Our Gemara describes how Ravina’s wife took a vow, and Ravina went to Rav Ashi to ask whether he could represent his wife as her shali’ah (messenger) to arrange to have the vow annulled. Rav Ashi responded that he could only do so if there were already three people gathered who could act as judges; otherwise he could not do so. From this story the Gemara reaches three conclusions:
- A husband can act as his wife’s representative to annul a vow.
- A person cannot act as a judge to annul vows while in the same city as his teacher (since Ravina was not able to annul the vow on his own).
- It is necessary for three people to have already gathered in order for a husband to represent his wife in this matter.
There are a wide variety of approaches to this discussion in the Gemara.
According to the Rambam, a person cannot ordinarily represent someone else when annulling a vow. This was a unique case in which the close relationship between spouses may have allowed Ravina to represent his wife. The response was that, in theory, a husband can represent his wife, but if the judges need to be gathered, then we also ask the wife to appear on her own.
Tosafot rule that a person can send someone else to represent him/her to arrange for a vow to be annulled (Rabbeinu Shimshon is quoted as even permitting it to be done in a written request to the court). The question in our case is whether a husband is allowed to represent his wife, or are we concerned that because of his interest in the matter he will perhaps present arguments that his wife neither said nor meant? The response is that a husband can represent his wife, but if there is a need to gather the judges, then our concern rises that the husband may embellish the story in order to make his efforts worthwhile.