Friday, August 1, 2014

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Deuteronomy 23:22-24, Numbers 30:2-17

Your assignment was to remember Exodus 22:10, and read Deuteronomy 23:22-24 and Numbers 30:2-17.
I have been talking about juridical oaths, oaths taken to make a court trust that you are telling the truth when you give evidence in a case.
Deuteronomy talks about performance oaths.
When you vow a vow to the Lord your Gd, you shall not delay to pay it for the Lord your Gd will definitely require it of you and it would be a sin in you.
If you hold back from vowing there is no sin.
What you put out of your mouth you shall take care to do as you vow to the Lord your Gd the freewill that you spoke with your mouth.
Later I’ll discuss that word “pay.”  For now, these verses allow people to bind themselves to do something.  This verse recommends not taking such oaths, but it allows them.  What’s more, Numbers 30:3 allows people to bind themselves not to do something:
When a man makes a neder to the Lord or swears an oath to prohibit something to himself, he shall not delay his word, he shall do according to everything he says.
So you can swear that you won’t drink alcohol any more.
Now, people swear to stupid things sometimes.  What do you do then?  Mishnah answers this.  It’s not in Torah.  First, the person who realizes the oath is stupid goes to the court.  They examine whether he would have taken the oath if he knew that he would get into the fix he’s in.  And they can release him from the oath.
They can also punish him for taking the oath in the first place.  I’ll discuss that later because it feeds into a larger subject.
For now, I want you to understand that Jewish law cannot prohibit all oaths.  It cannot even just prohibit performance oaths.  Not all performance oaths are stupid and some have good effects, like swearing off tobacco.  (Won’t get into that rant.)
For next week, I want you to concentrate on Numbers 30:3-16.  I know the first time you read it, you will be confused.  But it helps round out a discussion from a much earlier lesson about a naarah and “exceptions.”
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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