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Shvuot - Chapter 1, Shvuot - Chapter 2, Shvuot - Chapter 3

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Shvuot - Chapter 1

In the name of the Lord, the God of the world.
The freewill offerings of my mouth accept now, O Lord, and teach me Your judgments.

The sixth book which is The Book of Promises

It contains four sets of Halachot and this is their order:

The Laws of Shvuot
The Laws of Nedarim
The Laws of Nezirut
The Laws of Arachim Vacharamim

Introduction to Hilchos Shvuot

They contain 5 mitzvot: one positive commandment and four negative commandments. They are:

1. Not to swear falsely in [God’s] name,
2. Not to take [God’s] name in vain,
3. Not to deny [having received] an entrusted object,
4. Not to swear [falsely] when denying financial obligations,
5. To swear truly in [God’s] name.

These mitzvot are explained in the ensuing chapters.

בְּשֵׁם יי אֵל עוֹלָם (בראשית כא לג)
נִדְבוֹת פִּי רְצֵה נָא יי, וּמִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ לַמְּדֵנִי (תהלים קיט קח)

ספר ששי והוא ספר הפלאה

הלכותיו ארבע, וזה הוא סידורן:

הלכות שבועות
הלכות נדרים
הלכות נזירות
ערכים וחרמין רמב"ם הלכות שבועות - הקדמה הלכות שבועות. יש בכללן חמש מצות, אחת מצות עשה, וארבע מצות לא תעשה. וזה הוא פרטן (א) שלא לישבע בשמו לשקר.
(ב) שלא לישא את שמו לשוא.
(ג) שלא לכפור בפקדון.
(ד) שלא לישבע על כפירת ממון.
(ה) לישבע בשמו באמת. וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו.

1

There are four types of oaths [for which one may be liable]: sh'vuat bitui, sh'vuat shav, sh'vuat hapikadon, and sh'vuat ha'edut.1

Sh'vuat bitui2 is referred to in the Torah [by Leviticus 5:4]: "When a soul will take an oath, expressing with his lips, whether he will do harm3 or do good." [This category] subdivides into four groupings: two4 [involving statements made] concerning the future and two [involving statements made] concerning the past. For example, he took an oath concerning a past event that it occurred or did not occur, or concerning a future event, that he will do it or that he will not do it.

א

אַרְבָּעָה מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת הֵן. שְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי וּשְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא וּשְׁבוּעַת הַפִּקָּדוֹן וּשְׁבוּעַת הָעֵדוּת. שְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי הוּא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (ויקרא ה ד) "אוֹ נֶפֶשׁ כִּי תִשָּׁבַע לְבַטֵּא בִשְׂפָתַיִם לְהָרַע אוֹ לְהֵיטִיב". וְהִיא נֶחְלֶקֶת לְאַרְבָּעָה חֲלָקִים. שְׁתַּיִם לְהַבָּא. וּשְׁתַּיִם לְשֶׁעָבַר. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל דָּבָר שֶׁעָבַר שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא נַעֲשָׂה. וְעַל דָּבָר שֶׁעָתִיד לִהְיוֹת שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה וְשֶׁלֹּא יֵעָשֶׂה:

2

[The concept of] a sh'vuat bitui applies with regard to deeds that a person could perform5 whether in the past or in the future.

What is implied? With regard to the past: "I ate," "I cast a stone into the sea," or "So-and-so spoke with so-and-so"; "I did not eat," "I did not cast a stone into the sea," or "So-and-so did not speak with so-and-so." With regard to the future: "I will eat" or "I will not eat," "I will..." or "I will not cast a stone into the sea."6 Thus there are two groupings7 concerning the past and two groupings concerning the future.

ב

וְאֵין שְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי נוֹהֶגֶת אֶלָּא בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹתָן בֵּין לְהַבָּא בֵּין לְשֶׁעָבַר. כֵּיצַד לְשֶׁעָבַר. שֶׁאָכַלְתִּי. אוֹ שֶׁזָּרַקְתִּי אֶבֶן לַיָּם. אוֹ שֶׁדִּבֵּר פְּלוֹנִי עִם פְּלוֹנִי. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא אָכַלְתִּי. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא זָרַק אֶבֶן לַיָּם. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא דִּבֵּר פְּלוֹנִי עִם פְּלוֹנִי. כֵּיצַד לְהַבָּא. שֶׁאֹכַל אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא אֹכַל. אוֹ שֶׁאֶזְרֹק אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא אֶזְרֹק אֶבֶן לַיָּם. הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ שְׁתַּיִם לְשֶׁעָבַר וּשְׁתַּיִם לְהַבָּא:

3

If a person takes an oath concerning one of these four categories and does the opposite, he has taken a false oath. For example, he took an oath not to eat and he ate, that he would eat and he did not eat, that he ate, when he did not or that he did not eat, when he had eaten. With regard to these matters, [Leviticus 19:12] states: "Do not swear falsely in My name."8 If he willfully swears falsely, he is liable for lashes.9 If he does so inadvertently, he must bring an adjustable guilt offering,10 as [ibid. 5:4] states: "And it became concealed from him and he did not know and became guilty."

ג

נִשְׁבַּע אַחַת מֵאַרְבַּע מַחֲלוֹקוֹת אֵלּוּ וְהֶחְלִיף כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל וְאָכַל אוֹ שֶׁיֹּאכַל וְלֹא אָכַל אוֹ שֶׁאָכַלְתִּי וְהוּא לֹא אָכַל שֶׁלֹּא אָכַלְתִּי וְאָכַל הֲרֵי זוֹ שְׁבוּעַת שֶׁקֶר. וְעַל זֶה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ נֶאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יב) "לֹא תִשָּׁבְעוּ בִשְׁמִי לַשָּׁקֶר". וְאִם נִשְׁבַּע לַשֶּׁקֶר בְּמֵזִיד לוֹקֶה. בְּשׁוֹגֵג מֵבִיא קָרְבַּן עוֹלֶה וְיוֹרֵד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא ה ד) "וְנֶעְלַם מִמֶּנּוּ וְהוּא יָדַע וְאָשֵׁם" וְגוֹ':

4

[The prohibition against taking] a sh'vuat shav, an oath taken in vain,11 also subdivides into four categories: the first, a person took an oath concerning a known matter12 that was not true, e.g., he took an oath that a man was a woman, a woman was a man, that a marble pillar was gold, or concerning other similar factors.

ד

שְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא נֶחְלֶקֶת לְאַרְבַּע מַחֲלוֹקוֹת. הָאַחַת שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל דָּבָר הַיָּדוּעַ שֶׁאֵין כֵּן. כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל הָאִישׁ שֶׁהוּא אִשָּׁה. וְעַל הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁהוּא אִישׁ. וְעַל עַמּוּד שֶׁל שַׁיִשׁ שֶׁהוּא שֶׁל זָהָב. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

5

The second: that one takes an oath on a known matter concerning which no one has a doubt, e.g., one took an oath that the sky was the sky, that a stone is a stone, on two [objects] that they are two, and the like. Even though there is no doubt about the matter for a person of sound mind, one takes an oath to strengthen [the appreciation of] the matter.13

ה

הַשְּׁנִיָּה שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל דָּבָר יָדוּעַ שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סָפֵק לְאָדָם שֶׁהוּא כֵּן. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל הַשָּׁמַיִם שֶׁהוּא שָׁמַיִם. וְעַל הָאֶבֶן זוֹ שֶׁהִיא אֶבֶן. וְעַל הַשְּׁנַיִם שֶׁהֵם שְׁנַיִם. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. שֶׁזֶּה הַדָּבָר אֵין בּוֹ סָפֵק לְאָדָם שָׁלֵם כְּדֵי לְצַדֵּק הַדָּבָר בִּשְׁבוּעָה:

6

The third is one who takes an oath to nullify a mitzvah.14 What is implied? One took an oath not to wrap himself in tzitzit,15 not to put on tefilin, not to dwell in a sukkah throughout the holiday of Sukkot,16 not to eat matzah on Pesach night, that he would fast on the Sabbaths and the festivals,17 or concerning other analogous instances.

