TalmuDigest

For the week ending 9 February 2008 / 3 Adar I 5768

Nedarim 51 - 57

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

  • Bar Kepara's antics to make Rebbi laugh
  • Ben Alasha's expensive haircut
  • How far a vow to abstain from cooked, pickled or broiled food extends
  • Big fish and little fish
  • Vows of abstention from dairy foods
  • If vows on grapes or olives extend to wine and oil
  • Variations of dates, wines, oils, honeys, vinegars and certain vegetables
  • When the sender is responsible for the sinful error of his agent
  • Definition of "meat" in regard to vows and some health advice regarding bloodletting
  • Vows regarding grain and all-inclusive vows
  • How one merits greatness through Torah and loses it through pride
  • Vows regarding clothes, houses, beds and cities

The Expensive Haircut

  • Nedarim 51a

Ben Alasha, the son-in-law of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi (Rebbi), is described in our gemara as a very wealthy man who invited the Sage Bar Kepara to the wedding of his brother-in-law Shimon.

Several lines later the gemara asks "What is this about Ben Alasha?" Rashi's understanding is that the question is how do we know that he was a wealthy man, an explanation that Maharsha finds difficult to fit into the flow of the gemara.

Maharsha's own approach is that the gemara, after establishing the fact that Ben Alasha was such a wealthy man, wonders why he is only identified by his father's name and not his own. This indicates that he had not amassed his wealth on his own but had inherited from his father. Since it is common for heirs to squander the wealth they have inherited – and Maharsha cites several Talmudic sources for this behavior – it is pointed out in a beraita that Ben Alasha was an exception to the rule.

On what did Ben Alasha spend a fortune?

The kohen gadol in the time of the Beit Hamikdash had to have his hair cut in a most unique fashion, something vaguely described by the Prophet Yechezkel (44:20) as "cropping the head". Since there was no kohen gadol around in the post-Temple time of Ben Alasha, he spent a fortune on the worthwhile cause of hiring an expert barber who could give him that one-of-a-kind haircut so that people would appreciate the tonsorial glory of the kohen gadol.

What the Sages Say

"One who relates to himself like a desert which is available to all will merit to receive Torah knowledge as a gift from Heaven… and will achieve greatness."

  • The Sage Rava - Nedarim 55a

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