Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vow Making

The first time we commit some clear misdeed it can be a great personal disappointment. We’re unnerved that we have transgressed and fallen short in whatever area. However with time, if we don’t fix the problem, our senses become dulled to the issue; we are no longer disturbed by our transgressions, instead we attempt to explain them away. At some point we may return to confront the issue, however, we may also feel overwhelmed. Long after the severity of a transgression has been forgotten it can be difficult to find the willpower to overcome our inclinations.
A sin twice committed, no longer appears as such. (Moed Katan 27)
Fortunately we have today the wisdom of many generations of pious Rebbeim. I would like to describe a technique used for generations to out wit ones negative inclination, Vow Making. This technique is extremely effective and should not be confused with swearing upon some holy object; in fact it’s more akin to Yeshua’s commandment “let your Yes be Yes.”

On Vow Making:

I am a youth leader at Synagogue Beit Hashofar in Seattle, WA. While serving in this position I have been deeply burdened by the enormous difficulties facing our young people. The technologies available at this time create amazing opportunities for connections positive and negative. More than any previous generation, youth today need to muster an incredible level of self control. In decision making they must be wise well beyond their years.

In an attempt to make some kind of intersession and simultaneously practice what I teach, I have begun to discipline my body and make it my servant (1 Cor. 9:27). I have chosen to forgo any eating outside of a meal. While this sounds like a simple thing, personally this has always been a great challenge. To do this I have been making vows. The process is simple…whether your struggle is with smoking, pornography, or food…it’s all the same.

While I do not possess the willpower to abstain from eating directly (as I have long since grown accustomed to making excuses about the food that goes into my mouth), I can find the self control in an indirect way, by making a vow with the realization that I am standing before G-d…as the old adage goes, Da lifnei mi attah omed – "Know before whom you stand." Why this works is very simple. While I am used to trying not to eat and failing, I am not used to breaking vows before G-d. Of coarse the vow we make should always be very realistic…very simple…its something like, “I vow not to eat until dinner.” Anything longer than that and you risk becoming overwhelmed. One might be afraid to try this because making a vow before G-d is a serious matter, but I’ll tell you, that’s exactly why it works. I have used this to correct more than one area of my life and it has never failed. If you would like to take charge over your self try making a vow, you won’t need to do it forever, soon you will feel as if you have made the vow even when you have not and after only a short while the issue will be completely resolved. Imagine that.


Rob P said...

Ive always been told that making vow's isnt something you do since human nature will take its course and you will eventually fail. New Years vows for example are always taken lightly. Then again those types of vows are of a definate nature instead of what you suggest. Small vows seem really easy to do and I can see how that will lead to something good.

Isnt there a prayer said at Yom Kippur that involves vows?

Good stuff!

Kristenmomof3 said...

I am happy that I found your blog. It is so wonderful.


Pastor Steven said...

Very insightful post Tim, I know many Christians that frown on taking vows. But in this context it makes a lot of sense. Especially during this time of the year where many of us are trying to deny the flesh to focus on the spirit that we might be better prepared to remember Yeshua's passion, death and resurrection. Even though I know most of your reader's would not be observing Lent, Holy Week and Easter as I do.
It is at this time of the year that we remember Yeshua's word's during His temptation in the wilderness, when He quoting the Torah says that. . "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of G-d."



Tim Layne said...

Rob: I love your new picture. On Yom Kippur we do say a prayer to nullify certain vows. This prayer was added centuries ago for Jews who had undergone forced conversions.

Kristen: Thank you for your comments...I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

Steven: Your right, you know I had not thought of that. The relationship between Lent concluding with Pasca (on which you observe the resurrection of Christ) in the spring is strangely reflective of the forty days of repentance from Elul to The Fast culminating with Sukkot (on which we observe Yeshua's birth)in the fall. I'll have to write on this idea in more detail in the fall.

Miss Serenity said...

I remember when you were last here at our house and you were eating only at meals. I thought it was kind of cool, but I never thought of doing it for myself. It'd definetly be a good way to keep myself on track, that's for sure!


PS Hey, what do you think about this?

Roman said...

Great post! what a good practice for youth, like training wheels for our character.

Jennifer said...


This (I know!) is such a difficult area to control. It's good to hear that it is going well for you - and what you are doing to maintain your commitment. It kind of reminds me of AA's "just for today" slogan... you can get by for now by not worrying about tomorrow. The vow aspect is interesting. Thanks for the post.

Tim Layne said...

An Update: I've lost 13 lbs and the youth group is doing well.