Parshas Matos.


The laws of vows and swearing.


1. One should avoid swearing and making vows whenever possible. Moreover, any promise to do a mitzva of any kind can be considered a vow, therefore the one promising something should say “Bli Neder” – “without vow”. Similarly if one is going to start doing a non-obligatory mitzva, he should say in the beginning that he is not accepting on himself to do it all his life, but will be doing it “Bli Neder” while he can. For instance, if one decided to pray at the sunrise, or follow some strict opinion on some law, while others follow a lenient one, he should say that he is not taking on the vow but will do it “Bli Neder”.


2. It happens sometimes that in a dangerous situation people swear to Almighty, that they will take on an additional mitzva or will give a considerable sum to tzedoko if they get out safely. We should be very careful to keep our oaths for the punishment for not keeping them is very strict. There was a story about a Polish Jew, who happened to be in Siberia during the World War II. His living conditions were rather tough and he had to exchange his gold and jewelry for potatoes, to keep surviving. Once he had been on the way with another portion of goods to exchange, and suddenly he was stopped by nine Jews, who needed to gather a minyon, asking him to join them. But as he’d decided that he needed potatoes to survive, which meant much more than praying, he declined their invitation. A little while later he was taken to prison right on the spot because such an exchange had been considered illegal at that time.  While being in prison the Jew swore that if he could just get out alive he would never ever decline an invitation to join a minyon. This man had survived the war and moved to America, where he lived a long peaceful life. Once in his old age, he had been on the way to his grandson’s wedding. He was out of his door when he heard his telephone ringing, it happened to be an invitation to a minyon. He was in doubt, for a second... “I am sorry, I am right on my way to my grandson’s wedding”. “It’s all right”, he was told. “We’ll find someone else...”  And this happened to be the last day of his life – during the wedding he felt ill, was taken to the hospital and died there.


3. In most Torah laws, a boy of thirteen is considered a grown-up man, and a twelve year old girl – an adult woman (according to Talmud, the woman was given a greater understanding). As for the laws of oaths, if the child understands whom he is swearing, his vow will be counted, even if he is a year younger from the grown-up age.


4. Some vows could be cancelled with the help of three men (Jewish court), if one regrets having made the vow.  The laws of such cancellation and about which vows can be canceled, are rather complex, and one should always consult a Rabbi. Some of his daughter’s vows can be cancelled by her father, and some of the wife’s – by her husband, but only on the day when they have been heard. If you are not sure, if a particular vow can be cancelled, cancel it just in case by saying: “This vow is annulled”, and later on you can consult your Rabbi to find out, if this particular vow could be cancelled.


The laws of immersing non-Jewish dishes in the Mikvah.


1. Every time we buy dishes produced by a non-Jewish maker, or when the dishes have been produced by Jews but are sold by a non-Jew, we need to immerse them in the Mikvah (or in a lake, sea or ocean). These laws concern only those dishes made from metal or glass and used for cooking. If a wooden dish contains some metallic parts or partially covered with a glass layer, one should consult a Rabbi. Also, in cases of electrical appliances, having direct contact with food (i.e. toasters), one should consult a Rabbi about the way to immerse them without spoiling.


2. If we buy foods or drinks in disposable packs (i.e. milk bottles, coffee glass cans), and are going to be using the can after the product has been finished, we need to immerse the package. If one is eating in a house of a non-religious Jew, even though the food served is kosher, he can’t use the dishes that have not been immersed. On the other hand, one can eat uncooked fruit from a dish belonging to a non-Jew because the non-Jew is not required to immerse his dishes.


3. Before immersing the dish one should remove all tags and labels that prevent the water from coming in contact with the whole surface of the dish (the law is the same as with a woman in the Mikvah). One recites the blessing and immerses the whole dish in the water. The hand holding the vessel needs to be wet so that the water will come in contact with the dish even between our fingers.