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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume I : Number 25

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?


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 them.

    Her husband, father, or any minor relatives may not be on this panel.

  6. 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!



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