ט׳ בתמוז ה׳תשע״ה (June 26, 2015)

Nedarim 33a-b: Benefits Related to Food

Many nedarim are made as reactions to arguments between people, when the person taking the vows wants to punish his friend, or influence him to change his behavior. Forbidding his friend from deriving benefit from him is an expression of his attempt to accomplish this. In creating such a neder, the person who takes such a vow has one of two options

  • He can forbid his friend from benefiting from him in any way;
  • He can forbid his friend from deriving any benefit related to food or eating.

These are the issues that the fourth perek of Massekhet Nedarim focuses on.

The first Mishna (32b) discusses the differences that exist between forbidding food and forbidding all types of benefit. According to the Mishna, someone who forbids food also becomes limited from lending his friend utensils in which food can be prepared, like a sieve or sifter, a mill-stone or an oven.

The Gemara on our daf questions why such utensils should be forbidden, since they are not food in-and-of themselves, and the amoraim suggest that the language of the neder apparently included more than just food. Rava suggests that the neder must have been stated in such a way that any benefit that could lead to eating was forbidden. Reish Lakish suggests that this neder forbade benefiting “from your food” which he understands to include a broader list of prohibitions.

The Gemara rejects Reish Lakish’s approach, arguing that such a statement may mean benefiting from food in a different way – that he is forbidding even a situation of chewing food, such as someone who chews wheat kernels for the purpose of putting them on a wound.

Chewed wheat kernels that are placed on the skin create a sort of bandage, whose outer layer hardens and acts as a protective element that keeps the wound clean. It also appears that some of the chemicals in wheat (like Vitamin E), combined with saliva help heal the wound while protecting it from infection.

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