Nedarim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One



Numbers 30:14 states, “Every vow and every sworn obligation of self-denial may be upheld by her husband or annulled by her husband.”  From this verse the rabbis conclude that only vows which are of “self-denial” can be annulled.  Furthermore, vs. 17 states, “These are the laws that the Lord commanded Moses between a man and his wife.”  From this verse the rabbis learned that even if the vow is not one of self-denial, if it involves an issue between the woman and her husband, the man may annul the vow.  This chapter discusses these issues.

We should note that by placing these limits on her vows, the rabbis limit the power the husband has over his wife.  She has the ability to vow without his interference; only those things that will come in between their marriage or cause her to be denied something are subject to his approval. 


Mishnah One

And these are the vows which he can annul: vows which involve self-denial.  

[For instance:] “If I bathe” or “If I do not bathe;”

“If I adorn myself,” or, “If I do not adorn myself.”

Rabbi Yose says: these are not vows of self-denial.



If the woman vows, “A certain something shall be konam (forbidden) to me if I bathe, but if I don’t bathe it shall be permitted to me,” the husband can annul her vow because not bathing or not adorning oneself is considered self-denial. 

Another interpretation of this mishnah is that the woman says, “Bathing is forbidden to me forever if I bathe today” or “A shevuah that I shall not bathe”.  Again, since these are examples of self-denial the husband may annul the vow. 

Rabbi Yose does not believe that these are vows of self-denial.  Rabbi Yose’s definition of vows self-denial will be brought up in the next mishnah.