ו

שְׁלִישִׁית שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע לְבַטֵּל אֶת הַמִּצְוָה. כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יִתְעַטֵּף בְּצִיצִית. שֶׁלֹּא יִלְבַּשׁ תְּפִלִּין. וְשֶׁלֹּא יֵשֵׁב בַּסֻּכָּה בְּחַג הַסֻּכּוֹת. וְלֹא יֹאכַל מַצָּה בְּלֵילֵי הַפֶּסַח. אוֹ שֶׁיִּתְעַנֶּה בְּשַׁבָּתוֹת וּבְיָמִים טוֹבִים. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

7

The fourth - that one took an oath concerning a matter that he is unable to perform.18 What is implied? He took an oath that he would not sleep for three consecutive days and nights,19 he would not eat for seven consecutive days or concerning any analogous matter.

Whenever a person takes an oath in vain by taking one of these four types of oaths, he transgresses a negative commandment,20 as [Exodus 20:7] states: "And you shall not take the name of God your Lord in vain." If he [takes the oath] willfully, he is liable for lashes.21 If he does so inadvertently, he is exempt entirely.

ז

רְבִיעִית שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל דָּבָר שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת. כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יִישַׁן שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים לַיְלָה וָיוֹם רְצוּפִים. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִטְעוֹם כְּלוּם שִׁבְעָה יָמִים רְצוּפִים. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. כָּל הַנִּשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא מֵאַרְבַּע שְׁבוּעוֹת אֵלּוּ עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ז) (דברים ה יא) "לֹא תִשָּׂא אֶת שֵׁם ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַשָּׁוְא". וְאִם הָיָה מֵזִיד לוֹקֶה וְאִם הָיָה שׁוֹגֵג פָּטוּר מִכְּלוּם:

8

What is meant by a sh'vuat hapikadon, [an oath concerning an entrusted object]?22 [It applies] when a person has money belonging to a colleague in his possession - whether it be an entrusted article or a loan, he stole from him, withheld his wages, he found a loss object belonging to him and did not return it, or any similar situation. If his colleague claims the money that he has in his possession and he denies the claim, he violates a negative commandment,23 as [Leviticus 19:11] states: "You shall not deny..."; this is a warning [not to] deny a monetary [claim]. One is not liable for lashes for this transgression.24

If one took a false oath with regard to the financial claim that he denied, he transgresses another negative commandment,25 as [the above verse] continues: "A person may not lie to his colleague."26 This is a warning against swearing [falsely] when denying a financial [obligation].

ח

שְׁבוּעַת הַפִּקָּדוֹן כֵּיצַד. כָּל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ מָמוֹן חֲבֵרוֹ בְּיָדוֹ בֵּין פִּקָּדוֹן בֵּין מִלְוֶה אוֹ שֶׁגְּזָלוֹ אוֹ עֲשָׁקוֹ אוֹ מָצָא לוֹ אֲבֵדָה וְלֹא הֶחֱזִירָהּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה וְתָבַע מִמֶּנּוּ מָמוֹן שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ בְּיָדוֹ וְכָפַר בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יא) "לֹא תְכַחֲשׁוּ" זוֹ אַזְהָרָה לִכְפִירַת מָמוֹן. וְאֵין לוֹקִין עַל לָאו זֶה. וְאִם נִשְׁבַּע לוֹ עַל שֶׁקֶר עַל מָמוֹן שֶׁכָּפַר בּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר בְּלָאו אַחֵר וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר (ויקרא יט יא) "לֹא תְשַׁקְּרוּ אִישׁ בַּעֲמִיתוֹ" זוֹ אַזְהָרָה לְנִשְׁבַּע עַל כְּפִירַת מָמוֹן. וּשְׁבוּעָה זוֹ הִיא הַנִּקְרֵאת שְׁבוּעַת הַפִּקָּדוֹן:

9

What is a person's liability for taking a false sh'vuat hapikadon? He must pay the principle that he denied plus an additional fifth27 and bring a definite28 guilt offering as a sacrifice. [This applies] whether he [transgressed] intentionally or unintentionally,29 as indicated by Leviticus 5:21-23 which] states: "And he will deny his [obligation to] a colleague concerning an entrusted object, a [financial] deposit, a robbery... when he sin and become guilty." [The verse] does not say: "And it will become concealed from him,"30 indicating that one who transgresses willfully is liable just as [one who transgresses] inadvertently.

ט

וּמַה הוּא חַיָּב עַל שְׁבוּעַת הַפִּקָּדוֹן שֶׁשִּׁקֵּר בָּהּ. מְשַׁלֵּם אֶת הַקֶּרֶן שֶׁכָּפַר בּוֹ עִם תּוֹסֶפֶת חֹמֶשׁ. וּמַקְרִיב אָשָׁם וַדַּאי בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה מֵזִיד בֵּין שֶׁהָיָה שׁוֹגֵג שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא ה כא) "וְכִחֵשׁ בַּעֲמִיתוֹ בְּפִקָּדוֹן אוֹ בִתְשׂוּמֶת יָד אוֹ בְגָזֵל" וְגוֹ' (ויקרא ה כג) "וְהָיָה כִּי יֶחֱטָא וְאָשֵׁם". וְלֹא נֶאֱמַר בּוֹ וְנֶעְלַם מִמֶּנּוּ, לְחַיֵּב מֵזִיד כְּשׁוֹגֵג:

10

The above applies when the person willfully accepted the entrusted object or the money that he was obligated and knew about it at the time of the oath. If, however, he acted unintentionally, forgot that he had the money in his possession, therefore denied it and took an oath, and then discovered the matter, he is considered [to have transgressed because of] factors beyond his control and is not liable at all.31 Similarly, if the person did not know that it was forbidden to take a false oath in denial of a financial claim, he is considered [to have transgressed because of] factors beyond his control and is not liable.32

י

וְהוּא שֶׁיָּזִיד בְּפִקָּדוֹן אוֹ בְּמָמוֹן שֶׁנִּתְחַיֵּב בּוֹ וְיָדַע בּוֹ בִּשְׁעַת שְׁבוּעָה. אֲבָל אִם שָׁגַג וְשָׁכַח שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ אֶצְלוֹ מָמוֹן וְכָפַר וְנִשְׁבַּע וְאַחַר כָּךְ יָדַע הֲרֵי זֶה אָנוּס וּפָטוּר מִכְּלוּם. וְכֵן אִם לֹא יָדַע שֶׁאָסוּר לִשָּׁבַע לַשֶּׁקֶר עַל כְּפִירַת מָמוֹן הֲרֵי זֶה אָנוּס וּפָטוּר:

11

If so, what is meant by acting inadvertently with regard to a sh'vuat hapikadon? For example, he forgot that one is liable to bring a sacrifice for [taking such a false oath], but knew that it was forbidden to do so and that he has the other person's money in his possession. This is considered the inadvertent transgression [of this prohibition].33 Willful transgression is when he knows that he is liable to bring a sacrifice [because of the transgression].

יא

אִם כֵּן הֵיאַךְ הִיא שִׁגְגַת שְׁבוּעַת הַפִּקָּדוֹן. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנֶּעֱלַם מִמֶּנּוּ אִם חַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן אִם לָאו וְיָדַע שֶׁהִיא אֲסוּרָה וְשֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ אֶצְלוֹ מָמוֹן זוֹ הִיא שִׁגְגָתָהּ. וּזְדוֹנָהּ שֶׁיָּדַע שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן:

12

What is meant by sh'vuat ha'edut?34 Witnesses know testimony associated with a monetary claim35 and the person affected by the testimony demanded that they testify on his behalf. The witnesses deny knowledge of testimony, do not testify, and take an oath36 that they do not know any testimony concerning him. This is referred to as a sh'vuat ha'edut. For taking a [false] oath of this nature, one is liable for an adjustable guilt offering,37 [This applies] whether he [transgressed] intentionally or unintentionally, as [indicated by Leviticus 5:1 which] states: "When a person will sin: If he heard a demand for an oath and he had witnessed...." [The verse] does not say: "And it will become concealed from him,"38 indicating that one who transgresses willfully is liable just as [one who transgresses] inadvertently.

