Women performing Hataras Nedarim

Women performing Hataras Nedarim:

One of the grave and serious offences in the Torah is the breaking of a vow. If one made a vow and desires to break it, he must go through the procedure of annulment, called Hatars Nedarim. The severity of breaking a vow and its process of annulment applies equally to both men and women. The following will discuss detailed laws of how to perform Hataras Nedarim, with an emphasis on the practical way this can be done by a woman who is unable to appear before a formal Beis Din.


Severity and definition:

The severity of vows: One is not to be accustomed in making vows. One who makes a vow, even if he fulfills it, is called a Rasha and a sinner.[1] One who makes a vow is considered like one who built a Bama at a time that building Bamos are forbidden. One who fulfills the vow is considered as if he has brought a sacrifice on a Bama altar, as it is better to revoke the vow through a sage then to fulfill it.[2] One is to avoid swearing even regarding truthful matters. Yanai the king had 1000 cities destroyed due to swearing even though he fulfilled his word.[3] One who is not careful regarding vows and swears causes death to his wife and young children.[4] Accordingly, every person is to accustom himself to recite Beli Neder upon giving his word for something. This applies even when pledging charity and the like.[5]

When does a Chumra or custom require Hataras Nedarim?[6] If one performed a Chumra one time with intent to continue doing so forever it has the status of a vow. If he performed the Chumra or custom three[7] times it is considered a vow even if he did not have in mind to do so forever.[8] For this reason whenever accepting a new Hiddur, Chumra, or custom one is to explicitly state that he is not accepting this upon himself as a vow, and he is only doing so one time or whenever he decides.[9]

A Mitzvah:[10] If one accepted upon himself to perform a certain Biblical or Rabbinical Mitzvah [and not merely a stringency[11]], such as to distribute charity[12], or learn a certain matter, or perform another Mitzvah, then it is considered a vow [unless he explicitly stated “Beli Neder”]. One is thus to initially state “Beli Neder” upon taking a new Shiur or learning schedule upon himself.[13]


Hataras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashanah:

It is customary to perform Hataras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashanah in order to rid oneself of vows, and their potential transgressions, prior to the day of judgment.[14] Ideally, there is no difference between men and women in the status of a vow, and the severe prohibition to transgress it, and hence women require annulment of vows just like men. Nonetheless, it is not customary for women to perform Hataras Nedarim in mass on Erev Rosh Hashanah, as is performed by men.[15] This is primarily due to reasons of Tznius.[16] This, however, does not remove a woman from the obligation to annul vows that she has made in order to be allowed to break them. The following will discuss how a woman can annul a vow and if it may be done through a Shliach, such as her father or husband.


How to do Hataras Nedarim throughout the year-Men & Women:

Appointing an emissary to annul one’s vow: A person must personally appear before the judges in order to have his vow revoked and he cannot appoint an emissary to do so in his place.[17] The only exception to this rule is regarding one’s wife. One’s wife may appoint her husband to nullify the vows for her, having the husband mention this during the annulment.[18] Nevertheless in such a case the husband may not assemble a tribunal specifically for the purpose of annulling his wife’s vows and rather only if they are already assembled can he act as an emissary to do so.[19] Some[20] write it is proper to do so on Erev Rosh Hashanah in order so the wife also benefits from Hataras Nedarim. In such a case the husband is to tell the tribunal that he is annulling the vows also on behalf of his wife and in return the tribunal is to answer him in plural tense “Hakol Mutarim Lachem”. No other woman may appoint a man as an emissary to nullify vows for her before a court, and rather she must do so herself.[21] Thus a father cannot do Hataras Nedarim on behalf of his daughter.

The tribunal: In order for a vow to be annulled one must present the vow before a tribunal of three observant Jews who are above the age of Bar Mitzvah and have either grown a beard, [or are past 18 years of age[22]].[23] The members of the tribunal who annul the vow may be relatives of each other and may even be a relatives of the person asking for the annulment.[24] Thus a girl/woman may do Hataras Nedarim through presenting the vow to her father and two older brothers or other relatives who will serve as the tribunal of three. A husband, however, cannot serve as part of the tribunal of judges to annul the vow of his wife.[25]

Mentioning the vow and asking a Rav if the vow is annullable: If one does not remember a particular vow at the time of the annulment, and is simply asking to annul all vows that he possibly made, or vows that their details were forgotten, then the annulment is valid. However those vows which one remembers their details must be verbalized to at least one of the members of the tribunal which is performing the annulment. If one does not mention the vow despite having knowledge of it then the tribunal may not annul the vow for her. In such a case, that one particularizes a specific vow, the people annulling the vow must know the laws involved in whether such a vow may be annulled and how. Accordingly, one is to contact a Rav who is knowledgeable in this subject and ask if the vow is annual and as to how the tribunal is to annul it.

