Ask the rabbi

  • Halacha
  • Hatarat Nedarim - Annulment of Vows



Rabbi David Sperling

Shevat 13, 5772
Dear rabbi! Shalom uvrachah! What are the consequences for someone who doesn’t keep a vow to HaShem? Is there forgiveness for this sin or it emplies in condemnation to his/her soul? A friend in a moment of despair made a vow to stop smoking in case HaShem help him to solve a very difficult health problem , but now he finds it difficult to keep his neder. I could not see any way of helping him, as he’s a grown up man, and knew exactly what it meant when he made this vow to HaShem. Can he annul this vow? Thank you for your attention! Shalom, Sergio.
Shalom, Vows are indeed a serious undertaking, up to the point that our Rabbis taught us that it is better not to undertake any vows rather than face the situation where one may have to break their promise to Hashem. But, there are ways one can "remove" a vow. This is not undertaken lightly, and is used only in cases where there is a real need - such as when one faces the unfortunate situation of not being able at all to live up to the original neder (vow). The laws of this are quite involved (several tractate of the Talmud are devoted just to the subject of vows and promises). Your friend needs to personally contact a Rabbi, or other knowledgeable Jew, who will be able to form a Bet Din (a three member "court" of Jewish law) to release him from his vow. This is important even if the vow has already been broken. The process is not a lengthy one, but does require at least one learned person to perform it and "annul" the vow. Blessings, D. Sperling.
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