Mr. Nadel decided he would daven vasikin every morning. For a number of months, he did so scrupulously. However, as time wore on, he found himself exhausted during the day and unable to concentrate properly while learning and at work.
Mr. Nadel approached Rabbi Dayan for advice. “I’m in a quandary,” he said. “I accepted the practice of davening vasikin, but it is negatively impacting my learning and work.”
“Davening vasikin is very commendable,” said Rabbi Dayan. “And the Torah states in Parshas Matos: ‘He should not violate his word.’ You’re right, though, that you’re causing yourself more harm than good.”
“What can I do, then?” asked Mr. Nadel.
“Chazal tell us [Berachos 32a] that although a person may not violate his word, others can annul his vow via hataras nedarim,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “It is commonly done on erev Rosh Hashanah, but can be done throughout the year if the need arises.” [Rema, Y.D. 228:15]
“Can you do it for me?” asked Mr. Nadel.
“A qualified expert can annul a vow on his own,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “However, no one is an expert nowadays, so that we need a panel of three, like a beis din.”
“Should I make an appointment with the secretary of the beis din?” asked Mr. Nadel.
“No, there is no need for that,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “I can get two others to join me right now. Let’s see who’s here.”
In the room were Rabbi Dayan’s oldest son and Mr. Nadel’s brother. “My son and your brother can join me and we will serve as the ‘beis din‘ for the hataras nedarim,” said Rabbi Dayan.
“Excuse me for asking,” said Mr. Nadel, “but I don’t understand. How can my brother serve on the beis din for hataras nedarim? A relative cannot serve as a dayan!”
“Hataras nedarim requires a panel of three, like a beis din, but it is not exactly a beis din,” answered Rabbi Dayan.
“The Gemara [Nedarim 77a] states that relatives can do hataras nedarim. Some even allow a husband to serve on a hataras nedarim panel for his wife, but the Shulchan Aruch rules that he cannot.” [C.M. 7:9; Y.D. 228:3, 234:57]
“What about women, children, and wicked people?” asked Mr. Nadel.
“In this respect, hataras nedarim parallels a regular judgment,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Although relatives are qualified for hataras nedarim, women are not, since it says: ‘rashei hamatos‘ – heads of the tribes. Similarly, children are not qualified until bar mitzvah, and it is preferable that they be visibly physically mature. It is questionable whether a thief can serve on the panel.” [Aruch Hashulchan 228:10; Minchas Shlomo, Nedarim 77a]
“What other differences are there?” asked Mr. Nadel.
“The Gemara [bid.] teaches that although, ideally, adjudication should not begin at night and the dayanim should be sitting,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “hataras nedarim can be done at night and while standing. The common practice, however, is for the panel to sit since we commonly use the mechanism of pesach [finding an “opening”] to render the vow mistaken, which requires more concentration.” [C.M. 5:2, 28:6; Y.D. 228:4; Shach 228:9; Aruch Hashulchan 228:12]
Rabbi Dayan concluded: “Some say that the panel should be odd-numbered, just like a beis din. Some also maintain that a majority suffices to rule the pesach [opening] valid to annul the vow, like in judgment, while others maintain that all three have to agree.” [Nachal Yitzchak, C.M. 3:4:1; Har Zvi, Y.D. 189; Minchas Shlomo, Nedarim 78a; see Kol Nidrei, ch. 13-15, 21]