נשא

[A somewhat longer d’var torah this week, as a couple things really spoke to me in the parsha]

This week’s parsha contains a number of different sections that are interesting from the perspective of applying the laws within to our time.  I want to look at two: the laws of sotah and nazir.  The laws of sotah describe the ritual that transpires when a husband suspects his wife of adultery.  They both come before the priest, who offers a sacrifice (a specially ‘limited’ sacrifice to symbolize the somberness of the occasion, that it should not be considered congratulatory) and then puts the ashes from a burnt piece of parchment that contained the (explicit) name of Hashem on it into a cup (again, a lowly cup) of ‘holy water’ from the kiyor (the wash basin within the Tabernacle).  The wife then swears that she was faithful before drinking the water, which increased fertility if she is in fact innocent, and brings various curses upon her if she is guilty.  Ultimately, I find this particular ritual to be too obviously contrary to modern sensibilities of equality between men and women to be worthy of serious discussion here.  Rather, I want to look at the laws of nazir.  A nazir is one who takes a vow to curtail some ‘normal’ activity in his or her life to bring them closer to Hashem.  Classically, the vow is to abstain from any grape product or alcoholic product.  The aspect that surprised me, however, was that, while under the vow of n’zirut – the vow must be for a pre-determined length of time – one may not mourn the death of anyone, including immediate family.  This is shocking not only because of how terrible that would be to endure, but because the Torah makes allowances for mourning the loss of family even for other people in positions of exceptional closeness to Hashem; namely the High Priest.  On the face of it, it does not seem to make a lot of sense.  In modern language, here is the scenario: a person decides that she will not drink any alcohol for a year to become more spiritual, but during that year she suffers the loss of her father.  How does the close connection that she is trying to create with Hashem preclude her from mourning an immeasurable loss?

What a connection
With God, to forbid mourning
Even a loved one

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