February 14, 2023

Nedarim 11

The previous Mishna (Nedarim 1:3; Nedarim 10b) raises the question of the efficacy of someone using the term כִּירוּשָׁלָיִם – ‘like Jerusalem’ as an expression of a vow. Does this term sufficiently communicate the likely intention of the individual making a vow that something is to be sanctified ‘like [a sacrifice in] Jerusalem’? Or is this term too ambiguous to be considered as a valid expression of a vow?
The Mishna itself proceeds to inform us that while the Sages considered the term כִּירוּשָׁלָיִם as being a sufficiently clear expression of a vow, Rabbi Yehuda is of the view that, הָאוֹמֵר יְרוּשָׁלַיִם לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם – ‘if someone [merely said] “Jerusalem” then they have not said anything’. From here it would seem that Rabbi Yehuda is of the view that if one said כִּירוּשָׁלָיִם then this would be a valid vow.
However, we are taught in today’s daf (Nedarim 11a) that this itself is a matter of debate, and while the Mishna implies that Rabbi Yehuda considered this term to be valid, an alternative record of his opinion, as stated in the Beraita that is cited in our daf, is that he did not consider the term כִּירוּשָׁלָיִם to be a valid expression ‘unless the person explicitly referenced something that is offered up in Jerusalem’.
Having now summarized this Mishna and the subsequent debate as recorded in our daf, I would like to focus on the statement of הָאוֹמֵר יְרוּשָׁלַיִם לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם – ‘if someone [merely said] “Jerusalem” then they have not said anything’ – which piqued my interest and brought me to read the brief but powerful insight of R’ Shaul Yedidyah Taub (1886-1947), the Modzitzer Rebbe, who addresses this Gemara in his sefer ‘Imrei Shaul’ and who says as follows:
‘This comes to teach us that our primary duty is to actively involve ourselves in the building of Jerusalem in practice, whereas ‘if someone merely said “Jerusalem”’, i.e. if someone believes that they have fulfilled their duty with words alone and just talk about the greatness of Jerusalem but they do nothing to put their words into actions, then ‘they have not said anything’’.
Considering the fact that this commentary relates to a teaching in a tractate which emphasizes the power of words, it is a very stark statement. Yet what it would seem to mean is that when it comes to the most important things in life, words alone are not enough, or as we are taught in Pirkei Avot (1:17): לֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הָעִקָּר אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה – ‘talk alone is not our primary duty; instead, it is action’.
As we know, many people have many opinions about many things. However, far fewer channel their opinions into actions. And so, what the Modzitzer Rebbe comes to teach us is that, at least when it comes to the most important things in life, if our words are not coupled with actions then our words themselves are nothing. And on the flip side, if we really care about certain things, and if we really seek change and development, then we need to remember that change only comes when we do what it takes to make those changes a reality.
In this article:
Share on social media:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on telegram

More articles