This week’s Torah portion discusses the perplexing character of the Nazir or Nazarite. Nazir refers to a man or woman who makes a specific vow in order to become closer to Hashem. This vow requires them to abstain from three things: drinking wine, cutting one’s hair and becoming rendered ritually impure.
At the end of the term of their vow, they are required to bring three sacrifices. It is noted by many commentaries that one of the sacrifices was a sin offering. What sin did the Nazir commit in attempting to come closer to God? One answer commonly suggested is that we as people should be able to come closer to Hashem while following the laws of the Torah alone, without making a vow. One of the other sacrifices was the Shelamim from the word Shalem, which means whole. It was with this sacrifice that the Nazir would burn his/her hair along with it. The Abarbanel, a 13th century Rabbi, notes that the burning of the hair with this sacrifice carries special significance in being complete or Shalem. Only with a physical change in one’s reality can true completeness come.
I believe that, for the most part, the COVID-19 outbreak has proven to be a very challenging time. This has put us in a situation much like that of the Nazir, which is not ideal. However, the lesson learned from the Nazir is that not ideal doesn’t erase a path forward for completeness. With a physical change as to how we engage in this world, we will be able to find greatness and wholeness just like the Nazir. In these uncertain times, the Torah echoes through the generations, reminding our people that although times are not always ideal, the outcomes can be.
Rabbi Jeremy Litton is director of Jewish Life and Learning at Ann and Nate Levine Academy. He is a member of the Rabbinic Council of Greater Dallas.