Torah Portion

Parashat Matot

The Vow of a Child

You were a small child.  You didn’t know anything.  You didn’t see the whole picture.  You still hadn’t heard the teachings of a true Tsaddik.  You still hadn’t spoken with Hashem like someone speaks with a good friend.  You were small and vulnerable, frightened and in pain, and you made a vow. 

boy vow

Harav Israel Asulin

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Monday, 19th of Tammuz, 5776

The Holy Torah gave us an amazing power, and it is called vows: “Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel, saying… If a man takes a vow to Hashem or swears an oath to establish a prohibition upon himself, he shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do.” (Numbers, 30:2-3)

With the help of a vow a person can limit himself by way of this mitzvah and make holy anything in the world: “Because through the vow and oath he can make for himself a mitzvah or sin from anything in the world, even though there is not in this object itself any mitzvah or sin according to the Torah.” (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Vows, second teaching)  A person can prohibit himself something which is permitted, and as a result of this it is forbidden to him as a Torah prohibition.

Somebody can receive upon himself to give a specific amount of money to tzedakah[1], and from the moment that he received this upon himself, he is obligated to fulfill it.

Why?  Because he made a vow.

Here we enter into a fascinating subject regarding man’s soul, which is connected to the mitzvah of vows.

Many times people who come to receive counseling have very great pains and difficulties.  There are people who are not able to come close to others, they long and yearn for closeness, but if this closeness actually comes near them, they push it away aggressively.  There are those who are not able to trust, their soul is greatly opposed to it.  There are people who are not able to love.  There are others who are not able to receive love.  Some people don’t believe that they are worth anything, and it doesn’t matter how many times you promise them that they are good…

And you reach a dead end.  As much as you try, you can’t find the opening.

Do you know why?

Because when you were a small child, really small, you received terrible rejection, and in order to survive this pain you swore to yourself that you don’t need love, that love is disgusting.  It’s as if you made a vow that you’re not going to love and you won’t let yourself receive love.

Or you were torn apart by a terrible betrayal, and you made a vow not to trust anyone.

Or you had a threatening encounter with death, and in order to protect yourself you promised yourself that you don’t want to live.

Or you experienced sudden abandonment, and you decided not to be too connected with the world…

You were a small child.  You didn’t know anything.  You didn’t see the whole picture.  You still hadn’t heard the teachings of a true Tsaddik.  You still hadn’t spoken with Hashem like someone speaks with a good friend.  You were small and vulnerable, frightened and in pain, and you made a vow.  It was so long ago and you were so small that you forgot about this vow.  However, you continue to act according to it.  You think that it’s your bad luck, or some type of deep psychiatric problem, and you don’t know that it’s the small child inside of you, who grabs you by his fingernails every time you want to come close or give your trust, to love or to give, and he screams in your face: ‘You promised!  Don’t forget!  When everyone left and you were by yourself, you promised not to love anymore!  When everyone lied to you and you felt small, you promised not to believe anymore!’

And this vow guards you with frightening loyalty.  He guards you, so that you won’t be healed…

So what do we do?

Nullification of vows.

How do we fulfill the nullification of our vows?

We need to go to the sage.

“And this is why the Torah began the subject of vows with the words: ‘Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes’… because the mitzvah of vows and oaths depends on the heads of the tribes who were the great leaders of the generation… since the main aspect of the vow comes from the sage of the generation, therefore he surely has the power to nullify the vow and uproot it.” (Likutei Halachot, ibid)

When a person wants to nullify his vow he goes to the sage.  The sage sits with the man, speaks with him and searches for the opening.  ‘If you know had known at the time of the vow that so and so would happen, also then would you have made the vow?’

And this is what we need to do with the people who made vows a long time ago when they were children.  We meet the child from long ago, who made the promise, and we nullify his vow.

And this only the sage, the true Tsaddik, who has the clear knowledge that everything is good and everything is for the best all the time, can do.  He sees the complete picture of this world in all its details, with all the pain and injuries along the way, and everything that you ruined or was ruined inside of you.  He believes with complete faith that you are good and that you are marching towards the complete good.

Only he can speak with that small child and find the opening to nullify his vow.

A small and precious child like you, if once, when everyone expressed love for your brother and forgot that you exist, you would have felt the great love that Hashem loves you like an only child and he waits for you with open arms and with listening ears, also then would you have sworn that you don’t want any connection or love?

If you had known that you are an amazing person and that there is no one like you in the world, that you have a special mission in the world that only you can carry out, also then would you have decided that it’s preferable to die than to live?

If you had known that all the rejections you suffered and all the times they betrayed you and all the times you were abandoned were with special Divine providence, in order to prepare you for your special role here in the world, also then would you have vowed not to believe anyone and never to come close to anyone?

The true Tsaddik reveals to us the hidden dimension of the reality, the internal dimension, the deeper truth.  He reveals to us parts of the complete picture.  He tells us secrets which are behind the curtain.  He returns with us to the past, to the places of pain and tearing, and show us how specifically this way was the best for us.

And there he finds for us the opening to nullify all of the types of vows which we made on ourselves.

[1] charity

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