VEHICLE FOR HOLINESS
This week's Torah portion discusses in great detail one of the most interesting concepts mentioned in the Torah - that of a Nazir. A Nazir is a person who takes additional obligations upon himself in order to become more "holy" to Hashem.
This week's Torah portion discusses in great detail one of the most interesting concepts mentioned in the Torah - that of a Nazir. A Nazir is a person who takes additional obligations upon himself in order to become more "holy" to Hashem. The obligations include the abstinence from consuming grape products, from cutting of the hair, and from becoming impure through contact with a dead body. But is it so clear cut that this act brings one closer to Hashem? Should we all abstain from physical pleasures in order to become more "holy" before Hashem?
On the one hand the Torah says, "All the days he is a Nazir he is holy to Hashem" (Numbers 6:8). But several verses later, when describing the offerings which the Nazir must bring upon the completion of his thirty-day term, the list includes a sin offering (ibid. 6:16) which implies that he has done something wrong. The commentators explain this dichotomy by saying that the Nazir brings a sin offering because he has abstained from worldly pleasures which Hashem has given us as a gift. However, at the same time the individual had good intentions by removing himself from the often detrimental effects of wine, by not being bothered by his outward appearance, and by maintaining spiritual purity. His abstinence was motivated by the intention to elevate his level of spirituality.
These laws of the Nazir, which anybody has the option of taking upon himself, shows us an important idea in Jewish thought. It should be a goal of every Jew to attain a spiritual closeness to Hashem, and although becoming a Nazir may be a beautiful way to achieve this goal, it is by far not the only way. There are numerous avenues of attaining holiness; learning Torah, doing kindness to others, and eating a Shabbat dinner with the family are all possible ways to gain a greater spiritual connection with the Almighty. All of our activities during the day, if done in the proper manner, can become holy. We must remember that it is not action alone which brings an elevated level of holiness, but the actions must be accompanied with the proper intentions and a true desire to become close to Hashem.
Incorporating this lesson into our lives reaps great benefits, as is demonstrated by the verses immediately following the section of the Nazir. Hashem commands the Kohanim (priests) to bless every member of the Children of Israel, not only those who have become holy through abstention from wine and haircuts. Every one of us who strives to elevate our actions can be the recipient of this blessing, the same one that many parents give their children on Friday night: "May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish for you peace" (Numbers 6:25-27).
Jonathan Fisher, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta and graduate of Yeshiva University, resides in New York.
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