Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Small Oaths I

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

And I will establish my covenant with you; never again will all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth. (Bereshith 9:11)

The prophet Yeshiah spoke with Divine inspiration when he said, “For I have sworn as I swore regarding the waters of Noach.”(1) However, the Torah makes no explicit mention of an oath when God promised never again to flood the earth. From the prophet’s words, Rav Eliezer derives that even if one only says “yes” or “no” it is considered an oath. Rav argues that it is considered an oath only “if the words are repeated twice [i.e., ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’].”(2)

How literally should this be taken? Is it true that every time someone says “yes” or “no” he is bound by an oath? The halachah is that one is only bound by an oath if he specifically intended to make an oath when he said “yes” or “no.”(3)

Although one can only transgress the prohibition of making an oath if one speaks, the extremely righteous consider even the slightest sign of agreement as if they had taken a vow, as illustrated in the following story.

The Rav of Byalistok once asked Rav Akiva Eiger if he would respond to all of his halachic inquiries by mail. It was a very time-consuming undertaking, and Rav Akiva Eiger’s schedule was more than filled by his duties as Rav of Posen. Nevertheless, he answered every letter that the Rav of Byalistok sent him. When he was asked why he devoted so much time to answering these letters, which proved to be a great burden for him, he responded that when the Rav of Byalistok had posed his request, Rav Akiva Eiger had nodded his head in agreement. He feared that in doing so he had committed himself with an oath, which he was determined to fulfill, no matter how difficult it was.(4) Rav Akiva Eiger did not say, “Yes, yes”; he did not even say the word “yes” once, but only motioned with his head. Still, since he had indicated that he consented to the Rav’s request, although he had not done so verbally but only through body language, he felt bound by his commitment. In accordance with his very high level of righteousness, had he not answered the Rav’s letters he would have been liable for sheker as well as for swearing falsely.(5)


1. Yeshiah 54:9.

2. Shavuoth 36a.

3. Rosh 4:27, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 237:5. However, if one reinforces a statement using a kinui (literally, “a nickname”) of God, it is considered an oath even if he did not explicitly intend for it to be so [ibid. 237:10].

4. Responsa Bigdei Yasha, Even Ha’Ezer, p. 32.

5. Sefer Chasidim, p. 47.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 

ARTICLES ON TERUMAH:

View Complete List

Job Placement
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

The Other Half
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Whole Life Insurance
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

> Give and Take
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

The Love you Take
Jon Erlbaum - 0

Community Funds for Golden Vessels
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Who Goes Hither, Freind or Foe
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Put the Torah in Your Terumah
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

Looking a Gift House In The Mouth
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

ArtScroll

The Only Thing You Can Take With You Is Your Dining Room Table
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5763

Bring G-d out of the "House of Worship"
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757

Build Your Own Coffin
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Honest to G-d
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

Are We Men, Or Are We Angels
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Always Giving Charity with a Full Heart
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5770

The Famous Ark
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information