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A4. Keeping Vows Made to God.    [Make a Comment]

We are to keep & not delay our vows that we make to God.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Numbers 6:1-21 (Maimonides RN202-209; Chinuch C368-373, C375-376)
ADONAI said to Moshe, "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'When either a man or a woman makes a special kind of vow, the vow of a nazir, consecrating himself to ADONAI; he is to abstain from wine and other intoxicating liquor, he is not to drink vinegar from either source, he is not to drink grape juice, and he is not to eat grapes or raisins. As long as he remains a nazir he is to eat nothing derived from the grapevine, not even the grape-skins or the seeds. Throughout the period of his vow as a nazir, he is not to shave his head. Until the end of the time for which he has consecrated himself to ADONAI he is to be holy: he is to let the hair on his head grow long. Throughout the period for which he has consecrated himself to ADONAI, he is not to approach a corpse. He is not to make himself unclean for his father, mother, brother or sister when they die, since his consecration to God is on his head. Throughout the time of his being a nazir he is holy for ADONAI. If someone next to him dies very suddenly, so that he defiles his consecrated head, then he is to shave his head on the day of his purification; he is to shave it on the seventh day. On the eighth day he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the cohen at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The cohen is to prepare one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering and thus make atonement for him, inasmuch as he sinned because of the dead person. That same day he is to re-consecrate his head; he is to consecrate to ADONAI the full period of his being a nazir by bringing a male lamb in its first year as a guilt offering. The previous days will not be counted, because his consecration became defiled. This is the law for the nazir when his period of consecration is over: he is to be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, where he will present his offering to ADONAI - one male lamb in its first year without defect as a burnt offering, one female lamb in its first year without defect as a sin offering, one ram without defect as peace offerings, a basket of matzah, loaves made of fine flour mixed with olive oil, unleavened wafers spread with olive oil, their grain offering and their drink offerings. The cohen is to bring them before ADONAI, offer his sin offering, his burnt offering, and his ram as a sacrifice of peace offerings to ADONAI, with the basket of matzah. The cohen will also offer the grain offering and drink offering that go with the peace offering. The nazir will shave his consecrated head at the entrance to the tent of meeting, take the hair removed from his consecrated head and put it on the fire under the sacrifice of peace offerings. When the ram has been boiled, the cohen is to take its shoulder, one loaf of matzah from the basket and one unleavened wafer, and place them in the hands of the nazir, after he has shaved his consecrated head. The cohen is to wave them as a wave offering before ADONAI; this is set aside for the cohen, along with the breast for waving and the raised-up thigh. Following that, the nazir may drink wine. This is the law for the nazir who makes a vow and for his offering to ADONAI for his being a nazir - in addition to anything more for which he has sufficient means. In keeping with whatever vow he makes, he must do it according to the law for the nazir.'

Numbers 30:2-16(1-15) (Maimonides RP94, RP95, RN157; Meir MP39, MP40, MN184; C406, C407, C575)
Then Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Isra'el. He said, "Here is what ADONAI has ordered: when a man makes a vow to ADONAI or formally obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is not to break his word but is to do everything he said he would do. When a woman makes a vow to ADONAI, formally obligating herself, while she is a minor living in her father's house; then, if her father has heard what she vowed or obligated herself to do and holds his peace, then all her vows remain binding - every obligation she has bound herself to will stand. But if on the day her father hears it, he expresses his disapproval, then none of her vows or obligations she has bound herself to will stand; and ADONAI will forgive her, because her father expressed his disapproval. If, having made vows or rashly committed herself to an obligation, she gets married; and her husband hears but holds his peace with her on the day he learns of it, then her vows and obligations she has bound herself to will stand. But if her husband expresses his disapproval on the day he hears it, he will void the vow which is on her and the obligation to which she has bound herself; and ADONAI will forgive her. The vow of a widow, however, or of a divorcee, including everything to which she has obligated herself, will stand against her. If a woman vowed in her husband's house or obligated herself with an oath; and her husband heard it but held his peace with her and did not express disapproval, then all her vows and obligations will stand. But if her husband makes them null and void on the day he hears them, then whatever she said, vows or binding obligation, will not stand; her husband has voided them; and ADONAI will forgive her. Her husband may let every vow and every binding obligation stand, or he may void it. But if her husband entirely holds his peace with her day after day, then he confirms all her vows and obligations; he must let them stand, because he held his peace with her on the day he heard them. If he makes them null and void after he has heard them, then he will bear the consequent guilt."

