Reminder: Hattarat Nedarim

I was asked by Reb Zalman to send along a reminder to you for Hattarat Nedarim / The Release of Vows service, (best done before Rosh Hashanah which begins this year on Wednesday Night, September 8th, 2010).

My first thought was, “Dear Reb Zalman.  But I put this out there already!”  (cf., Hattarat Nedarim / The Release Of Vows,  

But then I thought:  This is not a thing to just read and file.  It matters not if we did this last year, or the year before, or we did not. 

What matters is that here we are again.  Rosh Hashanah will soon be here and we will be faced with the opportunity to do personal work as we enter Ha-Aseret Y’mei Teshuvah / the Ten Days of Repentance.  We will do the Hattarat Nedarim each year before Rosh HaShanah.  Then, in subsequent years, we will do it again, and again, (and God-willing, each time from a higher level). 

So what is involved?

Well, first, you must find and assemble three “judges” to serve as your witnesses, as a Bet Din

The three judges should be Shomer Shabbos according to the way your community defines it, regardless of your community’s affiliation as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Secular Humanist, Atheist, etc.  or whatever.  Please draw upon your community’s guidelines for this definition. 

And for those of us who are unaffiliated, find three who are Shomer by personal standards, (e.g., good people, moral people, spiritual people, etc.)  For a comprehensive treatment of this topic of Shomer Shabbos, please read in Reb Zalman’s wonderful book, Jewish With Feeling.

If you are together with your community on a regular basis in a daily minyan, then the assembling may be a bit easier, but if not, you will need to work out the logistics to get the three together with you.  Perhaps you might arrange this by pulling three aside at your community’s Selichot service into a private space. 

Then just go through the ritual reading your parts in turn.

Reb Zalman gave some examples in a recent post, (cf., Vows and A Gate of Regret  

There was a man who suffered from a terminal case of cancer.  He made an oath:  “Dear God:  I pray that you will make it so that I can live to see my sixtieth birthday.  If you do this, dear God, then I promise such and such.” 

Now, the man had already turned sixty, and he felt that this vow was hanging over his head, as if God were saying:  “I got you to sixty, so now I am off the hook with you.”  

So for this one, canceling the oath helped.

Or another situation, and perhaps a common one: 

“I have an addiction.”  Or “There is something in my life that feels too strong, too difficult for me to correct and yet I feel a sense of desperation over needing to do so.”  

In a moment of weakness I made an oath:  “I swear I will stop this addiction,” or “I will fix this broken thing.”

Over time, unfortunately, “I was not strong enough,” “I did not have the insight to correct it, to stop it,” “I did not have the support,” “I did not have the knowledge,” etc.  “I failed.”  

Thus, I have added to my tzoris some more tzoris because I have also the guilt of an oath upon which I have not carried through.

In this case, again, the person is better off anulling the vow.

After you have assembled the Beis Din, hand out the parts and read through it with them.  When you are done, if you feel comfortable, you may decide to share with them particulars on some of the oaths you are anulling.  If not, that’s okay too.  It is not necessary to share.  The power of this ritual is really between you and the court on high. 

L-Shanah Tovah
Gabbai Seth Fishman BLOG Editor

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