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June 04, 2020

Torah Minute with Rav Yaakov – Parshat Naso 5780

Author - Yaakov Komisar

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone

This week’s parsha teaches us about a singular figure in Judaism: the Nazir. This is a person who for their own spiritual process elects to take an oath to not drink wine or anything made from grapes, cut their hair or shave, or become tamei, ritually impure, for a certain amount of weeks or months depending on the individual. When the time has elapsed, the Nazir brings a korban chatat, sin offering, to the Beit Hamikdash

The commentaries differ over why this is. The Ramban says the offering is brought because ideally, people who would be Nazirs and live in such elevated purity their entire lives, and returning to “the real world” is a step down spiritually that requires a sin offering. 

The Rambam, on the opposite side of the spectrum, says that to the contrary, being a Nazir is not an ideal state at all but a corrective one. A person elects to become a Nazir as an extreme. It’s an extreme vow to give up joys of this world that Hashem created and which are permitted to us, and according to the Rambam the Nazir completes the process to compensate for a certain extreme behavior or trait that they are trying to correct by going to the opposite extreme.

In this understanding, the offering is brought for the sin of refraining from permitted earthly pleasures created by Hashem, and more to the point for the sin of previously acting on whatever extreme behaviors encouraged one to take on being a Nazir in the first place. So the Nazir is a spiritually-elevated individual, but one whose spiritual work is learning to balance this world and the next. 

Whether one agrees with the Ramban or the Rambam about the nature of being a Nazir, the Torah seems to be teaching us that sometimes it’s necessary to go out of one’s comfort zone, to take extreme measures, in order to make things right. 

Individually or collectively, there are times when serious change is needed for a reset in how we operate in the world, to bring us through the process to a more balanced place. Sometimes there are challenging processes that make demands of us, forcing us to declare what we stand for and what we are willing to stand up for, and how much of a change we are willing to make happen to get to a better place, even when it’s challenging. 

This parsha speaks to this moment in America, when people are peacefully marching in every single state to stand up against the extremes of racism and police brutality toward Black people, including millions of people who have never protested before in their lives. American citizens are emulating the Nazir by challenging themselves to take a level of action they may never have before, by standing up and speaking out. 

It’s an extreme moment, and with Hashem’s help it will effect long-fought-for change in America and help us find a new way of being, in balance, as a country. With Hashem’s help we can practice humility, listen to diverse voices more than we speak over them, and be a part of repairing our country. Shabbat Shalom

Questions for the Shabbat Table:

  • What could you be doing to learn more about the diversity of perspectives that are being expressed right now?
  • What can you do to step out of your comfort zone for a cause that you believe in?