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Shabbat, 22 Shevat 5773 / February 2, 2013

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Nedarim - Chapter 13

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Nedarim - Chapter 13

Halacha 1

A man may nullify or accept the [vows] of his wife or daughter in any language, even though she does not understand it, for the woman need not hear the nullification or the acceptance [of her vow].1

Halacha 2

How does he nullify [the vow]? He says: "It is nullified," "It is void," "This vow is of no consequence,"2 or uses other terms that imply that the vow is nullified from the outset, whether in the woman's presence or in her absence.1

If, however, he tells her: "I cannot bear your taking a vow" or "This is not a vow," he did not nullify it.3 Similarly, if he tells his wife or his daughter: "[Your vow] is forgiven," "[It] is released," "[It] is absolved," or the like, his statements are of no consequence.4 For a father and a husband do not release a vow like a sage does, but instead, uproot the vow from the outset and nullify it.5

Halacha 3

How does one express his acceptance of a vow? He says to her: "I uphold your vow," "It was good that you vowed," "There is no one like you," "Had you not taken the vow, I would have administered it to you," or any analogous statement that implies that he is happy with this vow.

Halacha 4

When a person voids the vows of his wife or daughter, it is not necessary for him to say anything6 and all of the vows are nullified.

Halacha 5

What is meant by voiding? That he forces her to do something that she forbade herself to do.7 Nullification, by contrast, does not involve forcing her. Instead, he nullifies the vow verbally and allows her [to do as she desires]. If she desires, she may act [in violation of the vow]. If she desires, she need not.8

Halacha 6

What is implied? She took a vow or an oath not to eat or not to drink and he told her: "It is nullified for you." It is nullified and she is permitted to eat and to drink. If he took it and gave it to her, saying: "Take this and eat it," "Take this and drink," she may eat and drink and the vow is automatically nullified.9

Halacha 7

When a person nullifies the vows of his wife or daughter, he must make a verbal statement of nullification. If he nullifies it within his heart, [the vow] is not nullified. When, however, he voids [their vows], he does not have to make a verbal statement. Instead, he nullifies the vow in his heart and compels her to perform [the deed]. Whether she performs it or not, the vow is nullified.

Halacha 8

We may nullify vows on the Sabbath, whether for the sake of the Sabbath10 or not.11 On the Sabbath, however, one should not, however, tell [his wife or daughter]: "[Your vow] is nullified," as one would say during the week.12 Instead, he should nullify [the vow] in his heart and tell her: "Take this and eat it," "Take this and drink," or the like.

Halacha 9

When a person tells his wife or his daughter: "All the vows that you will take from now until I come from this and this place are upheld" or "...are nullified," his words are of no substance.13

If he appointed an agent to nullify her vows or to uphold them, his act is of no substance, as [implied by Numbers 30:14]: "Her husband will uphold them, her husband will nullify them." Similarly, her father must act on his own, not through an agent.

Halacha 10

[When a woman takes a vow,] forbidding herself to [partake of] figs and grapes, whether through a vow or through an oath, whether she forbade herself from [partaking of] all types of the species or she said: "These figs and these grapes," if [her husband] upheld [the vow] concerning figs and nullified that concerning grapes or upheld [the vow] concerning grapes and nullified that concerning figs, what he upheld is binding and what he nullified is nullified. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations. With regard to the nullification of a vow, we do not say that when a portion of a vow has been nullified, the entire vow is nullified, as is said with regard to the absolution of vows.14

Halacha 11

When a man's wife takes a vow and he hears it and extends the vow to apply to him,15 he cannot nullify it. [The rationale is that] he [already] upheld it.16If he took a vow and she extended it and applied it to herself, he may nullify her vow, but his vow is binding.

Halacha 12

What is implied? He heard his wife or his daughter say: "I am a nazirite," and said: "And I am also," he cannot nullify [her vow]17 and they are both nazirites.18 If he said: "I am a nazirite," and she heard and said: "And so am I," he may nullify her vow and his vow is still binding.19 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 13

When a husband takes a vow and administers an identical vow to his wife, having made a certain decision to administer the vow to her, if she says Amen,20 he may not nullify it. If he took a vow and administered it to her as a question to see what she felt about it, e.g., he asked her "Do you desire to be like me [by taking] this vow or not?" If she says: Amen, he may nullify her vow.

