Nedarim 17 – Two for the Price of One


yehoshua-bermanBy Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

He said “hareini nazir”, I am hereby a nazir.  And, then, he said it again.  “Hareini nazir.” If not for a derasha that the Gemara brings on 18a (tomorrow’s daf), we would have said that it does not take effect.  After all, when he said it the first time, he immediately became a nazir, so it really ought to have been no different from someone who swears not to eat that piece of chocolate, and then immediately swears again not to eat it, in which case the first shvuah takes effect but not the second one which is superfluous.  But a derasha is a derasha, so it does take effect in the case of “Hareini nazir, hareini nazir” (at least, according to Shmuel which is how we pasken [see Rosh]) – so he gets two for the price of one.


Now, what exactly the two is that he is getting is a subject of machlokes amongst the Rishonim.  The Ran cites those who say it means that he only has to do one round of nezirus (which, min ha’stam is always thirty days), and the “two” that he gets is malkos in the event that he violates the nezirus vow that he took.  (How nice, right? – What a smart guy…).  The Ran categorically rejects this pshat, though, and demonstrates at length that it just does not hold water when you try to plug it into the give and take of the sugyah.  Therefore, he says a totally different pshat, which the Rosh agrees to.


The “two” is rounds of nezirus.  He has to do a first round of thirty days of nezirus, bring his korbanos at the end and do his full-body shaving, and then afterward complete a second, separate round of nezirus.


Now, here’s the really interesting thing (at least, for those of us who have been reared on “yeshivisheh lomdus”).  The Ran explains, according to his pshat, why the Mishna calls this a neder within a neder:  “Because the second nezirus takes effect within the time of the first, just that it is not possible for him to [practically] start counting the days of the second [nezirus] until he completes those of the first; for if it would be that the second nezirus does not take effect at the moment of [the utterance of] his neder, how could it take effect later, harei he is not saying any neder at that time?!  Rather, it is definitely that the nezirus takes effect from now, and for that reason the Mishna calls it a neder within a neder.”


That’s the kind of line that leaves you scratching your head a bit, trying to figure out precisely what it means.  I think, albeit perhaps oversimplifyingly so, that what it basically means is this.  The essential binding force of the second nezirus-vow takes effect immediately, but it remains in the form of potential until it can make its practical repercussions, which is only after the first nezirus is completed.


Now that’s quite a brainful, if you think about it.  What that means, in a nutshell, is that I can say something now and only begin to notice the effects thereof in a long time from now.  There could be various circumstances that bring about this lag effect, but in the long run, that will not prevent my words from making their mark.  And that can work both positively or, chas v’Shalom, negatively.  We’ll use chinuch as the example for both.


On the positive side, it is encouraging to know that every constructive word that we send our kids’ way does register.  We often (maybe even more often than not?) don’t see immediate results of the effort we put in, but make no mistake, it is working.  It just may take some time – perhaps even a very long time (read: years) – before we see it on the surface, but it’s working just the same.


And the same holds true for the negative side.  A common theme that comes up in works on chinuch is the “all of a sudden” complaint.  Chinuch experts say that they often get such complaints from parents of children who have left the fold.  “One fine day he just suddenly threw off his yarmulkeh and tzitzis, and stalked out of the house!”  The explanation of this apparent enigma, they explain, is that there was a long, gradual process of spiritual disintegration – just that it was all happening on the inside, out of view.  Finally, it became powerful enough – or situations changed – such that it was able to find practical, external expression.  If a kid hears overly critical or demeaning statements and epithets thrown his way, he is not immune.  Despite the lack of any immediate, apparent reaction, those words do take their toll.  And if they come frequently, the toll that they can take is enormous.  They take effect in the soul of that child, even if there may be a situational lag that only allows that effect to show up much later.


So, the upshot of all this, I guess, is to try to internalize the powerful reality that lies in our mouths.  We learned earlier (14a) that a neder only works if you are matfis it with a davar ha’nadur.  The Rosh gives a succinct definition of a davar ha’nadur: that which became assur through kedushas ha’peh.  The sanctity of the mouth.  It really is something to behold, this fact that our mouth is a cheftzah of kedusha.  It’s got power, and a whole lot of it.  The more we absorb that awareness – and what better way than by learning Maseches Nedarim! – the more empowered we are to put that koach to its good, positive intended use.

Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.  In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha.  Rabbi Berman can be contacted at

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