By Laura Seymour
Each summer we focus on values that we can DO! At the J camps, all the children and the families get involved. There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing! Get involved with us this summer. The value for this week is: nedarim, keeping commitments.
Judaism is a religion of words, and often we use words to make an oath or promise, saying, “In the name of G-d” or “I swear to G-d.” When we make a promise, we must keep that commitment. The Torah teaches that a person who makes a promise to G-d must carry out that promise (Numbers 30:3).
On the evening of Yom Kippur, we say a special prayer called Kol Nidre. It says that all the promises we have made to G-d that we didn’t do are null and void. Kol Nidre was originally created to protect the Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity in order to save their lives. Although this prayer is to make the promises of the year “go away,” we should never promise things that we cannot do. A person’s word is important, and promises are meant to be kept!
Keeping commitments is also called keeping promises or keeping one’s word. Another way we talk about this is making a vow or an oath. When we make a vow to G-d, we must keep that vow.
A person who utters a vow places a burden on his neck. — Jerusalem Talmud
Be careful what you vow, and don’t get into the habit of making vows, for if you get in the habit, you will, in the end, sin by breaking your oath, and anyone who breaks his or her oath denies G-d without hope of pardon. — Tanchuma, Mattot 79a
Talk with your family about the importance of keeping promises. Start keeping a list of the promises that each family member makes during the week. At the end of the week, talk together about which ones were kept and which were not. Why are some promises harder to keep?
Why should we think before we make a promise? What should happen to someone who breaks a promise?
Do something ‘Jewish unplugged’
Create a family journal. Label the sections/pages: trips, important events, holidays, family discussions, whatever. For family discussions, think of a question and then write down everyone’s answer, e.g. “What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?” The dinner table is a great place for family discussions!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
By Laura Seymour