Halacha 14

What is implied? He said: "I am a nazirite and so are you," i.e., you are a nazirite just like me. If she says Amen, he may not nullify her vow.21

If he says: "I am a nazirite. What do you say? Will you be a nazirite like me?" If she says Amen, he may nullify her vow.22 If he nullifies her vow, his vow is also nullified. It is as if he made his vow dependent on her vow.23

If she told him: "I am a nazirite. What about you?", if he answered Amen, he cannot nullify [her vow].24 Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 15

[The following rules apply when] a woman takes a vow and another person extends the scope of the vow to include himself, saying "And I [as well]." If her father or husband hears of the vow and nullifies it, her vow is nullified, but that of the person who extended the vow is not.25

Halacha 16

[The following rules apply concerning] a woman who is unmarried and not in her father's domain who says: "Meat will be forbidden to me after 30 days" and she marries within those 30 days. Even though she is in her husband's domain at the time the vow takes effect, he cannot nullify it. [The rationale is that] at the time the vow was taken she was not in his domain. Concerning such a situation, it was said [Numbers 30:10]: "The vow of a widow or a divorcee... shall remain standing." [This applies] even if she was consecrated to [her husband] at the time she took the vow, for a husband may not nullify26 [vows that were taken] before [the marriage is consummated], as we explained.27

Halacha 17

[The following rules apply if a woman] took a vow while under her husband's domain that meat will become forbidden to her after 30 days or that she will become a nazirite after 30 days and her husband nullified her vow, but he died or divorced her within those 30 days. Although she will be a divorcee or a widow when the vow will take effect, she is not bound by it, because [her husband] already nullified this vow for her.28

Halacha 18

When a widow or a divorcee says: "Wine will be forbidden to me when I marry," [if] she marries, her husband cannot nullify the vow.29 [If a married woman says]: "I will be forbidden [to eat] meat when I am divorced," her husband may nullify the vow. When she is divorced, she is permitted [to eat meat].30

Halacha 19

When a husband upholds [his wife's vow] in his heart, it has been upheld.31 If he nullifies it in his heart, it is not nullified, as we explained.32 Therefore, if he nullifies it in his heart, he can still retract and uphold it. If, by contrast, he upheld it within his heart, he cannot retract and nullify unless he retracts immediately thereafter.33 [That leniency is granted] so that his thoughts within his heart should not have greater power than the statements he makes.34

Halacha 20

When a person upholds the vows of his daughter or his wife and then changes his mind, he may appeal to a sage to absolve him of his acceptance [of the vow].35 He may then recant and nullify it for her that day.36 If, by contrast, he nullifies it for her and then changes his mind, he cannot appeal to a sage to absolve it so that he can retract and maintain it.37

Halacha 21

When a consecrated maiden takes a vow and only one of her father or husband upholds her vow, while the other nullifies, even if the one who upheld the vow approaches a sage and has his acceptance absolved, he cannot recant and nullify the vow38 together with the one who has already nullified it. [The rationale is that] the two may only nullify [the vow] together.39

Halacha 22

If a man tells his daughter or his wife: "It is upheld for you. It is upheld for you," [even] if he asks to have the first acceptance absolved, the second one takes effect.40

If he tells her: "It is upheld for you. It is nullified for you, but the acceptance will not take effect until after the nullification does," [the vow] is nullified, because the acceptance does not take effect after the nullification.41

If, however, he tells her: "It is upheld for you and nullified for you at the same time,"42 it is upheld.43 If he tells her: "It is upheld for you today," it is upheld forever.44 If he tells her: "It is nullified for you tomorrow," it is not nullified, for he upheld it today and he cannot nullify it on the following day.45If he tells her: "It is upheld for you for one hour," and the day passed without him nullifying it, he has upheld it. We do not say that this is like one who said: "It is nullified for you after an hour," because he never verbally expressed its nullification.46

If he told her: "It is upheld for you for one hour," and after an hour, he told her: "It is nullified for you," there is an unresolved question [as to the ruling].47 Therefore she is forbidden in [the matters] her vow [concerned].48 If, however, she violated her vow, she is not punished by lashes.49

