The previous perek of Tractate Nedarim focused on hatarat nedarim – dissolution of a vow by appealing to a hakham or a Jewish court of law. The tenth perek, which begins on our daf, turns its attention to hafarat nedarim – nullification of vows taken by a woman while she is living in her father’s house or in her husband’s house. According to the Torah (see Bamidbar 30:4-9) if a woman takes a vow, either her father or her husband has the right to annul it if he chooses to do so on the same day that he becomes aware of it. Our perek focuses specifically on a case where the woman is engaged to be married, but is still living in her father’s house.
The first Mishna in the perek teaches us that in such a case only the combined efforts of the father and the husband will effectively nullify the neder.
The engaged woman whose case is under discussion is referred to as a na’ara me’orasa. A na’ara is a girl from the time that she is twelve years old – or, more specifically, a girl who has seen signs of physical maturity at about that age – until she is twelve and a half. When she is twelve and a half, she becomes an independent adult – a bogeret – at which time she is no longer considered to be in her father’s charge at all. While she is a na’ara, however, her father is still in charge of her with regard to several halakhot, such as that her father can arrange a marriage for her.
As noted above, the situation of a na’ara me’orasa is that she is partially in her father’s charge, because of her age, and partially in her husband’s charge, by right of their engagement. (Note: while we have translated eirusin as “engagement,” in halakha it is actually the first stage of marriage, that will be completed with nesu’in). The commentaries point out that our Mishna describes the “upper limit” of this law – that until she is twelve and a half, her father will play a role in hafarat nedarim together with her husband; after that time the role reverts solely to her husband. Nevertheless, a girl who is younger than twelve who is engaged will also be subject to hafara through the combined efforts of her father and husband, assuming that her cognitive abilities have developed to the extent that she understands the meaning and significance of a neder.