Parashas Naso

One of the many topics in this week’s parashah is that of the nazir (Nazirite) – a person who commits to a Torah-specified regimen of abstinence for a set period. During this period, a nazir is forbidden to drink wine, consume any grape products, cut his hair, or defile himself through contact (directly or in certain indirect ways) with a human corpse. At the end of the period, the nazir shaves his hair and brings offerings.
The Torah introduces the laws of the nazir as follows (Bamidbar 6:2-3): “A man or woman who shall set himself apart by swearing a Nazrite vow of abstinence, designating himself a Nazirite unto Hashem – from new or aged wine he shall abstain ….” The word yafli, “set himself apart,” is related to the word pele, meaning a “a wonder.” Thus, the Torah is hinting that genuine nazirus is a wondrous act of piety.
What is genuine nazirus? The Maggid explains that a genuine nazir is one who takes on his nazirus with a full awareness of what it entails and a firm commitment to fulfill it. The Maggid brings out the point with a analogy. Suppose a person has finished a big meal, and he then vows to fast for the next three days. It is uncertain whether he will keep his vow, because he probably did not fully recognize, when he made the vow, how hungry he would be two days later. But now consider a person who has just completed a three-day fast, is sitting down at a set table, and then, with great fortitude, takes upon himself to fast another three days, to gain the merit of fasting for a full stretch of six weekdays. This person, amidst pangs of hunger, has quashed his natural inclinations is a wondrous way. He has stood up to a powerful urge and pushed it aside. Such a person, the Maggid says, is sure to keep his vow.
The Maggid applies this idea to explain a Gemara in Nedarim 9b about nazirus. The Torah states that when a nazir accidentally becomes defiled though a corpse, he must bring a special offering and then begin his nazirus again. The offering is known as a “defiled nazir offering.” Shimon HaTzaddik, the Gemara says, declared that he ate of such an offering only once his entire life. The Maggid explains that Shimon HaTzaddik did not want to eat of an offering of a person who, had the accident not happened, might still not have kept his nazirus. Shimon HaTzaddik then tells of the one occasion when he did eat of a defiled nazir offering. A young man, a handsome fellow with beautiful locks of hair, came to bring such an offering. Shimon HaTzaddik marveled over this young man’s decision to become a nazir, which would ultimately require him to shave his hair. He asked him: “What, my son, made you decide to destroy your beautiful hair?” The young man replied: “Once, while at a pool of water, I saw my reflection, and I was overcome by my good looks. I then said to myself: ‘Wicked one!’ Why do you pride yourself over what is not truly yours? Over a body that is destined to be overrun by maggots and worms? I will shave off this hair for the sake of heaven!’” Shimon HaTzaddik then kissed him on the head and told him: “My son, may there be many nazirim like you in Israel. It is in regard to you that it is written – ‘a man or woman who shall [wondrously] set himself apart by swearing a Nazrite vow of abstinence.’” This young man knew full well what he was giving up, and, in an wondrous exercise of willpower, he gave it up wholeheartedly for the sake of heaven.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Naso:

    […] depending on the vow. The Maggid explains this cryptic remark, building on the theme (discussed in last year’s piece on this parashah) of the need for awareness and commitment in taking a vow of nazirus. Consider, the Maggid says, a […]

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