Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Taking an Oath to Fulfill a Mitzvah

I wanted to give my granddaughter a treat and my daughter -- be very understanding of a grandparent's need to give treats to grandchildren -- agreed.  I told my granddaughter that before I gave her the treat, she needed to finish he meal.  "I'm full," she announced (very) shortly.  "If you are full, I guess you don't have room for the treat, then."  I wasn't born yesterday, and I have also been a grandchild (and a child, and a parent), so I knew her game.  "I have a hole for sweets," she replied.  Even my daughter agreed that she could have the treat after that answer.

The Torah provides us the opportunity to add on our own mitzvos -- both positive and negative.  A person, for example, can take a neder (vow) to give a certain amount of money to tzedaka.  That neder has the force of any other d'oraisa.  We can also take a shavu'ah (oath) either to do something -- "I will definitely eat a hard boiled egg tomorrow before noon.", or "I will eat no blueberry muffins on Tuesdays this year."  You cannot, however, take a shavu'ah to eat bacon.  (Not the fake bacon, but the real deal.)  You can forbid something to yourself that the Torah permits and you can require yourself to do something that the Torah does not forbid, but you cannot permit yourself something that the Torah forbids.  The logic is simple: you already took an oath at Har Sinai when the Torah was given to accept the restrictions that the Torah mandates.  You cannot now take another oath to reverse the original oath; all sales are final.

What you can do, however, is to take an oath to forbid something to yourself that the Torah already forbids.  Why in the world would you do that?  The Steipler explains that when we really want to do something, we tend find heterim; in my granddaughter's mashal, we all have a hole for sweet.  At that point, the issur d'oraisa magically becomes permissible.  Not that is is permissible, our shavu'ah kicks in, since you are certainly allowed to make an oath to forbid something to yourself that the Torah -- that is, the Torah with all your holes -- permits.  Neat, huh?  That also answers the question of why one would want to forbid something to himself that that Torah permits.  After all, doesn't the Torah forbid enough; do you really want to take on more?  No, you don't want to take on more, but you are adding a safety belt where you know you have a weakness.

The Yerushalmi says that you will be taken to task for every permitted pleasure to which you did not avail yourself.  As any parent (and all the more so, grandparent) can tell you, there is no greater pleasure than a child enjoying a treat you have provided.  Forbidding something to yourself that the Torah permits is tantamount to telling your Bubby-Who-Art-In-Heaven, "No thank you.  I don't want your fresh baked cookies."  Taking a shavu'ah to keep yourself from issurim, on the other hand, is saying, "I don't want to spoil my appetite for your delicious cookies, Bubby!"

Ah... that's nachas!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…

Thought for the Day: Hydroponically Grown Humans... I Feel Sick

I am quite openly not at all objective about abortion in particular and the treatment of human embryos and fetuses in general.  I am, after all, the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.  Not "thought about it, but couldn't go through with it"; not "made appointment, but then chickened out at the lost moment"; but, "tried a procedure, but was unsuccessful in attempt to abort".  Nonetheless, I try very hard to listen to the liberal arguments (which I also used to chant as part of the general liberal catechism), and am genuinely empathetic to the plight of women who find themselves in that difficult position.

What I heard on NPR this morning, however, has left me feeling physically ill.  You can read about it, if you like, but here's the bottom line:  Scientists in Cambridge have achieved a new record, they fertilized a human ova and then kept it alive in vitro (that is, in a test tube/petri dish in a laboratory) for 14 days.  The scientist involve…