The Rambam writes (MT Sanhedrin 26:4) that someone is not liable to lashes for cursing someone indirectly, like saying "May God not bless you".

היתה הקללה באה מכלל הדברים, כגון שאמר אל יהי פלוני ברוך לי״י, או אל יברכהו י״י, וכיוצא בדברים אלו, אינו לוקה

If the curse was indirect, like he said "May Person X not be blessed to God" or "May God not bless him", or similar things, he does not receive lashes.

This gets quoted almost verbatim in Tur and Shulḥan Arukh (ḤM 27:2). The commentators both on the Mishneh Torah and on the Tur/Sh"A cite the mishna Shevuot 4:13 as the source:

אַל יַכְּךָ, וִיבָרֶכְךָ, וְיֵיטִיב לְךָ, רַבִּי מֵאִיר מְחַיֵּב וַחֲכָמִים פּוֹטְרִין.

If one says to the witnesses: God shall not strike you, or: God shall bless you, or: God shall benefit you if you come and testify, Rabbi Meir deems him liable, as one may infer from that statement that if he fails to testify God will strike him, or will not bless or benefit him. And the Rabbis deem him exempt because the curse is not explicitly stated. [translation from Sefaria with the usual caveats about interpolated explanations]

However, I don't see the two cases of indirect curses as equivalent. The mishna discusses positive statements, where the negative is inferred from them. However, the part left unspoken there isn't necessarily "and may God strike/not bless/not benefit you if you don't come and testify", but maybe "I don't know what will happen if you don't come". However, in the language given by Rambam, the indirect curse is explicitly negative.

Is there anyone who distinguishes the two formulations, or explains why the two are the same? Even if they are equivalent, why does Rambam leave aside the formulation of the mishna in favour of the formulation he gives?

  • This is hard because Bartenura claims Rabbi Meir holds you can infer a positive from a negative and visa vesa according to Nedarim 11a, but there it seems he holds you cant. Rambam must hold you can though
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 3:39
  • Did you check out the Rambam on that Mishnah itself?
    – Shmuel
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 9:40
  • 1
    @N.T. אל יכך is positive (may he not smite you).
    – magicker72
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 12:14
  • 2
    @Shmuel He states that there's no difference but doesn't source or explain that claim.
    – magicker72
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 12:18

1 Answer 1


There is a concept known as מִכְּלָל לָאו אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ הֵן, which is an obverse statement (מאמר המתהפך): "from a negative statement we can infer a positive (וחילופו)". This concept is brought in your Mishna Shevuot 4:13 by Bartenura to explain why Rabbi Meir holds him liable:

בכל אלו ר״מ מחייב, דמכלל לאו אתה שומע הן

It's phrased very simply, and if we go to Nedarim 11a where this is discussed, we find that Rabbi Meir is the Tanna who davka doesn't hold that you can infer a negative from a positive. Obverse statements need to be made in full, by default, as it is a logical fallacy to assume the obverse or converse (חילוף) of a statement1.

However, if one follows through the shak v'tariya of the sugya, we find a couple of resolutions:

לקרבן יהא, לפיכך לא אוכל לך (Rabbi Abbah)


והא דאמר ״לא לחולין״, דמשמע: לא ליהוי חולין אלא כקרבן (Rav Ashi)

(which seems to relate to the mishna's אַל יַכְּךָ - it's not clear if Bartenura is saying that Rebbi Meir holds by the principle or if this is one of the exceptions that he would agree with - the latter is more likely as that's what the gemara seems to be saying, but I welcome any suggestions on how exactly to understand this Bertenura)

Rambam, Tur, Maran and commentaries, may they be remembered for blessing, took all this into account.

Apparently, when it comes to very serious legal statements like vows and curses, we might be strict and worry about the obverse, and assume it.

So even though we only have the positive statement, the Rishonim and Acharonim knew all of the above, Rebbi Meir's position, the Rabbanan's position, the תבונות and הגיון and were confident to carry this over to other cases to rule if it applies.

1 - eg "All who may eat terumah may confer the right on others to eat terumah" doesn't necessarily imply that all who may not eat terumah may not confer on others the right to eat terumah

  • I don't understand this answer at all. Rambam/Tur/Sh"A hold that an indirect curse DOES NOT entail punishment. But אל יברכהו יי seems more direct than the cases in mishna, so why is it obvious that such an indirect curse still entails no punishment?
    – magicker72
    Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 21:33
  • מִכְּלָל לָאו אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ הֵן I believe this is the principle in question, and I thought by explaining it it would answer 2 parts of your question - understanding Rebbi Meir, and understanding why we might not apply even if it sounds stronger. No matter how strong, if indirect and we don't hold מִכְּלָל לָאו אַתָּה שׁוֹמֵעַ הֵן, then mutar. I apologise if I've misunderstood your question, or made a mistake. I hope you are matzliach finding your answer!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 0:54
  • I understand what you're saying now, thanks for clarifying. However, it still doesn't answer my questions: Is there anyone who distinguishes the two formulations, or explains why the two are the same? Even if they are equivalent, why does Rambam leave aside the formulation of the mishna in favour of the formulation he gives?
    – magicker72
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 1:06
  • I think the principle unites them, i.e. they are the same, the principle and whether it applies is the "why". I can't comment if anyone makes finer distinctions. Rambam seems to be just explaining the principle - in his own way. I am not confident about that though, especially because of my difficulties understanding Bartenura's connection to the gemara in Nedarim and our case @magicker72
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 1:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .