Canceling Vows

There is a ceremony done before Rosh Hashana, called “Hatarat Nedarim.” The text is found in most Siddurim. Three men act as judges, and they agree to nullify any possible unfulfilled vows, that may have been made.

This procedure is not limited to the High Holiday season, but could apply all year. This nullification of vows, can either be done by a court of three learned Jews, or a woman’s husband.

Once I was confronted by a very distraught individual, who pleaded for my help. He had been involved in a heated argument with his brother. He vowed that he wanted no part of his brother, to the extent that he would not attend his son’s wedding. The day that he approached me, was his nephew’s wedding.

I asked two of my esteemed students to join me in forming a Beit Din. My question to the regretful vower, was simple. “Had you known that you would one day feel such remorse for your vow, would you have made it?” His regret allowed me to declare that he could now attend the wedding that evening.

On another occasion, a woman was conned into commuting to a very large contribution that was way above the family’s means. Her understanding husband, later that day, used his veto power of her pledge, and declared, מופר לך, that your vow is canceled. The wife was greatly relieved, and appreciated the wisdom of the Torah.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at