יב

שְׁבוּעַת הָעֵדוּת כֵּיצַד. הָעֵדִים שֶׁיָּדְעוּ עֵדוּת מָמוֹן וּתְבָעָם בַּעַל הָעֵדוּת לְהָעִיד לוֹ וְכָפְרוּ בְּעֵדוּתָן וְלֹא הֵעִידוּ וְנִשְׁבְּעוּ שֶׁאֵינָן יוֹדְעִין לוֹ עֵדוּת זוֹ הִיא נִקְרֵאת שְׁבוּעַת הָעֵדוּת. וְחַיָּבִין עַל שְׁבוּעָה זוֹ קָרְבָּן עוֹלֶה וְיוֹרֵד בֵּין שֶׁהָיוּ מְזִידִין בֵּין שֶׁהָיוּ שׁוֹגְגִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא ה א) "נֶפֶשׁ כִּי תֶחֱטָא וְשָׁמְעָה קוֹל אָלָה וְהוּא עֵד" וְלֹא נֶאֱמַר בָּהּ וְנֶעְלַם, לְחַיֵּב עַל הַזָּדוֹן כִּשְׁגָגָה:

13

What is meant by acting inadvertently with regard to a sh'vuat ha'edut? For example, he forgot that one is liable to bring a sacrifice for [taking such a false oath], but knew that this oath was forbidden and that he would be swearing falsely. Willful transgression is when he knows that he is liable to bring a sacrifice [because of the transgression]. If he did not know that [taking such an oath] is forbidden or forgot the testimony and took an oath39 and later it was discovered that he knew testimony and took a false oath, he is considered [to have transgressed because of] forces beyond his control and he is not liable to bring a sacrifice.40

יג

כֵּיצַד שִׁגְגַת שְׁבוּעַת הָעֵדוּת. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנֶּעֱלַם מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן וְיָדַע שֶׁשְּׁבוּעָה זוֹ אֲסוּרָה וְשֶׁהִיא שֶׁקֶר. וּזְדוֹנָהּ שֶׁיָּדַע שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן. אֲבָל אִם לֹא יָדַע שֶׁהִיא אֲסוּרָה אוֹ שֶׁשָּׁכְחוּ הָעֵדוּת וְנִשְׁבְּעוּ וְאַחַר כָּךְ נוֹדַע לָהֶם שֶׁהֵן יוֹדְעִין לוֹ עֵדוּת וְשֶׁנִּשְׁבְּעוּ עַל שֶׁקֶר הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ אֲנוּסִין וּפְטוּרִין אַף מִן הַקָּרְבָּן:

Footnotes
1.

The Rambam proceeds to explain these four types of oath in this chapter.

2.

Bitui literally means "expression." I.e., this oath is taken expressing statements concerning the past or the future. See Chapters 4 and 5 where this subject is discussed in detail.

3.

As evident from Chapter 5, Halachot 16-17, this applies when he takes an oath to harm himself, but not to harm others.

4.

I.e., one positive and one negative. The concept that a sh'vuat bitui has both these forms is derived from the prooftext cited which states: "Whether he will do harm or do good." See Chapter 9, Halachah 18.

5.

But not with regard to something which he cannot perform. As stated in Halachah 7, that is included in the category of an oath taken in vain.

6.

An oath he takes concerning the future that involves another person is not included in this category, because he has no way of controlling that person's conduct. See Chapter 5, Halachot 1-2.

7.

One positive and one negative.

8.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 61) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 227) include this prohibition among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

9.

This is somewhat of a new concept, because one does not receive lashes for violating a transgression that does not involve a deed and ordinarily, speech is not considered a deed. Nevertheless, taking a false oath is an exception to this principle, for Exodus 20:7 states: "God will not absolve anyone who takes His name in vain." Sh'vuot 21a interprets that to mean that a person who takes an oath in vain is liable for lashes. See also Chapter 4, Halachot 20-21 for more factors concerning this concept.

10.

In contrast to an ordinary sin-offering, the sacrifice a person liable for such an offering must bring is adjusted according to his financial status as stated in Leviticus, ch. 5. See Chapter 3, Halachot 6-7 for details concerning when one is held liable for such a sacrifice and when he is not.

11.

See Chapter 6 where this subject is discussed in detail.

12.

The Ra'avad explains that the term "a known matter" refers to something known to three people. The Radbaz notes that the Rambam mentions this point in Chapter 5, Halachah 22. See Chapter 3, Halachah 5, and notes from which it is evident that here, the person taking the oath is not speaking facetiously. Although it is known that what he is saying is false, he intends that his words be taken at face value. See also Chapter 5, Halachah 21, and notes.

13.

Thus since no one else but a fool will have any doubt concerning the matter, there is no need to take an oath. Hence, the oath is considered to have been taken in vain (Radbaz).

14.

Since he is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah and the matter is not dependent on his choice or consent, his oath is considered to be in vain. See also Chapter 5, Halachot 14-15.

15.

The Radbaz clarifies that we are not speaking about taking an oath not to wear a tallit, for a person is not obligated to wear a tallit by Scriptural Law (see Hilchot Tzitzit 3:11). Instead, the intent is to take an oath that he will wear a four-cornered garment and not put tzitzit on it.

16.

See Chapter 5, Halachah 18.

17.

For one must take pleasure in food and drink on these days. It is forbidden to fast (Hilchot Shabbat 30:12; Hilchot Sh'vitat Yom Tov 6:17).

18.

Since he is unable to perform the matter, the oath he took is obviously in vain.

19.

See Chapter 5, Halachah 20.

20.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 62) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 30) include this prohibition among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

21.

See the notes to Halachah 3.

22.

The latter is the literal translation of the term pikadon. Nevertheless, as the Rambam continues to explain, the term has a broader halachic meaning in this context. The Radbaz explains that the mishnah uses the term sh'vuat hapikadon, because it is most common that such a claim will be made with regard to an entrusted object. Alternatively, because the prooftext (Leviticus 5:21) mentions an entrusted object first. See Chapters 7 and 8 where this subject is discussed in detail.

23.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 248) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 225) include this prohibition among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

24.

Either because the transgression does not involve a deed, or because financial compensation must be given and a person is not held liable both for financial restitution and lashes (Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:2).

25.

He also violates the commandment against taking a false oath [Sh'vuot 20b; Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 249)].

26.

Sefer HaMitzvot (loc. cit.) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 226) include this prohibition among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

27.

As the Rambam explains in several instances, the intent is one fifth of the new total. For example, if he denied a debt of 20 zuz, he must pay 25 in restitution.

28.

This term is used to distinguish this offering from the conditional guilt offering brought by a person who is unsure whether or not he committed a sin.

29.

In contrast, an ordinary sin offering is brought only when one transgresses inadvertently.

30.

As Leviticus 5:4 states with regard to a sh'vuat bitui.

31.

Neither for a sacrifice, nor for the payment of an additional fifth of the object's value.

32.

The Radbaz states that although such an individual is not liable for a sacrifice or the additional fifth, he is liable for transgressing the prohibition against denying property.

33.

Since he is unaware of the fact that he must bring a sacrifice and thus does not know the full severity of his act, he is considered to have transgressed inadvertently. Nevertheless, because he is conscious of the transgression and the fact that he has the other person's money in his possession, he is not considered to have transgressed due to forces beyond his control.

34.

The term literally means "an oath [associated with] testimony." See Chapters 9 and 10 where this subject is discussed in detail.

