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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 77a

We learnt elsewhere: Vows may be annulled1  on the Sabbath, and absolution from vows2  may be sought where it is necessary for the Sabbath.3  The scholars propounded: May vows be annulled on the Sabbath only if it is needed for the Sabbath, or perhaps, even if it is unnecessary?4  Come and hear: For R. Zuti, of the school of R. Papi, learnt: Vows may be annulled [on the Sabbath] only if necessary for the Sabbath. Said R. Ashi: But we did not learn thus; IF SHE VOWED JUST BEFORE NIGHTFALL, HE CAN ANNUL ONLY UNTIL NIGHTFALL. But if you rule [that he can annul] only when it is necessary for the Sabbath, but not otherwise, why say, UNTIL NIGHTFALL; he cannot annul even by day,5  since it is unnecessary for the Sabbath?6  — It is a controversy of Tannaim: [The period allowed for] the annulment of vows is the whole day. R. Jose son of R. Judah and R. Eliezer son of R. Simeon maintained: Twenty-four hours. Now, on the view that [they can be annulled only] the whole of that day, but not thereafter, [it follows that] he can annul them even if unnecessary for the Sabbath;7  but on the view [that he has] twenty-four hours, [he can annul] only if it is necessary for the Sabbath, but not otherwise.

'And absolution from vows may be sought where it is necessary for the Sabbath'. The scholars propounded: Is that only if one had no time [to seek absolution before the Sabbath], or perhaps even if he had time? — Come and hear: For the Rabbis gave a hearing to the son of R. Zutra son of R. Ze'ira [to grant him absolution] even for vows for which there was time before the Sabbath.8

Now, R. Joseph thought to rule that absolution may be granted9  on the Sabbath only by a single ordained scholar, but not by three laymen, because it would look like a lawsuit.10  Said Abaye to him: Since we hold that [those who grant it] may stand, be relatives, and [absolve] even at night, it does not look like a lawsuit.11

R. Abba said in the name of R. Huna in the name of Rab: The halachah is that vows may be annulled on the Sabbath. But this is [explicitly taught in] our Mishnah: IF SHE VOWED ON THE NIGHT OF THE SABBATH [ETC.]?12  — But say thus: The halachah is that absolution13  may be sought at night. R. Abba said to R. Huna, Did Rab really say thus? Said he, He was silent.14  Do you say, 'He was silent', or, 'he was drinking'? asked he.15  — R. Ika b. Abin said: Rab gave a hearing to Rabbah [to grant him absolution]

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. By a husband or father, as the case may he.
  2. From a sage.
  3. I.e., where the absolution is necessary for the Sabbath. E.g., if one vowed not to eat, which clashes with the joyous spirit of the Sabbath.
  4. I.e., does the last condition, 'where it is necessary for the Sabbath,' refer to the whole Mishnah, or only to absolution? — By 'annulment' the annulment by a father or husband is meant.
  5. The reference being to a vow made on the Sabbath; v. Mishnah.
  6. The vow having been made just before nightfall, it cannot be necessary for the sake of the Sabbath to annul it.
  7. Since we cannot abrogate his right of annulment altogether.
  8. Lit., 'whilst yet day.'
  9. Lit., 'sought'.
  10. Three judges are necessary for that, and it must not take place on the Sabbath.
  11. Because in a lawsuit the judges must be seated, may not be relatives of the litigants, and it may not take place at night.
  12. Which shows that the husband can annul vows on Sabbath.
  13. From a Sage.
  14. Heb. [H]; this bears a close resemblance to drinking, and R. Abba seems not to have quite caught his reply.
  15. So Rashi: Do you mean that you stated this halachah before him and that he remained silent, which you interpreted as assent: or that he was drinking at the time, and could make no comments? Other versions, based on different readings: R. Huna asked, Would you offer me a drink, or do you say that he was silent, i.e., do you question me because you agree, and desire Rab's authority for it, or do you disagree, and suggest that Rab was silent when I stated this law, deeming it unworthy even of refutation? Or: do you offer me a drink (in approval), or silence me (in disapproval)? — In all these cases, the alternatives are expressed by words very similar to each other.
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Nedarim 77b

in a chamber of the College, whilst standing, alone, and at night.1

Raba said in R. Nahman's name: The halachah is that absolution from vows may be granted standing, alone, and at night, on the Sabbath, by relatives, and even if there was time before the Sabbath [to seek absolution]. 'Standing'? But it was taught: R. Gamaliel descended from the ass, wrapped himself [in his robe], sat down, and absolved him?2  — R. Gamaliel held that [the Rabbi] must give an 'opening' for regret, so that the vow may be revoked ab initio; this requires deep thought; therefore he sat down.3  But in R. Nahman's opinion no opening for regret Is necessary;4  therefore he [the Rabbi] can stand.5

