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Parshas Naso - Vol. 10, Issue 32
Compiled by Oizer Alport
A nazir is a person who accepts upon himself three prohibitions: not to cut his hair, not to consume wine or grape products, and not to come into contact with the dead. While these seem like relatively minor restrictions, Rav Yehuda Zev Segal, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, notes that we find spectacular and lofty concepts associated with the nazir. The word נזיר itself is derived from the root נזר - crown. What is the connection between a person who takes a Nazirite vow and a crown?
Further, one of the restrictions upon a nazir is the prohibition against contact with the dead. The Ba'al HaTurim explains that this is because the nazir may merit Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration), and people may attribute his newfound ability to impure and forbidden sources such as the dead. Why should a person who refrains from these three activities suddenly merit Divine Inspiration?
Rav Segal suggests that the answer lies in the words of the Ibn Ezra, who posits that the word connoting the nazir's separation from these activities (יפלא) is rooted in the word פלא - wonder - because the nazir's actions are considered peculiar in the eyes of others. Most people are accustomed to innately following their earthly desires without a second thought about keeping them in check. The idea of a person voluntarily relinquishing physical pleasure runs counter to societal norms and is indeed a wonder. Through the nazir's willingness to defy societal pressures and take action to curb his desires, he becomes a king over them and earns a spiritual crown, to the point that he may even merit Divine Inspiration.
Still, the Darkei Mussar questions why the nazir should earn these tremendous and lofty rewards for such an objectively minor action. He explains that while human nature is to evaluate actions quantitatively and to assume that larger deeds are superior, in Heaven actions are judged by their qualitative purity. Although the nazir remains in the physical world and accepts only three "minor" prohibitions on himself, if he does so purely for the sake of Heaven, he may receive Divine Inspiration.
The Darkei Mussar notes that although Avrohom was known for his frequent hospitality to guests, the Torah records only one such incident in detail (Bereishis 18) while merely hinting to the other episodes through a reference (Bereishis 21:33) to his planting an אשל (which is an abbreviation for eating, drinking, and escorting). He suggests that while the other episodes may have been done publicly, the encounter with the angels disguised as Arab travelers on a hot day was done privately and revealed a purity of spirit not clearly evident from the other incidents.
This lesson is taught again at the end of the parsha. The Gemora is replete with laws derived from seemingly superfluous words in the Torah, based on the principle that the Torah doesn't contain even a single unnecessary letter. It is therefore difficult to understand why the Torah repeats at excruciating length the offerings brought by each of the 12 tribal leaders when they were all identical to one another. It would have been much more concise to list the offering brought on the first day and to add that each subsequent leader brought the same offering on the succeeding days.
Rav Dovid Povarsky suggests that although each leader brought an identical offering, each did so after deciding what the proper course of action for him was and following it without looking around to see what others were doing. Similarly, the lesson of the nazir is that if we do what we know is right, regardless of what other people may think, no matter how "small" the action may seem on Earth, in Heaven we will be considered kings and the rewards will be great.
The Brisker Rav was once praying the morning prayers in a synagogue. When the time came for the Kohanim to recite the Priestly Blessing (which is said daily in Israel), it was discovered that there were no Kohanim present. The Brisker Rav instructed somebody to go to Zichron Moshe, a large synagogue nearby, to bring Kohanim from there to give the Priestly Blessing.
Although the other synagogue was close, the entire process required close to 15 minutes of idle waiting. Some of those present grew impatient and began to complain that the wait entailed a legal difficulty since it is forbidden to delay longer than the amount of time required to say the entire Shemoneh Esrei. Additionally, they argued that the wait constituted an unnecessary burden on the congregation.
The Brisker Rav answered that legally, there were no grounds for concern since the Rema rules (Orach Chaim 65:1) that a lengthy delay is only problematic in the event that it is involuntary. In this case, there was technically nothing preventing them from continuing the prayers, so their voluntary choice to wait didn't constitute a legal problem.
As for their second concern, regarding the significant inconvenience for the assembled, the Brisker Rav expressed astonishment at their argument. He noted that people regularly travel days and even weeks to request a blessing from a Chassidic Rebbe or other pious Jew. Upon their arrival, they often wait in line for hours until it is their turn to enter to receive a blessing which emanates from a mere mortal no matter how righteous he may be. In the case of the Priestly Blessing, regarding which Hashem writes in the Torah a guarantee that its proper recital will bring forth Divine blessing, isn't it surely worth a short wait of 15 minutes!?
After an angel came to inform Manoach and his wife that they would finally merit to give birth to a son (Shimshon) and to educate them about the special nazirite status he would have, they doubted whether this had truly been a Divinely-sent angel or a person playing a cruel trick on them.
Our verse records their resolution to this question. However, the logical flow of the verse seems difficult to follow. It relates that as a result of the fact that the angel no longer appeared to Manoach and his wife, Manoach therefore knew conclusively that it had indeed been a Heaven-sent angel and not a human playing a trick on him. Why did the fact that the angel didn't continue appearing to them constitute a proof regarding its true identity?
Rav Shalom Schwadron explains that human nature is such that a person who has the fortune to inform his friend of good news will be subconsciously pushed to "bump into" his friend to regularly "remind" him of the incident and his friend's obligation to express gratitude. He will take the long way out of the synagogue to pass by his friend and wish him a warm "Gut Shabbos," carefully pausing just long enough to make sure that his earlier good deed is properly remembered.
When Manoach realized that the angel who had come to herald the miraculous news about the impending birth of his son, who wouldn't be a typical child but rather a nazir who would lead the Jewish people, didn't reappear to him even once, not even "by accident," he knew that no human being could restrain himself so, and he concluded that it had surely been an angel.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) In dividing the tasks among the Levites, why were the most holy tasks - the responsibility for the Aron, Menorah, and Altars - assigned to the descendants of Kehas (4:1-20) and not to the children of Gershon, who was the oldest of Levi's children? (Darkei HaShleimus)
2) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 75:2) rules that it is forbidden to recite holy words of Torah or prayer in the presence of a married woman's uncovered hair. How was the Kohen permitted to say Hashem's name (5:21) when administering the oath to the sotah after he uncovered her hair (5:18)? (Tosefos Sotah 8a, Chasam Sofer, Taam V'Daas, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M'rafsin Igri)
3) The Gemora (Berachos (20b) recounts that the angels asked Hashem that if the Torah says (Devorim 10:17) that He doesn't show favoritism, how can the Torah also say (6:26) that He is partial to the Jews? He replied that He must show us favor since He commanded us to recite Birkas HaMazon only after we are satiated (Devorim 8:10), but we are stringent to do so even after consuming much less. If the Torah commands its recitation only after eating to the point of fullness, why isn't it a ברכה לבטלה - a blessing said in vain - to recite it if one ate less, something which shouldn't incur Divine favor but wrath? (Shu"t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 49)
4) Rashi explains (7:19-23) the symbolism of the offerings brought by each of the tribal leaders. Given that each of them brought identical offerings, why does Rashi explain the symbolism regarding the offering brought by the leader of Yissochar on the 2nd day and not regarding the offering brought by the leader of Yehuda on the 1st day? (Chiddushei HaRim, Ayeles HaShachar)
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