For the week ending 6 June 2015 / 19 Sivan 5775

Nedarim 16 - 22

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • The double meaning of an oath to eat
  • Difference between vows and oaths in regard to mitzvot
  • The double vow and double oath
  • The vow with two possible meanings
  • The halacha of doubtful status in a number of areas
  • Difference between Yehuda and Galil regarding cherem
  • When a vower claims he meant something other than the simple meaning of his words
  • Cautions regarding vows, the company of ignorant people and contact with women
  • The importance of bashfulness
  • Counsel re marital relations
  • Four categories of vows which do not take effect
  • Looking for an opening to achieve nullification of a vow

Search for an Opening

  • Nedarim 21b

Considerable imagination was employed by our Talmudic Sages in finding a petach — an opening — for nullifying a vow. Such nullification was possible only if the one making the vow expressed regret for doing so since he was not aware of how it would eventually adversely affect him. It was therefore up to the rabbi to come up with a suggestion of some harm that was not anticipated by the vow-maker.

One example from our gemara concerned the woman who made a vow forbidding her daughter to have any benefit from her. When she came before Rabbi Yochanan to have her vow nullified he asked her:

"Had you known that your neighbors would be saying that your daughter must have done something drastically wrong to deserve such treatment, would you have made such a vow?"

When she declared that she certainly would not have run that risk and regretted making her vow, Rabbi Yochanan ruled that the vow was nullified.

In the Jerusalem Talmud case cited by Rabbeinu Nissim (RaN), it was Rabbi Muna who sought nullification of a vow. Rabbi Simai asked him whether he would have made the vow had he been aware that people would shun him because of his tendency to make vows. When he admitted that he had not taken that into consideration this constituted an opening for regret and qualified for nullification.

What the Sages Say

"Bashfulness leads to fear of sin and it is a good sign for a person that he has this characteristic."

  • Anonymous Beraita - Nedarim 20a

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