35.

See Chapter 9, Halachot 3-5.

36.

This oath is not required by the court, but rather is demanded by the person affected by their testimony. See Chapter 9, Halachah 6.

37.

See the notes to Halachah 3.

38.

See Chapter 9, Halachot 3-5.

39.

In translation, we have used the singular for continuity. The Rambam, however, uses plural forms, because testimony brings about a monetary obligation only when given by two witnesses.

40.

I.e., they are not considered to have transgressed at all.

Shvuot - Chapter 2

1

Whether one takes one of these four oaths [falsely] on his own initiative or he is placed under oath by another person and answers Amen to his statements, he is liable.1 [This applies] even if he is placed under oath by a gentile2 or a minor3 and responds Amen.

[The rationale is that] anyone who responds Amen or makes a statement equivalent to responding Amen, e.g., he says "Yes," "I am obligated in this oath," "I accept this oath upon myself," or the like in any language4 is considered to have taken an oath with regard to all matter,5 whether it be liability for lashes6 or for a sacrifice.7

א

אֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע אֶחָד מֵאַרְבָּעָה מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת אֵלּוּ מִפִּי עַצְמוֹ. וְאֶחָד הַמֻּשְׁבָּע מִפִּי אֲחֵרִים וְעָנָה אָמֵן. אֲפִלּוּ הִשְׁבִּיעוֹ עַכּוּ''ם אוֹ קָטָן וְעָנָה אָמֵן חַיָּב. שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹנֶה אָמֵן אַחַר שְׁבוּעָה כְּמוֹצִיא שְׁבוּעָה מִפִּיו. וְאֶחָד הָעוֹנֶה אָמֵן אוֹ הָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר שֶׁעִנְיָנוֹ כְּעִנְיַן אָמֵן. כְּגוֹן שֶׁאָמַר הֵן אוֹ מְחֻיָּב אֲנִי בִּשְׁבוּעָה זוֹ. קִבַּלְתִּי עָלַי שְׁבוּעָה זוֹ. וְכָל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן הֲרֵי זֶה כְּנִשְׁבָּע לְכָל דָּבָר בֵּין לְחַיְּבוֹ מַלְקוֹת בֵּין לְחַיְּבוֹ קָרְבָּן:

2

[The same laws apply whether] one took an oath - or another person administered an oath to him - with God's ineffable name8 - or with one of the descriptive terms used to refer to Him,9 e.g., he took an oath "on He whose name is Gracious," "on He whose name is Merciful," or "on He whose name is Patient," regardless of the language he used.10 The statement is considered an oath in the full sense of the term.11

Similarly, a statement with the terms eleh or erur12 is considered as an oath,13 provided one mentions one of God's names or one of the terms used to describe Him. What is implied? When a person said: "May one who eats this-and-this entity be cursed unto God," or "...cursed unto He whose name is Gracious," "...cursed unto He whose name is Merciful" and then ate that entity, he has taken a false oath.14 Similar concepts apply with regard to the other types of oaths.

ב

אֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע. אוֹ שֶׁהִשְׁבִּיעוֹ אַחֵר בַּשֵּׁם הַמְיֻחָד. אוֹ בְּאֶחָד מִן הַכִּנּוּיִין כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע בְּמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ חַנּוּן וּבְמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ רַחוּם וּבְמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם. וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן בְּכָל לָשׁוֹן הֲרֵי זוֹ שְׁבוּעָה גְּמוּרָה. וְכֵן אָלָה וְאָרוּר הֲרֵי הֵן שְׁבוּעָה. וְהוּא שֶׁיַּזְכִּיר שֵׁם מִן הַשֵּׁמוֹת אוֹ כִּנּוּי מִן הַכִּנּוּיִין. כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁאָמַר בְּאָלָה אוֹ אָרוּר לַה'. אוֹ לְמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ חַנּוּן. אוֹ לְמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ רַחוּם. מִי שֶׁיֹּאכַל דָּבָר פְּלוֹנִי וַאֲכָלוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה נִשְׁבַּע לַשֶּׁקֶר. וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת:

3

Similarly, one who says: "[I am taking] an oath by God...," or "...by One whose name is Gracious that I will not eat," and he ate, "...that this is a woman," and it was a man, "...that I do not owe you anything," and he does, "that I do not know any testimony involving you," and he does,15 he is liable.

ג

וְכֵן הָאוֹמֵר שְׁבוּעָה בַּה' אוֹ בְּמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ חַנּוּן שֶׁלֹּא אֹכַל וְאָכַל. שֶׁזּוֹ אִשָּׁה וְהוּא אִישׁ. שֶׁאֵין לְךָ בְּיָדִי כְּלוּם וְיֵשׁ לוֹ. שֶׁאֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ לְךָ עֵדוּת וְהוּא יוֹדֵעַ. הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב:

4

If a person uses the term eleh or erur or an oath and does not mention God's name or a term describing Him, he is bound by a prohibition with regard to the entity concerning which he [desired to] take the oath. He is not, however, liable for lashes or for a sacrifice if he violated his oath unless it included one of God's names16 or a term describing Him as explained.

ד

אָמַר אָלָה אוֹ אָרוּר אוֹ שְׁבוּעָה וְלֹא הִזְכִּיר שֵׁם וְלֹא כִּנּוּי הֲרֵי זֶה אָסוּר בַּדָּבָר שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עָלָיו. אֲבָל אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה וְלֹא מֵבִיא קָרְבָּן אִם עָבַר עַל שְׁבוּעָתוֹ עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בָּהּ שֵׁם מִן הַשֵּׁמוֹת הַמְּיֻחָדִים אוֹ כִּנּוּי מִן הַכִּנּוּיִין כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ:

5

Not only the term sh'vuah, but [the use of] any idiom used to refer to an oath is considered as [taking] an oath. For example, people in a given place were inarticulate and would call an oath shabutah or shakukah, or they were Aramites for whom the term for oath in their language is momata, and the inarticulate idiomatically refer to it is mohah. When a person makes a statement whose intent and meaning is that he is taking an oath, he is liable as if he used the term [in Lashon Hakodesh].17

ה

וְלֹא הַשְּׁבוּעָה בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל כִּנּוּיֵי שְׁבוּעָה כִּשְׁבוּעָה. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָיוּ אַנְשֵׁי אוֹתוֹ מָקוֹם עִלְּגִים וְהָיוּ קוֹרְאִים לִשְׁבוּעָה שְׁבוּתָהּ אוֹ שְׁקוּקָה. אוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ אֲרַמִּיִּים שֶׁלְּשׁוֹן שְׁבוּעָה בִּלְשׁוֹנָם מוֹמְתָא. וְהָעִלְּגִים מְכַנִּין אוֹתָהּ וְאוֹמְרִים מוֹהָא. כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמַר לָשׁוֹן שֶׁמַּשְׁמָעוֹ וְעִנְיָנוֹ שְׁבוּעָה הֲרֵי זֶה חַיָּב כְּמִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא לְשׁוֹן שְׁבוּעָה:

6

Similarly, when a person says: "No, no," repeating the negative twice as if he is taking an oath or "Yes, yes," and mentions God's name or a term used to describe Him, it is considered an oath.18 Similarly, if he says: "[By God's] right hand," it is an oath, or "[By God's] left hand," it is an oath, as [implied by Isaiah 62:5] "God swore by His right hand and by the arm of His strength."19 Similarly, when someone says "Mivtah20 that I will not do such-and-such," and mentions God's name or a term used to describe Him, it is considered an oath.

