Parsahat מטות Numbers 30:2 – Annulment of Vows

Numbers 30:2 “And Moses spoke unto the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.”

Nedarim 78a: “This is the thing.  A beraita teaches: This is the thing.  A scholar releases a vow and a husband annuls.  Based on this, Rabbi Yochanan says a scholar who uses the language of the husband [annulment] or a husband who uses the language of a scholar [release], his words are ineffective.”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #2:

Regarding a husband, the Torah explicitly states in this parasha the language of annulment: “But if her husband make them null and void … (Numbers 30:13).  That a scholar releases vows, we learn from what is written later “he shall not break his word” (number 30:3).  The interpretation is that he who made the vow may not break his word, but others can break his vow for him from the language of secular.  The language of release applies to things that are secular.  The hindrance sited in the beraita is supported on the language of the verse “This is the thing” which implies it must be as written in the Torah.

The Rashbam on Baba Kama 120A, works hard to explain why switching languages does not work to annul a vow, even though the scholar and husband have the intention — to nullify the vow.  It appears simple to me since, when a scholar releases one from a vow, the vow is annulled from the beginning.  Since the scholar tries to find and opening or a reason whereby the person was unable or not allowed to make the vow, he uproots the vow from the beginning as if it never existed.  Not so the husband.  The Torah does not give him the permission to uproot his wife’s vow from the beginning, rather he is allowed to nullify it as the verse states.  The Ran writes on this matter in Nedarim that release implies retroactively uprooting and annulment implies from now henceforth.  According to this, when a scholar uses the language of annulment and a husband uses the language of release, they are using language that the Torah did not grant them, thus their words have no power.  Take Note.

According to this it comes out that only the language of annulment is ineffective for a scholar, but all other language that implies nullification and retroactive release, such as, “permitted to you” and the like, are effective.  That which the Gemara specifies the language of release is because it specified one of the languages that imply retroactive nullification, when in truth, any such language is effective in releasing a vow.

How well this explains the words of the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim chapter 10 halachah 8) that a scholar can release a vow using any of the following language: “there is no vow”, “there is no oath”.  This is as written the all language that implies retroactive annulment is effective in releasing a vow.

The Ran on this matter in Nedarim cites these words of the Jerusalem Talmud.  He states: “it appears from the Jerusalem Talmud that a scholar can also release a vow by saying ‘there is no vow’ or ‘there is no oath'”  The commentary Shirei Korban on the Jerusalem Talmud writes “I find his words [the Ran] difficult, because they imply that a husband can use such language to nullify a vow, but our matter [in the Babylonian Talmud], implies that only a scholar, not a husband, can say “there is no vow”.

I am deeply troubled that a significant Torah Giant, such as him, erred in the words of the Ran, whose intent was clear and simple.  A scholar can also release vows saying “there is no vow”, etc.  The word also was misinterpreted to mean that a scholar also (in addition to the husband) when one should  interpret it that a scholar can also (use similar language).  I would not have written this because of the clarity, only so that a student not err by trying to find meaning in the words of the Shirei Korban who interprets the Ran as allowing to husband to nullify vows status “there is no vow”, which clearly contradicts the widely accepted halachah of the Talmud in Nedarim.

Behold, as we have written, it is clear that a scholar can release a vow using any language that implies release.  Based on this reason the halachah in Yoreh Deah 228:3 explains the process for releasing a vow.  They say three times to the person who made the vow: “permitted to you”, “allowed to you” or “pardoned to you:. The reason for stating this three times is not because the law requires it.  It became customary to say it three times for emphasis.  See the commentaries there.  It appears that the custom of saying “permitted to you, etc.”, three times, when annulling vows on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, fulfills the custom mentioned in the Shulhan Aruch.  Yet, since the release of vows mentions: all is permitted to you, all is allowed to you, all is pardoned to you (many languages of releasing vows), they have released the vow two and threefold.  Take note:

Editor’s note: On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, it is customary for one to perform the ceremony of releasing any inadvertent vows that one may have made in the previous year.  Three men sit down as a make shift court of law.  One person stands before them requesting that any inadvertent vows made in the previous year be released. After making the request, the three men sitting inform the person that he is released from his inadvertent vows.  After this annulment, the person who was standing sits down.  One of those sitting arises to request that his inadvertent vows be released.  This process repeats until all four have asked that their inadvertent vows be released.  Although this is only a custom, the Torah Temimah shows how this is rooted in the halachah.  Not only do the three men mention the release of vows three times, they also restate this using different phrases that indicate the release of vows.  In this note, the Torah Temimah also shows that halachah need not be complicated.  He clearly explains, based on earlier sources, what other commentaries worked hard to explain.  He also states that one should not overcomplicate matters such that they contradict widely accepted halachic ruling and practice.

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