QUESTION: The Mishnah (34b) teaches that the Rabanan do not require an
Almanah (widow), who wants to collect her Kesuvah, to make a Shevu'ah that
she did not yet receive her Kesuvah, but rather they require her to make a
Neder instead. The Gemara explains that they did not want to require her to
make a Shevu'ah out of fear that she would rationalize that she is entitled
to take more money from her husband's estate and swear falsely, thereby
bringing about a very severe punishment from the wrath of Hashem against one
who swears falsely. Since a false Neder is not as severe as a false
Shevu'ah, the Rabanan let her make a Neder instead.
The Gemara explains that, according to Shmuel, the Rabanan permit an Almanah
to even make a Shevu'ah when she does so *outside* of Beis Din. RASHI (DH
Chutz la'Beis Din) explains that a Shevu'ah outside of Beis Din is less
severe, since it is not made with the Name of Hashem, but rather with an
expression of "Arur" (a malediction; the Gemara in Shevuos 39a states that
when one uses the word "Arur" in support of a promise, it is considered a
Shevu'ah), and, in addition, it is not made while holding an object of
Kedushah (such as a Sefer Torah or Tefilin).
Earlier, the Gemara demonstrates the severity of a false Shevu'ah through an
incident in which a woman swore that she did not benefit from a Dinar that
she was watching for someone else. She swore by saying, "May one of my
children die from poison if I derived any benefit from that coin!" She was
unaware that she had derived minimal benefit from the coin, and because her
Shevu'ah was false, her son indeed died.
According to Shmuel, a Shevu'ah taken outside of Beis Din is not so severe,
since it is only an Arur and she does not hold a holy object. Why, then, was
the woman who swore about the Dinar punished so severely? Her Shevu'ah was
simply an Arur and was not made while holding a holy object! (RASHASH,
(a) The RAMBAN and the CHIDUSHI HA'RAN on the Mishnah (34b) explain that the
severity of the punishment of a false Shevu'ah is that not only is the
person who made the Shevu'ah punished, but the rest of the world is punished
as well, as the Gemara says in Shevuos (39a). When a Shevu'ah is made
outside of Beis Din, only the person who swore falsely is punished. That is
why the woman lost her son when she swore falsely even outside of Beis Din.
According to this explanation, when the Gemara cites the story of the woman
with the Dinar, it is not attempting to prove the severity of a false
Shevu'ah. Rather, it is showing that even when a person swears falsely by
mistake, he is still punished.
However, as the Ramban points out, the Yerushalmi states explicitly that the
severity of a false Shevu'ah is that it causes a person's children to die,
as the story of the woman with the Dinar demonstrates (see also Shabbos
32b). Rashi (DH k'Mi she'Nishba) also seems to learn that the Gemara records
the story of the woman with the Dinar in order to demonstrate the severity
of making a false Shevu'ah.
(b) The TOSFOS RID and the ME'IRI explain that the woman indeed said a Name
of Hashem in her Shevu'ah, and not just the words quoted by the Gemara. Even
if she did not say a Name of Hashem, perhaps when one specifies in his Arur
that a child should die, then the Arur will be as severe as a Shevu'ah made
with the Name of Hashem. The Arur which Shmuel permits one to make outside
of Beis Din is a simple Arur which does not include an expression of a
severe punishment. Such an Arur is indeed less severe than a Shevu'ah with
the Name of Hashem (see DIBROS MOSHE).