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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Naso

Any man whose wife shall go astray and commit treachery against him. (5:12)

Hence, Chazal say that one who commits an act of adultery or becomes a partner in an immoral relationship has "lost his mind". As Chazal describes it, "A spirit of foolishness has entered his mind." They cite the pasuk in Mishlei, 6:32, "He who has illicit relations with a woman lacks a heart."

In his commentary on Pirkei Avos, the Maharal explains that gilui arayos, immorality, by its very nature, is the antithesis of Torah. By studying Torah, one develops his mind and intellect, thereby elevating himself above his base desires. The mind distinguishes a human being from an animal. One who defers to his animalistic desires is really no different than an animal. Indeed, Chazal explain the reason that the sotah's korban is composed of barley, as opposed to other kobanos which use flour. Barley is a food animals consume. Since the unfaithful wife acted in a manner unbecoming a human being , her sacrifice should reflect her recent act of debasement. Immorality, says Maharal, is an act of depravement which befits an animal, not a human being.

Furthermore, as Chazal reiterate a number of times, one does not act immorally unless he has been captivated by a ruach shtus, a spirit of foolishness. He acts foolishly; he loses control of his senses and acts like an animal.

The only way that one is able to prevent a breakdown of his seichal/senses is through Torah. By studying Torah and applying its lessons to one's life, he nurtures his mind in order to strengthen it enough to control the passions of the heart and the weakness of the flesh. Torah elevates a person to the point that a ruach shtus cannot penetrate his mind and destroy his humanness.

Regarding the pasuk in Mishlei cited above, Chazl in the Talmud Sanhedrin 99b say, "He who has illicit relations with a woman lacks a heart;" this refers to one who studies Torah at irregular intervals. Maharal explains the lesson of this maxim, and its analogy to an illicit relationship, in the following manner: To study Torah without regularity undermines its dignity. It is comparable to one who has no specific mate, but, rather, dallies with a woman at his convenience. A man who has a wife has a steady mate to whom he is committed. One who merely picks his relationships according to his whims and fancy does not really have any relationship. Surely, he does not have a mate.

It is similar with regard to Torah. One who studies Torah casually, when he is in the mood or when he is inspired for a few days, does not really possess Torah. Instead, his relationship to Torah lacks integrity. He shows no commitment, he is toying with the Torah. When one takes a haphazard approach to any activity, it is generally a humiliation to the subject. It indicates that the endeavor is overshadowed by what is really essential to the individual. To permit the Torah to be eclipsed by other endeavors is to demean it. Nothing takes second place to the Torah.

A man or woman who shall do something wondrous by taking a Nazarite vow of abstinence for the sake of Hashem. (6:2)

Why would someone choose to become a nazir? It may be the result of a harmful experience associated with drinking wine. Alternatively, it may be the product of a conviction that one should abstain from mundane pleasures. The individual feels that he is too involved with himself. Consequently, he goes to the extreme, taking a vow to abstain from his usual pleasures. The nazir must make sure that he does not defile his nezirus by coming in contact with a dead body. If this does happen, the nazir becomes tamei, ritually unclean. He must go through a purification process after which he offers three korbonos as penance. His prior days of nezirus became invalid, and he must begin a new term of nezirus.

Ostensibly having to go through a second ritual of nezirus can be very trying. It was for this reason that Shimon Ha'tzaddik, who was Kohen Gadol, refused to eat from the sacrifices offered by a nazir who had inadvertently become unclean. He felt that most nezirim who had to repeat their nezirus period regretted that they had ever made their vow. Thus, their nezirus was not fully l'shem Shomayim. Once, however, he made an exception and did partake from such an offering. The story relates that once a young nazir who was very handsome, with beautiful long locks of hair, came before him. Seeing this young man, Shimon Ha'tzaddik said to him, "Do you know that at the end of your nezirus term you will have to cut off your beautiful curls? What provoked you to become a nazir?" The young man replied, "I was not conscious of my appearance, until one day I looked into the water and noticed my reflection. While I gazed at my good looks, I felt my yetzer hora grabbing hold of me, persuading me to sin. Realizing the danger, I said to myself, "Should I permit myself to become arrogant over my good looks, which are only temporary? Should I throw away my eternity to satisfy the passions of the fleeting moment? Immediately, I made a vow to become a nazir and shave my hair l'shem Shomayim." Shimon Ha'tzaddik was so impressed with the young man's conviction and sincerity that he kissed him on his forehead and said, "May there be more nezirim like you!"

Looking back at this story, we may wonder what really impressed Shimon Ha'tzaddik. By responding the way he did to the blandishments of his yetzer hora, was not the young man doing what any baal teshuvah should do? After all, his evil inclination was attempting to convince him to sin, should he have sat back and done nothing? What earth-shattering action earned him such prominence?

Horav Zalmen Bloch, zl suggests that the distinction lies in the immediacy of his response to the yetzer hora's challenge. The nazir realized that the yetzer hora's first move against him was an incursion that could lead to his complete destruction - if he did not act immediately. It is not sufficient to simply be aware of one's weakness, it is imperative that one actually take action. This young man demonstrated this remarkable strength of character. The slightest sensitivity that something was wrong caused an immediate reaction. Such a person is not immersed in himself. He neither looks for excuses to justify his behavior nor seeks a way to evade responding to the yetzer hora's challenge. He knows what might happen, and he immediately acts accordingly.

