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Can’t Keep His Promise


A man promised to offer financial support to his son-in-law so that he could study Torah for five years after marriage. Unfortunately the father’s financial situation deteriorated and he can no longer afford to support even his own family. Can the father renege on his promise or do we say that since the son is poor he has obliged himself with a neder to Tzedakah from which he cannot retract?


When one promises to give something to a poor person n it has the status of a neder – a vow. One may go in front of three people and be sho’el on the neder. Under normal circumstances, the Radvaz (Vol 4, responsum 134) rules that one should not aid a person who wishes to release himself from a vow to a poor person. However, when the donor can no longer afford his obligation, many poskim permit others to release him from his vow by means of shailoh. The Aruch Hashulchan (258:23) states a general principle that the ruling of the Radvaz only applies if the reason that the donor wishes to be released from his vow is due to his stinginess, but if there are pressing circumstances there is nothing wrong in aiding him to be released from his vow.

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