How is a vow revoked?[26] There are two ways a vow can be revoked. One is through Charata and a second is through a Pesach. Practically today we perform both a Pesach and Charata. The following is the explanation: The person requesting the annulment must regret the vow from the time of its initiation. This means that he regrets ever having made the vow. This is called Charata. If he does not regret the vows initiation and simply regrets its continued validity then the annulment is invalid. In such a case the judge is to find a Pesach [i.e. convincing argument] for the asker. This is done by asking him “If you would have known that this and this would occur would you have still made the vow?” If he answers “no” then it is a valid Pesach. He is then to also be asked if he regrets making the vow to begin with.[27] Practically the custom is to be stringent and perform a Pesach even when the asker expresses regret for the vow. Thus after he expresses his regret the judge is to ask him “If you would have knows that this and this would occur would you have still made the vow”.[28] It is proper that the judges be told by the asker the reason that he regrets the vow.[29] The person requesting the annulment must truthfully regret having made the vow to begin with. If he does not regret it from its initiation but tells the judges, upon being asked, that he regrets it from that time, the annulment is invalid and the vow is still in effect.[30]

The Nussach of the annulment:[31] The annulment is validated by the tribunal reciting one of the following set of words to the person requesting the annulment: “Mutar Lach” or “Sharuy Lach” or “Machul Lach”. The chosen set of words is to be recited three times by the tribunal to the person requesting the annulment.[32] Bedieved if the set of words was only recited one time it is nevertheless valid.[33] The above set of words may be said in any language.[34] [The custom today however is for the tribunal to recite the Nussach written in the Siddur[35] for Hataras Nedarim. This Nussach is recited three times and contains all the above set of words and a particularization of the effect of the annulment.]



Although, it is not customary for women to perform Hataras Nedarim in mass on Erev Rosh Hashanah, as is performed by men, nevertheless, this does not remove a woman from the obligation to annul vows that she has made in order to be allowed to break them.


Checklist of how to do Hataras Nedarim throughout the year:

1.       Gather three Jewish observant men who are above the age of 13 and have begun growing facial hair, or are above age 18. They may be relatives, such as ones father and brother, although not one’s husband. A wife may send her husband to perform Hataras Nedarim on her behalf, if the three men are anyways gathered there

2.       Tell one of the judges [if he is a Rav] the vow that one wishes to revoke [otherwise contact a Rav].

3.       The judge must determine whether such a vow is able to be revoked according to Halacha.

4.       If it can be revoked, the tribunal is to ask the person whether he regrets making the vow from its initiation and what is the reason he regrets it.

5.       The tribunal is then to perform a Pesach by asking the person “If you knew that such and such would have come up would you have not made the vow to begin with.”

6.       If the person truthfully answers that he would not have made the vow then the tribunal is to tell him “Machul Lach” three times.

7.       After the above procedure the vow is officially annulled.



[1] Yoreh Deah 203:1

[2] Yoreh Deah 203:3

[3] Admur 156:2

[4] Alef Hamagen 581:102

[5] Michaber Y.D. 203:4

[6] See Yoreh Deah 214:1; Admur 249:13; 161:8; 468:17; Alef Hamagen 581:102; Glosses of Rav Raskin on Siddur [Miluim 25]

[7] Admur 249:13; 468:17; Nussach of Hataras Nedarim in Siddur; Shaar Hakolel 41:3 [see there for a lengthy discussion of proofs for this matter]

Ruling of Michaber: The Michaber ibid does not state how many times the following off a Hiddur turns the Hiddur into a vow. The Kitzur SHU”A [in previous prints, brought in Shaar Hakolel ibid; Alef Hamagen ibid] questions this wording of the Nussach of “three times” stating that even one time requires Hatara. The Shaar Hakolel ibid answers his questions.

[8] Michaber ibid; Admur ibid; Alef Hamagen ibid

[9] Michaber ibid; Admur 161:8 [regarding Netilas Yadayim and other Mitzvos]; 249:13; 468:17 [that if one said Beli Neder it is not binding]

[10] 213:2 [in Michaber regarding learning and in Rama regarding all Mitzvos]; 203:4 and Shach 203:4 regarding charity; M”B 238:5 [regarding all matters of a Mitzvah]

[11] Meaning that upon performing this Mitzvah he fulfills a Biblical or Rabbinical command, even though he is not obligated to do so at the moment. Such as vowing charity to an institution is a Biblical Mitzvah of charity although initially he was never obligated to pledge the charity to this specific institution. This is opposed to a mere stringency of which its laws were discussed in the previous part of this Halacha.

