ט״ז באב ה׳תשע״ה (August 1, 2015)

Nedarim 69a-b: Dissolving Ratification, or Nullification of a Vow

We have been discussing the rules of hafarat nedarim – the right of a girl’s father or a woman’s husband to nullify her vows upon hearing them. The halakhot that appear in Sefer Bamidbar (30:14-16) consider two other possible reactions: either silence, or hakamat ha-neder – ratification, or affirming that the vow should take effect. In both of these cases – i.e. if the father or husband hears the neder and does nothing for the day, or else says, “Yes, I want that neder to take effect,” the vow can no longer be removed by the father or the husband.

We have already seen that nedarim can also be nullified by another method – hatarat nedarim, where the person who took a vow approaches the Jewish court or a single ordained Rabbi and does she’ela; asking that the neder be dissolved because of a mistaken impression at the time that the vow was taken. In our Gemara, Rava asks whether the concept of she’ela can be applied to a case of hakamat ha-neder or hafarat ha-neder.

Rashi explains that Rava’s original question was whether the father or the husband who affirmed the neder can approach a rabbi and explain that the affirmation was mistaken. This would be possible because hakama can be seen as a type of neder and thus can be treated like one. Rabbeinu Eliezer of Metz offers an alternative approach to the question, explaining that the reference is to the girl or the wife who took the neder. Can she approach the court or a sage and ask to have her vow annulled after it was affirmed by her father or by her husband? Should we say that their approval simply makes this a vow like any other, or does the Torah give them the power to affirm the neder such that it is now a stronger obligation than a standard vow, and she will no longer be able to have it annulled due to its affirmation?

In conclusion, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Yohanan as ruling that one can be sho’el on hakama but not on hafara.

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