In Judges chapter 11 Yiftach vows to dedicate whatever first comes out of the doors of his home to God (perhaps to be sacrificed as an offering) should he be victorious in battle.

After his victory he comes home and it is his daughter who come out. He tells her what he must do and instead of refusing to be subservient to his vow she says (36):

וַתֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אָבִי פָּצִיתָה אֶת־פִּיךָ אֶל־ה' עֲשֵׂה לִי כַּאֲשֶׁר יָצָא מִפִּיךָ אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ ה' נְקָמוֹת מֵאֹיְבֶיךָ מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃

“Father,” she said, “you have uttered a vow to the LORD; do to me as you have vowed, seeing that the LORD has vindicated you against your enemies, the Ammonites.”

According to the gemarah (Taanit 4a) Yiftach offered her as a sacrifice. Yet I would assume his daughter would be obligated under the command of וְחי בהם to do whatever is in her power not to be killed. But even according to the opinions (Radak, Ralbag etc.) who assume she was dedicated to God in a manner similar to Shmuel HaNavi, I don't see why the daughter would have to comply. Perhaps it is possible that she wanted to comply even without any true obligation to do so, but I have not seen any commentators who make this claim.

Therefore my question is did Yiftach's daughter have to comply with his vow and if not, why did she?


2 Answers 2


Midrash Bereshis Rabba 60,3 says clearly that Yiftach's daughter did not need to comply as Yiftach's neder was not valid to bring his daughter as a sacrifice and therefore according to Reish Lakish Yiftach also was scot-free, and according to Rabbi Yochanan even though she wasn't a Korban at all and was free, He was obligated to bring her value in money just like any Arachin pledge someone makes on anyone else, he brings the value to the Beis Hamikdash:

שופטים יא, לד): וַיָּבֹא יִפְתָּח וגו' וְהִנֵּה בִתּוֹ יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ, רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן וְרֵישׁ לָקִישׁ, רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר הֶקְדֵּשׁ דָּמִים הָיָה חַיָּב, וְרֵישׁ לָקִישׁ אָמַר אֲפִלּוּ הֶקְדֵּשׁ דָּמִים לֹא הָיָה חַיָּב, דִּתְנַן אָמַר עַל בְּהֵמָה טְמֵאָה וְעַל בַּעֲלַת מוּם הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ עוֹלָה, לֹא אָמַר כְּלוּם, אָמַר הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ לְעוֹלָה, יִמָּכְרוּ וְיָבִיא בִּדְמֵיהֶם עוֹלָה. וְלֹא הָיָה שָׁם פִּינְחָס שֶׁיַּתִּיר לוֹ אֶת נִדְרוֹ

The reason why Yiftach's daughter was secluded for the rest of her life is because Yiftach didn't know the Halacha, and Pinchas (who knew the Halacha) didn't tell him that he was not obligated to keep his daughter secluded (rather just pay her value like Rabbi Yochanan or get away scot-free like Reish Lakish) as the Radak explains:

ולא היה שם פנחס שיתיר לו נדרו כלומר שיאמר לו כי בדמים היה פטור


She did not have to comply and he had no right to kill her or to ruin her life in any way. And he should have thought about that possibility beforehand and not made such a promise.

There are very clear limits as to how far one has to go to fulfil a parent's wish. In fact, Jewish law does not even obligate a person to spend any money for helping his/her parents, never mind ruining their lives for them.

And a parent has no right to demand that.

Doing so is abuse.

  • 1
    Abuse? Did he compel her to listen? Are parents only allowed to ask for things that the laws of Kibbud require the children to give?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 11:36

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