כ׳ באב ה׳תשע״ה (August 5, 2015)

Nedarim 73a-b: Two at a Time

We have learned that the Torah gives the power to a man to nullify nedarim taken by his wife or daughter – hafarat nedarim – if he expresses his opposition to them on the day that he hears of them. Our Gemara asks whether a man who is married to two women can perform this hafara for both of them at the same time. (It is important to remember that the Torah permits a man to marry more than one woman, and the common practice today limiting marriages to a single wife developed at a historically late period with the ordinances of Rabbeinu Gershom Meor haGolah in the 10th century.) Specifically, the question is whether the Torah’s comment that the father can annul her nederhayni avihah otah (Bamidbar 30:6) – means specifically the vow of a single individual or can it be understood more broadly.

In response to this question, Ravina quotes a baraita regarding the halakha of – a woman suspected of having engaged in an affair who is tested by drinking the “bitter waters” prepared by the kohen in the Temple. The baraita teaches that two women who were both suspected of inappropriate behavior were not brought to the Temple to drink at the same time. The Tanna Kamma says that this is mipnei she-libah gas be-havertah – because she becomes emboldened because she is with her friend. Rabbi Yehuda says that it is true simply because of the Torah’s statement – ve-hishkah – “she should be given to drink” (Bamidbar 5:27) which is stated in the singular.

Ravina’s intention in quoting this baraita is not completely clear. According to the Rosh he is simply pointing out that we find a disagreement between the tannaim about whether a word that is stated in the singular must be understood as limiting the halakha to just one person or not. An alternative view is presented by the Ramban, who understands the baraita as teaching that the singular truly limits the halakha to just one individual, and that there is no real disagreement in the baraita – Rabbi Yehuda emphasizes the biblical passage, while the Tanna Kamma offers a logical reason for the halakha that appears in the Torah.

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