ו׳ בטבת ה׳תשע״ח (December 24, 2017)

Shevuot 26a-b: Breaking an Oath

What if someone’s oath leads to a situation that puts him in danger or makes him uncomfortable?

This is the question posed by Ravina to Rava. If someone swore not to eat a loaf of bread and then was forced to eat it because otherwise his life would have been in danger, would he need to bring a sacrifice for having broken his oath, or would the circumstances that brought him to eat it save him from having to do so?

Rava answers that the person should simply have the oath annulled, since the laws of piku’aḥ nefesh – life threatening situations – would allow for any mitzva to be “pushed aside,” and Rashi points out that if the oath would be annulled in any case, then if he accidentally broke his oath he will not be held liable.

The Gemara then restates the question: What if someone who takes an oath to refrain from eating a loaf of bread then finds that keeping it makes him very uncomfortable? If he ultimately eats it accidentally will he need to bring a sacrifice? In response Rava quotes a baraita that only someone who forgot his oath will bring a sacrifice, but if he is aware of it them he will not bring a sacrifice.

Rashi explains this as follows. The question was: In a case where someone’s oath to refrain from eating the loaf makes him so uncomfortable that he would eat the bread purposefully, if he ultimately eats it accidentally, should we suggest that he be considered to have done it on purpose, since he would have done it anyway? Rava’s answer is that, in fact, such a person cannot be considered to be a shogeg – someone who does this accidentally.

The Rambam explains that the “accident” is that the person who took the oath is convinced that he does not need to keep his word, since he is so uncomfortable. Would such a person bring a sacrifice? Rava’s answer is that such a person cannot be considered to have done this accidentally, since he is fully cognizant of his oath.

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