A Moral Dilemma for the Shabbos Table -
"Following through with what comes out of your mouth"
Each Friday I will send one out from my friend R. Yitz Weiner
This week’s Torah portion discuses the Mitzva of nedarim, of keeping a vow or a promise that one has made. The Torah teaches that it is very important to keep the nedarim that one makes, and it is seen as a very grave sin to violate one’s neder (vow).
The following true story explores the limits of keeping a pledge.
Mrs. Evelyn Weinstein was a wealthy woman in her 50’s. One day she started to have severe abdominal pressure and pain. The pain lasted several days. Evelyn scheduled an appointment with her doctor who soon referred her to a specialist. Her doctor gave her blood tests, an ultra sound and an MRI. Three days late the
doctor called her with very serious news. He told her that she had an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. He suggested that they schedule a surgery as soon possible. Evelyn was extremely anxious and worried. She understood that our sages teach,
that the merit of charity can save from death, and she immediately resolved to make a substantial contribution to charity. She called the head of a Jewish school that she made annual donations to. She told him about her prognosis, and she pledged that if her cancer was totally cured, she would give an additional $50,000 of charity to the school. In truth, that much money was a stretch for her, but she felt that it would be a powerful merit for a successful outcome.
Several days later, before the surgery was to be performed, Evelyn’s doctor ran another battery of tests and exams. To his great surprise, the tests all came up clean. After running
more tests it became clear that it was a false positive, and Evelyn never had cancer in the first palace. Evelyn was of course extremely relived.
After the excitement died down, she drove by the school and remembered the promise of $50,000 she made to the school. But she wondered if she was obligated to give the $50,000 to charity. On one hand she made the pledge. But on the other hand, she made the pledge conditional on being cured from cancer. She never had cancer in the first place and was never cured from it.
The $50,000 was not an easy donation for her. Does Evelyn have an obligation to give the $50,000 in this case?
What do you think?