Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 5776 2016

The Torah talks about the obligations of one who takes upon himself to be a Nazir or a Nazarite. The Torah says: לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לְאָחִיו וּלְאַחֹתוֹ לֹא יִטַּמָּא לָהֶם בְּמֹתָם, “To his father or to his mother, to his brother or to his sister, he shall not contaminate himself to them upon their death…”. (Num. 6,7) This is strange since a Kohen must retain his holiness at all times yet he is permitted to come in contact and attend the funerals of these relatives. Why may the Kohen and not the Nazirite?

The “Sefer Hachinuch” which explains the Taryag Mitzvot (the 613 Mitzvot) makes an interesting distinction. These prohibitions were placed on the Kohen without consulting him if he is willing to accept them. They came upon him at birth when he was born a Kohen. He may not be strong enough to adhere to these restrictions. The Torah realizes the frailty and does not place upon him this stringent law. The Nazir, on the other hand, took these restrictions upon himself so he knows his abilities and must know that he can abide by them. He thus must obey these laws.

When committing oneself to certain obligations one must know that he can carry them out. He must think twice before he makes a commitment. It is regretful that at times in haste we promise things that obligate us to carry out tasks or promises that we find later they are too difficult for us to fulfil.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 5773 2013

On Yom Kippur in the prayer of על חטא we enumerate many transgressions, and beseech forgiveness from Hashem. It has often been asked why we confess many offenses that we obviously did not commit. How can we, on this most holy day, stand and recite lies about ourselves?

One answer given is: שכל ישראל ערבים זה בזה, all of Israel are responsible one for another. (Shev. 39a) Although we ourselves have not committed some of these sins, we are nevertheless responsible for our fellow Jews who may have committed them.

Support for this opinion may be found in the Portion we read this week. The Torah says: אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַעֲשׂוּ מִכָּל חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם, “…a man or a women who commits any of man’s sins…”. This verse speaks of an individual, one person who transgressed. The very next verse says: וְהִתְוַדּוּ אֶת חַטָּאתָם אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ, “They shall confess the sin that they committed…”’. (Num. 5,6-7) This verse refers to the sinners, in plural.

From this we can see that even if an individual performs an offence, everyone has to confess the transgression. We are accountable for each other and must help each other do what is right. If we don’t succeed, then all share in the guilt, and must also confess this wrong doing.

Dvar Torah on the Parsha – Naso 5772 2012

Hashem speaks to Moshe and instructs him to tell the Children of Israel: אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה, “…a man or a woman who commits any of man’s sins…”, וְהִתְוַדּוּ אֶת חַטָּאתָם, “They shall confess the sin they committed…” (Num. 5, 6-7) The command first refers to a man or a woman who commits a sin; in the singular. Then it switches to the plural, “they shall confess the sin they committed”. Why the change?

One answer given for the change from singular to plural is that when a person transgresses the entire community is guilty. The environment should be such that a person would feel embarrassed and guilt-ridden for perpetrating such an act. Since he did go astray, then the community at large carries part of the guilt for his action.

Another reason given is because: כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה, “All Israel are responsible one for another”. (Shav. 39a) That means that every Jew is morally responsible and accountable for his fellow Jew. If any Jew transgresses, all Jews should feel at fault.

The Jewish people are as one body or one entity. Just as when one limb hurts, the entire body feels the pain, thus too, if one Jew, any place in the world, is in danger then every Jew should feel obligated to come to his help.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 5771 2011

There are three prohibitions placed upon a Nazir or Nasserite. He may not drink wine or any beverage derived from grapes; he may not cut his hair; and he may not become Tammeh or spiritually defiled. (Num. 6,4-6)

In keeping with this passage the theme of the Haftarah is about the prediction of the birth of Samson who was to be a modified form of a Nazir all his life. An angel appears to the future mother and directs her to keep the laws of the Nazir during her pregnancy for her son will be a Nazir all his life, beginning in the womb. The wife’s husband, Mano’ach, prayed to Hashem to send the angel again. The famous Malbin commentary explains that he felt the instructions to keep the laws of the Nazir given to the mother pertained to her and not the future child. He was interested in how the child should be treated.

