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July 28, 2021

A Rabbi explains Notary Oaths & Affirmations

Filed under: General Stories — Tags: , , , — admin @ 5:24 am

Oaths and Affirmations have many religious overtones. The fact that God is mentioned in one and not the other is one aspect. The other gets into rules that resemble some of the rules for getting in an elevator during a kosher shabbat. Remember — some elevators are more kosher than others.

SUSIE: Rabbi, I heard that you can discuss how to do kosher notarizations. Can you elaborate in the case of Oaths?

RABBI NOTARIVICH: Yes. You see, (pauses, while pulling gently on his long and flowing beard) there are two types of solemn statements that could be made under the penalty of perjury to a Notary Public. One is an Oath, and the other is an Affirmation. The affirmation cannot be kosher because it doesn’t mention God. But, on the other hand the Oath is also perhaps not kosher because it makes you swear under Oath to God as a special act. This insinuates that under normal situations you would not necessarily tell the truth, but because you are engaged in a solemn ceremony with the Notary Public under the penalty of perjury that you will tell the truth. So, therefore neither solemn statement is kosher from that point of view.

On the other hand, for legal purposes we need such acts, otherwise, supposedly nothing could get done in the business world. And since we need to have sworn statements, it would be good if we did so under God, not solely for the purpose of swearing under God, but because those who engage in Affirmations seem to ignore God, disacknowledge God, dislike God, or dislike those who believe in him. So, Oaths would be more kosher than Affirmations relatively speaking although there is no formal standard, and technically a Notary act can neither be kosher, nor non-kosher.

However, on the third hand…

SUSIE: Rabbi, do you have three hands?

RABBI: Figuratively, I have infinite hands, it is a manner of speech. Anyway… So, on the third hand, there is another legal aspect which parallels with some of the ideology behind kosher elevators.

SUSIE: Does that mean you have to do a blessing on the elevator, or do a blessing while you are in the elevator, or the elevator needs to be milchik?

RABBI: If you ate meat, you definitely shouldn’t cook in a milchik elevator, but not so many people cook in an elevator unless they are really behind schedule. But, when a Notary is confronted with a client, the Notary may not choose the Notary act. They can explain the Notary acts and compare and contrast them but not choose them. The notary can ask if the client wants an Oath or Affirmation. Now, the case may arise where the Affiant is not the client. One party is paying for the notarization while another is being Notarized. This is common. So, which one chooses the Notary act. The answer is the one paying even if he chooses the wrong act for the situation. The document custodian if there is one might be wise to voice a preference as to what type of Notary act they will accept, as they can ultimately reject the notarization.

SUSIE: So, this is complicated, you have an affiant, a client, a custodian, a notary, AND a rabbi? What would happen if all of these entities went into a bar together? Or had to screw in a light bulb? What would happen?

RABBI: Easy. If the Rabbi was asked how to screw in the light bulb, he would want to spend at least 100 hours referencing sources in the scriptures and the midrashim to find suitable precedents for how to handle the situation. However, he would get nowhere because he wouldn’t be able to see without a functional lightbulb, so he would sit there in frustration and ultimately shrug his shoulders, say, “Oy gevalt”, and then leave. The document custodian would not be there so he could do nothing. The affiant would be a guest and would therefore do nothing. The client would be remote as well and would do nothing. The Notary would leave. However, the building custodian — a sixth entity would probably be the one to change the lightbulb, or the building manager, or whomever owns or manages the property.

SUSIE: That was complicated but makes sense. What if they went into a bar?

RABBI: The Rabbi would order a Manhattan, but would spent 20 minutes bothering the bartender as to whether or not the glass it was to be served in had even touched anything with dairy over the life of its existence and the bar tender would get annoyed and help someone else. The Notary would order a Santa Barbara Cabernet Sauvignon called, “Notary Public Red Blend”… yes, it actually exists, or something with the name Notary Public because the vineyard was owned by someone who used to be a Notary. The client would order a beer, and the affiant, would not want to swear under the influence so he would say, “I will have Ginger Ale”.

SUSIE: An interesting take on an old joke.

