2,745. Making a Vow Based on a Pun
Hilchos Nedarim 2:12
Let’s say that someone made a vow based on cheirem, after which he said that he meant a “sea cheirem,” referring to a fisherman’s net, or he made a vow based on an offering, but he later said that he meant an offering to the king, or he said to a fried, “Myself (atzmi) is like a sacrifice to you,” and he later explained that he only intended to prohibit to his friend a bone that he had put aside (“atzmi” can also mean “my bone”) so that he could make such a vow as a prank, or he made a vow prohibiting his wife to benefit from him and he later explained that he meant his first, ex-wife. In these and all similar cases in which the referent of the vow sounds like a prohibition but the one who vowed says he meant something else, if the one who made the vow was a Torah scholar, the thing remains permitted and he need not have the vow absolved; if he is an unlearned person, we make it look to him like it’s an effective vow and the thing is prohibited, giving him the opportunity to have it absolved. In either case, we reprimand them and teach them not to act frivolously and take vows as a joke.
Hilchos Nedarim 2:13
Similarly, if someone tells his wife that she’s to him like his mother, or if he says that produce is like pork to him, the vow is ineffective, as was previously discussed. If the one who made the vow was a Torah scholar, the thing is permitted and he need not seek to have the vow absolved; if he’s an unlearned person, he must consult an authority to have his vow released. We make it seem that his wife or the produce is prohibited to him, but we provide him with an opportunity to have the vow absolved. This is so that people will learn not to treat vows frivolously.