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    Ramban: Why
    was Parshas Nedarim
    given over specifically
    to “Roshei haMatos?”
    Our parsha begins
    with Moshe Rabbenu
    telling the Jewish people the laws of Nedarim.
    The beginning of the parsha is unique in that
    it begins with the words “Speak to the heads
    of the tribes saying…”. Most of the Torah
    was either said directly to the children of
    Israel (Daber el bnei Yisroel) or it was said to
    the Kohanim (Emor el haKohanim). We do
    not have any other portion that was given
    over specifically to the heads of the nation
    (Roshei haMatos).
    The early commentaries themselves were
    bothered by this question. Ramban in
    his Chumash commentary suggests
    that Parshas Nedarim is something that
    should not be said over to the masses. The
    concept of taking oaths and vows is very
    stringent; and when people will hear that you
    can be “matir” a neder or a father or husband
    can be “mefir” a neder, they will come to take
    these matters lightly. Consequently,
    according to Ramban, these laws were given

    only to the Roshei HaMatos, the leaders of
    the nation, who could be trusted to deal with
    these concepts with the level of sophistication
    and reverence that they deserve.
    Alternate Opinion of the Chasam Sofer
    on the same question:
    The Chasam Sofer, however, offers a
    different answer to this question. He suggests
    that the leaders of the nation had a special
    need to be aware of these laws. He quotes the
    story of the Shofet Yiftach who in haste made
    a vow to offer as a Korban to G-d the first
    thing that came to greet him when he returned
    victoriously from battle. The first thing that
    came to greet him was his daughter.
    The Medrash in Bereishis Rabba asks, Why
    didn’t Yiftach go to Pinchas and have his vow
    “permitted” through the vehicle of “Hataras
    Nedarim”? The Medrash answers that
    Pinchas was waiting for Yiftach to come to
    him (he being the “Gadol haDor”) and
    Yiftach was waiting for Pinchas to come to
    him (he being the chief political and military
    officer in the country). While each was trying
    to protect the honor of their own position, the
    life of the daughter was lost.

    The Medrash says that both Yiftach and
    Pinchas were punished for this: Yiftach lost
    his life in a terrible disease where limbs
    started falling off one by one (as it says “he
    was buried in the cities (plural) of Gilead”)
    and Pinchas lost his ability to receive Ruach
    HaKodesh. The Chasam Sofer says this is
    perhaps why the Torah was particularly
    concerned that the leaders be extremely
    careful and well-versed in the laws of
    Two observations are to be made on this
    1. We cannot project our own petty midos
    on people of the stature of Pinchas and
    Yiftach. Although the Medrash does
    say that in this situation they were
    punished for their actions, we must
    never confuse our own petty
    shortcomings with those of people who
    were Gedolei Olam.
    2. Many times we see people do things
    because their Kavod was slighted.
    They do these things even though
    doing so is clearly to the detriment of
    both them and their own families. It is
    not unheard of for a person to sacrifice

    his own welfare or the welfare of his
    children on the altar of his ego. When a
    person’s Kavod is affected, he can
    literally let his own children die.
    We as human beings have a passion for
    kavod. The older we get the more we have a
    tendency to be particular about our honor. A
    person needs an independent opinion to turn
    to — be it his Rebbi, his Rav, his Rosh
    Yeshiva, or his good friend — who can open
    his eyes to his own blindness regarding
    matters of Kavod. Only an independent
    opinion can help prevent a person from
    leading himself to self-destructive action or