Talmud Tips

For the week ending 7 January 2023 / 14 Tevet 5783

Nedarim 58-64

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Picking the Word

Until the ‘kayitz’ — this is until the people begin putting the figs in their baskets.”

Our Mishna teaches that if a person makes a neder not to drink wine “until the kayitz” or “until the kayitz arrives”, he is forbidden to drink wine only until it’s the time when people begin to pick figs. Why specifically figs, and not grapes?

In Hebrew, each word has a specific meaning, and “kayitz” means picking the fruit with one’s hand, the manner in which figs are picked, whereas “chaticha” is the correct Hebrew word for describing the way of picking grapes, which is by cutting them from the vine with a knife. (Rabbeinu Nissim)

An aside: “Kayitz” is the modern Hebrew word for “summer,” and indeed this is the time of year for picking and harvesting many soft fruits (in Israel and in the northern hemisphere). The root of this word appears to be the same root as that which means picking fruits with one’s hand, “katziza.”

Nedarim 61b

Kohen First

“And you will sanctify him (a kohen) for all matters of holiness — to open first, to bless first, and to take the first portion.”

This teaching of the Beit Midrash of Rabbi Yishmael explains in practical terms how we are to fulfill the command to sanctify a kohen, as stated in the Torah: “v’kidashto”(Vayikra 21:8) — “and you will sanctify him.”

A kohen must be allowed to recite the first blessing for the public Torah reading, be given the honor to lead the birkat hamazon blessing after a meal, and he must be offered first-choice of his portion when dividing an object with another person who is not a kohen. (Rabbeinu Nissim) Another explanation of receiving the honor to “open first” is that the kohen should be the first speaker at a public gathering. (Rabbeinu Asher)

Regarding leading birkat hamazon, the halacha requires to honor him with leading only if each person provided his own food. However, if there is a host who provides the food for everyone who eats together, it is the host’s option to decide who will lead and he does not need to choose a kohen. He does not even need to ask the kohen for permission for someone who is not a kohen to lead, although the custom nowadays is that the leader mentions that he is doing so with the permission of the kohanim (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 201).

Nedarim 62 a&b

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