Vows and Oaths

Jul 7, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־רָאשֵׁי הַמַּטּוֹת לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר זֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה׃

Moshe spoke to the heads of the Israelite tribes, saying: This is what Hashem has commanded:

Numbers 30:2

אֵלֶּה הַחֻקִּים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה בֵּין אִישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹ בֵּין־אָב לְבִתּוֹ בִּנְעֻרֶיהָ בֵּית אָבִיהָ׃

Those are the laws that Hashem enjoined upon Moshe between a man and his wife, and as between a father and his daughter while in her father's household by reason of her youth.

Numbers 30:17

The Torah delineates the laws of vows in this passage. Any promise made in God’s name is legally binding, and one who violates such an oath, whether it is a commitment to do or refrain from something, is liable before God.


There is an exception, however. Should a woman make a vow, it can be undone by another. If she lives under her father’s roof, he can annul her vow on the day he hears of it. Likewise a husband. However, if her father or husband hears of her commitment and says nothing, she is responsible for whatever she swore. Should she neglect to observe her oath, she is considered guilty.


If her husband reacts after the moment he hears of his wife’s vow and, on the power of his word she violates her commitment, he is liable for her sin.


Finally, a widow or divorcee’s oath cannot be undone.


The Israel Bible points out how important one’s word is on the basis of this chapter. Just as God keeps His promises to us, we are expected to fulfil our promises. Today we can see proof of God fulfilling His promise to return His people to the Land of Israel. We hope to see the fulfillment of the rest of His promise of peace in the near future.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

This is one of many instances where the Torah seems to give precedence or power to men over women yet, just last week, we saw evidence, with the daughters of Zelophehad, that women are valued equally. Why, then, do you think a father or husband is given the authority to reverse a woman’s vows?

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