Thursday, July 24, 2008

Occasional Vort VI

by Netanel Livni

Chazal have a somewhat negative attitude towards personal vows. Famous are their words (Nedarim 22a, 60b, Gittin 46b, Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:1): “Anyone who takes a vow – it is as if he built a bama (a private altar), Anyone who fulfills his vow – it is as if he brought a sacrifice upon it.” This imagery needs further explanation.

Click here to read moreThe Maharal explains that the bama is chosen because it is an example of someone striving to serve Hashem in their own private manner. Hashem chose a central place for the Jewish people to serve Him. The person who builds a bama, however, decides that he has his own personal way to serve Hashem. He feels that he needs to express his own personal feelings in a way that is completely independent of the service of the community.

Someone who takes an oath is doing a very similar act. The Torah says something is allowed to the Jewish people, yet this person says that while the object of his oath is indeed allowed to everyone else, for him it is prohibited. It is a service that is detached from the service of the community. He is, in a way, making his own private Torah.

They key is not to express one’s subjective spirituality in a manner that separates us from the community around us – that is not what Hashem desires. We must strive to express our subjective spirituality in a manner that contributes to the strengthening of our community and helps the Jewish people as a whole meet the demands of our shared mission.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More