1

Do not form the habit of making vows. Whoever makes a vow, [it is considered] as if he built an altar at a time that [private] altars were prohibited.1 One who fulfills [such a vow is considered] as though he had offered a sacrifice upon it, which makes him guilty of shechutei chutz.2 Rather it is preferable that you request absolution from your vow3 and that the Beis Din (Court) nullify it for you. This applies only to ordinary vows, but vows made to the sanctuary4 are meritorious to fulfill, for it is said: "I will fulfill my vows to Hashem,"5 and one should not attempt to annul these vows unless the need is great.

א

אַל תְּהִי רָגִיל בִּנְדָרִים. כָּל הַנּוֹדֵר, כְּאִלּוּ בּוֹנֶה בָּמָה בִּשְׁעַת אִסּוּר הַבָּמוֹת. וְהַמְקַיְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הִקְרִיב עָלֶיהָ קָרְבָּן, שֶׁחַיָּב מִשּׁוּם שְׁחוּטֵי חוּץ, כִּי טוֹב יוֹתֵר שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל עַל נִדְרוֹ וְיַתִּירוּ לוֹ. וַהֲנֵּי מִלֵּי בִּשְׁאָר נְדָרִים. אֲבָל נִדְרֵי הֶקְדֵּשׁ, מִצְוָה לְקַיְמָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר נְדָרַי לַה' אֲשַׁלֵּם. וְלֹא יִשְׁאַל עָלָיו אֶלָּא בִּשְׁעַת הַדְּחָק (ר"ג, ר"ל).

2

Similarly, you should distance yourself from taking an oath. However, if it happened that you did swear concerning any matter, you should not attempt to annul the oath, but rather abide by it even if it causes you distress, for it is said: "He swears to his own hurt and changes not,"6 and afterwards it is written: "Whoever does these things will never be moved." No attempt should be made to annul an oath unless the need is great.

ב

וְכֵן יִתְרַחֵק מִן הַשְּׁבוּעָה. אֲבָל אִם עָבַר וְנִשְׁבַּע עַל אֵיזֶה דָּבָר, לֹא יִשְׁאַל עָלָיו אֶלָּא יַעֲמוֹד בִּשְׁבוּעָתוֹ, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא מִצְטַעֵר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, נִשְׁבַּע לְהָרַע וְלֹא יָמִיר. וּכְתִיב אַחֲרָיו, עוֹשֵֹה אֵלֶּה לֹא יִמּוֹט לְעוֹלָם. וְאֵין נִשְׁאֲלִין עַל הַשְּׁבוּעָה אֶלָא בִּשְׁעַת הַדְּחַק (ר"ג ר"ל).

3

You should take care not to make any vows. It is best not to make vows even for charity. Rather, if you possess that which you wish to donate, give it immediately.7 If you do not have [what to donate], then wait until you have and give without making a vow. If people are making commitments to charity and you must join them, you should explicitly state that you are committing without a vow. Similarly, when the Yizkor8 prayer is said when it is customary to make a vow to charity, you should say: ["I will give,] but I am not making a vow." (See above Chapter 34, paragraph 9.) At a time of great distress it is permitted to make a vow.

ג

צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא יִדֹּוֹר שׁוּם דָּבָר. וַאֲפִלּו לִצְדָקָה אֵין טוֹב לִדּוֹר, אֶלָּא אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ בְּיָדוֹ מַה שֶּׁהוּא רוֹצֶה לִתֵּן, יִתֵּן מִיָּד. וְאִם אֵין לוֹ, יַמְתִּין עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ וְיִתֵּן בְּלֹא נֵדֶר. וְאִם פּוֹסְקִים צְדָקָה, וְצָרִיךְ לִפְסוֹק עִמָּהֶם, יֹאמַר בְּפֵרוּשׁ, שֶׁהוּא פּוֹסֵק בְּלִי נֵדֶר. וְכֵן כְּשֶׁמַּזְכִּירִין נְשָׁמוֹת, שֶׁנּוֹדְרִין לִצְדָקָה, יֵשׁ לוֹמַר בְּלִי נֵדֶר (וְעַיֵּן לְעֵיל סִימָן ט). אִם הוּא בְּעֵת צָרָה, מֻתָּר לוֹ לִנְדּוֹר.