Halacha 23

When a person takes vows in order to establish his character traits and correct his conduct, he is considered eager and praiseworthy. What is implied? If a person was a glutton and he [took a vow] forbidding meat for a year or two, a person was obsessed with wine and he [took a vow] forbidding himself from drinking wine for a prolonged period or he forbade himself from ever becoming intoxicated, a person would continually pursue illicit gain and was overexcited about wealth [took a vow] forbidding [accepting] presents or benefit from people in a particular country, similarly, a person who would be proud of his comely appearance and took a nazirite vow,50 or the like - all of these are paths in the service of God and concerning such vows and the like our Sages said:51 "Vows are a safeguard for restraint."52

Halacha 24

Although [taking vows] is an element of the service of God, a person should not take many vows involving prohibitions and should not habituate himself to taking them.53 Instead, he should abstain from those things from which one should abstain without taking a vow.

Halacha 25

Our Sages stated:54 "Anyone who takes a vow is considered as having built a private altar."55 If he transgressed and took a vow, it is a mitzvah to ask [a sage] to absolve it,56 so that he will not have an obstacle before him.

When does the above apply? With regard to vows involving prohibitions. With regard to vows involving the consecration of articles, it is a mitzvah to uphold them and not to ask for their absolution unless one is [financially] pressed, as [Psalms 116:14] states: "I will fulfill my vows to God."

Blessed be God who grants assistance.

FOOTNOTES
1.

See Chapter 12, Halachah 18, which explains that even if the woman intended to transgress, if her father or husband nullified the vow beforehand, she is not liable.

2.

Although the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:37) mentions the Rambam's view, it also mentions that of Rabbenu Asher who maintains that this last phrase is not effective in nullifying a vow.

3.

For his wording does not imply that the vow is nullified.

4.

I.e., although these expressions are effective for a sage when absolving a vow, they are not effective for a husband or a father.

5.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Nedarim 13:8), the Rambam explains the statements he makes here. The term "nullify" implies nullifying an entity to the extent that it is as if it never existed. "Releasing," by contrast, implies that a connection existed, but it was released and will not have any effect in the future.

The Rambam's statements have aroused the attention of the commentaries for they appear to run contrary to the understandings of other authorities and the Rambam's own rulings. To explain: From Halachah 15 of this chapter and from Chapter 12, Halachah 19, it appears that until a father or a husband nullifies a vow, the vow is binding. Even when he nullifies it, the nullification affects only the future. See Hilchot Nazirut 9:11. When a sage absolves a vow, by contrast, it is as if the vow was never taken. See Hilchot Ishut 7:8-9, Hilchot Nazirut 3:10.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that the terminology employed by the Rambam here can be explained as follows: A sage does not "uproot" a vow, he causes it to be considered as if a vow not taken originally. A father or a husband, by contrast, uproot a vow, causing an entity that did exist to be nullified.

6.

I.e., the Rambam is making a distinction between hafarah, "nullification," and bittul, voiding as he proceeds to explain. See also his Commentary to the Mishnah, loc. cit.,, where he elaborates on the distinction between these two activities.

7.

E.g., if she took a vow not to drink wine, he causes her to drink wine.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam, maintaining that there is no concept of voiding a woman's vow by causing her to break it. Such concepts apply only with regard to servants. The Radbaz explains the Rambam's wording, stating that with regard to servants, it is necessary to actually compel them to break their vows. Such conduct is not appropriate with regard to one's wife or daughter. Nevertheless, if a husband or a father gently cause a woman to break their vow, that vow is nullified. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:39) mentions both views though it appears to favor the Ra'avad's view.

8.

I.e., since the vow has been nullified, she is under no obligation to keep it. On the other hand, she is not obligated to perform the act forbidden by the vow..

9.

Without him saying anything.

10.

I.e., she took a vow not to wear jewelry or not to partake of a particular food.

11.

Even though the vow has no connection to the Sabbath and it is forbidden to perform any activity for the weekdays on the Sabbath, we allow him to nullify it. The rationale is that, otherwise, he will not be able to nullify it on Saturday night, because the time for nullification will have already passed. As stated in Hilchot Sh'vuot 6:6, on the Sabbath, a sage may absolve only those vows that concern the Sabbath (Kessef Mishneh).