ו

וְכֵן הָאוֹמֵר לָאו לָאו שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים דֶּרֶךְ שְׁבוּעָה אוֹ הֵן הֵן וְהִזְכִּיר שֵׁם אוֹ כִּנּוּי הֲרֵי זֶה כְּנִשְׁבָּע. וְכֵן יָמִין שְׁבוּעָה. וּשְׂמֹאל שְׁבוּעָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה סב ח) "נִשְׁבַּע ה' בִּימִינוֹ וּבִזְרוֹעַ עֵזּוֹ". וְכֵן הָאוֹמֵר מִבְטָא שֶׁלֹּא אֶעֱשֶׂה כָּךְ וְכָךְ וְהִזְכִּיר שֵׁם אוֹ כִּנּוּי הֲרֵי זוֹ שְׁבוּעָה:

7

When one says: "It is forbidden for God's [sake]" or "...for [the sake of] He whose name is Gracious that I will do..." or "...that I will not do [such-and-such]," it is considered an oath, because the wording he used has that implication.

ז

אָמַר אִסָּר לַה' אוֹ לְמִי שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ חַנּוּן שֶׁאֶעֱשֶׂה אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא אֶעֱשֶׂה הוֹאִיל וְהוֹצִיאוֹ בִּלְשׁוֹן שְׁבוּעָה הֲרֵי הִיא כִּשְׁבוּעָה:

8

If he heard his colleague take an oath and said: "I am like him," he is not liable,21 for he did not utter an oath, nor did his colleague administer an oath to him. This is "appending" to an oath for which one is not liable.22

ח

שָׁמַע חֲבֵרוֹ נִשְׁבָּע וְאָמַר וַאֲנִי כְּמוֹתְךָ הוֹאִיל וְלֹא הוֹצִיא שְׁבוּעָה מִפִּיו וְלֹא הִשְׁבִּיעוֹ חֲבֵרוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר. וְזֶהוּ מַתְפִּיס בִּשְׁבוּעָה שֶׁהוּא פָּטוּר:

9

Similarly, if he took an oath and said: "I will not eat this meat," and then said: "This bread is like this meat," he is not liable for the bread, because he did not explicitly take an oath regarding it. Instead, he appended [the prohibition concerning it to his existing oath]. Although he is exempt from lashes and from a sacrifice, he is forbidden to partake of the bread that he appended to his oath.23

ט

וְכֵן אִם נִשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא אֹכַל בָּשָׂר זֶה. וְחָזַר וְאָמַר וַהֲרֵי הַפַּת זוֹ כַּבָּשָׂר הַזֶּה הֲרֵי הוּא פָּטוּר עַל הַפַּת. שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הוֹצִיא שְׁבוּעָה מִפִּיו עָלֶיהָ אֶלָּא הִתְפִּיסָהּ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא פָּטוּר מִן הַמַּלְקוֹת אוֹ מִן הַקָּרְבָּן אָסוּר לוֹ לֶאֱכל אוֹתָהּ הַפַּת שֶׁהִתְפִּיס בִּשְׁבוּעָה:

10

[Although] a person has the intent to take an oath and resolves in his heart not to eat on that day or not to drink and has the intent for that activity to forbidden for him by oath, [if] he does not actually make such a statement, he is permitted [to eat or drink], as [implied by Leviticus 5:4]: "expressing with his lips." [Implied is that] a person who takes an oath is not liable until he explicitly states the matter the oath concerns with his lips.

י

מִי שֶׁנִּתְכַּוֵּן לִשְׁבוּעָה וְגָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל הַיּוֹם אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁתֶּה וְשֶׁדָּבָר זֶה אָסוּר עָלָיו בִּשְׁבוּעָה וְלֹא הוֹצִיא בִשְׂפָתָיו הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא ה ד) "לְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתַיִם". אֵין הַנִּשְׁבָּע חַיָּב עַד שֶׁיּוֹצִיא עִנְיַן שְׁבוּעָה בִּשְׂפָתָיו:

11

Similarly, if he resolved within his heart to take an oath and erred and uttered a statement that did not fit the intent in his heart, [the activity] is permitted.24

What is implied? A person had the intent that he would not eat in Reuven's [home], but when he actually came to state the oath explicitly, he swore not to eat in [Shimon's] home. [In such a situation,] he is permitted to eat in Reuven's [home] for he did not explicitly [swear not to eat there]. [And he is permitted to eat] in Shimon's [home] for he did not have the intent [to prohibit that].

יא

וְכֵן אִם גָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ לְהִשָּׁבַע וְטָעָה וְהוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו דָּבָר שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה בְּלִבּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר. כֵּיצַד. הַמִּתְכַּוִּן לְהִשָּׁבַע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל אֵצֶל רְאוּבֵן וּכְשֶׁבָּא לְהוֹצִיא שְׁבוּעָה נִשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל אֵצֶל שִׁמְעוֹן. הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר לֶאֱכל עִם רְאוּבֵן שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הוֹצִיאוֹ בִּשְׂפָתָיו. וְעִם שִׁמְעוֹן שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הָיָה שִׁמְעוֹן בְּלִבּוֹ:

12

Similarly, with regard to the other types of oaths, one is not liable until his mouth and his heart are in concord.25 Therefore [the following law applies if] a person took an oath in our presence that he would not eat and ate. He was given a warning [before he ate] and he responded: "My intent was that I would not depart today. I had a slip of the tongue and mentioned eating although that was not my intent."26 is not liable for lashes unless, before he eats, he admits in the presence of witnesses that [his intent in] taking the oath was [not] to eat. Alternatively, [he is liable for lashes] if he accepted the warning and did not protest that he erred at the time of the warning. Even though he protested afterwards, we do not pay attention to him.27 Similarly, [he is liable] if they warned him and he said: "I never took an oath - or a vow - concerning this matter." Despite the fact that after they give testimony that he took an oath or vow, he says: "Yes, that is true, but my mouth and heart were not in concord," or "In my heart, I had a stipulation in mind concerning the vow,"28 we do not heed him29 and he is liable for lashes.

יב

וְכֵן שְׁאָר מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת אֵינוֹ חַיָּב עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה פִּיו וְלִבּוֹ שָׁוִין. לְפִיכָךְ אִם נִשְׁבַּע אֶחָד בְּפָנֵינוּ שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל הַיּוֹם וְאָכַל. וְהִתְרוּ בּוֹ וְאָמַר אֲנִי לֹא הָיָה בְּלִבִּי אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא אֵצֵא הַיּוֹם וְטָעָה לְשׁוֹנִי וְהוֹצִיא אֲכִילָה שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה בְּלִבִּי הֲרֵי זֶה אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה. עַד שֶׁיּוֹדֶה בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים קֹדֶם שֶׁיֹּאכַל שֶׁעַל אֲכִילָה נִשְׁבַּע. אוֹ שֶׁקִּבֵּל עָלָיו הַתְרָאָה וְלֹא טָעַן שֶׁטָּעָה בְּעֵת הַתְרָאָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁטָּעַן אַחַר כָּךְ אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ. וְכֵן אִם הִתְרוּ בּוֹ וְאָמַר מֵעוֹלָם לֹא נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי אוֹ לֹא נָדַרְתִּי אֶלָּא עַל דָּבָר זֶה וְאַחַר שֶׁהֵעִידוּ עָלָיו שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע אוֹ נָדַר אָמַר כֵּן הָיָה אֲבָל לֹא הָיָה פִּי וְלִבִּי שָׁוִין אוֹ תְּנַאי הָיָה בְּלִבִּי עַל הַנֵּדֶר אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ וְלוֹקֶה:

13

Similarly, if [witnesses] told him: "Your wife took a vow," and he said: "My intent was to nullify the vow and I did so,"30 we heed his statements. If he is told, "She took a vow," and he denies it, but when he saw them testify against him, he said: "My intent was to nullify [the vow]," his word is not heeded.

