Appointing An Agent For Hataras Nedarim (Annulment Of Vows)
PLEASE NOTE: This will be the final Business-Halacha class until after Succos. Our next class is scheduled for Wednesday 10/29/97 28 Tishrei 5758. Have a K'siva V'Chasima Tova and a Good Yom Tov!
Reuven's wife had accepted upon herself to conduct herself according to a
certain Halachic custom, but did not stipulate before she started that
she was doing this Bli Neder (Without a Vow). She has now decided that it
is too difficult for her to continue conducting herself in this way, and
would like to annul her vow.
However, she is hesitant to present herself before a Bais Din to annul
the vow, and would prefer to empower her husband to annul the vow in
front of the Dayanim (Rabbinic Judges) on her behalf.
Is she permitted to do so? Is there any other way that she may be able to
have this vow annulled?
Any person who accepts upon himself a praiseworthy custom, and does
not stipulate that it is only for a limited amount of time, must conduct
himself in this way as if he had taken a vow. If he wishes to release
himself from the vow, he must appear before three Talmidei Chachamim
(Torah Sages) and explain to them why it is difficult for him to continue
conducting himself in this way, and that had he known that it would be so
difficult for him he never would have made this vow. These Rabbis may
then release him from the vow.
The person that took the vow must appear personally in front of these
Dayanim, and may not appoint a messenger to appear on his behalf.
Similarly, he may not send the information in writing, and expect
the Dayanim to release his vow without him appearing in person.
It makes no difference if the person involved is male or female.
The one exception to this is that a husband is permitted to be a
messenger for his wife to annul her vows. However, this will only work if
there are three Talmidei Chachamim, already sitting together as a Bais Din.
The husband is not permitted to gather together three Rabbis and ask them
to sit as a Bais Din so that he may annul his wife's vows.
Relatives are permitted to be Dayanim for the annulment of vows.
Therefore, adult sons, brothers, brothers-in-law, etc. may sit on the
panel to annul vows. However, a husband may not act as a Dayan to release
his own wife from a vow.
Although, generally, a Bais Din may not convene at night, for Hataras
Nedarim they may do so.
Regarding our question, Reuven can be his wife's agent to annul her
vows, if he is going to appear in front of a panel that has already been
convened. If no panel has been convened, then three Talmidei Chachamim
may be gathered for this purpose, but she must personally appear before
Her husband, father, or any minor relatives may not be on this panel.
Alternatively, a woman may state her vow and why she wishes to be
released from it to one potential Dayan (even a relative, as stated
above). If that Dayan feels that she should be released, he can gather
together another two Dayanim. The woman should then appear before this
panel, but she need not explain the vow to them or why she desires to be
released from the vow. She only needs to say that she made a vow that she
desires to be released from, and they may do this for her.
Each letter in the Source corresponds to that letter in the Answer;
A. Shulchan Oruch Yoreh Deah 214:1, 228:1, and the Shach there 2-3.
B. Shulchan Oruch ibid. 228:16.
C. Shulchan Oruch ibid. 234:56. There is a disagreement there between the
Taz (47) and the Shach (71) whether if the wife appointed the husband to
be her messenger in gathering the Dayanim and appearing before them, if
he may do this.
D-E. Shulchan Oruch ibid. 228:3, and in the Chiddushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger
there. Also 234:57.
F. Shulchan Oruch ibid. 228:14. Also see the Shach and Taz there.
This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an
Av Bet Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His
column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in
Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his
permission and approval.
This class is translated and moderated by Rabbi Aaron Tendler of Yeshivas
Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. Rabbi Tendler accepts full responsibility for
the accuracy of the translation and will be happy to fax originals of the
articles in Hebrew to anyone interested.
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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat
situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each
individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the
presence of all parties involved!