The Annulment of Vows - Shabbat 46
More problematic for us is a later discussion of the voluntary proscriptions that individuals may choose to apply to themselves. Of course, men are free to make such declarations, but rabbinic law, based on the rules set forth in the Torah in B’midbar [Numbers] 30, accepts that a father may cancel his daughter’s vows, or a husband his wife’s. And such vows by women can be annulled even on Shabbat, so how can a woman know what should be muktzeh for her since her husband could simply cancel her vow? On the other hand, if she expected him to cancel it, how can she be sure and thus handle the item? Thus the general rule of Raba as proclaimed by Rabbi Pinkhas: any woman who vows, on the opinion (i.e. consent) of her husband does she vow.
Needless to say, this is not the way of the world for contemporary liberal Jews. In the era this was written, property belonged to the husband or father and thus its final disposition depended on his consent; thus a “dependent’s” vow needed official approval. Today, I cannot and should not annul my wife’s vows, though if a child were to promise a telemarketer to buy 100 Flo-Bee systems I imagine parents would intervene to cancel that vow! So while we have redefined who may competently take a vow, adult supervision may still be required.
Rabbi Adam Chalom