We begin today with the Mishnah atop דף ל״א עמוּד א, continuing the succession of relatively brief mishnayos and gemaros addressing declarations in the form of נְדָרִים made in the vernacular:
הַנּוֹדֵר מִשּׁוֹבְתֵי שַׁבָּת — אָסוּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָסוּר בַּכּוּתִים. מֵאוֹכְלֵי שׁוּם — אָסוּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָסוּר בַּכּוּתִים. מֵעוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם — אָסוּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוּתָּר בַּכּוּתִים
One who takes a vow that deriving benefit from those who rest on Shabbos is forbidden to him is prohibited from deriving benefit from a Jew, and he is also prohibited from deriving benefit from Samaritans [כּוּתִים] because they are also Shabbos observers. One who makes a נֶדֶר that deriving benefit from those who eat garlic on Shabbos night is forbidden to him is prohibited from deriving benefit from a Jew, and he is also prohibited from benefiting from כּוּתִים. However, if one makes a נֶדֶר that deriving benefit from those who are עוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם is forbidden to him, he is prohibited from deriving benefit from a Jew, but permitted to benefit from כּוּתִים because they do not ascend to יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, but rather, to הַר גְרִיזִים.
The Times of Israel ran a beautiful photo essay about the Samaritans in 2017. The key item to keep in mind in terms of our Mishnah is that the כּוּתִים were recognized as converts to Judaism, but they retained some different customs. In particular, they observed Shavuos is a seven-day festival, and gathered in Har Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus, which they believe is G-d’s chosen site, rather than in יְרוּשָׁלַיִם. There is only a small vestige of the כּוּתִים in Israel today, believed to be about 750 in number.
מַאי ״שׁוֹבְתֵי שַׁבָּת״? אִילֵּימָא מִמְּקַיְּימֵי שַׁבָּת, מַאי אִירְיָא בַּכּוּתִים? אֲפִילּוּ גּוֹיִם נָמֵי! אֶלָּא מִמְּצֻוִּוים עַל הַשַּׁבָּת
The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the expression in the Mishnah: “Those who rest on Shabbos”? If we say that the one who made the נֶדֶר intended to render forbidden deriving benefit from those who uphold Shabbos, i.e., who actually observe it, why mention specifically that he is prohibited from deriving benefit from כּוּתִים; even benefit from other gentiles who are Shabbos observers should also be prohibited? Rather, the intention of the tanna was to refer to a case where one made a נֶדֶר that deriving benefit from those who are commanded about observing Shabbos is forbidden, and this tanna holds that the כּוּתִים are considered true converts, commanded to observe Shabbos.
אִי הָכִי, אֵימָא סֵיפָא: ״מֵעוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם״ — אָסוּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוּתָּר בַּכּוּתִים, אַמַּאי? וְהָא מְצֻוִּוים נִינְהוּ
The Gemara asks: If that is so, say the latter clause (seifa) of the Mishnah: If he takes a vow that deriving benefit from those who are עוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם is forbidden to him, he is prohibited from deriving benefit from a Jew but permitted to derive benefit from כּוּתִים. But why? Aren’t כּוּתִים commanded to to be עוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם just like other Jews?
אָמַר אַבָּיֵי: מְצֻוֶּוה וְעוֹשֶׂה קָתָנֵי. בְּתַרְתֵּי בָּבֵי קַמָּיָיתָא: יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכוּתִים — מְצֻוִּוין וְעוֹשִׂין, גּוֹיִם הָהוּא דְּעָבְדִי — עוֹשִׂין וְאֵינָם מְצֻוִּוין. בְּעוֹלֵי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם: יִשְׂרָאֵל — מְצֻוִּוין וְעוֹשִׂין, כּוּתִים — מְצֻוִּוין וְאֵינָם עוֹשִׂין
Abaye said: It is teaching about those who are commanded and actually perform a mitzvah, and the Mishnah is to be understood as follows: In the first two clauses of the Mishnah, which concern Shabbos observance and eating garlic, both Jews and Samaritans (כּוּתִים) are included because they are commanded and actually perform the mitzvah (מְצֻוִּוין וְעוֹשִׂין). However, with regard to gentiles, those who perform these mitzvos have the status of those who perform the mitzvah but are not commanded to do so (עוֹשִׂין וְאֵינָם מְצֻוִּוין). Therefore, the one who took the vow is permitted to derive benefit from them. Concerning the case of those who ascend to Jerusalem, a Jew is commanded to keep this mitzva and performs it, while כּוּתִים are commanded but do not perform it (מְצֻוִּוין וְאֵינָם עוֹשִׂין), so he is permitted to derive benefit from them.
