Monday, June 15, 2015

The Talmud doesn't approve much of vows

LAST WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Why Taking Vows Is a Wicked Act. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud explores why oaths are not for the virtuous, except in the rarest of cases.
What kind of Jew makes vows to God? You might think that it would be an especially devout and God-fearing person; vows, after all, are promises to go above and beyond the already demanding laws of Judaism, to make a personal sacrifice in the name of God. For instance, one might vow to God not to eat certain food, or drink wine, or do business with a certain person. But the treatment of vows in Tractate Nedarim, the section of the Talmud devoted to the subject, leaves no doubt that the rabbis did not think vowing made you a better Jew. On the contrary. In Nedarim 9b, Rabbi Meir quotes a line from Ecclesiastes, “Better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay,” and takes it a step further: “Better than both this and that is one who does not take a vow at all.”

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.