ה׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ה (August 20, 2015)

Nedarim 88a-b: Vows of a Widow or Divorcee

We have been discussing the ability of a woman’s father or husband to annul her neder through the power of hafara. What is the halakha if a woman has no father and is not married? The Torah is clear on this point: once a woman is independent – that is to say, if she is widowed or divorced – she is obligated to keep her nedarim and cannot have them removed by hafara (see Bamidbar 30:10,”Ve’neder almanah u’gerushah…yakum alehah – “Regarding the vow of a widow or divorcee, all that she accepts on herself will remain standing.”).

The Mishna on our daf quotes this passage and appears to learn yet another halakha from it. What if a widow or divorcee were to accept nezirut upon herself on a specific date in the future, and prior to that day, she gets married? Does her new husband have the ability to be mefer her acceptance of nezirut, which has not yet come into effect? The Mishna teaches that he cannot do so, since the neder was taken at a time when the woman was independent.

Most of the commentaries understand that the Mishna sees the pasuk quoted above as the source for this halakha, since there is no need for the Torah to teach that a woman who has neither a father nor a husband must keep her vows; what other possibility is there!? Thus the passage must be teaching a new halakha: that even when a husband does appear in her house, the nedarim that she took while she was independent cannot be annulled. The Ritva and others, however, argue that the pasuk is not the source for this halakha, which is derived from normative rules about how nedarim work. According to this view, the passage quoted in the Mishna is not a source but a lyrical introduction to a parallel halakha.

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