Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 7:13
13. If Nidui was declared in [the Menudeh's] presence, it can only
be lifted in his presence. If Nidui was declared out of his
presence, it can be lifted in his presence or out of his
There is [no time] between Nidui and lifting the ban; rather we
declare Nidui and lift it immediately when the Menudeh repairs
his behavior. If the Beit-Din saw fit to leave him under Nidui
for several years, they do so - according to his wickedness.
Similarly, the Beit-Din may, if it saw fit, ban someone from the
outset and ban anyone who eats with him, drinks with him or
stands within his 4 Amot, in order to afflict him and to build a
fence around the Torah in order that sinners should not violate
Even though a Hakham may declare Nidui to protect his honor, it
is not praiseworthy for a Talmid Hakham to behave this way;
rather, he should close his ears from the words of commoners and
pay no attention to them, in the manner that Sh'lomo said in his
wisdom: Do not give heed to everything that people say (Qohelet
[Ecclesiastes] 7:21). This was the way of the Hasidim Rishonim
(early pious ones) - hearing their shame without responding; not
only that, they would pardon the shamer and forgive him. The
great sages took pride in their pleasant deeds, saying that they
had never banned or ostracized anyone to protect their own honor.
This is the way of Talmidei Hakhamim which is appropriate to
When does this apply? when he disgraced or shamed him privately.
However, if someone disgraced or shamed a Talmid Hakham publicly,
he is not allowed to forgive [the violation of] his honor and, if
he did forgive, he is punished, as this is a disgrace of the
Torah. Rather, he should seek vengeance and enmity like a snake
until [the shamer] requests his forgiveness - then he should
Q1: Why does the ban need to be lifted in the presence of the
Menudeh - and that, only if it was declared in his presence?
YE (Yitz Etshalom): The source for this
Halakha is in the Gemara (Nedarim 7b) - and the Rishonim there
suggest several reasons:
ROSH (s.v. Nidahu): Since the Menudeh was disgraced by having the
ban declared in his presence, he needs to "appeased" by having it
lifted in his presence.
Tosafot (s.v. Nidahu) cites this reason and adds another - that
when a matter has been declared in the presence of a certain
number, it can only be retracted in front of that number (similar
to RABD's gloss on TT 7:7) - in the same way, since the Nidui was
declared in his presence, it is "stronger" and cannot be lifted
without his presence.
RAN (s.v. Nidahu) cites this second reason and adds another:
Since the Menudeh was banned with his knowledge and in his
presence, he will expect that it will be lifted in his presence.
If not, (and he is unaware of it) and people start interacting
with him as if there is no Nidui, he will come to suspect them of
violating the Nidui. Of course, to solve this, he only needs to
Q2: What is the value of Nidui if it can be lifted immediately?
YE: The source for this statement is also in Nedarim 7b. Tosafot
actually limits its application to the specific case mentioned
there; i.e. banning someone who mentions God's Name in vain.
Since this particular Nidui is only geared to atonement and to
make sure that he doesn't continue to misuse God's Name, a
momentary Nidui is sufficient.
However, RIF (in Mo'ed Kattan 9b in RIF pages), ROSH, RAN and, of
course, Rambam, disagree and extend this rule to all cases of
Nidui - rejecting the opinion presented in Mo'ed Kattan that
Nidui has a minimum of 30 days.
Rabbi Soloveitchik zt"l explains that besides being limited by
certain restrictions, someone who is banned is also defined as a
"Menudeh" - a personal-status statement. Although the length of
Nidui makes a difference in light of the restrictions (it's much
more painful to have people avoiding you, not doing business etc.
for thirty days than for an hour), the reality of "being a
Menudeh" is as painful and "effective" regardless of the length
of time involved in the Nidui.
It stands to reasont that process of Nidui, not necessarily the
results, have their own effect of demonstrating the distaste
which the court (representing both Torah and the community) feel
for the offender and his offensive behavior. Once he
demonstrates regret and a commitment to avoid such behavior in
the future, we may welcome him back immediately.
Q3: How does the ban which includes banning others who interact
with the Menudeh effectively "afflict" him?
YE: Pretty simple - other people will think twice before sitting
with him, doing business with him etc. if they may be risking
their own social acceptance.
Q4: In general, why does the Beit-Din have so much latitude
YE: We are accustomed to thinking of the Beit-Din, besides the
legislative component, in a "pure" executive mode - implementing
the rules of the Torah. However, this is not necessarily the
case. In many areas, the Beit-Din has great discretion to
decree, punish, ban etc. as they see fit for the good of the
community and the protection/promotion of Torah. See MT Mamrim
Ch. 1 & 2.
