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    Keep your promises – Mattot

    Mattot begins with a warning: “When you make a vow to the Lord you must fulfil what you have undertaken” (Num. 30:3).

    “Hah,” says the ordinary person, “All those politicians and all their promises – and they break their word every time”.

    It’s true: tragically, politicians cannot be relied upon to keep their campaign promises.

    I remember one who said, “If I am elected, no child will ever go hungry!” His words were fine rhetoric, but children still went hungry.

    No matter who you are, you should be careful before you undertake something, and if you find it necessary to make an undertaking, let the world see that you mean it.

    But though this is really true, it’s not quite what the Torah is talking about when it says, “When you make a vow to the Lord…” (the Targum prefers, “When you make a vow before the Lord”).

    Vows to or before the Lord deal with your ethical and spiritual life. Rabbis constantly urge their congregants to promise to come to synagogue more often, but the emphasis shouldn’t only be on coming to shule but being good, decent, honest, reliable human beings.

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