Nedarim (Talmud)

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Nedarim is a tractate (Hebrew: מסכתmasechet) of the order of Nashim of the Mishnah and the Talmud. In judaism, a neder (in Hebrew: נדר‬) is a statement, made using the name of God, of the acceptance of a promise made by oneself, stating that the promise must be fulfilled with the same importance as a Halakha law.[1]The neder may consist of performing some act in the future (either once or regularly) or abstaining from a particular type of activity of the person's choice. The concept of the neder and the jewish law related to it, is described at the beginning of the parashah of Matot.[2]

Introduction[edit]

The word neder is often translated into english and other languages as a vow, but this is inaccurate: a néder is neither a vow nor an oath (known in hebrew as "shevuá"). The simple recitation of a vow is not considered an oath. There is not a single word in English to describe a néder.[3]The word "néder" is mentioned 33 times in the Pentateuch, 19 of which appear in the Book of Numbers.[4]

The judaism considers the power of the word to be very strong.[5]It is speech that distinguishes humans from animals, and it has the power to accomplish much for better or for worse. Because of the strength of a néder, and the fact that one must be absolutely fulfilled if it is done, many pious Jews engage in the practice of saying: bli néder, after a statement that they will do something, which means that their statement is not a binding néder in the event that they cannot keep their promise due to unforeseen circumstances.[6]The most common way to do a néder is through verbal pronunciation. But according to some opinions, the performance of an act on three consecutive occasions is like a neder.[7]

Reasons to make a neder[edit]

The Jewish people have traditionally made nedarim for a variety of reasons (some of which are quoted below for illustration).

Personal faith[edit]

Some Nedarim are made by closeness to God and personal dedication. The neder is a way of committing oneself to the Torah and to mitzvot and the practice of religion.[8]For example, it is common for a tzadik who is at a very high level of Torah practice to set new standards in his life.

Gratitude[edit]

Nedarim are sometimes made out of gratitude to God for having been the beneficiary of some form of goodness from God's hand, such as a miracle. For example, someone whose life has been saved from the near death could make a new neder as a commitment to God.

Personal improvement[edit]

One who wants to improve himself can make a néder in order to change his behavior for the better.[9]

In times of need[edit]

Some Jews in times of desperation have made nedarim in the hope that God will answer their prayers in exchange for making a commitment. Essentially, they are bargaining with God to meet their needs.[10]For example, a woman who cannot have children can make a néder to give a certain amount of charity if she is blessed with children.

Canceling a neder[edit]

Generally, a néder is so strong that it cannot be broken, and doing so constitutes a bird (sin). For this reason, it is better not to make a neder than to make a neder and not to keep it.[11]But there are times when Halachah allows a neder to break. A néder can be annulled by a Beth Din (a rabbinical tribunal of the jewish law, formed of at least three adult men), or by a Talmid jajam (a Torah scholar). Either of you should ask the individual who originally made the néder why he or she now wants his or her néder annulled.

A néder made by a woman[edit]

According to the Torah, a néder pronounced by a married woman, or by a woman still living in her father's house, may be annulled by her husband or father, respectively, if they so desire, but only on the day they hear the vow.[12]Otherwise, the néder cannot be broken. The néder of a widow or divorcee is also binding once pronounced. The fact that a woman's néder can be so easily invalidated by a man has been criticized by some contemporary feminists, although others see it as a goodness in Judaism toward women. According to the latter view, in marriage, it is a means of keeping marital partners in harmony by requiring women to discuss a neder with their husband before assuming it.[13]

Feast days[edit]

Traditionally, around the main festivities, all the nedarim are annulled in order to free all people from responsibility in case they are not fulfilled. First they are annulled on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and then by the recitation of the Kol Nidre, at the beginning of Yom Kippur.[14]The common practice is for groups of people, such as family members or a Minyan, to request the annulment together. But whoever cannot do this can trust in the Kol Nidre of the community, which is recited in the name of all jews.[15]

The nedarim that are annulled must be those that one does not remember having done. If one remembers that he has made a neder, he should recite it to at least three adult men who are familiar with the laws of neder.[16]During the holidays, the following types of nedarim can be cancelled:[17]

  • The fulfillment of a voluntary commandment (mitzvah).
  • A practice that goes beyond the commandments of the Torah.
  • A practice that has already been done on 3 consecutive occasions.
  • A néder made to give charity (tzedakah).

The nazirite neder[edit]

A common type of neder is that of the nazirites. A neder can be made by a nazirite, for a period of time or sometimes for life, for any of the reasons described above. The nazarite must refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages or grapevine products, cutting his hair or exposing himself to corpses, including his closest relatives.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 ... edited by Elyse Goldstein, page 316
  2. ^ www.come-and-hear.com/
  3. ^ The Living Torah By Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Parshat Matot
  4. ^ Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined ... By Eugene E. Carpenter, Philip Wesley Comfort, page 200
  5. ^ Treasure from Sinai By Nachman Zakon, page 182
  6. ^ The Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 ... edited by Elyse Goldstein, page 317
  7. ^ Guidelines: three hundred of the most commonly asked questions about the Yomim Noraim By Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger, page 23
  8. ^ Vows in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East By Tony W. Cartledge, pages 27-28
  9. ^ Treasure from Sinai By Nachman Zakon, page 183
  10. ^ Vows in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East By Tony W. Cartledge, pages 25-26
  11. ^ Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined ... By Eugene E. Carpenter, Philip Wesley Comfort, page 200
  12. ^ Numbers 30:4-6
  13. ^ The Women's Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 ... edited by Elyse Goldstein, page 318-20
  14. ^ Guidelines: three hundred of the most commonly asked questions about the Yamim Noraim By Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger, page 21
  15. ^ Guidelines: three hundred of the most commonly asked questions about the Yomim Noraim By Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger, page 22
  16. ^ Guidelines: three hundred of the most commonly asked questions about the Yomim Noraim By Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger, page 24
  17. ^ Guidelines: three hundred of the most commonly asked questions about the Yomim Noraim By Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger, page 23
  18. ^ Vows in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East By Tony W. Cartledge, pages 18-23