Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mattot 5771: Vows, Vengeance and Valor

On the subject of vows I should mention:

People were so concerned about the possibility that they might not be able to completely fulfill vows they made tt that in later years the Kol Nidrei prayer was created to annul vows. This was highly controversial among the Jewish people.  The rabbis were concerned that people might be more inclined to make vows that they had no intention of keeping.  Others feared that people wouldn't trust the word of Jews if they thought that they could nullify a vow on Yom Kippur through the Kol Nidrei.  For more information on Kol Nidrei and vows see:


  1. This week we have one of many stories that are troubling to those of us who are looking for a God of peace and mercy. The "vengeful God" of the Torah is hard to reconcile with the God we pray to as the source of peace.
    I remember as a teenager opposed to the Vietnam War, Christian teachings about peace were often cited (e.g. Blessed are the peacemakers...). Of course, Christian theology was also used as justification for the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, etc. etc.
    But as Rabbi Winnig always points out, Biblical times are not like today. Our ancestors lived in a tough neighborhood and sometimes you can't choose your battles.
    What happens if we apply principles from Biblical times directly to contemporary life? Were the Jews of 1948 or 1967 justified in taking the land from those who previously lived there for generations? Why should other tribes and nations have to recognize our claim to Eretz Yisrael?

  2. The issue of the claim to Eretz Yisrael is complicated and in modern times is fraught with too many political and power issues to get into here. The Biblical situation is more clear cut, might makes right, my God is more powerful than yours and the victors wrote the history. As we get to the end of Numbers and into Deuteronomy we will see how this plays out. Of course if we have ever explore the books of Joshua and the Kings we will see more and more political turmoil, fights and conflicts. Who needs action films when we have Biblical drama?


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