Tosefta Nedarim 2:2

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Roman taxes and customs 

3d CE
Syria Palaestina
Literary genre: 
Legal text
Title of work: 

Nedarim 2:2


This passage, along with several other rabbinic texts from Palestine, regards Roman tax as illegal, and thus permits a person to deceive Roman officials in order to avoid paying tax or customs. Since Rome allowed the Jews to tithe produce for the benefit of the temple and the priests, vowing that one’s produce is a heave-offering may allow him to evade paying customs for this produce. Similarly, one may vow that the produce belongs to a certain gentile or to the house of the king. Although the text does not mention a vow explicitly, according to Saul Lieberman, the context suggests that the issue here is a vow (Tosefta Ki-Feshutah, vol. 6-7, p. 418-420).

This law refers to the time of the Second Temple period (before 70 CE), since the Roman tax exemption for heave-offering (terumah) produce was valid only as long as the temple was standing. Israel Ben Shalom (The School of Shammai, p. 309) adds that the house of the king is Herod’s House, and probably refers here to Herod Agrippa II (reigned from 48 until his death c. 92-100 CE).

This tosefta is similar to the first part (a) of Mishnah Nedarim 3:4 in its permission to vow in order to deceive Roman tax officials and avoid paying taxes or customs, but it adds two details:

1) While according to both texts one may vow that the produce is heave-offering (terumah) or that it belongs to the house of the king, the Tosefta also permits one to vow that the produce belongs to a certain gentile.

2) According to the Tosefta, one is not allowed to vow that this produce belongs to another Jew.

However, the Tosefta does not provide an explanation for this prohibition. Such an explanation is found in a later text: Jerusalem Talmud Nedarim 3:4, 38a. According to the Talmud, the reason that one may claim that the produce belongs to another Jew is that this person is a violent man and the collectors will be afraid to approach him. The Talmud maintains that such people often fall from their power and in such cases the tax officials will approach the violent man, who has fallen from power, and then the previous obligation will be imposed upon the first. However, it is not clear that this is the reason for the Tosefta’s probation of vowing that one’s produce belongs to another Jew 

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Tosefta Nedarim 2:2
Author(s) of this publication: Yael Wilfand
Publishing date: Wed, 08/24/2016 - 10:38
Visited: Fri, 03/01/2024 - 19:48

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