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Obedience is the most effective way to demonstrate our faith to the world. Through our obedience, the world witnesses the power and glory of HaShem. As a result of obedience the world sees a visible distinction between the followers of Yeshua and everyone else. In Mattot we can see that a vow is one form of obedience. The vow is distinguished from other forms of obedience by declaring intent. Unfortunately, the sanctity of the vow is not taught in many congregations. This is because doctrines framed only by an understanding of grace do not consider the sanctity of the vow. This is understandable since vows are closely associated with works and many individuals consider works and grace as incompatible. However, the apostles did not consider works and grace as incompatible. In fact, Paul believed that the purpose of salvation was to establish works. Ephesians 2:8-9 states “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Doctrines founded solely on Ephesians 2:8-9 do not consider Paul's whole argument. The second half of Paul's argument is in Ephesians 2:10 which states “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Rav Shaul knew that the purpose of salvation is to establish good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation. One of the most visible manifestations of this fruit is the vow. A vow is a promise we make to HaShem. Therefore, they should not be taken lightly.
Because vows are sanctified promises we make to HaShem, only a few circumstances nullify a vow. For example, vows made by women who are married or women in their fathers houses can be nullified. How to nullify a vow in these special circumstances is described in Bamidbar 30:3-12. Despite these special circumstances a vow is never completely nullified. In other words, the fulfillment of the vow is still required even though an individual is freed from the obligation of the vow. For example, the husband bears the iniquity of a vow he has nullified for his wife. Bamidbar 30:13-15 states “Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void. But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them. But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.” This is why Yeshua wanted His followers to understand the sanctity of the vow. Therefore, one of the most profound statements concerning the sanctity of a vow comes from Yeshua. Mathew 5:33-37 states, “you have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform unto the Lord your oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shall thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yes; No: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil”. Yeshua warns His followers that yes-or-no commitments are the only way to make a vow. Yeshua states It is better to not make a vow than it is to not fulfill a vow.
Keeping a vow was also important to Rav Shaul. Acts 18:18-21 states “Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” Fulfilling this vow is so important that Rav Shaul continues his trip to Jerusalem, despite the fact he is warned about what awaits him in Jerusalem. As we can see in Acts 21:10-14 “as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” Rav Shaul was willing to face death to keep his vow and go up to Jerusalem.
In a religious environment that focuses primarily on grace the importance of works is often forgotten. As a result, the sanctity of making and keeping vows is not a subject that is taught very extensively today. However, in Mattot we can see that there are very few circumstances that allow a vow to be nullified. In fact, even when a vow is nullified there is still a responsibility to fulfill the vow. Therefore, a husband who nullified his wife's vow was responsible for keeping the vow. In the Brit Hadashah we can also see the sanctified nature of the vow. In Mathew 5:33-37 Yeshua warns his followers to make only yes-or-no commitments concerning vows. In Acts Rav Shaul makes a commitment to fulfill his vow even though it will eventually cost him his life. As believers we need to consider the sanctified nature of a vow before we commit ourselves and our resources to fulfilling a vow.