THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) THE COW AND THE NAZIR
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah states that when a person says, "This cow said, 'I am
a Nazir if I stand up,'" Beis Shamai rules that the person becomes a Nazir.
The Amora'im argue how to interpret this Mishnah.
(a) Rami bar Chama says (as Tosfos and the Rosh explain in the name of
Rabeinu Yosef) that it means that when a person sees a certain cow which
looks like it wants to stand up and would accept a vow of Nezirus if it
could stand up, he says, "I will fulfill its will by making myself a Nazir
from its flesh if it succeeds in standing up by itself." The cow then stood
up. Beis Shamai holds that the person becomes a Nazir, even though he only
accepted to become a Nazir from the flesh of the animal. We view it as if he
accepted Nezirus from wine (like the Gemara explains on 9a).
Why is Rava's explanation of the Mishnah not subject to the same question
that he asked on Rami bar Chama's explanation? The way he, too, explains the
Mishnah, the Mishnah is lacking words, because the Mishnah leaves out part
of the description of the case -- the fact that the cow actually stood up by
Why does Rami bar Chama insist that the person's condition was that he will
be a Nazir if the cow stands up *by itself*? This detail of the person's
condition causes the Mishnah to be missing words! Rami bar Chama could have
explained that the person said he will be a Nazir whenever the cow stands
up, either by itself or by force, and then the Mishnah would not be lacking
(b) Rava rejects Rami bar Chama's explanation by asking that the Mishnah
does not say that the Nezirus was conditional on the cow standing up "by
itself." Rava therefore explains that the Mishnah means that the person,
upon seeing a supine cow, takes note that the cow looks like it refuses to
stand up and that the cow seems to be challenging anyone who can stand it
up, as if it is saying that "if anyone can stand me up, I will become a
Nazir." The person says, "I do not believe that the cow can resist me, and
thus I will be a Nazir from its flesh if it does not stand up (by my use of
force)." The cow then stood up by itself. Beis Shamai says that the person's
goal of standing the cow up has not been met, because he did not lift up the
cow himself, and thus he becomes a Nazir. Beis Hillel argues that even if
one could become a Nazir by saying, "I am a Nazir from its flesh," in this
case he would not become a Nazir because his intention was that the cow
should stand up in any manner, whether by itself or with his help, and he
would become a Nazir only if the cow did not stand up at all.
(a) TOSFOS and the Rishonim explain that the Mishnah cannot mean that the
person accepted to be a Nazir whether the cow stands by itself *or* whether
the person stands it up, because then he certainly will become a Nazir,
since it is clear that at some point the cow will stand up. If the person
wanted to make himself a Nazir, then he would have just said so outright and
he would not have made it contingent upon the cow's position. If he makes
his Nezirus contingent upon the cow's position, his Nezirus must be
conditional. He must have meant that he will only become a Nazir if the cow
stands *by itself*.
(b) The Rishonim propose a number of explanations.
1. TOSFOS (10a, DH Mi, and 10b, DH Beis Shamai) answers that according to
Rava, although the Mishnah leaves out the fact that the cow stood by itself,
this detail can be inferred from the fact that Beis Shamai rules that the
person becomes a Nazir. If the person raised up the cow, then he should
*not* be a Nazir. On the other hand, if the cow *never* stood up, then even
Beis Hillel would agree that the person becomes a Nazir! Since Beis Shamai
and Beis Hillel argue, we must assume that the cow stood up by itself. Even
though the Mishnah does not specify that it stood up by itself, this fact
can be inferred from the argument between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel.
Therefore, the Mishnah did not have to mention this detail explicitly.
However, according to Rami bar Chama, the reason the condition in the
Mishnah must be that the cow stands up by itself is simply because of
logic -- that is, there would be no need for a condition otherwise. There is
no part of the Mishnah itself, though, that implies that the condition was
that the cow stands up by itself. The Mishnah does not usually leave out
words unless they can be inferred from the argument recorded in the Mishnah.
2. The ROSH disagrees with Tosfos. He explains that even according to Rami
bar Chama, it was important for the Mishnah to mention the condition of the
cow standing up. The Mishnah wants to teach that when one makes a condition
that he will become a Nazir if the cow stands up, we assume that he means
that he will be a Nazir only if the cow stands up *by itself* and not if
someone picks it up. According to this, the fact that the cow stood up by
itself is the main point that the Mishnah is teaching, and therefore the
Mishnah should not have left out these words.
According to Rava, on the other hand, the reason the Mishnah mentions the
condition about the cow standing up is because Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel
argue over the interpretation of that condition. Beis Shamai says that it
means that *he* will raise up the cow, and Beis Hillel says that it means
that the cow will stand up (by any means). Since the argument between Beis
Shamai and Beis Hillel is explicitly stated in the Mishnah, the main point
*is* written in the Mishnah.
3. The MEFARESH (10b, DH v'Amar) says that according to Rami bar Chama the
Mishnah should have mentioned that the cow stood up by itself, since both
Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel agree that it makes a difference whether it
stands up by itself or whether it stands up with help. However, according to
Rava, Beis Hillel maintains that it makes no difference whether the person
himself raised up the cow, or whether the cow stood up by itself. Therefore,
the Mishnah does not have to mention that it stood up by itself.