A woman seeks to annul her vow
By Rabbi Baruch Lederman
SAN DIEGO — After the splitting of the Red Sea, it was necessary for the children of Israel to see the lifeless bodies of the Egyptian soldiers as they were washed ashore. Otherwise they would never feel deep down that they were free. The trauma of bondage leaves a life long effect, as the following true story told by Rabbi Yaakov Haber illustrates:
Some years ago while serving as a Rabbi in Buffalo, New York. I remember standing at my place in Shul, Sunday morning, seeing the large oak door to the Shul open a crack. There at the door was an elderly woman, a member of the congregation, who was motioning for me to come out to speak with her. I came out and the woman who I knew quite well looked very anxious.
“Rebbe”, she said, “I need to be matir neder.” She felt she had made a vow, which requires the nullification of a beit din and asked me if I could convene this beit din in Shul immediately following services. Obviously I complied and after davening that morning three of us sat alone in the back of the very old Shul with Mrs. Segal standing before us.
She took out her siddur and opened it to the place that was already marked with her forefinger and began to recite the standard formula for the nullification of vows. She looked out of the siddur and with great emotion told the following story. “Forty years ago–you should never know from such things–I lived in a Nazi Labor camp. Living day by day would have been a luxury, we lived minute by minute. I didn’t think I would live to see freedom again and I said to G-d, ‘I don’t think I will make it out of here alive, but if I do I will come out with a whole new perspective, a brand new appreciation for life.
“If I come out of this alive I promise you G-d I will never throw away a piece of bread, ever.’ That was my promise, she continued, and I’ve always kept my promise to G-d but today my two grandchildren came to visit. Kids are kids and some bread was disgraced. I realized that perhaps I’m not in a position to keep my promise that I made to G-d so many years ago. But raboisai I know that a neder needs a pesach. (an out) What do I know now that I didn’t consider before? In my wildest dreams I couldn’t see Jewish grandchildren in my life. My appreciation for bread, for life and for children is greater now than it ever was! Nevertheless I feel I must annul the vow.”
We all said together, “Mutar loch, Mutar loch, Mutar loch! You are released from your vow.” and Mrs. Segal went home.
Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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