Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Without a Torah oath" (and Harry Potter unbreakable vows)

A few readers asked me what I mean when I promise to donate 10% of my book proceeds to Israeli schools "without a Torah oath."

I wrote this as a translation of the Hebrew phrase "bli neder." The idea is that while I'm promising to make this donation, and in fact I'm about to make the first one, I don't want to make this promise be an oath from the perspective of Torah law. Torah law takes oaths (swearing to do something or swearing not to do something) very seriously, and people are discouraged from making oaths even if they intend to keep them because of the seriousness involved. Basically taking an oath is seen by Torah law as creating an obligation that's as binding on the person as any Torah law is.

A Torah oath is actually similar in many respects to an "unbreakable vow" as described in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

So to be clear, I fully intend to make the donations, despite wanting on principle to avoid binding my soul in an oath.

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