In my commentary to yesterday’s daf (see https://rabbijohnnysolomon.com/nedarim-5/) I discussed the concept of ידים (literally, ‘handles’), which is the term our Rabbis use to describe a situation when only part of a vow-making formula is expressed from which the intention to make a particular vow can be inferred.
With this in mind, Rav Pappa raises a question in today’s daf (Nedarim 6b) about whether the concept of ידים can be applied beyond the laws of vows to the laws of marriage. As he asks: יש יד לקידושין או לא?
In order to illustrate what Rav Pappa is asking, the Gemara now describes a scenario where a man says to a woman: הרי את מקודשת לי – ‘[Please] be betrothed to me’, and he then says to another woman ואת נמי – ‘and you too’. In such a case, we consider both statements to be proposals for marriage.
However, what if he just said to the second woman: ואת – ‘and you’? Is this sufficient to be understood to be a proposal? Alternatively, as the Gemara suggests, perhaps we could claim that the word ואת may be a question to this second woman about whether she might consider the possibility of marrying him, but that this is not itself a marriage proposal?
Addressing this Gemara, Rav Yosef Bloch explains (in his ‘Shiurei Da’at’ Vol. 1 p. 253) that the question being asked here is not, in fact, whether we are clear or not about the intentions of someone who says ואת to a woman immediately after having said הרי את מקודשת לי to another. Instead, the point being raised by our Gemara is that when someone uses ידים (i.e. incomplete statements), even when we are clear about what they are saying, we are worried that their lack of explicitness suggests a lack of conviction (גמירת הדעת) on their part. Meaning, if someone says a full statement of הרי את מקודשת לי, then by choosing to use these words we believe that they are expressing their desire and conviction to propose. Whereas if they say the word ואת, even though we know what they mean, we don’t fully know from this word that they mean what they mean.
Applying this distinction to our day-to-day lives, there are situations when people use short expressions to communicate their feelings and they do so simply for the sake of brevity. However, what Rav Bloch is teaching us is that there are occasions when people say things which, though we can understand what they are saying from the few words that they are using, the very fact that they use so few words suggests that they themselves are not fully convinced of what they are saying. In short, they are using a ‘handle’ not for ease of expression but because they haven’t fully taken hold of the position or decision they are talking about. When this occurs, and especially if the discussion relates to something of significance, ask a follow-up question, because by using a ‘handle’ in their conversation with you, it is likely that they were, in a coded manner, telling you that they are unsure of what they are doing and are in need of your advice.