Deuteronomy 23:22-24(21-23) (Maimonides RP94, RN155; Meir MP39, MN185; Chinuch C574-5)
When you make a vow to ADONAI your God, you are not to delay in fulfilling it, for ADONAI your God will certainly demand it of you, and your failure to do so will be your sin. If you choose not to make a vow at all, that will not be a sin for you; but if a vow passes your lips, you must take care to perform it according to what you voluntarily vowed to ADONAI your God, what you promised in words spoken aloud.

Psalm 65:2(1)
To you, God, in Tziyon, silence is praise; and vows to you are to be fulfilled.

Matthew 5:33-37
Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, 'Do not break your oath,' and 'Keep your vows to ADONAI.' But I tell you not to swear at all - not 'by heaven,' because it is God's throne; not 'by the earth,' because it is his footstool; and not 'by Yerushalayim,' because it is the city of the Great King. And don't swear by your head, because you can't make a single hair white or black. Just let your 'Yes' be a simple 'Yes,' and your 'No' a simple 'No'; anything more than this has its origin in evil.

Supportive Scriptures

Deuteronomy 23:19(18)
Nothing earned through heterosexual or homosexual prostitution is to be brought into the house of ADONAI your God in fulfillment of any vow, for both of these are abhorrent to ADONAI your God.

Malachi 1:14
"Moreover, cursed is the deceiver who has a male animal in his flock that is damaged, but vows and sacrifices to ADONAI anyway. For I am a great king," says ADONAI-Tzva'ot, "and my name is respected among the nations."

Psalm 50:14
Offer thanksgiving as your sacrifice to God, pay your vows to the Most High ...

Psalms 56:13(12)
God, I have made vows to you; I will fulfill them with thank offerings to you.

Psalms 76:12(11)
Make vows to ADONAI your God, and keep them; all who are around him must bring presents to the one who should be feared.

Proverbs 20:25
It is a snare to dedicate a gift to God rashly and reflect on the vows only afterwards.

Ecclesiastes 5:5(6)
Don't let your words make you guilty, and don't tell the temple official that you made the vow by mistake. Why give God reason to be angry at what you say and destroy what you have accomplished?

Acts 18:18
Sha'ul remained for some time, then said good-bye to the brothers and sailed off to Syria, after having his hair cut short in Cenchrea, because he had taken a vow; with him were Priscilla and Aquila.


A vow is a promise uttered with deliberate solemnity and it is clear from the Scriptures cited above that vows to God may not be broken. There would be nothing more to say on the matter were it not for the annual musical recitation (in most synagogues) of Kol Nidre, rendered just before sundown on the evening of Yom Kippur. Kol Nidre (Sephardic pronunciation Kal Nidre) means "all vows", and is an ancient Aramaic legal formula that seeks to nullify all vows made to God, by individuals, in the year past and in the year to come. As such, it is a clear and direct violation of the intent of Scripture, and many attempts have been made, over the years, to expunge the tradition from Jewish practice.

Some have sought to justify Kol Nidre by inferring that it originated with the "Marranos" during the Spanish Inquisition, in their attempt to nullify vows of conversion to Christianity made under extreme duress. Although the "Marranos" no doubt used the Kol Nidre formula for that purpose, the concept originated at least five hundred years earlier. We know this because a similar formula appears in the prayer book of the noted Rabbi Amram Gaon (ca. ninth century).

The controversy persists within Judaism broadly, but is a settled matter in most Messianic Jewish congregations where Kol Nidre is either not sung at all, or is replaced by a proclamation of the opposite - a statement affirming all vows made in the year past, and our intention to abide by all vows that we may make in the year to come.

I will say only a few words about Nazirite vows since they are rare today. They are vows of special personal dedication to holiness that incorporate limitations on one's lifestyle (e.g. wine and grapes may not be eaten, and one's hair must not be cut), and have a declared date of expiration. I mention them in connection with this Mitzvah because they must, as with other vows, be kept once made notwithstanding our being in the New Covenant.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch each wrote four mitzvot related to the keeping of promises (without delay) made with or without vows.


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