Nedarim and Kibbud Av

By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
Posted on 10/11/21

In Bereishis 12:1 the posuk tells us that Hashem commanded Avraham to leave his land, 

his birthplace, and the house of his father and go to a land that will be shown to him by Hashem. The Panim Yafos in the end of Parshas Noach asks; why did Hashem tell him go to the land I will show you, and did not tell him to go to Eretz Canaan? The Panim Yafos answers that if we analyze it, Avraham should have stayed home to do kibbud av; nevertheless, he left his father Terach for two reasons. The first reason was because Avraham had made a neder to go to Eretz Canaan. A neder is mevatel a mitzvah. The second reason is that even though Terach did teshuva, as we find in Rashi 15:15, nevertheless, Terach still served Avoda Zora beshituf with Hashem; believing that Hashem designated the Avoda Zora to rule. This therefore takes away the mitzvah of kibbud av. This explains why Hashem did not tell him where he is going; to show us that the reason he can go is not because he made a neder, but rather he is patur from kibbud av. We see from this Panim Yafos that the fact that Avraham started traveling to Eretz Yisroel constituted a neder as we learn from nidrei tzedakah that the machshava of a person can be mechayev the person with a neder. The following question then arises; the mitzva of kibbud av was already in effect even before he made the neder, so how could the neder even begin to take effect and undo the existing mitzva of kibbud av? The question can be extended in this way. Even in a case when he made the neder he had no mitzva of kibbud av, and only after the neder was made did the mitzva come about, this would not constitute a neder for a mitzva as now he has a chiyuv of kibbud av, so his neder is not a neder for a dvar mitzva. A case in point would be if a person is expecting a choshuva visitor so he makes a neder he will put on Shabbos clothing and then he finds out that the person is not coming. Provided it was not a mistake, but rather a change of plans, does he have to put on Shabbos clothing as he promised, or since the choshuve person is not coming and there is no mitzva of kibbud Talmid Chochom so he does not need to put on Shabbos clothing? This will be dependent on whether we decide based on the time when one makes a neder to do a mitzvah. Since it was a mitzva at that time, perhaps he is chayev, even though circumstances changed afterward. Do we base it on the time he fulfills the vow, and at that point it is no longer a mitzva?

There are several differences to analyze here. The first one is if someone made a neder to eat bread leshem mitzva i.e., for a Shabbos meal and then he finds out the bread was never ma’asered, thereby causing the bread to be forbidden to be eaten. Does he need to get his vow annulled, as the Shach 215:20 says that if one swears to be oveir an issur DeRabbanan he must get the shvuah annulled? Based on the first tzad that discusses the time the neder was made, then one would need to annul it; whereas if you go by the time of being mekayem the neder, at that point it is no longer a mitzvah, since it is assur. One would then not need to annul the neder. Another difference is based on the Ohr Zarua Hilchos Tzedaka 7 that discusses a scenario if one promised tzedakah to a particular person who is poor and in the interim the person became rich, the Ohr Zarua says that the person would be exempt from giving the money. The reason for this is that it is considered a neder beta’us (mistake.) But in the event where he would have given him the money in any case, then he would be required to give it to him, even though when you are giving him the money there is no mitzva. We see that since the neder was made and at the time of making it, it was a mitzvah, therefore you are chayev. Another difference would be based on the Arugos Habosem in Orach Chaim 19 discussing if someone was noheig to go to the mikva three times for tevillas Ezra, it is considered making a neder lidvar mitzva and he would need to continue this minhag. In the event his father tells him not to do it anymore, he would have to listen to his father and have the neder annulled. We see that despite the father telling him not to do it, it is still considered a d’var mitzva. If we go based on the first way that while he made the neder it was a mitzva it stays a mitzva, even if later he does not have a mitzva, it is still considered a neder. If we look at it at the time of the kiyum, at that point it does not have the status of a mitzva anymore.

There is no concrete answer here and I welcome any answers

                May we all be zocheh to be mekayem kibbud av veaim with all the hiddurim!