Parshat Matos – Vows of Abstinence

By: Shalom Olensky


This week in the Torah:

Moses teaches the tribal leaders the laws of the vows of abstinence and their possible annulment.


Why does the Torah allow one to make a vow of abstinence? Is it not enough that the Torah already prohibits many indulgences?! For the remainder of activities which are permissible, why would the Torah keep a vow of abstinence binding? Does G-d not want us to elevate those things permissible by using them for a G-dly purpose?! Indeed, He does!


This principle, that the Torah-imposed prohibitions are sufficient to keep one on track, is true of those who have their evil inclination under control. However, for someone who still retains raging carnal desires, a vow of abstinence may help such a person a) keep from over-indulgence which would have led to actual sin, and b) draw down a higher level of holiness to the world, in this individual’s world as well as the world at large. c) It could also affect in the abstinent one, a feeling of G-d’s Omnipresence; that G-d is one and unified throughout all the world.


Since these vows can sometimes be annulled by a sage or by a Jewish court, it is understandable that those authorized by Torah to annul such vows, are empowered to enable a person who is of a baser nature to a) nevertheless withstand further temptation even without abstaining (from that which is permitted),  b) to draw down higher holiness into this person’s affairs, and c) to help this person witness G-d’s Omnipresence within and throughout the world.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 4, Matos)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *