In this week’s parsha we learn about the laws of nezirot. Someone who is a nazir has decided to elevate himself and become closer to Hashem. Among the steps he takes to do this is abstaining from drinking wine and from cutting his hair.
Why does a person do this? The Gemara in the beginning of sotah gives the following explanation. The parsha before Nazir is that of Isha Sotah – a married woman who has been warned not to be alone with a certain man, and does so anyway. When a sotah is caught and brought to the Bais HaMikdash all of her actions become public, something which causes her great embarrassment. When a person sees what happens to a sotah, he wants to abstain from wine which can lead to immorality.
Yet, there is a simple question here.
A sotah is publicly warned to be faithful to her husband and is then caught with the same man she was warned against being with. Zenut, adultery, is one of the three aveirot that one is required to be willing to die rather than transgress, a yeharog v’al ya’aver. The sotah’s actions are beyond the pale of anything a regular Jew would do. Why then should someone who witnessed a sotah’s degradation become a nazir? Whether or not a person drinks wine he is not going to start doing aveirot of such great magnitude.
While there are many ways to answer this question, I will focus on one possible understanding. To explain the beginning of this week’s parsha let us look to its end.
We know that every word, every letter, and every crown in the Torah is vital. Chazal learn important halachot not only from the words, but from their gematria, numerical value. In this week’s parsha it says that the nazir should be holy, kodesh Hashem. The gematria of Hashem is 30. From this value the Chazal learn that any unspecified vow of nezirot is for 30 days.
If each letter of the Torah has so much value why does it seem as if there are so many extra pesukim at the end of this week’s parsha? Parshat Naso is the longest parsha in the Torah. The second half of the parsha describes the korbanot of each of the twelve nisiim, even though they were identical. Why does the Torah repeat the same korban word for word? Couldn’t the Torah just say v’chen, so too, the other nisiim brought a similar korban?
If the Torah would shorten its description of certain nisiim’s korbanot it would imply that those nisiim and their respective shevatim were less important. Therefore, for it to be clear that each Jew and each shevet was equally important, the Torah repeated the korbanot of each nasi in its entirety. Hashem was willing to add extra pesukim so that we should learn this lesson. Each person and each shevet is a vital part of our nation. For the chanukat haMishkan to be a success, each shevet had to be represented. If only one of the nisiim hadn’t brought his korban, then there would be a void in the kedusha of the Mishkan. The lesson of the nisiim is that no one is superfluous and that each member of klal Yisrael needs to fulfill his responsibility for the ratzon Hashem to be fully actualized.
This idea can be used to explain the connection between a nazir and a sotah.
There is a well-known quote said in the name of R’ Yisroel Salanter, founder of the Mussar Movement. “If a Yid is being mechalel Shabbat in Paris it’s because a yeshiva student in Volozhin isn’t learning enough Torah.” The entire Jewish nation is one collective body; the actions of an individual affect the whole. Just like a stubbed toe is felt throughout the body, so too any aveira has repercussions for the nation. Chazal teach us that kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh, all of Yisrael are guarantors and responsible for one another. If a woman in klal Yisrael was able to stoop to such a low level, it shows that there is a weakness in the Jewish people as a whole. More specifically, if Hashem caused the person to witness what the sotah did, it indicates that on his own level he has a similar flaw. It’s true that he may be far removed from such a serious sin, however, on his own level there is something lacking as well. Therefore, in order to rectify his own personal flaw, he becomes a nazir.
There is an important lesson for us in this concept. We know that all our actions have consequences. However, as we can see from the nazir the consequences don’t only affect us. If a bochur’s bitul Torah can cause a person far away to sin, then it works for the good as well. A kind act or a controlled urge can elevate not only ourselves but the entire world. It’s even more than just being role models. A mitzvah creates an atmosphere of good that generates more good.
The next time we wonder if our good deed made a difference, remember, that it’s quite possible that even a Jew a world away feels the results. It may seem like it’s only one mitzvah, but in reality it’s so much more.
May we be zoche to always lift ourselves and the world around us. May we be zoche to a time when our nation as one people witnesses the coming of Mashiach bimherah.