Saturday, July 10, 2010

Careful With Words, Promises, Pledges, Oaths etc

Just a quick little true story which illustrates this week's Parshat Shavua, Weekly Torah Reading, Mattot - Masei.  According to Judaism we're supposed to be very careful about what we say or promise, because every utterance is taken seriously by G-d.  Women's promises are even more complicated, because technically first the woman's father and then her husband have power over these "promises."

I first learned this almost forty years ago when we were newlyweds and new immigrants to Israel living in the Maon Betar in Jerusalem's Old City.  I had just quit ulpan, because I was finding the walk to Beit Ha'Am getting more and more difficult as winter got colder and rainier.  There wasn't any bus connection at the time between the Old City and the Beit Ha'am area.  

We saw some NCSY friends who insisted that I try a newly opened program in Bayit V'Gan called Neve Yerushalayim.  It was in an apartment on Uziel Street.  The trip was relatively easy, the #12 bus from Sha'ar Shechem straight to Bayit V'Gan.  In those days it was perfectly safe to walk around the Old City, even go to Sha'ar Shechem.

I enjoyed my studies.  Most of the students were single.  I guess the teachers were chareidi, but in those days there weren't all the distinctions you see today, and there were so few learning programs.  I remember the following conversation:
"I  love all the chumrot (extra strict customs) and I want to add more and more to my Jewish observance."
"You're a single woman.  According to Jewish Law you don't have the authority to take such oaths.  It will make it difficult to marry."


Hadassa said...

Did the young woman even understand the chumrot? Was she scrupulously observing the basic mitzvot before taking on the chumrot? Was she falling into a sort of trap in which one takes on a chumra which causes one to neglect a mitzva of no less, and sometimes greater, importance?

And a word for Neve Yerushalim: It's grown from an apartment into an impressive complex in Har Nof, with programs for a wide range of levels of Jewish knowledge. Their hasgafa (outlook, way of thinking) is not ours, but I have a great respect for the way they have brought thousands of women, among them relatives and friends, to observing mitzvot.

Anonymous said...

When not in context, I don't understand what "love chumrot" means.

Batya, are you a Brisker at heart? :p

goyisherebbe said...

In those days, kiruv education was in its infancy and the people teaching these girls didn't know what kind of monsters they might be creating. There were matches that were made that ended up in divorce and the two members of the couple going their separate ways, sometimes with a quickly-conceived baby as a bone of contention as to how he or she was to be raised. Although the particular conversation was not at all exact in terms of halacha, the danger of chumrot in a husband-wife relationship is very great. Halachically a single woman past the age of 12.5 is autonomous regarding her vows, but she will have to change her customs to conform to those of the man she marries. In a case of vows which do not fit in with the husband's needs or way of looking at things, hatarat nedarim is certainly in order. The Sages said that it is better not to make vows at all, even if one is able to keep them.

Hadassa said...

Shy Guy, I understood from the blog that Batya doesn't agree with the "love chumrot" mentality. Goyisherebbe's post is to me further explanation (thank you) of the same track of thinking.

The problem isn't just with chumrot either. I have BT friends who learned at the sister school of the yeshiva at which their BT husbands learned. You'd think that the institutions could teach the same material, but unfortunately the disagreements the spouses had caused major marital strife.