction In all of the clauses in this mishnah there is one type of food that is the typical example of food prepared in a certain way, yet there also exist other foods prepared in the same way.  This is similar to the way we say “pickle” to refer […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses vows of abstinence from types of fish.   Mishnah Four 1)                     ‘[Konam,] if I taste fish or fishes,” he is forbidden [to eat] them, whether large or small, salted or unsalted, raw or cooked. a)                                           But he may eat chopped terith and brine.  2)                     He […]

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