4

If you resolve to set for yourself [a time] for the study of Torah or to perform any mitzvah, and are concerned that you will neglect to do so later; or if you are concerned that your [evil] inclination might induce you to do something which is forbidden or prevent you from doing a mitzvah, you may quicken your resolve by means of a vow or an oath, for Rav said:9 "From where is it known that we may take an oath to fulfill a mitzvah to quicken our resolve, though we are already under oath to do so from [the time we stood at] Mount Sinai?" For it is said: "I have sworn and I have fulfilled [my oath] to preserve your righteous mandates."10 Even if you did not declare your intention in the form of a vow or an oath, but even a simple declaration constitutes a vow and obligates you to fulfill it. Therefore, you must be careful when saying that you will perform any mitzvah to say: "[I will do so] but I am not making a vow." It is worthwhile to develop this habit, even when planning on doing something mundane, so that you will not transgress the violation of vows.

ד

אִם דַּעְתוֹ לִקְבֹּעַ לוֹ אֵיזֶה לִמּוּד בַּתּוֹרָה אוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵיזֶה מִצְוָה, וְהוּא יָרֵא פֶּן יִתְרַשֵּׁל אַחַר כָּךְ, אוֹ שֶׁהוּא מִתְיָרֵא פֶּן יַסִּיתֵהוּ הַיֵּצֶר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵיזֶה אִסּוּר אוֹ לְמָנְעוֹ מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת אֵיזֹה מִצְוָה, מֻתָּר לוֹ לִזְרוּזֵי נַפְשֵׁה בְּנֶדֶר אוֹ בִּשְׁבוּעָה, דְאָמַר רַב, מִנַּיִן שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּעִין לְקַיֵּם אֶת הַמִצְוָה לְזָרֵז אֶת עַצְמוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא מֻשְׁבָּע וְעוֹמֵד מֵהַר סִינַי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי וַאֲקַיֵמָה לִשְׁמֹר מִשְׁפְּטֵי צִדְקֶךָ. וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם לֹא אָמַר בִּלְשׁוֹן נֶדֶר אוֹ שְׁבוּעָה, אֶלָּא בְּדִבּוּר בְּעָלְמָא, הֲוֵי נֶדֶר וּמְחֻיָּב לְקַיֵּם. וְלָכֵן צָרִיךְ הָאָדָם לִזָּהֵר כְּשֶׁהוּא אוֹמֵר שֶׁיַעֲשֶׂה אֵיזֶה דְּבַר מִצְוָה, שֶׁיֹּאמַר בְּלִי נֵדֶר. וְטוֹב שֶׁיַרְגִּיל הָאָדָם אֶת עַצְמוֹ כֵּן, אֲפִלּוּ בְּאָמְרוֹ לַעֲשׁוֹת דְּבַר רְשׁוּת, כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּשֵׁל, חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, בַּעֲוֹן נְדָרִים.

5

One who makes vows in order to improve his character is considered diligent and praiseworthy. These are examples: A glutton vows to abstain from eating meat for a certain time, or if he was overindulgent in wine he vows to abstain from wine and other intoxicating beverages. Similarly, one was vain about his good looks and took upon himself the nazirite vow.11 These vows are for the service of God, blessed be His Name, and regarding these situations our Sages said: "Vows are a protective fence for abstinence."12 Nevertheless, a person should not make it habitual even regarding vows of such nature, but should strive to conquer his vices even without resorting to vows.

ה

מִי שֶׁנּוֹדֵר נְדָרִים כְּדֵי לְתַקֵּן מִדּוֹתָיו, הֲרֵי זֶה זָרִיז וּמְשֻׁבָּח. כֵּיצַד. הֲרֵי שֶׁהָיָה זוֹלֵל, וְנָדַר שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכַל בָּשָׂר אֵיזֶה זְמָן, אוֹ שֶׁהָיָה שׁוֹגֶה בְּיַיִן, וְאָסַר עָלָיו אֶת הַיַּיִן וּשְׁאָר מַשְׁקִין הַמְשַׁכְּרִין וְכֵן מִי שֶׁהָיָה מִתְגָּאֶה בְּיָפְיוֹ וְקִבֵּל עָלָיו נְזִירוּת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָזֶה, נְדָרִים כָּאֵלּוּ, הֵמָּה עֲבוֹדַת הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ, וְעַל אֵלּוּ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה, נְדָרִים סְיָג לִפְרִישׁוּת. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם גַּם בִּנְדָרִים כָּאֵלּוּ אֵין לוֹ לָאָדָם לְהַרְגִּיל אֶת עַצְמוֹ, אֶלָּא יֵשׁ לוֹ לְהִתְגַבֵּר עַל יִצְרוֹ גַּם בְּלֹא נְדָרִים (ר"ג).

