The third perek opens by listing the four types of nedarim that the Chachamim were matir. In other words, these nedarim are automatically cancelled and are not binding. The first, is nidrei zeiruzim. The Mishnah (3:1) explains that these nedarim were not sincere and only made to encourage or influence another party. According to the Chachamim, these are nederim made during bargaining, while R' Elazar ben Yaakov also includes those made when trying to persuade a potential a guest. The Mishnah continues that if one declared that all future nedarim are null and void, then the condition would be effective provided that “he remembers the condition and the time he makes the future neder”. How does this declaration works and what relevance does it have to nidrei zeiruzim?
The Gemara asks that if the person remembered the condition at the time of the future neder, then it should be considered as if he cancelled that condition and the neder should be binding. Abaye responds that the Mishnah should be understood as ruling that the condition works as long as he does not remember the condition at the time of the neder. Rava however maintains the version of the Mishnah that we have and explains that in our case, the person remembered that he made the condition but does not remember the details, i.e. which nedarim were covered by the declaration. Consequently, at the time of the neder he declares that he is doing so based on the condition he made previously. If however does not say that this neder is based on the previous condition, since he remembers that he made that condition, it would be considered as if he is annulling that stipulation and the neder would work.
The Ran explains that Rava agrees with Abaye that if the person does not remember the condition at the time of the neder, then the neder does not take hold. They continue that this explains the practice of reciting kol nidrei as constituting such a stipulation that would apply to future nedarim. (The Ran finds the kol nidrei text difficult as it appears the declaration applies to past nedarim as well, for which this declaration would not effect. Ultimately the Ran is against the practice as it runs the risk of people treating nedarim lightly.)
The Tosfot, citing the Ri however explains that Rava argues that only if he remembered the condition at the time of the neder would the condition work. If he however forgot the condition, the neder would be binding since it is clear his intention now is for the neder to take hold. This appears to be the opinion of the Bartenura also, who adds that if however at the time of the neder he remembers and intends to undo that condition, then the neder would work. The Tosfot however find this position difficult, because the Gemara raised the argument that if one remembered the condition at the time of the neder, it would be considered as if he cancelled the condition. The Tosfot understands that this position is assumed, and it is difficult to understand that Rava is arguing with this premise. Consequently, the Tosfot ultimately adopts the position of the (Rabeinu Tam and) Ran above.1
The Chatam Sofer questions the relevance this law has to the focus of our Mishnah – nidrei zeiruzim. The Chatam Sofer answers that this category of nedarim, that are automatically considered cancelled, relies on this law. In other words, the only way that the Chachamim could cancel nidrei zeiruzim is because it is as if Yisrael and Beit Din stipulated from the outset that all nedarim that people would make in order to influence or convince others are considered cancelled. Consequently, any nedarim made are considered as if they are based on that condition. Even if he is unaware of that condition, "lev beit din matne", Beit Din apply it to all nedarim. The Chatam Sofer argues that one must understand nidrei zeiruzim in this way, since we do not find a direct source for this exception recorded in the Torah.2
1 See Shulchan Aruch YD 211:2, that appears to be concerned for both understandings of Rava's opinion. Similarly see the Rama YD 211:1 that cautions against relying on kol nidrei to cancel nedarim.
2 One might suggest that this supports the position of the Ran because the general condition of the nidrei zeiruzim applies even though one is not aware of existence. Nevertheless, one could argue that this condition is different since the Chatam Sofer explains that it works universally through lev beit din matne.
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