Raba said to R. Nahman: Behold, Master, a scholar, who came from the west [i.e., Palestine], and related that the Rabbis gave a hearing to the son of R. Huna b. Abin and absolved him of his vow, and then said to him, 'Go, and pray for mercy, for you have sinned. For R. Dimi, the brother of R. Safra, learnt: He who vows, even though he fulfils it, is designated a sinner.' R. Zebid said: What verse [teaches this]? — But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee;6  hence, if thou hast not forborne, there is sin.

It was taught: If a man says to his wife, '[In respect to] all vows which you may make, I object to your vowing,' or, 'they are no vows,' the declaration is valueless.7  [If he says,] 'You have done well,' or, 'there is none like you,'8  or, 'had you not vowed, I myself would have imposed a vow upon you.'9  — these declarations are effective.10

A man should not say to his wife on the Sabbath, 'It is annulled for you,' or, 'made void for you,' as he would say on week-days, but, 'Take and eat it,' 'Take and drink it,'11  and the vow becomes automatically void.12  R. Johanan observed: Yet he must annul it in his heart.13  It was taught: Beth Shammai say: On the Sabbath he must annul it in his heart; on week-days he must express [his annulment] with his lips. But Beth Hillel say: In both cases he may annul it in his heart, and need not express it with his lips.14

R. Johanan said: If a Sage employs a husband's phraseology, or a husband that of a Sage, their pronouncements are invalid.15  For it was taught: This is the thing [which the Lord hath commanded]:16  [this teaches], only a Sage may absolve, but a husband cannot absolve.17  For I might think, If a Sage, who cannot annul, can absolve, surely a husband, who may annul, can also absolve! Therefore it is stated,

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Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The former question is left unanswered, but this incident is quoted to show that Rab himself acted on this ruling. — So cur. edd. But other readings introduce this by 'come and hear.
  2. This happened once when R. Gamaliel was travelling from Acco to Chezib. On the way he was accosted by a man who demanded to be absolved from a vow.
  3. The Rabbi must find grounds sufficiently strong to make him regret his now (v. supra 21b). Such grounds are not easily found. But sitting is not essential for the actual granting of absolution.
  4. [Even if he expresses no regret for ever having made the vow, but merely wishes to be absolved from it from now on, the Sage may revoke it; (v. Rashi 'Er. 64a).]
  5. So cur. edd. and Rashi, Ran and Asheri reverse the reading, though the final result remains unaltered. Thus: R. Gamaliel held that mere (present) regret does not afford an 'opening', i.e., grounds for absolution, but some fact, which, had it been present to the mind of the person vowing, would have caused him to desist, so that the vow may be voided from its very beginning, etc.
  6. Deut. XXIII, 23.
  7. Because it is not the correct way of annulment. — So Rashi, on the basis of our reading, and likewise one version of Ran.
  8. An expression of satisfaction.
  9. This must not be taken that in Talmudic times the husband could impose a vow upon his wife, the expression merely being one of approval. In the chapter dealing with vows (Num. XXX) the husband is merely given powers of annulment, not to impose vows; in fact, no person is empowered to impose vows upon another; but v. Weiss, Dor. 1, p. 15.
  10. I.e., they are perfect confirmations, which cannot be withdrawn by subsequent annulment. — 'Effective' is followed by two dots (:), which denotes the completion of a subject, the next word commencing a new one. As, however, the next passage is not preceded in our text by 'It was taught' nor by any other word which generally introduces a new passage, it is possible that the dots have crept into the editions in error. But in the version of Ran the next passage is preceded by 'It has been taught' (v. Marginal Glosses to Wilna edition).
  11. If she vowed not to eat or drink.
  12. To preserve the sanctity of the Sabbath one should not use the same phraseology as of week-days.
  13. Formally: 'it is annulled for thee.'
  14. Of annulment, it being sufficient to say 'Take and eat it.'
  15. A husband must say, [H] 'It is annulled for thee'; a Sage, [H] 'It is permitted thee'. [The difference in the phraseology employed by Sage and husband is determined by the distinct function of each. The Sage revokes the vow, rendering it void ab initio, whereas the husband annuls it that it may not be binding for the future (Ran).]
  16. Num. XXX, 2. 'This is the thing' implies that the following enactments must be exactly carried out.
  17. Absolution by a Sage is deduced from the next verse.
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