Today is January 18, 2018 -
A few years ago my next door neighbor sold her home to a group that converted it from a single family residence into a synagogue. Imagine, and I am using a Rabbinic example here, that you had an argument with that neighbor of mine some years ago and said in anger, “I swear, I am never going to set foot in your house again!” Then last week you received an invitation from your best friend. His son will celebrate becoming bar mitzvah in that building. Can you attend that service, or must you honor your words? The Torah portion this week says, “You must fulfill what has crossed your lips and perform what you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord, your God, having made the promise with your own mouth.” (Deuteronomy 23:23-24). The Rabbis in the Mishnah debate whether you can annual a vow based on circumstances that happen after you make it. One argument is that we must be careful with our words and consider how future events affect them. On the other hand we know that people often say things that they don’t really mean and after all who can predict the future? After a debate in the Mishnah several Rabbis disagree on whether we should nullify a vow based on account of something that happens after the vow is made. Some say yes and some say no. Some would allow you to attend your friend’s simchah and some would not. A larger question is whether we can be relied upon to keep our word,even if it is difficult or inconvenient or when we did not fully consider future events. Whether we keep our words, and use them with care, can define the type of person we are. I hope we can act with integrity at all times and fulfill the words we utter.