This week’s Torah portion begins with Moses speaking about the regulations regarding vows and oaths, including cancellation of vows and oaths by either husbands or fathers. GOD also tells Moses to take vengeance upon the Midianites, including the death of Balaam. The spoils of war were taken from the Midianites and divided by the tribes. The intentions of the tribes of Rueben, Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh were to inherit the west side of the Jordan River, called Transjordan.
This portion is next to the last in the book of Numbers. The sages of old placed it at this time of year, about three weeks before Tisha B’Av (9th of Av which will be observed on August 5th).
In history, this is the time that the Holy Temple was destroyed during both the first and second Temple periods. Both of these disasters were allowed by GOD because His people broke their vows to Him. First, because the people were unfaithful to Him. The second, the people spoke evil and wicked words against each other. They performed sinat hinam, hatred without a cause.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, vows are solemn promises that are made especially to GOD, such as a promise of love and fidelity as in marriage. The sages taught that there are two types of vows. One is when someone declares that an object(s) is forbidden. The other type is that which a person obligates himself to do something (Nazirite vow).
Maimonides, “Rambam”, mentions that the origin of making a vow goes back to Numbers 6:2, regarding the Nazirite vow. Messiah Yeshua taught us not to make vows or take oaths unless we really mean the words (Matthew 5:33). Anything beyond the words, “Yes,” or “No,” is not from GOD.
There is power in words. GOD takes promises and oaths seriously and so should we (Psalm 50:14). When we promise to do something we should complete that promise. It is better not to say or give a promise unless we really mean it. Willing to do something and doing it are two different things (Romans 7:18-25).