Parent’s Honour as a Petach

Nedarim (9:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 10 years ago

With the start of ninth perek with begin to discuss hatarat nedarim – the undoing of the neder. After the person presents his neder to a chacham, a petach (opening), a regrettable and foreseeable consequence of the neder, must be identified to enable the hatara. The first Mishnah discusses whether one can use his parent’s honour as a petach. In other words, the chacham asks the person whether he had considered whether people would comment to his parents how flippant he is with nedarim. R’ Eliezer rules that this is an acceptable technique whereas the Chachamim reject it.

The Gemara(Nearim 64a) brings two opinions explaining the position of the Chachamim. Abaye explains that allowing this petach would mean that nedarim would not be properly annulled. It is possible that a person would not have really regretted making the neder based on his parents honour, yet be too embarrassed to admit it. Rava on the other hand explains that the ease of this technique might lead people to err and believe that they can annul their own neder and will not seek a chacham to annul their nedarim.

The Tosfot Yom Tov notes that the Bartenura cites the opinion of Abaye as apposed to Rava’s. This is noteworthy as in general when there is a debate between in Rava and Abaye, we rule according to the opinion of Rava. The Tosfot Yom Tov answers that this principle only applies to halachic rulings. The debate here however, is about the reason behind the Chachamim’s position and Abaye reason makes more sense. (This is also the Beit Yosef’s answer for why the Tur quoted the opinion of Abaye).

The Chatam Sofer however presents two implication of the debate between Abaye and Rava. The first is that if the one nonetheless performed hatarat nedarim based on this petach. According to Rava it work as it was carried out by a chacham. According to Abaye however there would still be questions regarding the person’s sincerity. The second difference is that if the person went to the chacham and opened saying that he came due to the impact on his parent honour, without being prompted, perhaps we could be lenient and allow the hatara to go ahead.

We find therefore that the debate is not simply about rationalising the opinion of the Chachamim and there are legal implications. Why then to the commentators cite the opinion of Abaye and not Rava?

The Chatam Sofer suggests the following answer. There are two versions of our Mishnah. According to the Ran the flow is as follows. After the positions of R’ Eliezer and the Chachamim are stated, the Mishnah continues with R’ Tzadok arguing that according to R’ Eliezer one could use Hashem’s honour as a petach. The Mishnah then continues that the Chachamim respond that if that were the case then there would be “no nedarim” (the meaning of which debated by Abaye and Rava). In other words even R’ Eliezer would not agree that Hashem’s honour could be used as a petach.

The second version of the Mishnah is the one we have. The Chachamim are not responding to R’ Tzadok but the statement “if so there will be no nedarim” is a continuation of R’ Tzadok’s argument. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that it is this version that the Rambam commented on. According to this reading, the Rambamexplains that R’ Tzadok argues that if parent’s honour*can be used, then we would never need a Chacham for hatarat nedarim. The Chachamim’s opinion however is that even if parent’s honour is used, hatara* would still be required.

To explain further, both Abaye and Rava agree that the reason the Chachamim reject the use of parent’s honour is because we are concerned that the person will not be truly be honest when admitting his regret. They are arguing only about the position of R’ Tzadok. Consequently since the halacha follows the opinion of the Chachamim, when the mefarshim explain their position as being concerned for insincere regret, they are not chosing Abaye’s opinion of Rava as everyone agrees that this is the Chachamim’s rationale.


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