If someone verbalizes to himself something like "I promise not to drink Coke for a year" and his intention is to create a prohibition for himself, what does the halacha have to say about this case?

Is it prohibited for him to now drink Coke for a year? Why?


4 Answers 4


According to the expalanation in this article, yes, he does have to refrain unless annuled based on the notion that he made the vow unwittingly.

  • 1
    For what it's worth, that article was written by a leader of the Conservative movement.
    – Gavriel
    Aug 22, 2014 at 5:37
  • OK - What's your point, here? B/c he's Conservative his opinion on this topic is worth less, or worthless?
    – DanF
    Aug 22, 2014 at 12:23
  • I specifically started the sentence with "For what it's worth" so that I wouldn't get asked that question, but since you have... It seems to me that most people who are answering questions on this site are Orthodox so the safe assumption would be that answers are GENERALLY coming from the orthodox "camp". Since it's not readily apparent from your answer or the article that the information is not from the orthodox "camp" I wanted to point that out.
    – Gavriel
    Aug 23, 2014 at 19:06
  • And to address your question specifically: according to the normal understanding of the Rambam (by Orthodox Jews) many conservative leaders are considered kofrim or apikorsim. And since Torah necessarily requires Yiras Shamayim and a whole bunch of other middos in order to learn/interpret it properly (it's not an academic task) I assumed that for many people (Orthodox Jews) the fact that the author of this article is a conservative leader is extremely important.
    – Gavriel
    Aug 23, 2014 at 19:09
  • @Gavriel - got the concept as well as the follow-up bout Rambam (wouldn't mind a source, exp. since Rambam lived long before Conservatism!) While I am Orthodox, I wouldn't automatically dismiss any Jews opinion solely based on their group affiliation or preference, esp. if that opinion is based on qualified source and research.
    – DanF
    Aug 25, 2014 at 14:44

The first mishna in Nedarim states that כנויים "equivalent terms" for neder, charamos, or shevua are treated as if they are actually a neder, cherem, or shevuah. This would imply that "I promise" would be treated like the alternative terms given in Aramaic.The Art Scroll gemoro notes on the first mishnah point out that a neder is a Chovat Cheftzah (apply to the object), while a shevuah is a Chovat Gavrah (apply to the person).

However, as applied to the meaning. the words "I promise" would seem to be the modern equivalent of saying "I am making a neder" while "I promise Hashem" (or some other reference to Hashem) is like "I swear" and is meant to be a shevuah.

  • Does "I am making a neder" have any Halachic standing as a Neder? What's the object? What's the sacrificial referent? It sounds like a Shevuah to me.
    – Double AA
    Aug 4, 2015 at 17:38

Shulchan Aruch Yore Dea 210 states: "A neder does not "take" until it is verbalized aloud, and the words said have to match the intention." The same rule applies by shevuot (oaths). Therefore, the person who only thought of a prohibition has not created a neder and the Coke is not prohibited to him.

  • Ok, but the question states that the person verbalized it, not that he only thought of it.
    – Daniel
    Sep 21, 2015 at 19:40
  • @Daniel Verbalize is not oralize.
    – Double AA
    Sep 21, 2015 at 20:16
  • @DoubleAA, but the question title says "saying".
    – msh210
    Sep 21, 2015 at 21:23

I made a promise in a business transaction, when i asked a halachic question of Rav Asher Weiss's Beit Din in Ramot about whether i needed to honor my promise or not, upon answering a few questions i was told that i do not have to. The basic situation was that since the other party was changing the terms of the agreement upon which the promise was made (derech Lavan) so my word was no longer binding. Although this does indicate that ones word has strong legal ability but each case may have different circumstances.

  • 2
    I like your "Derech Lavan" allusion.
    – DanF
    Aug 25, 2014 at 20:52
  • 5
    It appears that the bais din was matir the neder because the person changed the circumstances. That would not answer the question as written. Aug 4, 2015 at 16:56

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