Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Promise and B'li neder

On aim I asked my friend about a wedding I didn't attend because I was on vacation. I asked her how it went, how the bride looked, if the groom was cute and so on. She replied:

I have pics from her wedding, I will send them to you. B'li neder

I said: You're so frummy, "bli neder" haha

She says: I was making a promise, what if I break it?


So I went on with an argument on how she should've taken a philsophy of language course. If one doesn't say "I promise" in a culture with a language that requires one to say "I promise" she therefore, did not make the promise.

Like when little kids fight. One little kid says to the other "But you said you'd share your candy"

And the other kid (usually older) replies "I know, but I never promised"

This is the perfect example of what I'm talking about. While the "I never promised" doesn't usually get the snotty kid off the hook by a parent or guardian, the lack of "I promise" definitly did give him some leeway. Had he promised, the kid would've (in my experience) gotten in more trouble.

So my friend replied "But this is how I learned it, and I'm sticking to that"

So I said to her, "Fine, but these things are relative to language and culture. IF you never said 'I promise' and I were to take you to court, I'd get nothing, because that 'I promise' means something. Without it, I've got no case...

Also, just like you cannot use third person to refer to a Rav or teacher, since it is grammatically incorrect, and you'd have to find a different means of showing respect, you cannot assume someone promised without them actually promising. Maybe there is something in Hebrew or Aramaic that implies a promise that we do not know about, but in the English language, as well as in the American culture, one needs the "I promise" to actually imply a promise. I bet the beis din would throw something out if its without promise."

So she replies (good reply, but indirectly proved my point, not hers) "The beis din would throw everything out without a contract."

Me: "LOL, duh. a contract is a promise."

Anyway. She signed off. But it got me thinking, what is a promise? I mean, if I told my sister I will give her $50 tomorrow and I do not, I lied. And it might just be me, but I feel that somehow it is worse, and more than just a lie if I actually say "I promise I'll give you $50 tomorrow" and do not.

But then it goes to the question of (I forgot who asked) on whether or not a promise is a promise if the person giving it had no intention to hold it. So if I promise my sister I'll giver her $50 tomorrow, even though I have no desire to actually do so, am I still promising? According to some philosophers, its based on society, while others say its the law of the language (which I don't get since language is a convention of soceity). Anyway. I think my friend is totally wack. And I hold firmly to not saying "b'li neder" because its so annoying.

12 comments:

FrummeYenta said...

Ask your sis. We learned about this in school. Halachicly, it's only a promise if: 1) You state out loud that you will do something good, usually for G-d. Therefore, if you tell your friend you will meet her after school, it's not considered a promise, since that's a generally neutral statement. However, if you say you will give $100 to tzedakah, that's considered a promise. 2) You do something 3 times. Again, this applies to something like davening mincha three days in a row, not eating Cheerios for breakfast three days in a row.
People usually just say B"N as a precaution, since they're not sure if it counts as a promise or not.

~Lady E~ said...

FS: i completely understand what you mean. I hate it when people say Bli Neder. I remember i once asked someone to bring something in for me the next day. They ansered "sure, i promise Bli Neder". I got so frustrated. I said you either promise or you don't, i need a straight answer. The reason you ask people to promise is because you need to rely on them and feel like they'll come through for you. If someone says i promise but i dont promise what kind of assurance does that give u. And also how can you promise and yet not promise at the same time...i just don't get that.

frumskeptic said...

yente: LOL. She actually gave me the same examples after she read the post.

Here is the problem. What if I daven mincha for two days, and before the 3rd day I say "Bli Neder I'll daven tomorrow" does that count if something comes up and I choose not to daven mincha? And if i AM free from doing it the fourth day because I said the bli neder, when do i begin my recount for the next three days? Or does the b'li neder work forever?

I don't buy the "three times a promise" thing. Life happens. You're not gonna keep track of everything u did three days in a row to say b'li neder incase you can't the 4th,5th day. Something is either lost in translation or the BY/Yeshiva system isn't telling us something.

frumskeptic said...

yente: LOL. She actually gave me the same examples after she read the post.

Here is the problem. What if I daven mincha for two days, and before the 3rd day I say "Bli Neder I'll daven tomorrow" does that count if something comes up and I choose not to daven mincha? And if i AM free from doing it the fourth day because I said the bli neder, when do i begin my recount for the next three days? Or does the b'li neder work forever?

I don't buy the "three times a promise" thing. Life happens. You're not gonna keep track of everything u did three days in a row to say b'li neder incase you can't the 4th,5th day. Something is either lost in translation or the BY/Yeshiva system isn't telling us something.

frustrated frummie said...

FS: I totally and completely agree with you, however I do also have to comment on what ur friend said because I too was brought up to say this even without saying "I Promise!" There have even been times when I am in college and completely surrounded by my secular friends, when I notice that if I say to them "oh! yeah of course I will send you the notes, but I can't promise anything!" and then they say something along the lines of "I'm not asking you to promise me anything but just to send them!" Anyway I have found that now I no longer say those words, Bli neder or "I can't promise" because like I said I agree with you that in today's day in age the words "I Promise" are definitely needed to indicate a promise no matter what!

FrummeYenta said...

Ahhh you're too complicated for my poor computer-drenched mind.
However, I do know that if you say bli neder before saying mincha, in that case then it is not a promise, and if you forget, it's ok. More than that, I do not know. Ask your LOR :-P

Moshe said...

How about those people that put bs"d on their sites and in their emails.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

הגם שדיני נדרים ושבועות רבים הם אין ספור, והגם שה"פרום-ינטה" כתבה תמצית די-טוב על הלכות אלו בימינו, הייתי רוצה לצטט כאן את מאמר חכמינו בתלמוד המאד פשוטה: "הין צדק יהיה לך"- שיהא "הן" שלך צדק ו"לאו" שלך צדק. והלואי נקיים לפחות את זה. י

mlevin said...

Can you translate into English

Anonymous said...

it's just frumspeak. a culteral thing

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

The tuth is the actual Halakhic regulations of vows and promises are many- "frum-yenta" has a pretty good synopsis going on there, though I still think it worthwhile to quote what it says in B. Talmud-Ketubot "הין צדק יהיה לך"- This means that your "yes" should be a yes, and your "no" should be a no (הין is a measure, but also yes in Mishnaic Hebrew).

...sorry, I was just in a Hebrew mood..

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

ugh..I pressed "Publish" prematurely, the point I was making was before all the complicated halakhot, and before all the "b'h"s on top of pages we should first work on just not lying, and not breaking our word.