Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Parshas Naso

Usually I post the weekly d'var torah on Thursday or Friday, but being that this is my favorite d'var of the year, I'm posting it a bit early in hopes that more people will be able to read it.

In this week's Parsha, Parshas Naso, we learn about a couple of the most fascinating topics in the Torah; Sotah and Nazir. Essentially, a Sotah is a women that is accused of being a wayward wife and she goes through a process at the Beis haMikdash where she drinks a mixture of water and earth from the floor of the Mishkan. If she is innocent, the waters do not effect her, but if she is guilty of cheating on her husband, the waters make her stomach swell to the point of death.

A nazir is someone who takes an oath to abstain from drinking wine or any grape products, as well as refraining from shaving or taking a haircut. The common explanation for Nazirus is that it is recommended for someone that is having trouble on the "middle path". This person, for example, could be someone that is completely caught up in the material aspects of life, with no sense of spirituality. A period of nazirus would forbid him to drink wine or take a haircut - things that the person was probably too caught up with beforehand. By previously being on one end of the continuum, but now moving to the complete opposite end of the continuum, the Torah hopes that this person will, from then on, lead a life in the "middle path".

Interestingly, these two concepts are juxtaposed in the Torah. Quoting the famous Rashi:

"למה נסמכה פרשת נזיר לפרשת סוטה, לומר לך שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין "
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Asks and answers Rashi, "Why are the ideas of nazir and sotah juxtaposed? To say that anyone that sees a sotah at the time of her decadence should go ahead and become a Nazir and abstain from wine."
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Think about it: you see one of your fellow Jews going through the terrible punishment of playing Russian roulette with the Sotah waters - why then does this person need to go ahead and become a Nazir? You would think that this person, who sees this women at the time of her demise, would be the last person that would need to go ahead and become a Nazir! The fright of seeing the Sotah process should be enough to prevent this person from doing anything wrong (ie, drinking too much wine, obsessing over material things, etc.). Seeing this profound "religious" event should make a mark on this person. Or, think about it another way: you and your buddy are criminals - you sell drugs, kill the occasional person, etc. During one of your slayings, your buddy gets caught but you're let off the hook. Your buddy gets the electric chair and you watch him die. Wouldn't this experience be enough to prevent you from murdering further?
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I think the Torah is teaching us a lesson - a lesson that is one of my favorites and important for anyone that is interested in growing religiously. We often, in different situations, get rushes of spirituality, much like a person watching a Sotah does. We've all had these intense moments where we feel so strongly about our Judaism. But what does the Torah recommend we do when we get one of these rushes? Does it recommend we let that feeling rest and sit idle? No, the Torah tells us to put it into motion immediately. Sure, the person seeing the Sotah gets a wave of spirituality, something that tells him that doing sins is wrong, but it isn't that feeling alone that is good enough - it's putting that feeling into action and becoming a nazir. It's only when we take those feelings of fear and/or elation about our Yiddishkeit and put them into action that we truly maximize our potential.
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Think about how many people you've seen crying at an NCSY Kumsitz saying that they want to become more religious, go to a Jewish school, etc. How many of them actually do? Sure, some do, but I'd say the percentage is minimal. They get the initial spark of religiosity, but they fail to put it into action. For some people, they get into their Yiddishkeit when they're drunk - and they say the same things about becoming more religious, etc. How many actually go ahead and end up doing anything? Again, failure to use that spark as a catapult to frumkeit. Whatever gives you the wave of spirituality, so be it. But if you just let the wave go, you'll just be that person who always claims they want to do more (which I am not claiming is a bad thing), but never does.

2 Comments:

Anonymous from toronto said...

this was very interesting and nice. glad i found this webpage.

10:50 PM, June 10, 2006

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i used this vort at a bar mitzvah. great thought

8:25 AM, June 12, 2006

 

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