Nedarim 6

'Too' to tango.

Since the start of this tractate, we’ve been talking about intimations of vows. These are situations where a person doesn’t explicitly make a vow, but merely implies one. The rabbis have thus far examined the circumstances and words that are sufficient to allow an intimation to come into force as a vow.

Well, put aside your best marriage proposal ideas because today’s daf takes a look at intimation in the context of betrothal:

Rav Pappa raised a dilemma: Is there intimation for betrothal or not?

What are the circumstances? If we say where one said to a woman: “You are hereby betrothed to me.” And he said to another: “And you too.” Isn’t it obvious that this is betrothal itself?

Rather, where one said: “You are hereby betrothed to me,” and he said to another: “And you.” Do we say that he said to the other: “And you too,” and betrothal takes effect with regard to the other? Or perhaps he said to the other: “And you see (that I am betrothing this woman),” and betrothal does not take effect with regard to the other?  

The first situation is relatively straightforward: A man turns to one woman and utters words of betrothal, then turns to a second woman and says, “And you, too.” Both statements are effectively betrothals, and the man is engaged to both of them. But if he says merely “And you,” without adding “too,” it’s not clear to the rabbis if this form of intimation is sufficient to effect a betrothal. He might have meant “you too,” in which case that would seem to effect a betrothal. But he also might have meant “you see” that I’m betrothing someone else, in which case it wouldn’t. 

In fact, the rabbis are not sure that any kind of intimation is sufficient for betrothal. The Gemara continues:

Did Rav Pappa raise this dilemma? But from what Rav Pappa said to Abaye — “Does Shmuel hold that ambiguous intimations are intimations?” — (It can be proven by inference) that Rav Pappa holds that there is intimation for betrothal. 

The Gemara cites a source that we’ll study in about a year, when we arrive at Tractate Kiddushin in the Daf Yomi cycle. There we find a series of statements that don’t use the exact wording of a betrothal, but which Shmuel treats as valid betrothals nonetheless, prompting Rav Pappa to ask Abaye if ambiguous intimations count as legitimate intimations. A lengthy discussion ensues, but for our purposes it’s enough to note that Rav Pappa’s questions in Kiddushin serve as evidence that he believes that there exists, at least hypothetically, some kind of valid intimation for betrothal, even if he’s not entirely sure about its scope.

Later codifications, including the Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Arukh, lay out what qualifies as effective betrothal and how intimation comes into play in various scenarios (including a discussion of how the word “too” can strengthen the case for an intimation taking effect as a vow). For our purposes, however, our daf addresses only the simple question of whether intimation for a betrothal is theoretically possible. The answer: clearly, yes. 

Now, you might be thinking: Who would be tacky enough to intimate a betrothal, of all things? And that’s fair. But how often do we merely intimate our love for other people instead of stating it overtly? Even if we accept the Talmud’s thinking and accept intimation of a betrothal as legitimate, how much more clear and glorious would it be to say it loud and proud, leaving no room for questioning the truth and legitimacy of our intentions.

Read all of Nedarim 6 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on October 31st, 2022. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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