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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Matos Maasei

The Sanctity of Your Word

We cannot pass over the passage of nedarim, optional vows, without reviewing some poignant lessons. It was on Yom Kippur night before kol nidreh many years ago that I found myself needing to prepare a speech to make an appeal. My father, the Rosh HaYeshiva, ztvk”l, told me to say the following. It is curious that we begin the prayers of the holiest day of the year, a day where we beg forgiveness for our sins and hope for a fresh chance going forward, with a public annulment of all types of vows. Why was kol nidreh chosen then to lead off the Yom Kippur davening? He explained that before we can do proper teshuvah for transgressing the Torah, we must first repent for not keeping the vows that we voluntarily placed upon ourselves. Not living up to our own declarations that we invented ourselves is in a way even more pitiful than not living up to Hashem’s mitzvos! The Torah can sometimes prove challenging for us, but to fall short of our own self-imposed regulations - this demonstrates an even greater lack of control over one’s base desires! Before we can come forward and ask for forgiveness, we must rid ourselves of this embarrassing reality. A second reason why the presence of our nedarim on Yom Kippur presents as such a terrible stain is because the very fact that one makes these vows demonstrates that one’s attitude is that the Torah’s restrictions are so easy to keep that we can add our own rules on top of them! Therefore, we recite kol nidreh to rid ourselves of these unfulfilled vows, for we foolishly took for granted that we could follow the Torah and its mitzvos, and now we see that we could not! And these two points are extremely important matters to contemplate. First, the words that come out of our mouths create a serious commitment and responsibility. There are some circumstances when nedarim and permitted, and according to some even encouraged, to better fight the battle with one’s specific yetzer hara. But even when one merely “commits” to do something, or in the calculations one makes regarding how he intends to spend his time in the pursuits of avodas Hashem, his word should be treated as binding. If you yourself say that you will, or you can, or you will not; you should follow through. And secondly, when one finds himself looking to take on new commitments or to add unnecessary chumros to his avodah, he should first take a sharp, clear look to see how he measures up to this potential commitment. Is he already fulfilling all the mitzvos properly, in accordance with halachah? Or is he a bit lax in one area, and a bit ignorant in another? Is it proper to add on to what Hashem asks of him before he has done as He says? There are a myriad of levels to many mitzvos of the Torah, and there is indeed a proper place for things like abstinence and fasting, but everything must be in its proper place. The message of kol nidreh is not only for Yom Kippur night, but should shape our approach to nedarim and commitments the entire year. A Gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

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