All the days of his abstinence he is holy unto Hashem. (6:8)

The Torah allows one to become a nazir voluntarily. This status precludes one from eating or drinking grape products or from coming into contact with a dead body. In addition, the nazir's hair may not be cut. By becoming a nazir, one enters into a state of extreme sanctity in which what is permissible -- and taken for granted by the average Jew -- becomes incongruous with the nazir's elevated status. Chazal explain the reason that the Torah juxtaposes the laws of the nazir upon those of the sotah, wayward wife. One who sees a sotah in her degradation should accept upon himself to become a nazir and abstain from wine. Wine and alcoholic beverages cause one to lose control of his faculties and sin. Hence, the sotah serves as a bitter example of one who lost his self control.

The nazir seems to be a person who senses within himself an inability to quell the passions and desires which his yetzer hora, evil inclination, is able to conjure. He does not know when or how to stop. What should he do? His only recourse is to abstain totally from all pleasure. Thus, he will be guaranteed success over his yetzer hora. After all, if he runs away from everything, he will not have anything over which to lose control. Consequently, the Torah tells the nazir, "Stay away from the vineyard, for you cannot manage exposure to anything that might bring you in contact with your desires."? The nazir who sees the debasement of the sotah perceives that the only way to spare himself from such a fate is to "run away" from wine and all pleasures that might undermine his ability to control himself.

There is an obvious question that begs explanation. Is there a greater deterrent to sin than seeing the tragic punishment of the wayward wife? On the contrary, the person who has witnessed this phenomenon can drink wine - because he will be cautious not to go beyond his bounds. He clearly sees the results of letting oneself go. Why, then, is it necessary for him to abstain completely from wine?

Horav Baruch Sorotzkin, zl, gives a profound insight into human nature that helps us to understand what motivates the nazir to refrain from wine. While on the one hand, the nazir sees the bitter outcome of passion unleashed, he also sees that people continue to sin regardless of the consequences. Is it any different today when people know the terrible effect various drugs and intoxicants have on the body - and they still go ahead and indulge? Why? How many funerals does one have to attend before the message becomes clear? The answer is that while some people are suffering, others are not. Human nature -- or, more accurately, the yetzer hora-- demands that we look at the "positive" - those who continue to sin unpunished and unhindered. Is there a more influential motive for sin than seeing a successful sinner?

Let them place My name upon Bnei Yisrael, and I shall bless them. (6:27)

Chazal, at the end of Meseches Uktzin, say, "There is no greater container to hold Klal Yisrael's blessings than peace." One may have everything - health, prosperity, and fame - but without peace these gifts have no significance. Consequently, the blessings which the Kohanim are to impart upon Bnei Yisrael are sealed with the hope for peace.

A community can catalyze peace in one of two ways. The first way is the positive approach, in which people work towards ironing out their differences, seeking ways to increase harmony and good will. Discord is viewed as taboo, so the slightest infraction into the amity of a community is immediately quelled. Another path, one that is regrettably negative, quite often serves as a vehicle to induce unity. Within a community, when we do not take the initiative to engender peace and cooperation, Hashem causes us to become unified in the face of persecution. Then we band together, regardless of our personal beliefs, to face the challenge to our nation - collectively. Each group offers advice, each one seeks solace from the other, as we face our common enemy - together. Who creates this peace? It is Hashem Who must intervene into our discord and bring us together using a destructive medium. How fortunate would we have been had we maintained harmony among ourselves. Instead, we require the tzaros, persecutions, to bring us closer to one to another.

Horav Mordechai Rogov, zl, comments the Kohanim, the spiritual mentors of Klal Yisrael, have the responsibility to influence the people, to sensitize them to the compelling importance of shalom. They must see to it that harmony and peace reign within Klal Yisrael, lest it become necessary to effect this peace via "outside" sources.

This is the pasuk's message: "Let them place My Name among Bnei Yisrael" Hashem's Name is Shalom, for He is the essence of peace. Let the Kohanim see to it that My Name, peace, reigns among the Jews while they are in a circumstance of "blessing " and good fortune. If the Kohanim inspire the people, then peace and harmony will emanate from within.



1. What are the Yerios Ha'Mishkan?

2. What is the order for sending out various people who have become tamei from the machanos?

3. How does the Torah refer to the Kemitzah taken from the Minchas Sotah?

4. In what instance do we not make the sotah drink the bitter waters?

5. From what three things is the nazir prohibited?

6. How is the law regarding nazir more stringent than that of a Kohen?

7. According to what order did the nesiim offer their korbonos?


1. Ten curtains fastened together that covered the Mishkan.

2. Tamei meis is sent out only from the Machne Shechinah. Zav is sent out also from the Machne Leviyah. A metzora is sent out from all three machanos.

3. e Kemitzah serves as a remembrance before Hashem.

4. If she confesses her guilt.

5. 1. Any grape derivative. 2. Cutting his hair. 3. Coming in contact with a dead body,

6.A Kohen may become tamei to his six close relatives and to his wife. The nazir may not become tamei to anyone.

7. According to the sequence in which they traveled.

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