Another quick Mishnah and Gemara, this one pertaining to whether Jews are considered under the umbrella of בְּנֵי נֹחַ:
״קוּנָּם שֶׁאֵינִי נֶהֱנֶה לִבְנֵי נֹחַ״ — מוּתָּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָסוּר בְּאוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם.
If one says: The property of the descendants of נֹחַ is konam for me, and for that reason I will not benefit from it, he is permitted to derive benefit from a Jew but prohibited from deriving benefit from the אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם.
The Gemara asks: And is a Jew excluded from the category of “the descendants of נֹחַ”? They are also descendants of נֹחַ. The Gemara answers: Since Avraham was sanctified and designated to possess a unique role in the world, all his descendants are called by his name and are no longer termed the descendants of נֹחַ.
״שֶׁאֵינִי נֶהֱנֶה לְזֶרַע אַבְרָהָם״ — אָסוּר בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל וּמוּתָּר בְּאוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם
The next Mishnah: If one says: The property of the offspring of Abraham is forbidden to me, and for that reason I will not benefit from it, he is prohibited from deriving benefit from a Jew but permitted to derive benefit from one who is among the nations of the world (אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם).
גְּמָ׳ וְהָאִיכָּא יִשְׁמָעֵאל! ״כִּי בְיִצְחָק יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע״ כְּתִיב. וְהָאִיכָּא עֵשָׂו! ״בְּיִצְחָק״, וְלֹא כל יִצְחָק.
GEMARA: Concerning the Mishnah’s ruling that the one who takes such a vow is permitted to derive benefit from the nations of the world, the Gemara asks: But isn’t there יִשְׁמָעֵאל and his descendants, who are also Avraham’s offspring? Why isn’t deriving benefit from them forbidden as well? The Gemara answers: It is written with regard to אַבְרָהָם: “For in Isaac shall seed be called to you” (Bereishis 21:12), which demonstrates that the descendants of יִשְׁמָעֵאל are not termed the offspring of Avraham. The Gemara asks: But isn’t there Esav and his descendants; they are also offspring of Avraham, since they are descendants of יִצְחָק? The Gemara answers that the words “in Isaac” mean that some of יִצְחָק’s descendants, i.e., the children of Jacob, are included in the offspring of Avraham, but not all the descendants of יִצְחָק.
On to the next Mishnah:
״שֶׁאֵינִי נֶהֱנֶה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל״ — לוֹקֵחַ בְּיוֹתֵר וּמוֹכֵר בְּפָחוֹת. ״שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל נֶהֱנִין לִי״ — לוֹקֵחַ בְּפָחוֹת וּמוֹכֵר בְּיוֹתֵר, וְאֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ. ״שֶׁאֵינִי נֶהֱנֶה לָהֶן וְהֵן לִי״ — יֵהָנֶה לְאוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם
There are several cases here:
- If one says: The property of a Jew is forbidden to me, and for that reason I will not benefit from it, he may purchase items from a Jew for more than the market price and may sell items to a Jew for less than the market price, so that he does not derive benefit from the transactions.
- If one says: Benefit from me is forbidden to a Jew, he may purchase items from a Jew for less than the market price and may sell items to a Jew for more than the market price, so that he does not derive benefit from the transactions. But although this would be permitted, they do not listen to him, i.e., people will generally not agree to deal with him in a manner that causes them a loss in every transaction.
- If one says: The property of a Jew is forbidden to me, and for that reason I will not benefit from them, and my property is forbidden to a Jew and they will not benefit from me, in this case he may benefit from the אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם, but not from a Jew, and a Jew may not benefit from him.
