Yeshivat Reishit

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The Message of a Vow

By: Yoni Pasternak

Last weeks parsha, Pinchas, closes by delineating the various korbanot that the public is responsible for – from the daily korban tamid to the occasional korbanei mussaf. The Torah then abruptly transitions into the halachot of vows and oaths which constitute the beginning of this week’s parsha, Mattos. Is there any relationship between these two apparently dissimilar parshiyot? Ibn Ezra, sensitive to the topical disparity, asserts that the parshiyots’ chronological sequence inspired their placement. Both Rashbam and Ramban cite a pasuk at the end of Pinchas as responsible for the parshiyots’ juxtaposition: “These are what you shall make for Hashem on your appointed festivals, aside from your vows and your free-will offerings … (Pinchas 29:39).” The beginning of Mattos then, according to them, simply continues to expound upon and extend the laws of oaths and vows which first appeared at the end of Pinchas.


There may, however, be an additional reason for the juxtaposition of these two sections: The closing segment of last week’s parsha details a rigid schedule of cyclical korbanot. The routine tamid, the weekly mussaf offered every shabbat, and the uniform demands of the moadim and roshei chodashim amount to an inflexible and standardized form of avodat Hashem, one that is necessary in order to create the constant and consistent relationship between Bnei Yisrael and Ha’Kodesh Baruch Hu. However, at times a variant form of avodas hashem is in order: Oaths and vows accommodate the irregularity and inconsistency that life at times entails. When exercised with responsibility, the ability to accept upon oneself ,through vows, demands that go beyond the normative halachik imperatives represents a necessary spiritual opportunity. As Rambam, intentionally speaking in general terms, states at the end of Hilchot Nezirut (10:14): “But one who takes a vow to Hashem in a fashion of holiness, this is graceful and praiseworthy, and of which it is said ‘The crown of his God is upon his head, he is holy to Hashem.’”


After describing the ordered demands of the korbanot, the torah transitions into the parsha of vows in order to convey a clear message: ideal service of hakodosh baruch hu is best achieved through a combination of these distinct modes, spontaneity and consistency implemented as complimentary forms of avodat Hashem.