The Beit-Din is responsible for maintaining the law of the Torah
and for protecting it (as we are told at the beginning of Avot:
Build a fence around the Torah). As such, they need to have the
discretion to punish, ban etc. as is called for by the
circumstances in question.
Q5: Regarding the behavior of the Hasidim Rishonim; would they
forgive the shamer immediately - or be ready to forgive him when
he asked their pardon?
YE: The Gemara in Megilla (28a) records that R. Nehuniah b.
haKanah never "brought his fellow's curse to bed" - which is
illustrated by Mar Zutra's custom of saying, as he would get into
bed at night: "I forgive anyone who hurt me (today)". This
indicates that at least for some of the "early pious ones",
forgiveness is internal, independent of the regret and request
for forgiveness on the part of the offender.
This raises a related question: If Mar Zutra forgives Ploni for
offending him - is Ploni still held culpable? The offended
person has forgiven him - on the other hand, Ploni has done
nothing to demonstrate regret or contrition for his behavior.
It doesn't seem reasonable that Mar Zutra's forgiveness is
"powerful" enough to relieve Ploni of responsibility - yet, if
that's the case, Mar Zutra's forgiveness seems totally
One response may be that there are two different effects of an
offense. In external relationship between Mar Zutra and Ploni, a
"damage-debt" has been generated; to wit, Ploni owes Mar Zutra
(payment and) an apology. In addition, Mar Zutra feels anger and
resentment - and hurt - towards Ploni. The only matter which is
totally in Mar Zutra's control is his own feelings - and this is
what he is able to forgive without any movement from Ploni. From
the perspective of the external relationship, however, Ploni
still must repair the damage he has caused. This perspective is
also born out by the wording of R. Nehuniah b. HaKanah - "my
fellow's curse never came to my bed".
Q6: How can Rambam encourage "enmity" and "vengeance" against
anyone? Even if the shamer is deserving, isn't that a dastardly
character trait, unworthy of encouraging in anyone?
YE: The source for this is in the Gemara (Yoma 22b-23a): "R.
Yohanan said in the name of R. Shim'on b. Yehotzadak: Any Talmid
Hakham who is not vengeful and does not bear a grudge [against
those who have hurt him] like a snake is not a [legitimate]
The Gemara goes on to challenge this teaching, first by raising
the violations of "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge
against any of your people" (Vayyiqra [Leviticus] 19:18) - this
is refuted by assigning it to monetary vengeance (i.e. - not
lending someone else an item because they didn't lend you one the
The Gemara then challenges from another angle; "Those who are
shamed and do not shame [in return], hear their disgrace and do
not respond [in kind]...are like the glory of the sun..." This
is supported by Rava's statement that anyone who is forgiving is
forgiven by God. The resolution is that if the offender asked
forgiveness, then all of these "lofty" approaches apply. If, on
the other hand, he does not ask forgiveness, the Talmid Hakham
should be "vengeful...like a snake".
Since Rambam already decided in favor of Mar Zutra's unqualified
forgiveness (see above Q5), he has to provide another solution to
this conflict. As the Kessef Mishneh explains, Rambam therefore
distinguishes between private and public shame.
The Kessef Mishneh goes on to cite RIVASH (in the name of RABD),
that even though a Hakham may forgive offenses - this is only
true with regards to offenses which are a lack of honor (like not
standing in his presence etc.) - however, if he was shamed, this
is indirectly the shame of the Torah and he is not allowed to
forgive in this case.
This is also reflected in the words of R. Yohanan - "...he isn't
a Talmid Hakham..." - meaning, a real Talmid Hakham would be so
offended and hurt - and indignant - over the disgrace of the
Torah, that he would feel this sort of enmity. How could someone
be as "wedded" to Torah as a Talmid Hakham, yet passively stand
by while the Torah is disgraced? This must reflect a weak
attachment and regard for the Torah on the part of the "Talmid
Hakham" in question. Rambam is reflecting what a Talmid Hakham
"should" feel as a result of his strong attachment to Torah.
When he is slighted in private, he may regard that as a personal
attack, for which he can - and should - be forgiving. However,
when he is publicly shamed, this is also an attack on Torah,
which he does not have the right to forgo.
Q7: How will this sort of behavior on the part of the Talmid
Hakham encourage the shamer to ask his pardon? Won't it just
increase the enmity?
YE: Maybe it won't help in that regard - and maybe that isn't the
most important consideration.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project