Quick Commentary: Parashat Naso (Numbers 4-7)
This week’s Torah portion speaks of those who voluntarily take on the vow of the Nazirite, usually for a limited amount of time. This text seems far-removed from our contemporary concerns, but it raises a vital question for us today.
Those who took the Nazirite vow could not go near a dead body for any reason, even to mourn a close relative. They could not cut their hair or trim their beards, nor could they partake of wine or strong drink.
The Torah makes clear that the purpose of the Nazirite vow was to make one “Holy to the Eternal One. (Numbers 6:8).”
We rightly wonder. How could imposing these strange restrictions upon oneself make a person more holy to God than he or she was before?
The answer eludes me, but it does not matter.
The more important question is: What can we do today to make ourselves more “Holy to the Eternal One?” What can we do to inspire ourselves to more fully embrace our covenantal obligations as descendants of Abraham and Sarah to: “Be a blessing (Genesis 12:2),” to embrace God’s teachings and be worthy of them (Genesis 17:1)” and to do our best and teach our children and grandchildren to do their best to fill the world with “Tzedakah (righteousness) and Mishpat (justice) (Genesis 18:19)?”
Certainly, the acts we perform to inspire ourselves have changed over the millennia, but the goal remains the same.
We seek to more closely live up to the Divine Image in which we were created and to use the talents with which God has blessed us to make a more just, caring and compassionate society for all of God’s children!
6 thoughts on “An Ancient Text Raises a Vital Question for Today”
It is a task to live up to the Divine Image, but like any work worthy of the effort, it has its rewards. Thank you Rabbi.
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Susan, I so appreciate your comment! Thank you!
Rabbi, it is difficult to understand why putting restrictions on human relationships make them more holy. I felt the same angst trying to comprehend why a Priest who was not a physically perfect speciment could not serve as a Priest. To become holy comes from reaching out to those who need us, being present, wrestling with the issues before us. Thank you for your teaching.
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I share your puzzlement, Rabbi Edelman, but I am so glad that our understanding of what it means to be holy has evolved and is continuing to evolve! Chat Sameach, and I am so excited for you and for the congregation about your new pulpit!
A beautiful lesson, Stephen.
Stephen the Nazirite rituals are certainly interesting. But for us in the 21st century, we need to strive to be more compassionate, learned, and just to ourselves and in society. I agree with you about how to be more holy to Adonai.