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Dvar for Matot-Maasei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

Moshe addresses the tribe leaders when describing the laws of personal vows, the importance of keeping those vows, and the options to annul those vows (30:2-17). Why are the tribal leaders being given these laws instead of Moshe’s standard practice of teaching the people directly?

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig suggests that personal vows have minimal impact on society; thus, one may conclude that regulating, let alone addressing these vows, should be left to the individual. However, because we are all one people, we have a collective responsibility to help others, sometimes even when they do not ask for it. When someone vows to deny themselves something, that is often a sign that they are not satisfied with themselves, their lives, or situations. Thus personal vows are societal issues, so leaders must be aware and sensitive in responding to such situations and help those struggling. Being part of a people makes us more than the sum of our parts, and it is because we care for those around us; not just care, as in a greater level of attention, but care as in actively concerning ourselves with each other’s struggles.