יג

כַּיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ אָמְרוּ לוֹ אִשְׁתְּךָ נָדְרָה. וְאָמַר בְּלִבִּי הָיָה לְהָפֵר לָהּ וְהֵפַרְתִּי שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ. אָמְרוּ לוֹ נָדְרָה וְהוּא אוֹמֵר לֹא נָדְרָה וְכֵיוָן שֶׁרָאָה אוֹתָם הֵעִידוּ עָלָיו אָמַר בְּלִבִּי הָיָה לְהָפֵר אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ:

14

If he resolved within his heart not to partake of bread made from wheat, but took an oath not to partake of bread without qualifying his statement, he is forbidden to partake of bread from wheat. For when bread [is mentioned without qualification, the meaning] is bread from wheat.31

יד

גָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱכל פַּת חִטִּין וְנִשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל פַּת סְתָם אָסוּר בְּפַת חִטִּים שֶׁפַּת חִטִּים פַּת שְׁמָהּ:

15

When a person takes an oath, saying: "[I am taking] an oath that I will not eat today and my oath is dependent on your intent,"32 he cannot [later] say: "I had these-and-these thoughts in my heart." [The rationale is] that the person did not take the oath dependent on his own intent, but rather on the intent of others. Since his statements did concur with the intent of those on whose intent he took the oath he is liable. [The intent in] the heart of those individuals takes the place of his own intent. [This concept also applies] with regard to other types of oaths.

טו

מִי שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע וְאָמַר שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁלֹּא אֹכַל הַיּוֹם וְעַל דַּעְתְּכֶם אֲנִי נִשְׁבָּע. אֵין זֶה יָכוֹל לוֹמַר כָּךְ וְכָךְ הָיָה בְּלִבִּי. שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁבַּע זֶה עַל דַּעְתּוֹ אֶלָּא עַל דַּעַת אֲחֵרִים וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהָיָה פִּיו וְלִבָּם שֶׁל אֲחֵרִים שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עַל דַּעְתָּם שָׁוִים חַיָּב מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלִּבָּם שֶׁל אֵלּוּ בִּמְקוֹם לִבּוֹ קָם. וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת:

16

Therefore when judges administer an oath to a person,33 they tell him: "We are not administering the oath dependent on your intent, but dependent on our intent.34

טז

לְפִיכָךְ כְּשֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִין הַדַּיָּנִין אֶת הַנִּשְׁבָּע אוֹמְרִים לוֹ לֹא עַל דַּעְתְּךָ אָנוּ מַשְׁבִּיעִים אוֹתְךָ אֶלָּא עַל דַּעְתֵּנוּ:

17

[The following law applies when a person] took an oath and his statements and his intent concurred at the time he took the oath, but after he becomes forbidden [in the particular activity mentioned in the oath], he changes his mind immediately, directly after he spoke. [The latter term has a specific halachic definition]: the time it takes a student to tell his teacher: Shalom Elecha Rabbi.35 [If, in this interim, the person says:] "This is not an oath," "I changed my mind," "I retract," or the like, i.e., statements that imply that he seeks to release the prohibition he took on [himself], it is permitted.36 The oath is eradicated, for this resembles on who made a statement in error.

יז

מִי שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע וְהָיָה פִּיו וְלִבּוֹ שָׁוִין בִּשְׁבוּעָה. וְאַחַר שֶׁנֶּאֱסַר חָזַר בּוֹ מִיָּד בְּתוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר וְהוּא כְּדֵי שֶּׁיֹּאמַר תַּלְמִיד לְרַב שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ רַבִּי. וְאָמַר אֵין זוֹ שְׁבוּעָה אוֹ נִחַמְתִּי אוֹ חָזַרְתִּי בִּי וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁעִנְיָנָם שֶׁהִתִּיר מַה שֶּׁאָסַר הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר וְנֶעֶקְרָה הַשְּׁבוּעָה שֶׁזֶּה דּוֹמֶה לְטוֹעֶה:

18

Similarly, if others tell him: "Retract," "It is permitted for you," or the like and he accepts their view within the above measure of time37 by saying: "Yes," or "I retract," he is permitted. After this measure of time, he cannot retract.38

יח

וְכֵן אִם אָמְרוּ לוֹ אֲחֵרִים חֲזֹר בְּךָ אוֹ מֻתָּר לְךָ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ וְקִבֵּל מֵהֶן בְּתוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר וְאָמַר הֵן אוֹ חָזַרְתִּי בִּי וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר. וְאִם אַחַר כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַחְזֹר בּוֹ:

19

If a person took an oath and retracted within his heart39 within the above measure of time, it is of no consequence. Similarly, if others told him: "Retract," "It is permitted for you," or "It is absolved for you," and he accepted their words in his heart within the above measure of time, it is of no consequence. He must state his retraction explicitly like his oath.40

יט

נִשְׁבַּע וְחָזַר בּוֹ בְּתוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר בְּלִבּוֹ אֵין זֶה כְּלוּם. וְכֵן אִם אָמְרוּ לוֹ אֲחֵרִים חֲזֹר בְּךָ אוֹ מֻתָּר לְךָ אוֹ מָחוּל לְךָ וְקִבֵּל דִּבְרֵיהֶם בְּלִבּוֹ בְּתוֹךְ כְּדֵי דִּבּוּר אֵין זֶה כְּלוּם עַד שֶׁיּוֹצִיא הַחֲזָרָה בְּפִיו כְּמוֹ הַשְּׁבוּעָה:

Footnotes
1.

The concept that a person is considered to have taken an oath when he responds Amen to the statements is derived from the Torah's statements with regard to a sotah, a woman suspected of adultery (Numbers 5:22). For she is required to answer Amen to the oath administered to her by the priest and yet, it is considered as if she took the oath herself.

2.

Although in most instances, statements made by such gentiles are of no significance according to Jewish Law, this is an acceptance. Here also there is an allusion to this concept in the Torah itself. Ezekiel 17:13 and II Chronicles 36:13 speak of Nebuchadnetzar having King Tzidkayahu take an oath. Nedarim 65a states that this oath was binding. Similarly, Sh'vuot 36a speaks of an oath Moses took to Jethro, his gentile father-in-law (Kessef Mishneh).

3.

This is derived through a comparison to gentiles.

4.

I.e., not only in lashon hakodesh, the Hebrew used in the Bible and by the Sages.

5.

See Chapter 7, Halachah 1, Chapter 8, Halachah 7, and Chapter 9, Halachah 1, which mentions instances where a person is considered to have taken an oath even if he does not respond Amen.

6.

If he takes a false sh'vuat bitui or takes an oath in vain.

7.

If he takes a false sh'vuat hapikadon or sh'vuat ha'edut.

8.

I.e., the name Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei. See Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 2:7 which states that this term also refers to the name Adonai. The same law holds true for any other of God's names.

9.

Note, however, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:5, which states that even when these descriptions are used to refer to Him, they are not considered to have the same holiness as one of His names.

10.

I.e., not only in lashon hakodesh, the Hebrew used in the Bible and by the Sages.

11.

The Rambam uses the expression "in the full sense of the term" to differentiate between this instance and the law mentioned in Halachah 4. Note the Kessef Mishneh and the Radbaz who explains that there is a difference of opinion among the Rishonim if a sh'vuat bitui must contain God's name for one to be liable as appears to be the Rambam's opinion or whether His name need not be mentioned as is the view of the Ramban, Rabbenu Asher, and others. The Ra'avad takes an intermediate view, stating that one transgresses by taking a false oath and is liable to bring a sacrifice, but he is not liable for lashes unless he mentions one of God's names.

All authorities agree that God's name must be mentioned for one to be liable with regard to a sh'vuat haedut or a sh'vuat hapikadon. On that basis, the Radbaz supports the Rambam's position, asking why a differentiation should be made between one type of oath and another. See Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 237:1) and commentaries.

12.

Both these terms mean "curse."

13.

Sh'vuot 36a derives this concept from the verses cited above with regard to Tzidkayahu's oath, for there he used the term "curse." See also I Samuel 14, 24, 27 which indicate that saying that one will be cursed is equivalent to an oath.

14.

And is liable for taking a false sh'vuat bitui, as indicated by Chapter 1, Halachah 3.

