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28.07.2014 10:13    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah shabbat parachah matot  

Bli Neder (No Vow Intended)

Our sages differ in the way their relate to “nedarim”, vows, as far as whether it is good to make a vow and then to carry it out, or better not to make vows at all. Sifri on Deuteronomy 23:23 comments:
“‘If you refrain completely from making vows’: Rabbi Meir says: Better not to vow than to vow and not pay (Ecclesiastes 5:4). Better than either is not to vow at all.’
“Rabbi Yehuda says, ‘Better than either is to vow and to pay.’”
Malbim elucidates that according to both Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda, it is ideally better not to involve oneself in a vow lest one not pay it. “And there is no argument between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda except where one made a vow and fulfilled it. According to Rabbi Yehuda, the person’s having made the vow was good. According to Rabbi Meir, even if he fulfilled it without delay it would have been better had he not made the vow and not put himself at risk.”
We learn our caution regarding vows from Deuteronomy 23:23: “If you refrain completely from making vows, then you will not sin.” This verse teaches that “even when someone is facing troubles or has benefited from a miracle, such that it is a mitzvah for him in that situation to make a charitable vow, it is still better for him not to make a vow but to make an immediate donation, that is, to set aside the money he wants to give and to give it.” One shouldn’t put himself at the risk of failing to fulfill a vow.
The same ruling is brought down as law in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 203), and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 67 elaborated still more:
“Don’t make vows a habit… Even for charity, it is not good to make vows. Rather, if someone has money in his possession that he want to contribute, he should give it immediately, and if he doesn’t, he should wait until he has it and he should give it without a vow.”
“And if charity is being collected (for example, in one’s synagogue), and he has to vow together with the others, he should state explicitly that he doing so “beli neder”, without a vow.”
Yet our sages said that it is good to vow “nidrei ziruzin” [vows of self-prodding]. In other words, if someone wants to establish some regular time for Torah learning or to do any particular mitzvah, but he fears lest he will neglect to fulfill it, or he fears that his evil impulse will incite him to commit some sin or to refrain from some mitzvah, then “he is allowed to prod himself by way of a vow or an oath. We learn this from Rav’s words in the Talmud, who said, ‘How do we know that we are allowed to make an oath to fulfill a mitzvah… even though we are already sworn to fulfill it from Mount Sinai? It says, ‘I have sworn, and confirmed, that I shall observe Your righteous ordinances’ (Psalm 119:106). All the same, one should be cautious when he states that he is going to perform some mitzvah, that he should say ‘beli neder’” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, ibid.).
Likewise, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch ruled that “if someone makes vows in order to improve his character, that counts as praiseworthy alacrity. For example, if someone used to overeat, and he vowed not to eat meat for some length of time, or if he loved to drink wine, and he forbade himself wine… such vows constitute divine worship, and regarding these our sages said, ‘Vows are a protection against sin.’ All the same, one shouldn’t even accustom oneself to vows such as these. Rather, he should overcome his passions even without these vows.’” (ibid., se’if 5).

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