What do you do when you have friends who won’t accept a gift from you? Well, as the Mishna (Nedarim 8:7) in today’s daf (Nedarim 63b) suggests, you may choose to make a vow to force your friend to accept your gift by saying: ‘Konam that which I will benefit from you if you do not come and take [from me] for your son one kor of wheat and two barrels of wine’ – with the only reason for mentioning your friends’ son being so that your friend can continue to hold firm by technically not accepting your gift while, at the same time, still being a recipient of the gift.
As our Mishna explains, while vow terminology (i.e. ‘Konam’) is used here, this is not truly considered to be a vow. This is because all parties understand that the intent of these words is not to create distance, but rather, to use these words as leverage to get the friend to accept the gift you wish to give them. Consequently, this Mishna highlights the creative solutions that we sometimes require to help a friend in need who is not willing to accept what they need.
There are many words we could use to describe such an event, but perhaps the most appropriate word is ‘intervention’. However, it is important to understand that interventions handled wrong can be disastrous, while interventions done right can be transformative.
When it comes to interventions for addicts, they generally involve more than one person as well and much thoughtful planning. But unfortunately, when it comes to interventions with a friend in need, we often act rashly and, like this Mishna, we can sometimes use conditional words as leverage to get them to do what we want.
To be clear, the intention of our Mishna is to teach us the laws of vows. But what it isn’t intending to teach us is the best way to intervene with a friend, because while this solution may work for some, it may likely backfire with others.
Given this, if you have a friend in need who is not willing to accept what they need, take the time to consider how to best help them, and realize that it may take a team to do so. Because interventions handled wrong can be disastrous – while interventions done right can be transformative.