6

A vow is not valid unless the "mouth and heart were as one."13 But if you vowed mistakenly [that is,] your intention was not the same as the utterance of your lips, or if you only thought of making a vow, but did not utter it with your lips, this is not [considered] a vow.

ו

אֵין הַנֵּדֶר חָל אֶלָּא אִם הָיָה פִּיו וְלִבּוֹ שָׁוִים. אֲבָל אִם נָדַר בְּטָעוּת, שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה דַּעְתּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו, אוֹ שֶׁהִרְהֵר בְּלִבּוֹ נֶדֶר וְלֹא הוֹצִיאוֹ בִּשְׂפָתָיו, אֵין זֶה נֵדֶר.

7

If you are accustomed to adhere to certain [voluntary] restrictions that are permitted according to the halachah14 in order [to create] a hedge and a fence or to inculcate self abstinence, for example, fasting during selichos days,15 or abstaining from eating meat and drinking wine from the seventeenth day of Tammuz until Tisha B'av,16 and other similar [restrictions], even if you practiced these things only once, but intended to continue this practice always, or practiced them three times even without the intent to continue this practice always, but did not stipulate that it shall be "without a vow," and you [now] wish to cancel [this practice] because you are not well—you require nullification [of your vow by a Beis Din]. You must begin [the nullification process] with regret, i.e. that you regret that you assumed this practice as a vow. Therefore, if you wish to assume some restrictions [for the purpose of creating] a hedge or for [reasons of] abstinence, you should first state—that you do not take it upon yourself as a vow, and you should also say that you intend to practice this only for that time or at other times that you may wish to do so but not for always [as a regular practice].

ז

מִי שֶׁנָּהַג אֵיזֹה חֻמְרָא בִּדְבָרִים הַמֻּתָּרִים מִדִּינָא, מֵחֲמַת סְיָג וּפְרִישׁוּת, כְּגוֹן תַּעֲנִיּוֹת שֶׁבִּימֵי הַסְּלִיחוֹת, אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לֶאֱכֹוֹל בָּשָׂר וְשֶׁלֹּא לִשְׁתּוֹת יַיִן מִשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בְּתַמּוּז וָאֵילַךְ, וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה, אֲפִלּוּ לֹא נָהַג כֵּן רַק פַּעַם הָרִאשׁוֹנָה, אֶלָא שֶׁהָיָה בְּדַעְתּוֹ לִנְהוֹג כֵּן לְעוֹלָם, אוֹ שֶׁנָּהַג כֵּן שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה בְּדַעְתּוֹ לִנְהוֹג כֵּן לְעוֹלָם, וְלֹא הִתְנָה שֶׁיְהֵא בְּלִי נֵדֶר, וְרוֹצֶה לַחֲזוֹר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵינוֹ בָרִיא, צָרִיךְ הַתָּרָה, וְיִפְתַּח בַּחֲרָטָה, שֶׁהוּא מִתְחָרֵט עַל מַה שֶּׁנָּהַג כֵּן לְשֵׁם נֶדֶר. לָכֵן מִי שֶׁהוּא רוֹצֶה לִנְהוֹג בְּאֵיזֶה חֻמְרוֹת לִסְיָג וּפְרִישׁוּת, יֹאמַר בָּתְחִלָּה שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל עָלָיו כֵּן בְּנֶדֶר, וְגַם יֹאמַר שֶׁאֵין בְּדַעְתּוֹ לִנְהוֹג כֵּן אֶלָּא בַּפַּעַם הַהִיא, אוֹ בִּפְּעָמִים שֶׁיִּרְצֶה וְלֹא לְעוֹלָם (רי"ד).

