Our Gemara brings a baraita saying that someone who has taken a vow that affects his friend should only arrange to dissolve the neder in that person’s presence. Two explanations for this rule are offered by the Talmud Yerushalmi:
- Hashad – suspicion. When the person does not keep the neder, he will be suspected of ignoring his vow.
- Bushah – embarrassment. We want the person who took the vow to be careful with his words, so we insist that he put himself in an embarrassing situation should he want to avoid keeping the neder.
The commentaries point out that according to the first reason, it would be enough to simply inform the other party that the neder is no longer valid; although according to the second reason, he must do it in front of the other party.
The Gemara offers two sources for this rule:
- The story of Moshe who takes leave of his father-in-law, Jethro, and returns to Egypt. The passage (Shemot 4:19) describing Moshe’s conversation with God is understood to include an instruction to first return to Midian to arrange for permission to leave.
- The story of King Zidkiyahu who had vowed to remain loyal to Nebuchadnezzar and broke his word (see II Divrei HaYamim 36:13).
According to the Gemara, the specific commitment that King Zidkiyahu made was to keep a secret. He had once seen Nebuchadnezzar eating a live rabbit. Nebuchadnezzar was embarrassed to be seen behaving this way and made Zidkiyahu take an oath not to reveal it. Zidkiyahu could not contain himself, so he went to the Sanhedrin and arranged to have his vow annulled. Nebuchadnezzar took Zidkiyahu before the Sanhedrin (see II Melakim 25:6), which is understood to mean that Nebuchadnezzar approached a Jewish court and asked whether Zidkiyahu had been given permission to break his vow. When Nebuchadnezzar asked whether this could even be done without the knowledge of the other party, the Sanhedrin removed their pillows from beneath themselves – a symbolic gesture to show themselves unworthy – and admitted their error (as understood from Eikhah 2:10).