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Chapter 67:4-6
The Laws Governing Vows and Oaths

4. Should a person desire to establish a fixed period for the study of Torah or desire to perform a particular mitzvoh, and fear that he will alter fail to do so out of laziness; alternatively, should he fear that the evil inclination will tempt him to transgress a prohibition or prevent him from doing a mitzvoh, he is permitted to spur his determination by making a vow or oath. [Nedorim 8a] quotes Rav as saying:

What is the source which teaches that one may make an oath to fulfill a mitzvoh to spur his determination, even though he is bound by the oath made at Mount Sinai? [Psalms 119:106 states]: "I have sworn and I will fulfill [my oath] to observe your righteous commandments."

Even if one did not make such a statement in the form of an oath or vow, but merely made a promise, it is considered to be a vow and he is obligated to carry it out. Therefore, whenever a person makes a commitment to fulfill a mitzvoh, he should always say "Bli neder" (without obligating myself through a vow). It is proper for a person to train himself to add that phrase even when promising to do matters of a secular nature, so that, Heaven forbid, he will not err and transgress the prohibitions concerning vows.

5. A person who makes vows in order to rectify his character traits is considered meticulous and praiseworthy; e.g., a glutton who took an oath not to eat meat for a specific period, a drunkard who forbade for himself the drinking of wine or other alcoholic beverages, a vain person - preoccupied with his appearance - who vowed to be a Nazirite. Vows of this nature are aspects of the service of G-d, blessed be His name, and concerning such oaths, [Ovos 3:13] teaches: " Vows are a curb for abstinence." Nevertheless, a person should not become accustomed to making even such vows. Rather, he should attempt to control his desires without vows.

6. A vow does not take effect unless one's statements reflect the intentions of one's heart. However, if one erred when making a vow and intended to make a different statement from what he actually said - or thought about making a vow, but did not make a statement to that effect - it is not considered a vow.

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2000 ProjectGenesis, Inc.

 

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