כ״ה באב ה׳תשע״ה (August 10, 2015)

Nedarim 78a-b: Nullifying and Dissolving Vows

We have been discussing two methods of annulling a neder:

  1. Hafarat nedarim – the nullification of a vow taken by a woman by her father or her husband, only on the day that the father or husband hears of the neder;
  2. Hatarat nedarim – dissolution of a vow by a Jewish court or Rabbi, which only can be performed if the person who took the vow expresses regret that he took the neder.

These two methods work with different rules, and the father or husband only have the power of hafara, while the Rabbi only has the power of hatara.

The same baraita that teaches this halakha, points out the parallel language (gezera shavah) of ve-zeh ha-davar that is used with regard to the laws of nedarim (Bamidbar 30:2) and the laws of shehutei hutz (Vayikra 17:2). The laws of nedarim are presented to rashei ha-matot – the heads of the tribes – while the laws of bringing sacrifices outside of the area of the Temple are presented to Aharon the , his sons and the Children of Israel. This leads Rav Aha bar Yaakov to conclude that aside from the power of a single Rabbi to perform hatarat nedarim, a group of three simple Jews can also play that role.

While it is easily understood that by expanding the rules of hatarat nedarim beyond the leaders of the tribes we can conclude that even simple Jews can participate in the annulment of vows, it is less clear how the Gemara learns that we specifically need three such people. Rashi suggests that since three groups are mentioned:

  1. Aharon
  2. Aharon’s sons
  3. The children of Israel

We can conclude that you need three. The obvious problem with this is that two of these three categories are written in the plural, and we should need more than three! Rav Avraham min HaHar suggests that Aharon and his sons Elazar and Itamar (since Nadav and Avihu died earlier) are the model for the three person tribunal, and the reference to the Children of Israel teaches that we do not need an ordained Rabbi or judges. The Ran suggests simply that once we see the need for more than a single individual, we turn to the model of a Jewish court which needs three participants.

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