RABBI: So anyway, the client or the affiant if he is also the client chooses the type of notarization. We can compare choosing the notarization to pressing a button on an elevator or online menu. After all, with online notarizations, you would have to click a button to choose your notary act. On Shabbat which is from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown a person who is shomer shabbat (who follows the rules of kosher) cannot press an elevator button or turn on a light unless it is an emergency. However, a kosher elevator, stops on every floor, so you don’t have to press a button to call it nor do you have to press a button to choose what floor.

SUSIE: I feel sorry for kosher people who used to go to the world trade center, that used to have 200 floors. That would take four hours to get to the top if it stopped at every floor and by then shabbat would be half over.

RABBI: A good point.


LAURA: Rabbi, I called a Notary on Shabbat to ask if she did Debt Consolidations. She responded that she could not answer business questions on Shabbat because that would be working. So, I asked, why did you answer the phone then?

RABBI: On the one hand.

SUSIE: Here we go with the hands again. I’m expecting at least four hands.

RABBI: One the one hand, and just for the sake of argument, let’s say it is the left hand, it is forbidden to work on the sabbath which is shabbat in Hebrew. The Torah also forbids walking more than 2000 cubits out of your respective town on shabbat, perhaps because that would also be laborious even though that is not work. 2000 cubits is roughly 1KM just for the sake of reference. And it might take 15 minutes to walk that far.

So, this kosher Notary is willing to burden herself with a phone call on shabbat not knowing if it is a personal call or a business call. Since the Torah prohibits, working, but also prohibits recreational activities such as unnecessary or excessive walking that could prove laborious after a few minutes…. hmmm… there is no formal point of view on this matter.

It seems that since the notary took the trouble to answer the call which she knew had nothing to do with shabbat, that she could also answer a quick question about business just as long as answering that question was not excessively laborious like walking a kilometer. After all, at Synagogue, people discuss what business they are in and what is going on at their companies. That is talking about work, but it is very different than actually working. The point of not being laborious in any way on Shabbat is to save your energy and focus for prayer, relaxing, and socializing. If you waste your time on endless phone calls you lose that focus. It would be better that she would not answer the phone unless it was family or related to shabbat. But, answering a quick question would be okay in my book. I’m sure others will disagree as this is a controversial topic.

It would probably be better not to answer any phone calls on shabbat unless it is an emergency or related to who is coming to dinner.


VICKI: Rabbi, if a Notary did a bad job, would it be considered unkosher gossip or “Leshon Hara” to write a bad review on his listing?

RABBI: Many will agree that committing leshon hara could be worse than murder. But, on the other hand, if you don’t say anything, that notary might harm others endlessly. If you write a bad review, you might be harming that Notary’s reputation which could cause terrible spiritual consequences in this life and the next. On the other hand, if you don’t write the review, that Notary might harm others. So, should you choose the lesser of the evils? Should you only write the review if that Notary did something very bad and showed no sign of remorse? It is hard to answer a question like this as it is a judgement call.


SAM: I just did a meditation where I visited Notary Hell. There was a guy there who wrote a bad review about someone who ruined a hospital notarization. The only crime the inmate at hell had done in his life was to write a bad review. The Notary’s reputation was permanently ruined as his prime clients saw the review, and the Notary later starved to death as a result. And it was all because of that guy who wrote the bad review.

RABBI: Did he mention anything about how the social life is in hell? Word on the street is, “Go to hell for the social life, but heaven for the weather.”

SAM: Next time I’ll have to ask. I’m going to the underworld tonight, but I’m sure I’ll have time to visit hell sometime on Wednesday. Oh wait. I have an Apostille signing on Wednesday, maybe Wednesday night.

RABBI: One of my friends accidentally ate a piece of bacon and he was sure he would end up in hell. Could you… umm… you know, check up on him and see if he actually made it to hell?

SAM: Was his name Saul? And did he always wear red suspenders?


SAM: Never heard of him.. Just kidding. Saul is in purgatory. His Teshuva (repentance) is to think less about nonsensical trivialities. Until he masters this, the angels won’t let him into heaven.

RABBI: The irony of it all. Well I guess that wraps it up. We have answered all of our rabbinical Notary questions. Tune in next week to Ask the Rabbi!