כ״ה בניסן ה׳תשע״ה (April 14, 2015)

Ketubot 71a-b: Voiding a Wife’s Vows

The Gemara has been discussing vows made by the husband that are so damaging to the marriage that the couple will be required to divorce. As we learned on yesterday’s daf, in cases where the divorce stems from the husband’s vows, he will be required to divorce her and to pay the ketuba. In our Gemara a different case is discussed, where it is the wife who makes vows that threaten the marriage. In this situation, however, there is another possibility. According to the Torah (see Bamidbar 30), upon hearing the vow the husband has the option of hafarah – of voiding it. He may choose, however, to allow the vow to stand. In such a case, it is much less clear as to who is responsible for the failure of the marriage – the wife who made the vow, or her husband who heard it and remained silent (or stated his approval). In fact, according to Shmuel we find a disagreement among the tanna’im on this matter.

What type of vows can be voided by the husband?

It is clear to the Sages that he can only be mefer vows that affect his wife in a significant way. Specifically, vows that she makes that involve inuy nefesh – a level of suffering on her part – can be voided. Interestingly, although the passages in the Torah appear to refer to vows that will affect the marital relationship as being the ones that can be voided (see Bamidbar 30:17), our Gemara seems unsure as to whether those types of vows are the ones that a husband can be mefer.

The final ruling is that vows that will affect the relationship between husband and wife – and, in particular, vows that affect their marital relations – can be voided by the husband. There is a difference, however, between vows of inuy nefesh and those that affect the marital relationship. In the former, after the husband is mefer, the vow that she made is null and void, and will remain so even after their marriage has ended (if they divorce or if the husband dies). In the second case, however, the vow does not take effect as long as the couple is married. Once their marriage ends, the vow comes into force.