ד׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ה (August 19, 2015)

Nedarim 87a-b: In Need of a Do-Over

Continuing the discussion from yesterday’s daf about errors related to nedarim, the Gemara brings a series of baraitot about other cases of error which lead to acts that need to be done over again. The cases deal with a person who mistakenly performed keriyah (rending his clothing in mourning), only to discover that he had done so with the wrong intention (e.g. he was told that his father had died, but it turned out to be his son).

Nevertheless, there are some cases where even a mistaken keriyah need not be repeated. Rav Ashi teaches that if the mistaken impression is immediately corrected – tokh ke-day dibur – then the original act is considered to be significant.

One baraita deals with a case where an ill person appeared to have died, leading his relatives to perform keriyah, but, in fact, he died only later on. The ruling of the is that the keriyah must be done again after the man’s death.

The term used by the baraita to describe the man’s condition is nit’alef, a word that in modern Hebrew means “to faint.” From the description in the Gemara, however, it appears that the person in our story was in a situation well beyond a simple swoon. It is more likely that the person described in the baraita entered a comatose state caused by low blood flow to the brain. A situation like this one is often irreversible, and death may follow a short time later. Sometimes, however, a person may recover – either to resume a normal life, or for a short time before death. On occasion, the loss of brain function in such a state leads to a total absence of reaction to any outside stimulus, which can explain how the people surrounding the sick man could have concluded – however erroneously – that he had already passed on.

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