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Introduction to Nedarim

 לע”נ  מרת איידל בן נתן ושרה ע”ה


There are two types of nedarim (commonly translated as vows[1]) found in Halacha:

  • Nidrei Kodesh (vows of dedication to the Mikdash)
  • Nidrei Issur (vows of prohibition)
Bemidbar 30:3

אִישׁ כִּי־יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַה אוֹ־הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה לֶאְסֹר אִסָּר עַל־נַפְשׁוֹ לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ כְּכׇל־הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה׃

If a householder makes a vow to God or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.

Nidrei kodesh are dealt with in Seder Kodshim[2]. Our masechta deals with nidrei issur, based on:

In this type of neder, a person can prohibit the use or benefit of an otherwise permissible item

  • To him/herself
  • To others

This can take one of several permutations:

  • I forbid my item to myself
  • I forbid my item to others
  • I forbid your item to myself

However, one cannot forbid someone else’s use of their own item.

  My item Your item
My benefit/use Can make a neder Can make a neder
Your benefit/use Can make a neder Cannot make a neder


What does this have to do with Seder Nashim?

The laws of nedarim  apply to men and women.  Why, then, do we deal with them in Seder Nashim? There are specific neder-related laws which apply only to women.  Specifically, if a woman makes a neder, her husband or father can – in certain circumstances – revoke the neder. This is known as hafarat nedarim (revocation of nedarim). In Bemidbar 30:4-17, we learn:

וְאִשָּׁה כִּי־תִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַה וְאָסְרָה אִסָּר בְּבֵית אָבִיהָ בִּנְעֻרֶיהָ׃ וְשָׁמַע אָבִיהָ אֶת־נִדְרָהּ וֶאֱסָרָהּ אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ וְהֶחֱרִישׁ לָהּ אָבִיהָ וְקָמוּ כׇּל־נְדָרֶיהָ וְכׇל־אִסָּר אֲשֶׁר־אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ יָקוּם׃ וְאִם־הֵנִיא אָבִיהָ אֹתָהּ בְּיוֹם שׇׁמְעוֹ כׇּל־נְדָרֶיהָ וֶאֱסָרֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר־אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ לֹא יָקוּם וַה יִסְלַח־לָהּ כִּי־הֵנִיא אָבִיהָ אֹתָהּ׃ וְאִם־הָיוֹ תִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ וּנְדָרֶיהָ עָלֶיהָ אוֹ מִבְטָא שְׂפָתֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ׃ וְשָׁמַע אִישָׁהּ בְּיוֹם שׇׁמְעוֹ וְהֶחֱרִישׁ לָהּ וְקָמוּ נְדָרֶיהָ וֶאֱסָרֶהָ אֲשֶׁר־אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ יָקֻמוּ׃ וְאִם בְּיוֹם שְׁמֹעַ אִישָׁהּ יָנִיא אוֹתָהּ וְהֵפֵר אֶת־נִדְרָהּ אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ וְאֵת מִבְטָא שְׂפָתֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ וַה יִסְלַח־לָהּ׃ וְנֵדֶר אַלְמָנָה וּגְרוּשָׁה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ יָקוּם עָלֶיהָ׃ וְאִם־בֵּית אִישָׁהּ נָדָרָה אוֹ־אָסְרָה אִסָּר עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ בִּשְׁבֻעָה׃ וְשָׁמַע אִישָׁהּ וְהֶחֱרִשׁ לָהּ לֹא הֵנִיא אֹתָהּ וְקָמוּ כׇּל־נְדָרֶיהָ וְכׇל־אִסָּר אֲשֶׁר־אָסְרָה עַל־נַפְשָׁהּ יָקוּם׃ וְאִם־הָפֵר יָפֵר אֹתָם  אִישָׁהּ בְּיוֹם שׇׁמְעוֹ כׇּל־מוֹצָא שְׂפָתֶיהָ לִנְדָרֶיהָ וּלְאִסַּר נַפְשָׁהּ לֹא יָקוּם אִישָׁהּ הֲפֵרָם וַה יִסְלַח־לָהּ׃ כׇּל־נֵדֶר וְכׇל־שְׁבֻעַת אִסָּר לְעַנֹּת נָפֶשׁ אִישָׁהּ יְקִימֶנּוּ וְאִישָׁהּ יְפֵרֶנּוּ׃ וְאִם־הַחֲרֵשׁ יַחֲרִישׁ לָהּ אִישָׁהּ מִיּוֹם אֶל־יוֹם וְהֵקִים אֶת־כׇּל־נְדָרֶיהָ אוֹ אֶת־כׇּל־אֱסָרֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ הֵקִים אֹתָם כִּי־הֶחֱרִשׁ לָהּ בְּיוֹם שׇׁמְעוֹ׃ וְאִם־הָפֵר יָפֵר אֹתָם אַחֲרֵי שׇׁמְעוֹ וְנָשָׂא אֶת־עֲוֺנָהּ׃ אֵלֶּה הַחֻקִּים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה God אֶת־מֹשֶׁה בֵּין אִישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹ בֵּין־אָב לְבִתּוֹ בִּנְעֻרֶיהָ בֵּית אָבִיהָ׃ 

