February 14, 2023

Nedarim 70

Before offering some thoughts on today’s daf I would like to reflect on today – the Fast of the 10th of Tevet – when we mourn the siege of Jerusalem which, as Rabbi Eliyahu Ki-Tov explains, was ‘the beginning of the whole chain of calamities which finally ended with the destruction of the [First] Beit Hamikdash’.
Of course, the impact of Churban Bayit Rishon and Churban Bayit Sheini, along with the exiles that followed, was devastating in terms of the lives of the Jewish people, the unity of the Jewish people, the religious worship of the Jewish people, and the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
More recently, the 10th of Tevet was established by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as the Yom haKaddish haKlali – the day to be set aside annually for the recital of kaddish by all those who do not know the date when their loved ones were murdered during the Holocaust. As we know, over a third of world Jewry were brutally murdered in the Holocaust, and just thinking about the fact that there are still less Jews alive today than there were in 1939 sends an eery shiver down my spine.
Bringing things to today, we have all witnessed a sharp and deeply unsettling rise in antisemitism worldwide, with hate-filled prejudices that some may have previously thought and kept to themselves now being brazenly broadcast to millions worldwide.
Given all this history we would presume that contemporary Jewry are doing whatever they can to work together for a more unified and connected Jewish people; that the Jewish people, whatever their level of Jewish practice, recognize the importance of Torah, and that all Jews appreciate the historical significance of our return to the land of Israel.
However, we are sadly living at a time where we lack historical perspective, and we are tragically living in a way that shows little awareness of our history. The question of Rabbi Sacks that, ‘If Jews were condemned to die together, shall we not struggle to find a way to live together?’ is yet to be fully answered, but if we were to look around and hear how we speak about each other, how we judge one another, and how we even attack one another, I suspect that we’d reach the conclusion that living together is truly beyond us.
Having explained all this we can now turn to today’s daf (Nedarim 70a) which discusses the laws of the revocation of vows, and from the fact that the Torah (see Bemidbar 30:6) states that a vow can only be revoked בְּיוֹם שָׁמְעוֹ – ‘on the day that it is heard’, we are taught that if a father tells his daughter that her vow is מוּפָר לִיכִי לְמָחָר – ‘revoked for you tomorrow’, it is not revoked because כֵּיוָן דְּקִיְּימוֹ הַיּוֹם לִמְחַר כְּמַאן דְּאִיתֵיהּ דָּמֵי – ‘since he ratified it today [by saying that it is revoked tomorrow], on the following day it is considered already in force and he cannot revoke it’. What this teaches us is that while there are certain things that can be left till tomorrow, there are certain things that must be addressed today, because if we leave them till tomorrow it will be too late.
Today is Yom haKaddish haKlali, and there will be many who will be reciting kaddish today and focussing on the ‘Kaddish’ aspect of today. But my feeling is that, paralleling this endeavour, and especially in light of the current state of the Jewish world, we must also begin work, today, on the Klali (collective) issues, and on the ‘Klal’ aspect of Klal Yisrael, because if Jews were condemned to die together, shall we not struggle to find a way to live together, and if we don’t begin addressing this today, then it is possible that if we leave it till tomorrow it will be too late.
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