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Shabbat Commentary

2/3 July: Mattot-Massei : Shabbat comes in 8:33 pm,  ends  9:41 pm

The first seventeen verses at the beginning of Parashat Mattot describe vows that a person freely assumes by their own declaration.   But the Shulchan Aruch – the code of Jewish law – rules: “Do not become accustomed to making vows. Anyone who makes a vow, even if he fulfils it, is deemed a sinner” [YD 203:1]

The Hebrew word for a vow – “neder” – reflects a certain relationship to reality that was described by the Sefat Emet (R. Judah Aryeh Leib of Gur): “Neder [vow] derives from the root dira [residence].” In other words, a person who makes a vow attempts to create a different reality, in which he can dwell alone, as an island unto himself. The word of God created our reality, our world, and our relationship to one another, and it is that language that makes us full partners to creation every day. In making a vow, a person uses words in an attempt to separate himself, and to isolate himself from our heritage by the creation of a personal reality, a private space.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman



August 1, 2019