What does the nazir have to do with us?

Many ideological debates about the Torah’s perspective on worldly pleasures revolve around the nazir.

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Rabbi Jesse Horn,

Rabbi Jesse Horn
Rabbi Jesse Horn
INN:JH

Although the concept of Nazir may seem distant and disconnected from our lives (besides Rav Dovid HaCohen there haven’t been too many Nazirs in the last several hundred years), major ideological debates about the Torah’s perspective on worldly pleasures revolve around it. 

Surprisingly, when the Nazir returns from his special Nazir status, he is commanded to bring a Karban Chatat, sin offering. Strange. Seemingly violated no sin? 

The Ramban (Bamidbar 6:14) famously answers that leaving the Nazir status has an element of sin, for living a Nazir life is ideal. The Nazir requires forgiveness for returning to a mundane life without the same level of spirituality. 

By contrast, the Rambam (Daot 3:1) has a more negative view of Nazir. Based on this, the Karban Chatat may be for attaining the status of Nazir. Becoming a Nazir may be a temporary necessity (Rambam Nedarim 13:23) and beneficial in small doses (Rambam Nedarim 13:23) with the right intentions (Rambam Nezirut 10:14), however, ultimately it reflects a mistaken perspective on two accounts. 

One mistake is thinking that spirituality is, by definition, restrictive. One is not supposed to totally refrain from the world’s pleasure, but rather to appropriately appreciate them.

However, there is a secondary mistake, an ideological one. Avoiding worldly pleasure is of the utmost value when that choice is Divinely inspired.  Adopting extra ‘religious’ stringencies is not the ideal. The ideal is to listen to Hashem, obey what He says, and follow His laws for no other reason than because He is Hashem. 

It is not surprising that this perspective has been apple to the performance of Mitzvot commandments that are difficult or impossible to understand (Rambam Shemonah Perekim, Perek 6), often referred to as Chukim. The surprise is that the Aruch HaShulchan (YD 240:2) extends this principle to Mitzvos that are easy to understand, for example honoring one’s parents. Although logical and easy to accept, one ideally should honor one’s parents simply because that is Hashem’s desire.

Accordingly, the lesson to learn from the Nazir is that the Torah commands us to do exactly Hashem wants and the reason for doing so is because He commanded so. 


 






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