8

What is the process of nullification for a vow or an oath? You must go before three learned men one of whom is an expert in the laws of vows, who knows which of the vows may be nullified, which of them cannot be nullified, and in what manner it may be nullified, and they (these three men) may nullify it for you. A vow made in a dream should preferably be nullifed by ten learned men.17

ח

כֵּיצַד מַתִּירִין אֶת הַנֶּדֶר אוֹ הַשְּׁבוּעָה, הוֹלֵךְ אֵצֶל שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי תּוֹרָה, וְאֶחָד מֵהֶם יִהְיֶה בָקִי בְּהִלְכוֹת נְדָרִים, שֶׁיֵּדַע אֵיזֶה נֵדֶר יְכוֹלִין לְהַתִּיר וְאֵיזֶה מֵהֶן אֵינָן יְכוֹלִין לְהַתִּיר, וְאֵיךְ מַתִּירִין, וְהֵם יַתִּירוּ לוֹ. וּמִי שֶׁנָּדַר בַּחֲלוֹם, טוֹב שֶׁיַּתִּירוּ לוֹ עֲשָׂרָה בְּנֵי תוֹרָה.

9

Although where all mitzvos of the Torah are concerned a son does not reach adulthood until he is thirteen years old, and has grown [pubic] hair, and a daughter does not reach adulthood until she is twelve years old and has produced "signs" [of adulthood], nevertheless, where vows and oaths are concerned they become responsible one year earlier. That is, a young boy twelve years and a day, and a young girl eleven years and a day, even though they haven't produced "signs," if they understand in whose name a vow or an oath is made, their vow is a [valid] vow and their oath is a [valid] oath. But, [if they are] younger than this age, even if they understand [vows and oaths], their words count for naught. Nevertheless, they should be reprimanded and spanked in order that they not become accustomed [to making] vows and [swearing] oaths. If [the vow that the youngsters made] is insignificant and easy [to fulfill] not entailing any suffering, they should be ordered to fulfill it.

ט

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלְּעִנְיַן כָּל הַמִצְוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה אֵין הַבֵּן נַעֲשֶׂה גָּדוֹל עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לוֹ שְׁלֹש עֶשְׂרֵה וְהֵבִיא שְׂעָרוֹת, וְהַבַּת אֵינָהּ גְּדוֹלָה עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָהּ שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה וְהֵבִיאָה סִימָנִים, אֲבָל לְעִנְיַן נֶדֶר וּשְׁבוּעָה, יֵשׁ לָהֶם קְדִימָה שָׁנָה אֶחָת. שֶׁהַקָּטֹן בֶּן שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה וְיוֹם אֶחָד, וְהַקְּטַנָּה בַּת אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה וְיוֹם אֶחָד, אֲפִלּוּ לֹא הֵבִיאוּ סִימָנִים, אִם מְבִינִים לְשֵׁם מִי נָדְרוּ וְנִשְׁבְּעוּ, נִדְרָם נֶדֶר וּשְׁבוּעָתָן שְׁבוּעָה. אֲבָל פְּחוּתִים מִזְּמַן זֶה, אֲפִלּוּ מְבִינִים, אֵין דִּבְרֵיהֶם כְּלוּם. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם גּוֹעֲרִין בָּהֶם וּמַכִּין אוֹתָן שֶׁלֹּא יַרְגִּילוּ לְשׁוֹנָם בִּנְדָרִים וּשְׁבוּעוֹת. וְאִם הוּא דָּבָר קָטָן וְקַל שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ עִנּוּי נֶפֶשׁ, גּוֹזְרִין עֲלֵיהֶם שֶׁיְקַיְמוּהוּ.

10

A father may cancel his daughter's vows until she comes of age, that is, when [she reaches the age of] twelve years and six months, provided that she has not married. A husband may cancel his wife's vows. What is the process for cancellation? He says three times: "cancelled" or "absolved" or any other language that indicates total abrogation of the vow, regardless whether he says this in her presence or not in her presence. However, language of "nullification" is not valid for a father or husband. Also, they can only cancel the vow within the day they heard it. That is, if they heard the vow at the beginning of the evening, they may cancel it all night and the entire following day.18 If they heard [the vow] close to the time that the stars appear, they can cancel it only until the stars appear. Beyond that time they cannot cancel it. On Shabbos, he should not say to her: "It is cancelled for you" as [he would say] on a weekday, but he should cancel it in his heart, and say to her: "Take and eat"19 or some similar expression.20 If the father or the husband at first said that he is satisfied with the vow, although he did not say so explicitly, but said something that indicated his satisfaction, and even if it was only in his heart that he thought that he is satisfied by her vow, he can no longer cancel it. (If she made the vow conditional upon some act, see Shach 234:45.)

