Perek ha-noder min ha-mevushal, the sixth chapter of Massekhet Nedarim, returns us to the earlier discussion of intention and definition. What does a person mean when he says, for example, that he will not eat mevushal – “cooked food”? Does that include roasted or boiled food? How wide an interpretation should words be given?
One suggestion made by Abaye is that any food that is eaten in conjunction with bread would be considered a tavshil. He bases himself on a baraita that includes certain gourds as cooked, because sick people eat their bread with them. This leads the Gemara to tell the following story, which is understood as contradicting the idea that a gourd can be good for a sick person:
Once, when Rabbi Yirmeya fell ill, a doctor was called to visit him. Upon seeing a kara in the house, the doctor turned around and left, saying “the angel of death is in the house, and I am expected to heal him?!” The Gemara then distinguishes between different types of gourds – whether they are soft or hard, and whether it is the whole gourd or the inside part of the gourd.
Gourds have a high nutritional value, although if they are harvested late, they become hard. For this reason, and also because of the fibers that it contains, gourds may be hard to digest, particularly for people who are ill and need to be eating easily digestible foods. Hence, the doctor’s concern for the kara in Rabbi Yirmeya’s house.