Friday, July 21, 2006
A final note on this topic: we mentioned that the Ran interpreted R’ Gidal’s halacha of one who pledges to perform a mitzvah in order to motivate him/herself to action as a shevua and not a neder. Even though we have a rule that a shevua to perform a mitzvah does not have any effect (one shevua cannot rest on top of another, and one is already mushba v'omeid m'har Sinai, already bound by oath from Har Sinai to do mitzvos), the Ran writes that that simply means one is exempt from a korban but would get malkos. Ramban at the opening of Parshas Matos disagrees and says violating such a shevua carries no punishment. If so, asks the Steipler (Birchas Peretz), how can such a shevua serve its purpose of motivation? The person making the shevua knows full well that his words are meaningless! I think the simple answer is that this is nothing more than a psychological ploy, but the Steipler suggests something more. The person who is not zealous is carrying out the mitzvah is implicitly treating the act in question as a reshus, something not obligatory. If it is not obligatory, than the rule of ‘mushba v’omed m’Har Sinai’ should not apply and the shevua should work! The person is trapped between the mitzvah the Torah imposes and the personal pledge he has created, leaving no room to escape the force of obligation.