י

הָאָב מֵפֵר נִדְרֵי בִּתּוֹ עַד שֶׁתִּתְבַגֵּר, דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לָהּ שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה וְשִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים. וְהוּא שֶׁלֹּא נִשֵּׂאת. וְהַבַּעַל מֵפֵר נִדְרֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ. כֵּיצַד מְפִירִין. אוֹמֵר שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים, מוּפָר אוֹ בָּטֵל אוֹ שְׁאָר לָשׁוֹן הַמּוֹרָה שֶׁהוּא עוֹקֵר אֶת הַנֶּדֶר מֵעִקָּרוֹ, בֵּין שֶׁאוֹמֵר כֵּן בְּפָנֶיהָ אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּפָנֶיהָ. אֲבָל לְשׁוֹן הַתָּרָה, לֹא מַהֲנֵי בְּאָב וּבְבַעַל, וְגַם אֵין יְכוֹלִין לְהָפֵר רַק בְּיוֹם שָׁמְעָם. דְּהַיְנוּ אִם שָׁמְעוּ בִּתְחִלַּת הַלַּיְלָה, מְפִירִין כָּל הַלַּיְלָה וְכָל הַיּוֹם שֶׁלְאַחֲרָיו. וְאִם שָׁמְעוּ בַּיּוֹם סָמוּךְ לְצֵאת הַכּוֹכָבִים, אֵין מְפִירִין רַק עַד צֵאת הַכּוֹכָבִים, וְיוֹתֵר אֵינָן יְכוֹלִין לְהָפֵר. בַּשַׁבָּת לֹא יֹאמַר לָהּ מוּפָר לִיכִי כְּמוֹ בַּחֹל, אֶלָּא מְבַטֵּל בְּלִבּוֹ, וְאוֹמֵר לָהּ, טְלִי אִכְלִי, וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. וְאִם הָאָב אוֹ הַבַּעַל אָמְרוּ תְּחִלָּה שֶׁהוּא מְרֻצֶּה מִן הַנֵּדֶר, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר בְּפֵרוּשׁ, אֶלָּא שֶׁאָמַר לְשׁוֹן שֶׁהוּא מוֹרֶה שֶׁהוּא מְרֻצֶּה, וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם רַק בְּלִבּוֹ חִשֵׁב שֶׁהוּא מְרֻצֶּה בְּנִדְרָהּ, שׁוּב אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהָפֵר (וְאִם תָּלְתָה הַנֶּדֶר בְּמַעֲשֵׂה, עַיֵן "שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן" סִימָן רלד סָעִיף קָטָן מה).

11

What manner of vows can a father or husband cancel? Only matters of physical discomfort such as: bathing, adorning herself, eye makeup, hairdo, and the like. The husband can cancel also things that do not entail physical discomfort, if they are matters concerning things between husband and wife which cause resentment between them. However, these things are permitted [for her] only for as long as she remains with him. [But], after she is widowed or divorced they are prohibited to her.

יא

אֵיזֶה נְדָרִים יְכוֹלִין הָאָב אוֹ הַבַּעַל לְהָפֵר. דַּוְקָא דְּבָרִים שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָהֶם עִנּוּי נֶפֶשׁ, כְּגוֹן רְחִיצָה, קִשּׁוּט, כִּחוּל וּפִרְכּוּס, וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. וְהַבַּעַל יָכוֹל לְהָפֵר גַּם דְּבָרִים שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶם עִנּוּי נֶפֶשׁ, אִם הֵן מִן הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁבֵּין אִישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְגוֹרְמִים אֵיבָה בֵּינֵיהֶם. אֲבָל אֵלּוּ, אֵינָן מֻתָּרִים אֶלָּא כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהִיא יושֶׁבֶת תַּחְתָּיו. וּלְאַחַר שֶׁנִּתְאַלְמְנָה אוֹ נִתְגָּרְשָׁה, אֲסוּרָה בָּהֶן.