12.

Because it is the Sabbath, it is preferable to change the wording one uses. Even if one uses this wording during the week, the vow is nullified, as indicated by Halachah 6.

13.

This concept is also derived from the prooftext cited below. Until a vow comes into existence and can be upheld, it cannot be nullified (Turei Zahav 234:28).

14.

See Chapter 4, Halachah 11, Chapter 8, Halachah 6. The rationale is that a sage nullifies the vow from the outset, causing it to be considered as if it were never taken. Therefore the entire vow is considered as a single entity. A husband, by contrast, nullifies a vow as it exists. Hence, each element of the vow can be considered independently.

The Rambam's ruling is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:36). The Tur and the Rama differ and maintain that a husband must also nullify the entire vow. Once a portion of a vow is upheld, the vow cannot be nullified.

15.

See Chapter 3, Halachah 3, for an explanation regarding the convention of extending a vow.

16.

For by attaching himself to her vow, he shows that he considers it a viable entity.

17.

As Nedarim 3a states, the laws that apply to the nullification of other vows also apply to the nullification of nazirite vows.

18.

For the reason mentioned in the previous halachah.

19.

For his vow is not at all dependent on hers.

20.

She must, however, state her consent, for he cannot compel her to take a vow against her will. See Chapter 2, Halachah 1.

21.

He is forbidden to nullify his wife's vow, because by doing so, his own vow would be nullified as stated in the conclusion of the halachah. Since he is forbidden to cause his own vow to be nullified, he is forbidden to nullify her vow (see Nazir 22b).

22.

For his commitment is not dependent on hers at all. Even if she refuses to accept a nazirite vow, he is obligated to keep his vow. Hence, his right to nullify her vow is intact.

23.

This refers to the first clause. It is as if he made his vow and her vow a single statement. Thus nullifying her vow would cause his vow also to be nullified. This is forbidden, because he is bound to uphold his vow. Nevertheless, after the fact, if he does nullify her vow, his vow is also nullified (Radbaz). See the Nekudot HaKessef [to Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:54)] who explains that the Rambam's version of Nazir 22b follows the Jerusalem Talmud and differs from the standard text of the Babylonian Talmud.

24.

As stated in Halachah 11.

25.

The rationale for this ruling is that the husband's nullification affects the vow only from the time he made it onward. It does not nullify it from the outset. Hence, any extension of a vow that was made before the vow is nullified is binding [Radbaz; Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:51)].

26.

I.e., alone, without the nullification of the father (Chapter 11, Halachah 10).

27.

Chapter 11, Halachot 20, 22.

28.

I.e., whether or not his nullification takes effect depends on their relationship at the time he nullifies the vow (Nedarim 89a).

29.

Because he cannot nullify the vows that were taken before marriage, as explained above.

30.

Here also, what is important is the woman's status at the time of the vow and not what her status will be when the vow takes effect.

31.

As stated in Chapter 12, Halachah 18, when a husband remains silent throughout the day, his wife's vow is upheld. This is a sign that his tacit acceptance of a vow is sufficient for it to be binding (Rabbenu Nissim).

32.

As stated in Halachah 7, he must make a verbal statement of nullification. If, however, he voids his wife's vow, her nullification is not binding, as stated in Halachot 4-5.

33.

This term has a specific halachic definition: the time it takes a student to tell his teacher: Shalom Elecha Rabbi (Hilchot Sh'vuot 2:17).

34.

Since a person can nullify a vow or an oath if he retracts within this time, he may certainly retract his acceptance of his wife's oath in thought.

35.

I.e., just as he can appeal to a sage to absolve him of a vow he took, so, too, he may absolve his acceptance of a vow.

36.

I.e., the day he changed his mind, even if it is several days afterwards, is equivalent to the day he heard of his wife's vow. Since he cannot have his acceptance nullified unless he changes his mind, the days when he does not change his mind are considered equivalent to days when he does not know of the vow [Tur (Yoreh De'ah 234)].

There are other Rishonim who maintain that he can ask the sage to have his acceptance absolved only on the day he heard of the vow. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 234:49) mentions both vows without indicating which one should be favored. The Rama maintains that we should be stringent and follow the second view.

