Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for the next few weeks. I will be following the schedule in Eretz Yisrael. Click here for a Dvar Torah for this week's parsha in CHUL, Parshas Bamidbar.
As the longest parsha in the Torah, you would expect Parshas Nasso to have no shortage of topics to choose from. While it may not have as many as you would think, it does contain some important laws. One of them is the mitzvah of Nazir.
At different points in time and for a variety of reasons, a person feels a necessity to focus themselves on spirituality by separating themselves a little bit from this world. For someone who desires to cut himself from worldly pleasures, the Torah gives specific guidelines to follow. He cannot cut his hair, become tamei from contact with a dead body, or drink wine or partake of any grape products for a period of thirty days. This person is known as a Nazir.
“לְאָבִ֣יו וּלְאִמּ֗וֹ לְאָחִיו֙ וּלְאַ֣חֹת֔וֹ לֹֽא־יִטַּמָּ֥א לָהֶ֖ם בְּמֹתָ֑ם” To his father and his mother, to his brother and his sister, he shall not defile himself if they die” (Bamidbar 6:7). As we mentioned, a Nazir, like a Kohen, is not allowed to come into contact with a dead body; this includes even his closest relatives, his parents and siblings. Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky points out that in regards to the Kohen, the Torah includes his children on the list of relatives regarding tumah; however, by the Nazir, the Torah does not mention them. Why not?
He explains with an original idea, that perhaps for the most part, only younger people became Nazirs, in which case, they wouldn’t have any children so the Torah doesn’t have to mention them. Why would this be the case?
The Torah doesn’t encourage unnecessary restrictions, even when they potentially lead to higher levels of spirituality. The reason why Hashem gave us a physical existence is so we can take the physical aspects of this world and imbibe them with spirituality. For example, making Kiddush on wine gives it a certain degree of holiness. When discussing the laws of a Nazir, the Torah doesn’t give any reason why you should become one, it just tells us the laws, seemingly encouraging us to set these restrictions for ourselves. Why would the Torah do this and what would prompt someone to accept upon themselves these unnecessary restrictions?
The classic reason given by Chazal is that we find these pesukim written directly following the story of the Sotah, a lady who performed a sinful and unholy act. At her ‘trial’ in the Beis Hamikdash, we place her in a degrading state while she awaits her fate. The reason we do this is so someone passing through the Beis Hamikdash on that day should see her and where the overindulgence in physical pleasures can lead a person. That person should go home with a renewed conviction to commit himself to controlling his desires. The Torah gives him a plan of action to follow; he becomes a Nazir.
The older you get, the harder it becomes to change your ways. After being set in your ways for so long, acting differently seems too difficult or even unnecessary. However, the youth, who have not yet become so set in their ways, find it easier to change their behavior, and even cut themselves off from certain physical pleasures for a while! Therefore, even though an older person can certainly become a Nazir, it was much less common. We have a rule that the Torah speaks the language of the common man; since the concept of Nazir would apply mostly to younger people with no children, the Torah spoke to those people and didn’t include children in the list of relatives.
This offers us a tremendous mussar lesson heading into the holiday of Matan Torah, every day when we follow a path, that path becomes more engrained within us. Which one will we follow? It only gets harder to change, so let’s start now before it’s too late. Hopefully by the time we reach old age, we won’t need to use the power of a Nazir to work on ourselves, it will already be truly embedded within.
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