The Day He Heard
‘One May Seek Revocation Of A Confirmation’
The Torah limits the husband’s right to annul his wife’s neder (vow) to the day that he hears about the vow (see Numbers 30:13).
If, upon hearing of his wife’s vow, the husband expresses his approval, or remains silent until sundown, the vow is confirmed and can no longer be annulled by the husband.
The halacha (Rambam, Hilchos Nedarim 13:20) follows R. Yochanan’s view, which says that there is a method by which a husband may nullify his wife’s vow even after he confirmed it. If he regrets having confirmed the vow, he can appeal to a Sage to revoke his approval: just as a Sage can annul a person’s vow (regarding himself), based on “an excuse for retraction” (petach ve’charata), so can he also revoke one’s confirmation (of someone else’s vow).
After a Sage has revoked the confirmation, it is once again possible for the husband to exercise his right to annul the vow.
Late By One Day
Ra”N (ad loc.) asserts that this halacha is relevant only if the husband appeals to a Sage to revoke his approval on the day he heard about the neder (Numbers 30:13). However, if the husband heard of his wife’ vow and gave his approval on Sunday, for example, and on Monday he appealed to a Sage to revoke his approval, he can no longer annul the vow since the one-day limitation given for nullification of vows expired by sundown on Sunday.
Inability To Annul
The Tur (Yoreh De’ah 234) disagrees. He maintains that even if the husband did not have his approval revoked by a Sage until Monday, he can still annul his wife’s vow until the end of Monday. The Tur points out that the Sages of the Mishna (see Nedarim 87b) assert that the one-day limitation for nullification of a vow applies only if the husband is aware of his ability to annul the vow and he nevertheless remained silent. However, if an unlearned man hears about his wife’s neder on Sunday, but does not learn of his biblically given right to nullify the vow until Monday, then Monday is considered “the day he heard” and he has the right to nullify the vow all day Monday.
The Tur, thus, argues that in this case, too, where the husband was not able to annul the vow on Sunday because he had [implicitly] confirmed it, the one-day limitation does not go into effect until his confirmation has been revoked by a Sage. Therefore, the Tur rules that he could annul the vow on Monday, after a Sage had revoked his confirmation.
In defense of Ra”N, who evidently does not draw a comparison between the two cases, Radbaz (to Rambam, Hilchos Nedarim 13:20) explains that in the case stated in the Mishna (87b), it was impossible for the unlearned husband to annul the vow on Sunday, since he was unfamiliar with the laws of nullification of vows at that time. In that case, Sunday is not considered “the day he heard,” and the one-day limitation does not begin until he is made aware of the laws of nullification. In contrast, for the husband who fails to exercise his right to nullify on Sunday because the vow was confirmed at the time, Sunday is still considered “the day he heard” because he had the option to appeal immediately to a Sage on that day. Therefore, Ra”N asserts that if the husband allows Sunday to pass without trying to annul the vow, the one-day limitation expires and he can no longer annul the vow once a Sage has revoked his confirmation on Monday.
HaGaon Horav Dovid Kviat, zt”l (Sukkas David, Nedarim 69a, sk 20), finds difficulty with Radbaz’s answer, pointing out that a Sage cannot revoke a vow or a confirmation of a vow without an appropriate petach ve’charata (lit. “an opening for regret”). Sometimes a valid excuse does not present itself until a later time, and accordingly, it is not always possible to obtain a Sage’s revocation on the day of the confirmation.
A Matter Of Time
Rabbi Kviat (Sukkas David, ibid. sk 21) consequently offers another explanation for Ra”N’s opinion. He notes that even though the husband was not able to annul the vow on Sunday after he had confirmed his wife’s vow, Sunday is still considered “the day he heard,” since he could have nullified the vow at the beginning of the day, prior to his approval. In contrast, in the case of the Mishna (87b), Sunday is not considered “the day he heard” since there was no time at all on Sunday, neither at the beginning nor at the end of the day, for the husband to annul the vow, since he had not become aware of his ability to nullify the vow until Monday.