[12] Regarding a pledge to give a loan: See Ahavas Chesed Halva 1:11

[13] M”B ibid

[14] Siddur Admur; Shla”h [beginning of Miseches Yuma]; Peri Eitz Chaim [Shaar Rosh Hashanah] Shach Al Hatorah Matos; Birkeiy Yosef 581:21; Shaareiy Teshuvah 581:1; Kitzur SH”A 128:16; Chayeh Adam 138:8; Kaf Hachaim 581:19 and 99

Reasons mentioned for this custom: The reason why we annul all previous vows is in order to save oneself from retribution during the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, for not keeping a vow. [Chayeh Adam 138:8; Kaf Hachaim 581:99] The custom for stipulating on future vows is based on the Gemara [Nedarim 23a] that one who wants to annul all his vows of the future year, is to perform Hataras Nedarim on Rosh Hashanah. From this spread the custom to say Kol Nidreiy on Erev Yom Kippur, although Zerizin Makdimim and do so already on Erev Rosh Hashanah. [Shla”h beginning of tractate Yuma].

Other customs: Some have the custom to perform Hataras Nedarim forty days before Rosh Hashanah and again 40 days before Yom Kippur. The reason for this is because the Zohar states that one who was excommunicated in the heavenly courts remains in this state for a period of forty days, and his prayers are not accepted above. Therefore, they are careful starting from forty days earlier, to revoke any excommunications, so one’s prayer is accepted above on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Beis Keil community of Jerusalem is accustomed to recite Hataras Nedarim every Erev Shabbos throughout the entire year. [Kaf Hachaim 581:12] Some recite Hataras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul. [Mishmeres Shalom 41:1]

[15] Piskeiy Teshuvos 581:18

[16] In Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid he writes that the women rely on Kol Nidrei to revoke their future vows. To note however that not all future vows are revoked with this stipulation, as will be explained later on. Likewise it does not help to revoke any of her previous vows. In any event those women that rely on Kol Nidrei must make sure that they understand the words they are reading, and must read along with the Chazan. Vetzaruch Iyun regarding reading it loud enough for another three people to hear, if this is valid even with other women.

[17] 228:16                                                                                                     

[18] Yoreh Deah 234:36

The reason: Although the law states [228:16] that one cannot be an emissary to annul another person’s vows, nevertheless by one’s wife it is valid as one’s wife is considered like his own body, and hence it is as if she is present in the court room. [Shach 234:70; Taz 234:46]

What vows may the husband be an emissary for on behalf of his wife? A husband may be an emissary to annul any vow of his wife if she appoints him to do so for her. The limitation on the type of vows a husband can revoke is only with regards to Hafara [234:55 and 59]

[19] Michaber ibid

The reason: Some rule the reason for this is because ideally one must personally appear before the tribunal and it is only due to leniency that they allowed the wife to send her husband. However to allow her husband to summon the tribunal on her behalf is considered a belittlement of the tribunal. [Taz 234:47] Alternatively the reason for this is in order to protect the wife’s privacy. [Shach 234:71] According to this latter reason if the wife allows her husband to gather the tribunal on her behalf, it is valid. [Levush brought in Shach ibid]

[20] Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Yabia Omer 2:30

[21] 228:16

[22] Admur 39:1; M”A 39:1; See Miasef Lekol Hamachanos 39:7; Chikrei Halachos 5:62; Yagdil Torah N.Y. 8:44

[23] Pischeiy Teshuvah Yoreh Deah 228:2; Reb Akiva Eiger 73 and in 228:3; Sheivet Haleivi 4:94; This is based on the general ruling by all Hataras Nedarim that the people annulling the vow must have a beard. The reason they are to have a beard is because by Biblical matters we do not rely on the Chazaka that assumes they have grown two hairs by this time. Hence we require a beard as a full proof. [Pischeiy Teshuvah ibid; Rav Akiva Eiger ibid]

[24] Michaber Yoreh Deah 228:3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 581:16

[25] Michaber Y.D. 234:57

The reason: As one’s wife is considered like the same body as her husband, and he is hence invalid to revoke her vow. [Shach 234:7]

[26] 228:7

[27] This follows the stringent opinion that requires one to do both a Pesach and Charata. [Michaber and Rama ibid]

[28] Rama ibid

[29] Taz 228:11

[30] Michaber 228:7

[31] Michaber Yoreh Deah 228:3

[32] Michaber ibid

The reason: This is done in order to form a Chazaka. [Shach 228:6]

[33] Shach ibid; Beis Yosef; Bach in name of Rambam

[34] Rama ibid

[35] Siddur Admur; Shlah Tractate Yuma

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