Nedarim 30 - 36
- Vows taken to abstain from seafarers, those upon whom the sun shines or those who cover their head
- The difference between vowing to abstain from those already born and those yet to be born
- Who are considered Shabbat observers, sons of Noach or seed of Avraham
- What commerce can be conducted with others if he has vowed not to give benefit to any Jew
- The difference between an uncircumcised Jew and a circumcised non-Jew
- The importance of the mitzvah of circumcision
- The drama of the circumcision of Moshe's second son
- The value of perfect faith in G-d and avoiding the occult
- Avraham's achievement of perfection through circumcision
- The difference between a vow to abstain from eating someone else's food and abstaining from any benefit
- Which benefits may be granted to one whom the vower has forbidden himself to help in any way
- The "fringe benefit" for one guarding a lost object
- If the ban on making personal use of a sacred object applies to a konam
- Are kohanim offering sacrifices our agents or agents of Heaven
When Did Jewry Begin?
- Nedarim 31a
When did our ancestors assume the national identity of Israelites as distinct from the rest of mankind?
The answer seems to be found in our gemara.
"One who vows not to benefit from the 'Sons of Noach,' declares the mishna, "is permitted to benefit from his fellow Jews.” Are Jews not descended from Noach as the rest of mankind?, asks the gemara. The answer given is that once Avraham was sanctified his descendants are called on his name.
This appears to be a support for the position taken by Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (RaMBaN) in regard to the status of the Biblical blasphemer who is described (Vayikra 24:10) as "the son of an Israelite woman". This son of an Egyptian father is reported in the midrash as having "converted" to Judaism. But why would conversion be necessary if his mother was Jewish?
The French Tosefist commentators answer this by pointing out that since he was born in Egypt before the Torah was given, his status was based on patrilineal descent as is the rule for all nations other than Jews. Ramban rejects this approach because once G-d made a covenant with Avraham his descendants were set apart from all other nations, and it was matrilineal descent which determined the status of the child.
The blasphemer, he concludes, was therefore a full-fledged Jew who had undergone all the forms of "conversion" undertaken by all Jews when making their covenant with G-d at Mount Sinai. The above-mentioned passage which describes him as "going forth from the midst of Israel" refers to the fact that he chose to be a member of his mother's faith rather than join his Egyptian father's people.
What the Sages Say
"How important is Torah study for if not for the study of Torah Heaven and earth would not endure."
- Rabbi Eliezer - Nedarim 32a