Chazal differentiate between a court’s hatarah, annulment, of a vow and a husband or father’s hafarah, revocation, of a vow. Hatarah is made with reason, based upon the premise that the vow was made either in error or in ignorance. For example, had the individual making the vow been aware of certain circumstances, he would never have made it. Therefore, the annulment is retroactive, indicating that it was all in error. Hafarah, on the other hand, is not retroactive. It is a power given to the husband or father to revoke the vow for the future – without reason, simply because he wanted to do so.
The Chafetz Chaim, z.l., applies the concept of hafarah and hatarah in regard to the attitude of those who have become alienated from the Torah way of life. At one time, those who denied the Torah way of life would conjure up reasons and philosophical logic to justify their opposition to Torah and mitzvos. They manifested some degree of embarrassment, and they did not want to totally rebel against Hashem. They sought an “amicable” break from Orthodoxy. It was a form of hatarah, annulment. They sought a reason to validate their iniquity.
“Today”, he asserted some 80 years ago, “they no longer care what people might think. They no longer give excuses, reasons, or philosophies. They are filled with lust and seek to satisfy their passions. They have no sensitivity whatsoever to a Jewish lifestyle. They abolish the Torah with a hafarah. They revoke its laws and undermine its moral and ethical standards. David Ha’melech says in Tehillim 119:126, Eis laasos l’Hashem heifeiru Torasecha, ‘For it is a time to act for Hashem, they have voided Your Torah.’
“This means that when we see that the level of iniquity has descended to such a nadir that it is, heifeiru Torasecha, they have revoked Your Torah, not even caring enough to give a reason, then something must be done. When Torah is simply abandoned with disdain and derision, it is time to take action. This type of iniquity must be decried and battled. It is at a time like this that everyone must fight the battle for the preservation of Torah.”