Shavuot 3:8

By :  Daniel Nevins Former Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and the Division of Religious Leadership Posted On Jan 1, 2008 | Mishnat Hashavua

What types of oaths are invalid?

איזו היא שבועת שוא. נשבע לשנות את הידוע לאדם, אמר על העמוד שלאבן שהוא שלזהב, ועל האיש שהוא אשה, ועל האשה שהיא איש, נשבע על דבר שאי אפשר, אם לא ראיתי גמל שפורח באויר, ואם לא ראיתי נחש כקורת בית הבד, אמר לעדים, בואו והעידוני, – שבועה שלא נעידך, נשבע לבטל את המצוה, שלא לעשות סכה, ושלא לטול לולב, ושלא להניח תפלין – זו היא שבועת שוא, שחיבין על זדונה מכות ועל שגגתה פטור.

What is an invalid oath? [For example:] He swore to a statement contrary to common knowledge; he said of a stone pillar that it was gold; that a man was a woman, or that a woman was a man. If he swore regarding an impossible condition, for example, [I swear] that I have seen a camel flying in the air, or that I saw a snake as thick as an olive-press beam. If one asks witnesses to come testify for him and they swear that they will not testify [as required by law]. Or if he swore to annul the commandments: not to make a sukkah, not to take the lulav, not to wear tefillin—these are all instances of an invalid oath. For these, one who violates intentionally is punished with lashes, but one who violates unintentionally is exempt [from punishment].


The mishnah is very concerned with oath taking, especially when the people offering oaths are not careful about their claims. This mishnah catalogues vain or invalid oaths. In all cases, the apparent sincerity of the oath is undermined by the absurdity of the statement.


  1. What is your impression of people who casually say, “I swear” even in cases where their claim is patently false?
  2. How can you make sure that your words are taken seriously?