In this week's Torah portion, Vayetzei, we encounter Jacob's dream about the ladder to heaven, along which angels ascend and descend. And we encounter his vow, made upon awakening from that dream, that if God is with him in his journey and brings him safely home, then God will be his God.
It's a fascinatingly conditional vow, and it served as the jumping-off point for this week's reflection over at Radical Torah. (Which, incidentally, draws a lot on a text by the Me'am Lo'ez -- I posted about his work here a while back and people seemed intrigued, so maybe you'll dig this d'var, too.)
I wouldn't be so sure that making a vow doesn't actually "do" anything. To be sure, no visible outward change arises. If I were to vow today to exercise regularly in the month of December, or to daven with greater kavvanah in shul this Shabbat, or to hand a dollar to the Salvation Army bell-ringer every time I enter the grocery store, there would be no noticeable change in the fabric of my world. (And, by the same token, were I to break any of those vows, it's likely no one would notice, much less call me on it.)
But when we make promises, we change ourselves in subtle ways. This is why Jewish tradition takes vows so seriously. Our vows say something about who we are, and who we hope to become. When we make vows we can't, or don't, fulfil, a kind of intangible detritus settles in our hearts...
Read the whole thing here: Dreams, vows, and changes.