If a woman makes a vow to God or assumes an obligation while still in her father’s household by reason of her youth, and her father learns of her vow or her self-imposed obligation and offers no objection, all her vows shall stand and every self-imposed obligation shall stand.  But if her father restrains her on the day he finds out, none of her vows or self-imposed obligations shall stand; and God will forgive her, since her father restrained her. If she should become someone’s [wife] while her vow or the commitment to which she bound herself is still in force, and her husband learns of it and offers no objection on the day he finds out, her vows shall stand and her self-imposed obligations shall stand.  But if her husband restrains her on the day that he learns of it, he thereby annuls her vow which was in force or the commitment to which she bound herself; and God will forgive her.—The vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, however, whatever she has imposed on herself, shall be binding upon her.—  So, too, if, while in her husband’s household, she makes a vow or imposes an obligation on herself by oath, and her husband learns of it, yet offers no objection—thus failing to restrain her—all her vows shall stand and all her self-imposed obligations shall stand.  But if her husband does annul them on the day he finds out, then nothing that has crossed her lips shall stand, whether vows or self-imposed obligations. Her husband has annulled them, and God will forgive her. Every vow and every sworn obligation of self-denial may be upheld by her husband or annulled by her husband.  If her husband offers no objection from that day to the next, he has upheld all the vows or obligations she has assumed: he has upheld them by offering no objection on the day he found out.

But if he annuls them after [the day] he finds out, he shall bear her guilt.  Those are the laws that God enjoined upon Moses between a husband and his wife, and as between a father and his daughter while in her father’s household by reason of her youth.



In the verse we cited above (Bemidbar 30:3), we have two types of declarations: neder and shevua.

אִישׁ כִּי־יִדֹּר נֶדֶר לַה’ אוֹ־הִשָּׁבַע שְׁבֻעָה

  • The neder places the prohibition on the OBJECT (known in “Gemara language” as the cheftza).
  • The shevua places the prohibition/obligation on the PERSON WHO IS SWEARING (known in “Gemara language” as the gavra).[3]

Because of this distinction, a neder can only take effect if there is an object of substance (davar shel mamash) involved, but a shevua can be made about anything.  For example, you cannot make a neder forbidding yourself to sleep, because sleep has no substance. However, you can make a shevua that you will not sleep, because the shevua affects your body.  The Rabbis, however, enacted that even a neder on something which has no substance is effective.  We will learn more about shevuot when we get to that masechta – in May 2025!

How to make an effective neder

In order for a neder to be effective:

  • There must be an oral declaration. A great deal of the masechta deals with the meanings of various declarations, with the general rule (30b) being that the common usage of words is considered highly significant
  • There must be intent. If someone just made a declaration without intending to accept a neder upon himself, the neder is void. If it is obvious that his intent differs from his words, his intent is the determining factor (for example, if he exaggerated).
  • There must be an object upon which the neder takes effect.
  • There must be a specific formula:
    • Stating that the item is forbidden to you (“This cookie is forbidden to me”) or
    • Associating the item with something that is prohibited by a previous neder (“This cookie is like a korban to me”). This is known as Note that the korban is prohibited for general use because of a neder; the second neder is specific to the person making it.  Hatfasa is only effective if the original item (in this case, the animal for the korban) was previously permitted (i.e., it was not yet consecrated and therefore could be eaten by anyone).  If the “linked” item is intrinsically forbidden (such as a non-kosher animal), the neder is ineffective.