15.

I.e., the Rambam is giving an example of all four types of oaths.

16.

See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:2 for a list of the seven names of God.

17.

For that reason, when called to take an oath in a secular court or the like, one should refuse. Instead of saying "I swear," he should say, "I affirm."

18.

The repetition and the mention of God's name indicate that he is not merely making a statement, but intending that it have the severity of an oath. The Kessef Mishneh states that since the person mentioned God's name, seemingly, it is not necessary for him to repeat yes or no, the mention of His name alone should be sufficient for his statement to be considered an oath. He explains that we are speaking about an instance when God's name was not mentioned in direct connection with the statement. Nevertheless, the fact that he repeated no, or yes while mentioning God's name, albeit indirectly, is sufficient for his statements to be considered an oath.

19.

2Nazir 3a states that "the arm of His strength" refers to His left arm. Otherwise, the verse would be redundant.

20.

Sh'vuot 20a notes that Numbers 30:7 understands this term as referring to an oath.

21.

In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro states that the Rambam's choice of wording - "He is not liable" rather than "It is permitted" - implies that although he is not liable, he is forbidden to break the commitment he made. Although other Rishonim differ, he follows this interpretation in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 239:9-10). See the following halachah.

22.

This is one of the distinctions between oaths and vows. One who "appends" - i.e., says "And I will be like him" - to a colleague's vow is liable. See Hilchot Nedarim 3:3-4.

23.

The Radbaz explains that the Rambam elaborates here - in contrast to the previous halachah - for here there is greater reason to think that he will not be obligated. The explanation is based on a fundamental understanding of the difference between a sh'vuah - oath - and a neder - vow. When a person takes an oath, he places a prohibition upon his person - he is forbidden to perform the activity concerning which he took the oath. When he takes a vow, the article becomes forbidden for him. Hence, since he spoke about the article and not himself, one might think that his statement has no effect at all.

24.

For as Sh'vuot 26b implies, one's heart and one's lips must be in concord.

25.

In some authoritative manuscripts and early printings of the Mishneh Torah, this sentence is the conclusion of the previous halachah. The present halachah begins: "Therefore..." Compare to Halachot 15-16.

26.

I.e., if he makes this statement when given the warning, we accept his word and do not hold him liable (Tosefta, Taharot 6:9).

27.

As stated in Hilchot Sanhedrin 12:2, to be liable for lashes, a transgressor must acknowledge the warning. Since, at that time, he did not mention the lack of concurrence between his intent and his statements, we assume that he is fabricating the matter.

28.

And since the stipulation was not met, the vow is not binding.

29.

For he has already lied concerning this oath.

30.

There is a difference of opinion among the commentaries with regard to the interpretation of the Rambam's statements. Some explain that the intent is that the husband used the halachic convention of hafarah and made the statement nullifying his wife's vow in a hushed tone. If, however, he did not make a statement of hafarah at all, the vow is not nullified, as stated in Hilchot Nedarim 13:7). The Tzaphnat Paneach states that the intent is that he used the halachic convention of bittul. In such in instance, a statement need not be made (Hilchot Nedarim 13:4).

31.

Thus the person cannot claim that his statement did not reflect his intent.

32.

I.e., this law applies even if the person takes the oath on his own volition, not only if it is administered by others.

33.

I.e., require an oath of a person who denies a plaintiff's claim. See Chapter 11, Halachah 18.

34.

Thus afterwards the person cannot claim that he had these-and-these thoughts in mind when taking the oath (Radbaz). See also Nedarim 25a.

35.

"Greetings to you, my teacher." We have cited the term in transliteration for we are speaking about the amount of time it takes to say these three Hebrew words.

36.

Nedarim 87a states that this principle applies with the exception of four situations: a blasphemer, one who accepts a false deity, one who consecrates a woman as a wife, and one who divorces her. Rabbenu Nissim explains that when taking an oath, a person has in mind that he might change his mind in this brief amount of time. Hence, his oath is not binding until this time passes.

37.

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's ruling, saying that the objections of others cannot by connected to his oath. In his Kessef Mishneh and in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 210:3), Rav Yosef Caro and also the Radbaz explain that since the others protested immediately after his oath and his acceptance also came immediately afterwards, it is as if he never completed taking the oath.

38.

This applies even if the oath has not taken effect as of yet (Radbaz).

39.

I.e., without verbalizing his retraction.

40.

The Radbaz emphasizes that he must also make his statements with intent. Just as his mouth and heart must concur when making an oath, so, too, they must concur when retracting it.

Shvuot - Chapter 3

1

Whenever a person takes one of these four types of oaths under compulsion, he is exempt from all liability. This applies to a person who at the outset took a false oath because of factors beyond his control as we explained, one who took an oath and then was subjected to compulsion and was not given the opportunity to fulfill his oath, or he was compelled to take an oath by a man of force. Therefore one may take an oath when compelled to by robbers, potential murders, and tax collectors.

א

כָּל הַנִּשְׁבָּע שְׁבוּעָה מֵאַרְבַּע מִינֵי שְׁבוּעוֹת אֵלּוּ בְּאֹנֶס הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִכְּלוּם. וְאֶחָד הַנִּשְׁבָּע מִתְּחִלָּתוֹ בְּאֹנֶס כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. אוֹ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע וְנֶאֱנַס וְלֹא הִנִּיחוּהוּ לְקַיֵּם שְׁבוּעָתוֹ. אוֹ שֶׁהִשְׁבִּיעוֹ אַנָּס. לְפִיכָךְ נִשְׁבָּעִין לַחֲרָמִין וּלְהוֹרְגִין וּלְמוֹכְסִין:

2

To which tax collector did we refer? To a tax collector that assumed the position on his own, who takes money without the license of the king or who takes money with the king's license, but takes more for himself than the fixed measure, as explained in Hilchot Gezelah.

ב

בְּאֵי זֶה מוֹכֵס אָמְרוּ. בְּמוֹכֵס הָעוֹמֵד מֵאֵלָיו שֶׁלּוֹקֵחַ מָמוֹן שֶׁלֹּא בִּרְשׁוּת מֶלֶךְ הַמְּדִינָה. אוֹ שֶׁלּוֹקֵחַ בִּרְשׁוּת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲבָל מוֹסִיף לְעַצְמוֹ עַל הַדָּבָר הַקָּצוּב כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּהִלְכוֹת גְּזֵלָה:

3

When a person is compelled to take an oath, to be exempt, while taking the oath, he must have the intent in his heart for the oath to apply to something for which he is exempt. Although generally, words in a person's heart are of no consequence, since he cannot express his intent because of the forces beyond his control, he can rely on the intent in his heart.

ג

וְצָרִיךְ הַנִּשְׁבָּע בְּאֹנֶס לִהְיוֹת כַּוָּנָתוֹ בְּלִבּוֹ בְּעֵת הַשְּׁבוּעָה לְדָבָר הַפּוֹטְרוֹ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַדְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁבַּלֵּב אֵינָן דְּבָרִים. הוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו מִפְּנֵי הָאֹנֶס. הֲרֵי זֶה סוֹמֵךְ עַל דְּבָרִים שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ:

4

What is implied? One took an oath to a man of force that would not eat meat without qualifying his statement, it is permitted if in his heart, he had the intent that he was saying that he would not eat the meat of pigs, or that he would not eat meat that day. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ד

כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע לְאַנָּס שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל בָּשָׂר סְתָם. וּבְלִבּוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל הַיּוֹם אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל בְּשַׂר חֲזִיר הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

5

Similarly, one is not liable for oaths involving exaggerations or unintentional oaths. What is meant by oaths involving exaggerations? A person saw vast armies and tall walls and he took an oath that "I saw the armies of King So-and-So and they are as vast as those who left Egypt," "I saw the wall of this-and-this city and it was as high as the heavens," or the like. He is exempt, because he did not resolve within his heart that this was the measure of the subject in question, no more and no less. His intent was only to describe the height of the wall or the multitude of the people.

