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By Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:

A person who regrets making an oath or vow, even if it was made for a religious purpose (see 228:15,36,42), may be released from it by three qualified persons (see 228:1-3,46) who are not interested parties (see 228:5-6,30,51;234:56-57) and to whom he personally explains his reasons for making it (see 228:14,16). If keeping it was to his advantage he may be released from it only if he becomes convinced that he would not have made it if he had known all of its consequences (see 228:4,7); for examples see 228:9-11. The basis for release must not be something improbable (228:12) or something that did not exist at the time the oath or vow was made (see 228:13), and a person may not be released from an oath or vow that has not yet taken effect (see 228:17-19;229:9), but he may be released even from one that he has already violated (see 238:20). Release from part of an oath or vow does not always imply release from the rest; see 229:1-3.

If an oath or vow was made with someone’s approval the swearer ordinarily may not be released from it without the approver’s knowledge and consent (see 228:20,22); for examples that involve someone’s approval or participation see 228:37-40,43-44;231:1;232:20;236:6. If it was made with the approval of a group the swearer should not be released from it except for religious reasons or for the benefit of the group; see 228:21,23.

If an oath, vow or CHEREM was made by a community they may usually release themselves from it (see 228:25-27;30-31,47) unless it was made for a religious reason (see 228:28). On the treatment of individuals who do not observe it see 228:32-34. It becomes void if the majority cannot observe it, and ambiguities in it may be resolved by majority decision (see 228:50). Even those who join or leave the community or are born afterwards must observe it (228:29,35), but those who leave and do not plan to return are no longer bound by the community’s customs (214:2).

A person may be released even from a vow or oath in which he mentioned a Divine name (228:1;230:1), but he should not be released from one that was made in solemn terms or under serious circumstances except for religious reasons (see 228:22,45). If a person or community swear that they will not be released from a vow or oath they may be released from that oath itself; see 229:4-7. A person may not swear on condition that he cannot be released from his oath (229:7) or on condition that he himself can annul it, but he may make the oath depend on someone else’s approval (231:1).

The oaths and vows of a girl of 11 and a boy of 12 are valid provided they understand what they are doing (233:1). A father may annul the oaths and vows of his daughter until she reaches the age of 12-1/2 or gets married (234:1), and a husband (234:26-27) may annul those of his wife (see 234:2-20, 29,31,33-35), even if they were made with the approval of a group (238:24; 234:1). They may annul them only on the day that they become aware of them (see 234:25,32) or become aware that they may annul them (234:21). If they affirm them they may no longer annul them (unless they are released from their affirmation; see 234:49-50) but she may still be released from them; see 234:22-23,56-57. They may not annul or affirm them before they are made but they may do so before they take effect. They need not do so in her presence (see 234:28) but they must do so in person (234:30). Opinions differ as to whether an oath or vow may be affirmed or annulled in part (see 229:2;234:36) or if it was appended to another person’s (see 234:51-54). On methods of annullment or affirmation see 234:37-48. A husband may annul only oaths and vows that involve deprivation or husband/wife relations (see 234:59-74), and his annulment of the latter type is valid only until she remarries (234:55). Opinions differ as to whether a father may annul them if they do not involve deprivation (234:58). If a husband or wife makes an oath or vow that conflicts with their marital obligations it is void (see 234:73;235:2), and if either of them makes a valid one that results in such a conflict they must be divorced (see 235:1,3-5).

Shulchan Aruch, Copyright (c) 2000 ProjectGenesis, Inc.