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Vows and Oaths
(08-22-2015, 06:30 AM)cnk15 Wrote: My post is about vows. I think I read somewhere that if someone does something three times in a row that thing becomes a vow or like a vow, and the person is now obligated to do it. Is this true for Noahides?

For Noahides / Gentiles, that does not establish an obligation with the force of vow. Vows are established verbally and with intention as such.

But if one makes a strong commitment to do a good practice in the service of G-d, and then makes that part of his established long-term lifestyle, it's not proper to drop it without an overriding good reason. If a person who has taken on something like that thinks there is a overriding reason to drop it, it is advisable for him to first consult about it with a Torah scholar who will give him an objective opinion about whether it's justifiable for him to drop it.

(08-22-2015, 06:30 AM)cnk15 Wrote: For example, if I repent three days in a row have I now made a vow and am obligated to repent everyday?

You're not obligated on account of that. For Noahides / Gentiles,  a real obligation for repentance is not established by a vow. Rather, if a person commits a sin, he has an obligation to repent to G-d and resolve not to repeat the sin.

(08-22-2015, 06:30 AM)cnk15 Wrote: Another example, when I was a child I decided to become a vegetarian. I have now eaten many vegetarian meals in a row. Can I now never change my mind and eat meat? Could I have made a vow just by stating that I was a vegetarian? I never had in mind the possibility that I could be making a vow when I did these things.

I assume that you took on a vegetarian diet based on your own ideas for moral standards. Now you have learned from the Torah that eating meat is permitted, and it's not immoral, but there are prohibitions against inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on living creatures, and against eating meat that was removed from an animal while it was still alive.

It seems to me that in this case, in which you've privately and publicly kept to a commitment for many years to observe a vegetarian diet as a matter of (misplaced) conviction, it will be a good idea for you to meet together with 3, 2, or 1 of your friends and explain that you have been learning about the true moral permissibility of eating meat, and if you would have known that originally, you would not have made any commitment to a vegetarian diet. So you are now dropping the practice of vegetarianism.

(08-22-2015, 06:30 AM)cnk15 Wrote: I am also worried about having possibly made vows/promises in the past before I began studying Noahidism and was less conscientious about certain things, by saying I would or wouldn't do something. Sometimes using the word "promise" and sometimes not. I don't think I ever used the word "vow." In some instances I carried the things out; in others I didn't.

I can't remember all the incidents, as this is talking about basically my whole life. What can I do? I know you should always do as you say, but is that the same thing as a vow? Before studying Noahidism I was more careless about things and am now worried. Thank you in advance for any and all help.

Simple promises made to other people are important to keep, but they do not have the same force as a vow. A vow (or oath) means that the person is declaring upon himself an obligation to G-d that he is going to do or not to such and such, or that his words are completely true, etc.

Noahides are strongly encouraged to study the chapters on "Laws of Vows and Promises," and "Annulment of Vows and Promises," in "The Divine Code" by Rabbi Moshe Weiner, Part III:
This is a response to Director Michael's post to my questions in the Vows and Oaths thread.

Thank you for your answers. How do I know what constitutes making a strong commitment/when it becomes an established part of my long term lifestyle. I know that might not be a cut and dry thing but could you elaborate more?
Also, in terms of what you said about repenting not being obligated as a vow by doing it three days in a row could it not become a situation like above where it becomes a type of obligation (maybe not on the level of a vow) based on one repeatedly doing it everyday? Thank you again.
There are vows for actions (to do something), and vows for restraining (not to do something).

From the book by Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem, "The Divine Code," p. 276, in the chapter on "Laws of Vows and Promises," topic 3:1 -

"A Gentile does not have a specific commandment to fulfill any promises or vows he makes, and the Gentiles have not been warned against transgressing their words. In any case, even though they were not commanded regarding this, as a thing which is obligatory according to human intelligence, every person is obligated to keep his word, and how much more so not to lie about the past."

Since it is a logical obligation for Gentiles to fulfill their verbal promises or vows, rather than an actual Divine commandment, how much more so are they not held liable for deciding to stop doing an optional action or restraint which was only repeated in the past but never verbalized as a promise or a vow.

The situations in which this general exemption could become questionable, such that it could be doubtful whether or not the person can decide to stop without concern, depend upon the nature of the action and the intention. If one sets for himself:

- a habitual permissible good deed (e.g. daily prayer), with the intention of going beyond his basic obligations as a way of doing more to serve to G-d, or
- a habitual permissible restraint (e.g. for self-refinement) with the intention of going beyond his basic obligations as a way of doing more to serve to G-d,

then if he later decides to just stop from that higher mode of Divine service that he had firmly established for himself, it may draw the attention of G-d to ask about him, "Why did this person stop from serving Me in that superior way that he had established for himself? Was his reason (or excuse) for stopping really justified?" Once the attention of G-d has been drawn forth to ask this about the person, it may additionally invite closer Divine inspection of the person's other deeds as well (which is something that one should try to avoid).

So if you have a question about whether it's appropriate or no problem to stop an ongoing good deed or self-restraint that you had firmly taken on without any verbal promise or vow, the things you can do are:
(1) think this over in your own mind for a while, with honest self-evaluation (this may reveal the answer to your question);
(2) discuss it with your trusted observant Jewish or Noahide mentor to get an objective opinion;
(3) present the question to an Orthodox Rabbi for his advice.

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