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Commandment or Vow?

Sadly today is the last day of our Rabbinic Conference for the Pacific Region.  It has been a wonderful week of learning. We have been thinking about new ways to define and redefine Jewish connections, life, the Reform Movement as well as build a relationship with Israel.  Our Scholar, Dr. Rabbi Michael Marmur, Provost of the Hebrew Union College taught us to think in different kinds of categories including using the concept of a neder, a vow to enhance one’s faith and commitment.

Traditionally we use mitzvot or the idea of commandment.  God commands us to observe even though we willingly entered into that relationship at Sinai.  But in this post – modern world, where identity and group association is voluntary does the idea of command still work?  In a democratic setting like North America does being commanded have the same resonance as it once did?

A vow on the other hand is a voluntary commitment to God in Jewish tradition.  Wedding vows are not a Jewish thing and in the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony there are not vows.  No “I do”. Instead a vow is between an individual and God like the vow Jacob makes after he dreams of the ladder to heaven.

Could this be a category then that moves you to greater commitment and faith as a Jew?

Commandment or Vow?  Which?