Our Vauxhall Zafira has a serious fuel-injection problem. In short, it's knackered. So I've been looking to buy a new car. A friend offered me his Mercedes at a very reasonable price. I couldn't accept it. I mean, a rabbi with a fancy car?
In the US, some preachers have their own private jets. Many have a hard time equating luxury with true religious devotion. But let me ask you this: is it possible to live a life of luxury, with private jets and fancy yachts, and still be pious and devout?
Okay, so none of us won the £160million lotto (at least, no-one who'll admit to it). Can you imagine yourself sitting before a succulent, mouth watering roast on Shabbat and eating it purely for the sake of Shabbat and not at all for self enjoyment?
There are exceptional people who carry off this level of devotion to perfection. But for those that can't, Jewish law permitted vows. When we feel incapable of enjoying a particular pleasure without succumbing to self indulgence, it is permitted to vow to avoid that particular pleasure.
For example: suppose you had a particular weakness for ice-cream, and try as you might you could not overcome it: every time you see ice cream your mouth waters.
Can you harness ice-cream to the service of G-d? If you were able to eat it to enhance Shabbat then the ice-cream would be used to enhance G-d’s holiness on Shabbat. But if one gets immediately distracted by one’s own enjoyment, how can the ice cream ever serve G-d?
So the vow was there to help a Jew avoid a pitfall in the service of G-d. All the same, vows can be annulled. As soon as one feels confident in one’s ability to partake of that pleasure without corrupting one's purpose and soul, they should be back to eating as much as ice-cream as they please.