There are also alternative formulas for nedarim, which are discussed in the opening Mishna. These are known as:

  • Kinuy(im) – equivalent terms
  • Yad(ot) – allusive terms

Kinuyim are familiar to most of us from the text of Kol Nidrei. They are words that have the same meaning as neder in another language. For example, konam means korban. So if you say, “This cookie is konam to me,” by the principle of hatfasa, you have made a valid neder.

Yadot (literally, handles) are partial declarations where the speaker’s intent in clear.  The speaker is figuratively “holding the handle” of the entire neder.  Note that the speaker’s intent must be clear for this to be effective.

The Torah

There are two mitzvot connected to nedarim (both found in Bemidbar 30:3):

  • A negative commandment against not keeping one’s word לֹא יַחֵל דְּבָרוֹ
  • A positive commandment of fulfilling one’s word. כְּכׇל־הַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיו יַעֲשֶׂה׃

The Rambam adds the positive mitzva found in Devarim 23:24:

מוֹצָא שְׂפָתֶיךָ תִּשְׁמֹר וְעָשִׂיתָ כַּאֲשֶׁר נָדַרְתָּ לַה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נְדָבָה אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתָּ בְּפִיךָ׃

You must fulfill what has crossed your lips and perform what you have voluntarily vowed to your God, having made the promise with your own mouth.

Someone who fails to fulfill a neder, after having been duly warned, is subject to lashes (malkut).

Release from Nedarim

While the general halachic attitude is to avoid making nedarim[4], there are two mechanisms through which a person can be released from these obligations.

  • Hatara (annulment)
  • Hafara (revocation)

Hafara only applied to nedarim made by a woman (as noted above in Bemidbar 30).  Her father (until she reaches age 12-1/2 years and has undergone neither kiddushin or nisuin) or her husband (after nisuin) may revoke certain nedarim. If she is an arusa (had kiddushin but not yet nisuin), both her father and her husband need to agree on the revocation.  Hafara only cancels the neder moving forward.

When Rashi isn’t Rashi

Typically, Rashi’s commentary on Gemara is found on the “inside” of the page (next to the binding), while the commentary of Tosafot is found on the “outside.” This is not the case in Masechet Nedarim.

Note that Tosafot’s placement has been taken by the RaN (Rabbeinu Nissim; Catalonia 1320-1376).  The RaN’s commentary is lengthy, and often provides complex analyses as well as practical halachic rulings.  Tosafot are still there – just in the margins.

And Rashi apparently did not author the commentary which bears his name.  This is evident from the fact that other commentaries (Meiri, for example) quote Rashi and those words do not exist in this version of the commentary.  Many call this commentary haMefaresh (the commentary) instead.

An interesting article on the evolution of Kol Nidrei (with pictures of manuscripts):


The Structure of the Masechta:

Perek 1


כׇּל כִּנּוּיֵי Substitute terms for nedarim and allusions to nedarim
Perek 2


וְאֵלּוּ מוּתָּרִין Nedarim which do not take effect because of incorrect association or because the object of the neder is not subject to a neder

Differences between vows (neder) and oaths (shevu’a)

Perek 3


אַרְבָּעָה נְדָרִים Nedarim which are not made wholeheartedly and thus do not cause a prohibition

Who is included in a “group neder

Perek 4


אֵין בֵּין הַמּוּדָּר The difference between a neder not to eat something and a neder not to benefit from something

Nedarim not to benefit from a person

Perek 5


הַשּׁוּתָּפִין Nedarim not to benefit from a person also include items partially owned by that person
Perek 6


הַנּוֹדֵר מִן הַמְבוּשָּׁל The terms used in connection to food-related nedarim
Perek 7


הַנּוֹדֵר מִן הַיָּרָק The various terms used to express a neder and their meanings

The prohibition of items that are replacements of forbidden item or have grown from forbidden items

Perek 8


קוּנָּם יַיִן Time frames
Perek 9


רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר Dissolution of nedarim and the “openings” needed
Perek 10


נַעֲרָה הַמְאוֹרָסָה Hafarat nedarim
Perek 11


וְאֵלּוּ נְדָרִים The process of hafarat nedarim

Some general details of nedarim


[1] The English word “vow” also includes promises and pledges; I will use the word neder for convenience.

[2] Which we will begin in September 2025!

[3] More on this in 2b

[4] Both because they add prohibitions and because nedarim are often made in anger

Gitta Jaroslawicz-Neufeld

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