37.

Upholding a vow is considered equivalent to taking a vow. Hence, just as a vow can be absolved, the acceptance of one can be absolved. The nullification of a vow, by contrast, cannot be considered as a vow and cannot be absolved. The Radbaz adds that if the person does not know that he can have his acceptance absolved, the day he finds out that information is equivalent to the day he heard of the vow.

38.

The Siftei Cohen 234:16 states that this applies even if he has the acceptance absolved on the day he hears of the vow.

39.

Even if the first one nullified the vow again so that they make a combined statement, their nullification is not accepted.

40.

At the time he stated his acceptance of the vow a second time, his acceptance was of no consequence, because it was unnecessary. Nevertheless, after he nullifies his first acceptance, the second acceptance becomes significant.

41.

As stated in Halachah 20.

42.

The Radbaz states that this ruling applies even if he does not add the words "at the same time."

43.

The two statements cancel each other out. It is as if he remained silent and the vow is therefore upheld. The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Rambam's rationale is that since the nullification cannot take effect after the vow is upheld, it cannot take effect if it is made simultaneously with the upholding of the vow.

44.

Since, as the Rambam states later on, he did not verbally express his nullification of the vow, it remains binding even after the day passes.

45.

For a vow must be nullified on the day, the man heard about it. In his Nekudot HaKessef, the Siftei Cohen explains that the Rambam's wording implies that he may nullify it that day. The Turei Zahav 234:39-40, however, infers that he cannot nullify it at all once it takes effect for that day.

46.

The instances cited by the Rambam are questions posed by Nedarim 69b, 70a. Since the Talmud continues asking questions, using one instance as a springboard for another, following the pattern of im timtzeh lomar, the Rambam concludes that each of the instances used as a basis for a further question is accepted as halachah (Kessef Mishneh).

47.

This is the last of the series of instances concerning which the Talmud asks in that passage.

48.

Lest her vow in fact be binding.

49.

Because punishment is not given when we are uncertain whether a prohibition exists.

50.

This requires him to allow his hair to grow untrimmed and thus will prevent him from beautifying his appearance. See Nedarim 9b which relates that Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach would almost never partake of the sacrifices of a nazirite. Once, however, he saw a particularly handsome young man who had taken a nazirite vow. He asked him why he had done so and the young man explained that, because of his good looks, he was being tempted by his evil inclination. To rise above the temptation, he took the nazirite vow. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach praised him for his actions.

51.

Avot 3:13.

52.

In his commentary to that mishnah, the Rambam explains that "taking and maintaining vows to abstain from certain [undesirable] elements [of conduct] ingrains in a person the tendency to bridle the desires he seeks to curb. This tendency will continue and it will be easy for him to acquire the quality of restraint - i.e., the tendency to protect oneself from impurity." See also Moreh Nevuchim, Vol. III, the conclusion of ch. 48, which discusses the Divine service associated with taking and maintaining vows.

Nevertheless, the Rambam is not praising restraint as a mode of conduct that is always desirable. On the contrary, in Hilchot De'ot 3:1, he explains that a nazirite is called "a sinner" because he abstains from wine and states:

Our Sages directed man to abstain only from those things which the Torah denies him and not to forbid himself permitted things by vows and oaths. Thus our Sages (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:1) asked rhetorically: "Are not the things which the Torah has prohibited sufficient for you? [Why] must you add further prohibitions?"

In the instances mentioned here, however, the person taking the vow is not doing so because he thinks that abstinence is desirable. Instead, he wishes to develop self-control and inner discipline and feels that taking a vow is an effective means to encourage him to do so.

53.

Lest he not keep the vow, and in this way transgress.

54.

Nedarim 22a.

55.

During the time the Sanctuary stood at Shilo and from the time the Temple was built in Jerusalem afterwards, it was forbidden to offer sacrifices on private altars. Similarly, taking a vow is considered undesirable and comparable to building such an altar. Rabbenu Nissim explains the comparison based on the passage from Hilchot De'ot cited above, i.e., just as a person who builds a private altar offers a sacrifice to God in an undesirable manner, so, too, a person who takes a vow adds a restriction that the Torah does not require him to observe.

56.

As explained in ch. 4.

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