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Archive for the ‘Numbers 30:2-9’ Category

Parasha Matot – Bamidbar 30:2-32:42

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 12, 2007

Numbers 30:2-6

2. Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel, saying: This is the thing the Lord has commanded.

3. If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.

4. If a woman makes a vow to the Lord, or imposes a prohibition [upon herself] while in her father’s house, in her youth,
5. if her father heard her vow or her prohibition which she has prohibited upon herself, yet her father remains silent, all her vows shall stand, and any prohibition that she has imposed upon herself shall stand.

6. But if her father hinders her on the day he hears it, all her vows and her prohibitions that she has imposed upon herself shall not stand. The Lord will forgive her because her father hindered her.

This is interesting – because it is frequently used as a proof text that Judaism is misogynist, the text is mistakenly read, also by the Sages, to mean that a woman’s oath is null and void if her father or husband says it is – but what does the text actually say?

We need to examine exactly what is meant by “a woman” according to Torah:

Rashi says: 4. while in her father’s house. Under her father’s jurisdiction, even if she is not [actually] in his house. – [Sifrei Mattoth 12] in her youth. Neither a minor nor an adult [above the age of twelve and a half], since a minor’s vows are invalid, and an adult is not under her father’s jurisdiction to revoke her vows. What is considered a minor? Our Rabbis said: A girl of eleven years and a day-her vows are examined. If she knew in whose name she vowed, or in whose name she consecrated something, her vow stands. From the age of twelve years and one day, she does not need to be tested. — [Niddah 45b]

Now, children do not have legal obligation anyway, not even in our Society, so why should Jewish Law look at it any different? So is it misogynist to stop one’s under age child of making a binding oath, which she (or he, as the same goes for boys) might not have understood the seriousness of? I don’t think so. So this is put there to safe-guard both the validity of oaths and the legal integrity of children

Just because something is in Torah, doesn’t mean Torah agrees with it or promotes it – it means that Torah takes such things into account, and then it’s up to us to derive the core of it – and as with everything else Torah, we have to that in context of the entire Torah/Tanakh. And we need to know in what context, under what cultural and societal conditions Torah was given.

It is fully possible to arrive at largely the same conclusion by simply reading the text:

6. But if her father hinders her on the day he hears it, all her vows and her prohibitions that she has imposed upon herself shall not stand. The Lord will forgive her because her father hindered her.

The provision for the oath to be null and void – i.e G-d will forgive if it is not fulfilled – is that there’s an obstruction – in this case her father, for whatever reason, stops her from making and fulfilling the oath. And the woman is blameless, because she was not the one breaking the oath, her father was.

Here Torah takes into account that some times men do crazy things in relation to women, and states that women should not be held responsible for the actions of men.

Note that no such provision is made for men – they make an oath and they are bound to keep them. Also note that this only covers oaths made to G-d, not oaths and promises between people. So Torah actually takes human relations more serious than relations between G-d and human.

Novel thought, huh?

Shabbat Shalom!


Posted in Misogyny, Numbers 30:2-9, Oaths, Parasha Matot, Shabbat, Torah, Weekly Parasha | 6 Comments »

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