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July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
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Lingua Franca ‘The Jordan Is Only From Jericho And Below’ (Bechoros 55a)

The Mishnah (54b), discussing ma’aser, notes that even though a flock is the property of one individual, if part of the flock is separated from the rest, the two parts cannot be combined to constitute one unit when tithing. Thus, R. Meir says that if one has flocks on both sides of the Jordan River they cannot be combined to constitute one entity for the purpose of tithing.

On our daf, Rabbah b. Bar Chana says the Jordan River only divides a flock from the city of Jericho and below. Above Jericho, the city does not. As far as nedarim are concerned, though, when one refers to the Jordan River, its entirety is implied.

Primary Factor

Mishnayos in Tractate Nedarim (18b and 30a-31b) cite numerous terms that restrict the force of a neder. The Gemara (Nedarim 30b and on our daf) notes that as a rule, the words of a neder follow their common meaning, not their biblical meaning. In codifying this halacha, the Rambam (Hilchos Nedarim 9:13) rules according to the Gemara (Nedarim and our daf) that in all matters relating to vows, common parlance is the primary factor taken into consideration. In light of this, the Radvaz (to Rambam, op. cit.) questions the necessity for the mishnayos, since all ambiguous terminology is interpreted according to common parlance and not dependent on the usage of mishnaic or biblical times. The Radvaz answers that the definitions in the mishnah are relevant to places where there is no common or agreed-upon meaning.

Shechorei Ha’rosh

The Nimukei Yosef (ad loc., Nedarim 30b) cites the Ritva, who says that some definitions have changed since mishnaic times. An example: A mishnah (30b) states that if someone vows not to benefit from shechorei ha’rosh (literally, dark headed people), he is prohibited from deriving any benefit from adult men, but is permitted to benefit from women and children.

Rashi (30b) explains that women always cover their heads – thus they can never be referred to as “dark headed.” Men, on the other hand, sometimes cover their heads and sometimes do not; thus, those who don’t would be referred to as shechorei ha’rosh. All children, however, go about without a head covering. Thus, they are not included in the vow.

Specifically Stated Intention

The Ritva notes that in post-Talmudic times, the term shechorei ha’rosh has come to refer to anyone with dark hair and it therefore excludes people who are bald, and in general people who are elderly (whose hair is usually white). He notes as well that even where the custom is to follow the mishnaic definition, if one specifically states that he wants his vow to be interpreted according to the simple understanding (interpretation) of his words, his instructions are to be followed even if that produces a leniency.

This week’s Daf Yomi Highlights is based upon Al Hadaf, published by Cong. Al Hadaf, 17N Rigaud Rd., Spring Valley, NY 10977-2533. Al Hadaf published semi-monthly, is available by subscription: U.S. – $40 per year; Canada – $54 per year; overseas – $65 per year. For dedication information contact Rabbi Zev Dickstein, editor, at their office 845-356-9114 or visit Alhadafyomi.org.

About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.


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