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Parshat Naso 5775: The Nazir, and Lessons of Nazirut for Our Times
by Moshe Burt
This year, for the fourth time in the past six years, our Parshat Naso falls out on the Shabbos following Shavuot.
Among the many laws contained in our Parshat Naso are Halachot concerning the nazir (nazirite). Sefer Shem Mishmuel (a selection of the works written by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, z’l, the Rebbe of Sochaczev, translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) describes nazirut, cites poskim of our parsha which describe the three restrictions taken on by one who takes upon himself the vows of a nazir and explains further (pages 312-314):
This person takes upon himself a vow to refrain from certain activities and by doing so achieves, at least temporarily, an exalted spiritual state.
“From wine and strong drink shall he abstain…” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 6, posuk 3)
“All the days of the vow of his abstention no razor may pass over his head… He shall grow the locks of the hair of his head.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 6, posuk 5)
“All the days of his abstention to Hashem he shall not approach a corpse.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 6, posuk 6)
The nazir may not cut the hair “on his head.” The head is the seat of brain and the intellect of man…. The nazir allows his intellect to burst forth and manifest itself beyond its usual boundaries.
Abstention from wine leads to greater control over the power of speech. Chazal tell us: “When wine goes in, secrets come out. (Eruvin 65a)
Finally, death represents the failure and demise of the physical world. Avoiding contact with it sanctifies the physical, active component of man.
This Parshat HaSheva will not go into the specific steps that the nazir need take in attaining a nazirite status, nor the steps and korbonot he fulfills at the completion of his nazirut.
One may ask why the laws of nazirut follow immediately after the laws concerning a sotah; regarding a man’s jealousy and/or one whose wife has gone astray committing treachery against him. The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash translates Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 6, posukim 1 and 2 and explains in commentary on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 6 (page 759):
“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them: A man or a woman who shall disassociate himself by taking a Nazirite vow of abstinence for the sake of Hashem…’”
…The sages derive that one who sees a sotah in her state of degradation should prohibit wine to himself by taking a Nazirite vow (Sotah 2a)
This sheds light on the underlying purpose of the Nazirite status and what would prompt one to adopt it. A sotah opted to follow her sensual passions and let her heart overpower her mind, her pursuit of pleasure to overcome her responsibility to Hashem…. Someone who saw her degradation — even her horrible death after she drank the bitter water — could easily be overcome by the fantasies of temptation…. The Nazirite’s abstinence from wine signals… that the adoption of a spiritual life can help close the door to the enticement that doomed the sotah.
The minimum period of Nazirism is thirty days, but a Nazirite who so desires may adopt longer periods. (Nazir 5a)
“Shall disassociate.” The translation follows Rashi and expresses the idea that the Nazirite… seeks to separate himself from the temptations of his environment. Targum renders ["Shall disassociate."] articulate, and, indeed, the Nazirite vow must be spoken clearly. Ebn Ezra offers an alternative translation: who shall do something astounding, for it is truly uncommon for someone to undertake a vow that will cut him off from a physical pleasure that others find enticing…. All of the above [translations] are valid halachically and philosophically.
Rabbi Mordechai Katz notes, in his sefer “L’ilmod U’lamed” on our parsha (pages 134-135):
Unfortunately, the influences of society sometimes make us all too much a part of today’s world. We sometimes adopt secular ways and overlook the high standards expected of us… Then it becomes time to take a lesson from the rite of Nazirut. It is necessary to make an abrupt U-turn and head back in the Torah direction. A major change in lifestyle is helpful in reminding us exactly what our life goals should be. If we break dramatically with alien ways and dedicate ourselves entirely to Hashem, …then we can get ourselves back onto the proper path.
It would seem that the lessons of Nazirut should also not be lost on today’s authority figures in Eretz Yisrael, be it the police, the IDF, bureaucratic and governmental offices and agencies, etc. where far too often personages in positions of authority over others often take prohibitive and corrupt liberties with their underlings, their subordinates thus subjecting them to severe physical and psychological degradations. It is time that such authoritarian figures internalize and take to heart the lessons of nazirut and its place in Torah immediately following the laws of sotah.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.