Let’s take a look at the commentary of the ר״ן here:
שאיני נהנה להם והם לי יהנה לעובדי כוכבים – כתב הר”א ז”ל דהא קמ”ל דלא תימא כיון דהכי נדר אי אפשר לו לעמוד בנדרו והוה ליה כי ההיא דאמר לעיל בפרק ואלו מותרין (נדרים דף טו.) שבועה שלא אישן שלשה ימים מכין אותו וישן לאלתר והכי נמי נימא דיהנה לאלתר דדבר שאי אפשר לעמוד בו הוא קמ”ל דלא כיון דאיכא תקנתא בעובדי כוכבים אע”פ שהיא תקנה רחוקה לו
If I can’t have הַנָאָה from you, and you can’t have הַנָאָה from me, how can I survive? If a person makes a נֶדֶר that he can’t keep – in other words, it’s a נֶדֶר שָׁוְא – you smack him upside the head until he comes to his senses. So the answer is here, that he can still have הַנָאָה from a גוֹי. Even though it is “רְחוֹקֶה”, which literally means at a distance or far-fetched to envision doing business entirely in a secular world, the ר״ן says it’s possible to abide by that נֶדֶר. (Not that I would say it, but a cynic might opine here that in some ways it’s actually easier to do business in a secular world than to deal with fellow Jews.)
Okay – let’s see what the Gemara has to say about the previous Mishnah:
אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל: הַלּוֹקֵחַ כְּלִי מִן הָאוּמָּן לְבַקְּרוֹ וְנֶאֱנַס בְּיָדוֹ — חַיָּיב. אַלְמָא קָסָבַר הֲנָאַת לוֹקֵחַ הִיא.
Shmuel said: In the case of one who takes a vessel from a craftsman to examine it, and an accident occurs to it while it is in his hand, e.g. it broke, the one who examined it is liable to pay for the damages (“you break it, you own it”). Since the one examining the item could have completed the sale at any time, he is treated like a borrower while he examines it, as all the benefit is his. The Gemara comments: Apparently, Shmuel holds that in every sale the primary benefit belongs to the buyer. The buyer benefits much more than the seller, and therefore he must pay for accidents.
Well there’s considerably more to the discussion about commerce here, but you’ll have to tune it to Rabbi Stern below for the rich details.
Instead, I want to switch gears here, and Zoom ahead to the next Mishnah, which discusses the concept of circumcision. It begins:
״קוּנָּם שֶׁאֲנִי נֶהֱנֶה לָעֲרֵלִים״ — מוּתָּר בְּעַרְלֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָסוּר בְּמוּלֵי אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם.
If one says: “Benefiting from those who are uncircumcised is konam for me”, he is permitted to derive benefit from uncircumcised Jews because they are not regarded as uncircumcised, but he is prohibited from deriving benefit from the circumcised of the אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם. One might engage in a little play on words here and say that כֹּל יִשְׂרָאֵל חַבֵרִים זֶה לָזֶה, but כֹּל אוּמוֹת הָעוֹלָם עַרֵלִים זֶה לָזֶה. The bottom line is that this fellow means, in the vernacular, that he’s only going to derive benefit from Jews (circumcised or not). and not from non-Jews (circumcised or not). As an aside, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that the health benefits of male circumcision for newborns of any persuasion, namely prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, outweigh the risks. However, they stop short of stating that the benefits are great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.
The Mishnah continues by citing various reasons why circumcision is as significant for the Jew as it is. One proof is that אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ wasn’t considered as having undergone a complete transformation as the original or prototypical Jewish male until he underwent מִילָה:
רַבִּי אוֹמֵר: גְּדוֹלָה מִילָה, שֶׁכּל הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁעָשָׂה אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ לֹא נִקְרָא שָׁלֵם עַד שֶׁמָּל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״הִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי וֶהְיֵה תָמִים״
The Mishnah finishes with the following statement:
דָּבָר אַחֵר: גְּדוֹלָה מִילָה — שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא הִיא, לֹא בָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת עוֹלָמוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״כֹּה אָמַר ה׳ אִם לֹא בְרִיתִי יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה חֻקּוֹת שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ לֹא שָׂמְתִּי״
Alternatively, so great is the mitzvah of circumcision that if not for it, הקבּ״ה would not have created the world, as it is stated: “Thus says the Lord: If My covenant be not with day and night, I would not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Yirmiyah 33:25), and the covenant that exists day and night is the covenant of circumcision, as it is always found on the person’s body.
Little girls, on the other hand, are born complete. They are perfect as they are. They require no circumcision process to be consecrated as a Jew.
And on that note it is my pleasure to share that on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, our first great-grandchild was named by her parents Atara & Zack Steiner in Los Angeles, as Chaya Liba. A wonderful month during which we celebrate miraculous events in Jewish history, and we trust that it will be another wonderful month for all!