ה

וְכֵן שְׁבוּעַת הֲבַאי וְשֶׁל שְׁגָגוֹת פָּטוּר עֲלֵיהֶן. שְׁבוּעַת (שֶׁל) הֲבַאי כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁרָאָה חֵילוֹת גְּדוֹלוֹת וְחוֹמָה גְּבוֹהָה וְנִשְׁבַּע שֶׁרָאִיתִי חֵיל פְּלוֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהֵם כְּיוֹצְאֵי מִצְרַיִם. וְשֶׁרָאִיתִי חוֹמַת עִיר פְּלוֹנִית גְּבוֹהָה עַד לָרָקִיעַ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים אֵלּוּ. שֶׁזֶּה לֹא גָּמַר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁהַדָּבָר כָּךְ בְּלֹא פָּחוֹת וְלֹא יוֹתֵר וְלֹא נִתְכַּוֵּן אֶלָּא לְסַפֵּר אֶת גֹּבַהּ הַחוֹמָה אוֹ רֹב הָעָם:

6

What is meant by an oath taken inadvertently? With regard to a sh'vuat hapikadon or a sh'vuat ha'edut, it refers to a situation where the person forgot about the entrusted article or the testimony. He is entirely exempt, as we explained.

With regard to an oath taken in vain, it refers to a situation where the person took an oath not to wear tefilin, but did not know that tefilin are a mitzvah. With regard to a false oath, it refers to a situation where the person took an oath that he did not eat and then remembered that he did in fact eat, he took an oath that he would not eat and then forgot and ate, he took an oath that he would not give any satisfaction to his wife because she stole his wallet or beat his son and afterwards, he found out that she did not steal it or beat him. Similar concepts apply in all analogous situations.

ו

שְׁבוּעָה שֶׁל שְׁגָגוֹת כֵּיצַד. אִם שְׁבוּעַת הָעֵדוּת אוֹ הַפִּקָּדוֹן הִיא כְּגוֹן שֶׁשָּׁגַג בְּפִקָּדוֹן וּבְעֵדוּת שֶׁהוּא פָּטוּר מִכְּלוּם כְּמוֹ שֶּׁבֵּאַרְנוּ. וְאִם שְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא הִיא כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יִלְבַּשׁ תְּפִלִּין וְלֹא יָדַע שֶׁהַתְּפִלִּין מִצְוָה. וְאִם שְׁבוּעַת שֶׁקֶר הִיא כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא אָכַל וְנִזְכַּר שֶׁאָכַל. אוֹ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל וְשָׁכַח וְאָכַל. אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא תֵּהָנֶה אִשְׁתּוֹ לוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁגָּנְבָה כִּיסוֹ אוֹ שֶׁהִכְּתָה אֶת בְּנוֹ וְנוֹדַע שֶׁלֹּא גָּנְבָה וְשֶׁלֹּא הִכְּתָה. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:

7

If so, what is a sh'vuat bitui taken inadvertently for which one is liable to bring an adjustable guilt offering with regard to the past? One took an oath that he did not eat although he knew that he in fact had eaten and he knew that it is forbidden to have taken this false oath, but he did not know that he is liable to bring a sacrifice for it. This is the inadvertent violation for which one is liable to bring an adjustable guilt offering for taking a sh'vuat bitui with regard to the past.

ז

אִם כֵּן אֵי זֶהוּ שִׁגְגַת שְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבַּן עוֹלֶה וְיוֹרֵד לְשֶׁעָבַר. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא אָכַל וְהוּא יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁאָכַל. וְשֶׁשְּׁבוּעַת שֶׁקֶר זוֹ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע אֲסוּרָה אֲבָל לֹא יָדַע שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן. זוֹ הִיא הַשְּׁגָגָה שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבַּן עוֹלֶה וְיוֹרֵד בִּשְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי לְשֶׁעָבַר:

8

What is meant by an inadvertent violation for which one is liable for an adjustable guilt offering for breaking an oath involving the future? For example, one took an oath that he would not eat bread from wheat and forgot and thought that he had taken an oath that he would eat bread from wheat and then ate it. In this instance, he became unaware of the content of the oath although he remembered the article concerning which he took the oath. This is an inadvertent violation of a sh'vuat bitui involving the future which obligates him to bring a sacrifice.

ח

וְכֵיצַד הִיא הַשְּׁגָגָה שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן לְהַבָּא. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל פַּת חִטִּים וְשָׁגַג וְדִמָּה שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁיֹּאכַל פַּת חִטִּים וַאֲכָלָהּ שֶׁזֶּה נֶעֶלְמָה מִמֶּנּוּ הַשְּׁבוּעָה הֵיאַךְ הָיְתָה וַהֲרֵי הוּא זוֹכֵר אֶת הַחֵפֶץ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עָלָיו. זוֹ הִיא שִׁגְגַת שְׁבוּעַת בִּטּוּי לְהַבָּא שֶׁחַיָּבִין עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן:

9

If, however, he took an oath that he would not eat bread from wheat and he ate bread from wheat thinking that it was made from barley, he is considered to have transgressed due to forces beyond his control and he is exempt. For he did not become unaware of the oath, but instead of the article concerning which he took the oath.

ט

אֲבָל אִם נִשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל פַּת חִטִּים וְאָכַל פַּת חִטִּים עַל דַּעַת שֶׁהוּא פַּת שְׂעוֹרִים הֲרֵי זֶה אָנוּס וּפָטוּר. שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא נֶעֶלְמָה מִמֶּנּוּ שְׁבוּעָה וְלֹא נֶעְלָם מִמֶּנּוּ אֶלָּא חֵפֶץ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עָלָיו:

10

If he lost awareness of the oath he took and he lost awareness of the article concerning which he took the oath, he is not liable for a sacrifice.

What is implied? For example, one took an oath that he would not eat bread from wheat and thought that he had taken an oath that he would eat bread from wheat and ate bread from wheat thinking it was barley. He is not liable, because he became unaware of both the oath and the article it concerned. It is considered as if he he transgressed due to forces beyond his control.

י

נֶעֶלְמָה מִמֶּנּוּ שְׁבוּעָה הֵיאַךְ הָיְתָה וְנֶעְלַם מִמֶּנּוּ חֵפֶץ שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע עָלָיו הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִן הַקָּרְבָּן. כֵּיצַד. כְּגוֹן שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱכל פַּת חִטִּים וְדִמָּה שֶׁנִּשְׁבַּע שֶׁיֹּאכַל פַּת חִטִּים וְאָכַל פַּת חִטִּים עַל דַּעַת שֶׁהוּא פַּת שְׂעוֹרִים שֶׁהֲרֵי הֶעְלֵם שְׁבוּעָה וְחֵפֶץ בְּיָדוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה כְּאָנוּס וּפָטוּר:

11

The following laws apply if a person took an oath concerning a loaf of bread, swearing that he would not eat it and then suffered discomfort because of it. Should he eat the loaf because of his discomfort, because he thought that it is permitted for him to eat it because of discomfort, he is considered to have transgressed inadvertently. He is exempt from bringing a sacrifice, because he is not repenting because of his new knowledge. Instead, he knew that it was forbidden and ate it in error.

יא

נִשְׁבַּע עַל כִּכָּר שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכְלֶנּוּ וְנִצְטַעֵר עָלָיו וַאֲכָלוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַצַּעַר וְהוּא שׁוֹגֵג שֶׁהֲרֵי דִּמָּה שֶׁמֻּתָּר לוֹ לְאָכְלוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַצַּעַר הֲרֵי זֶה פָּטוּר מִן הַקָּרְבָּן לְפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ שָׁב מִידִיעָתוֹ אֶלָּא יָדַע שֶׁאֲסוּרָה הִיא וַאֲכָלָהּ בְּטָעוּת:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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