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G-d spoke to Moses saying, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them, 'A man or a woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazerite vow of abstinence for the sake of G-d… shall abstain from wine… and a razor shall not pass over his head'" (6:1-4)
The long central section of Parashat Naso includes the sections dealing with Sotah (the suspected unfaithful wife) and Nazir (taking on an additional personal status of holiness, prohibiting having a haircut or drinking wine).
The Talmud (Sotah 2a) brings the tradition that the reason the topic of Nazir follows that of Sotah is to teach that anyone who saw the harsh, degrading ordeal that the Sotah was put through should abstain from wine because it can bring a person to commit adultery.
But at first glance, the ordeal of the Sotah ought to have the reverse effect. It should deter, not promote further adultery. The person saw the adulteress' dramatic death from the bitter waters within the Temple precinct, causing 'the thigh to collapse and the stomach to swell' (5:22). That would make the most hardened participant in adultery think twice before ever doing it in the future. Why should he, of all people, have to take on that additional status of being a Nazir?
It may be suggested that the combination of the three prohibitions of the Nazir - any connection with wine, ritual impurity, or having a haircut, induce a higher level of spiritual purity. The Torah does not require these forms of abstinence of normal human beings.
However, in accommodating Nazir, the Torah recognizes that the spiritual forces that these restrictions induce are beneficial in the following way. For example, in the case of committing adultery. A man may be consumed with passion for a married woman. It is human nature. But he may relate to those passions in two different ways, on a lower spiritual level, and on a higher spiritual level.
At a lower spiritual level, he declines indulging because he has witnessed that adultery does not pay. During Temple times, it was the degrading process and fatal consequences of the Sotah procedure. And today, it can be the fear of being caught, and having to face the consequences of a scandalous divorce and a broken family.
But on a higher spiritual level, the passionate man finds his spirit rebelling - however passionate. Adultery simply does not fit in with his deeper spiritual emotions and bonds, and his patterns of processing information. Adultery is simply incongruent with his personal refinement and sensitivity. And it is this spiritual refinement that a period of being a Nazirite induces.
As the Torah states: "All the days of being a Nazirite, he is holy - to G-d" (6:8).
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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