February 14, 2023

Nedarim 69

The question was raised in yesterday’s daf (Nedarim 68a) whether, when a husband of a young woman with whom he is halachically engaged (נערה המאורסה) revokes her vow (i.e. הפרת נדרים), does he cut her vow in half (מִיגָּז גָּיֵיז), or does he weaken her entire vow (מִקְלָישׁ קָלֵישׁ)?
Interestingly, today’s daf (Nedarim 69a) informs us that this question is actually a debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, where Beit Shammai adopts the view that he cuts her vow in half (מִיגָּז גָּיֵיז), while Beit Hillel understand that he weakens the entire vow (מִקְלָישׁ קָלֵישׁ).
As we learnt in yesterday’s daf, there are various halachic ramifications which emerge from each of these two perspectives. For example, if the נערה המאורסה made a vow that prohibited her from two olive-sized volumes of a particular food, then according to the ‘cut in half’ approach, once her husband revoked her vow she would then be permitted to eat one olive-sized volume of that food (with the other being permitted as and when her father also revoked her vow), whereas according to the ‘weakening the vow’ approach, both olive-sized volumes of that particular food would be prohibited to her unless her father also revoked her vow.
However, I would like to reflect a little more on these two perspectives – namely that of cutting, and that of weakening. This is because there are times when we have exciting ideas about future decisions or projects, but when we share them with others, they either cut them down (מִיגָּז גָּיֵיז), or they respond so cooly that it weakens the entire proposition (מִקְלָישׁ קָלֵישׁ).
Of course, not every idea is a good one, and the role of friends and family is to give us constructive guidance. Still, when this is done right, their words should neither cut nor weaken; instead, they should provide direction and encouragement.
Nevertheless, all too often, a friend, colleague, family member, or even stranger can respond to our idea in a way which is comparable to our topic of revoking words (הפרה); and both what they say and how they speak to us can either be cutting (מִיגָּז גָּיֵיז) or weakening (מִקְלָישׁ קָלֵישׁ). True, just like the laws of הפרת נדרים, such feedback may not fully uproot the idea; but it can cause significant damage to you and to your idea.
Though the concept of הפרת נדרים may not be commonplace, the concept of being מפר the words and ideas of others – either by cutting them down (מִיגָּז גָּיֵיז), or by diluting their value (מִקְלָישׁ קָלֵישׁ) – occurs on a daily basis. I’ve had it done to me plenty times, and – if I am honest – it is quite possible that, unknowingly, I’ve done it to others.
So if today, or tomorrow, or next week, a friend, colleague or family member shares an idea with you, think carefully before you respond. Of course, it may or may not be a good idea, and they may even be relying on you for some constructive criticism. Still, there is a difference between building someone up and cutting someone down; between strengthening someone and weakening them. Our task is to know that difference, and to help build and strengthen others, and not – God forbid – weaken them or cut them down.
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