The story continues to tell us that his prayer was answered and the angel did appear again and was asked about the duties of the child. The angel repeats what he told the mother. He does not directly answer Mano’ach’s request.

Rabbi Soloveitchik asks what was accomplished by the second appearance of the angel. He answers in the name of his grandfather, Rabbi Chaim, that the angel was telling the husband that the child was to be a Nazir even before he was born. He was sanctified while still in the womb. Reaffirming what he had told the child’s mother.

In light of what we know today, we understand that a child’s personality begins to be formed even before birth and what the mother does can affect the child.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 5770 2010

Towards the end of this week’s Torah reading, to inaugurate the new Mishkan, we find that the Nasi or prince of each tribe on successive days brought an offering on the altar. Reading the description of these offerings we see that they were all alike. Every prince brought a similar offering.

Rashi describes in detail the reason for the particular items in this offering and the meaning of the different parts. As there were twelve tribes, the same offering was brought twelve times. Rashi’s explanation does not address itself to the first offering but rather to the second. Since his explanation applied similarly to each of the offerings why did he not explain the first one but instead waited for the second one?

A Chassidic Rabbi explained that although the first prince certainly had a reason for what he offered we would think that the second prince simply imitated the first without any input of his own. Hence Rashi explains the second offering to imply that it wasn’t a mere imitation but he had his own reasons for bringing the same things.

When we emulate something that someone else did it should not simply be an imitation but we should contribute our own interpretation. It should have particular meaning for us. Simply mimicking someone else is not an expressive act.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 2009 5769

The Kohanim are instructed to bless the people. KO TEVARACHO ET BNEI ISREAL, “thus you shall bless the Children of Israel.” (Num. 6,23) The words that the Kohanim are to recite are then presented. YEVARECHECHA HASHEM, “May Hashem bless you.” This seems to be a contradiction. First they are told to bless the people and then what they say is that Hashem should bless.

The truth is that the Kohen does not really know what each person wants as a blessing. He may bless someone to have a nice car and he would really want to have a nice home. The Kohen might think the congregation would like to have a beautiful synagogue when in truth they would like to have a good functioning Yeshiva. Furthermore, even if it were possible for the Kohen to ask each individual what he wants, what he asks for may not be good for him and could possibly be harmful.

Only Hashem knows what each individual wants and needs or what will benefit Klal Israel. That is why the Kohen merely invokes the blessings of Hashem upon the people. By saying that Hashem should bless you, they are really saying that they should be granted their needs by Hashem as He knows what they want and what is good for them and what is not.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 2008 5768 דבר תורה פרשת נשא

The law stipulates that a Kohen is to remain TAHOR or pure at all times and is not to come in contact with the dead. The exception to this rule is that he may attend the funeral of a close relative although that would defile him and make him TAMME.

In today’s Sidra we learn the laws of a NAZIR or a Nazarite, that is, one who accepts upon himself the prohibition of drinking wine, cutting his hair and the prohibition of coming in contact with the dead. He too must not defile himself and is thus prohibited just as the Kohen is from coming near a dead person. There is a distinction, however. Unlike the Kohen, he must not even attend the funeral of his close relatives. Why the difference?

One explanation given is that this restriction was placed on the Kohen by the Torah and so the exception was made in the case of his immediate family. The NAZIR, on the other hand, was not prohibited but took upon himself an additional CHUMRA or stringent restriction not called for by the Torah. He should have considered the possibility that he may find himself in a situation where his restriction would be a true handicap.

One of the acts the Torah requires at the end of his term of being a NAZIR is for him to bring a sin-offering. (Num. 6,14) Our Chazal ask why a sin-offering? What is the sin he committed? They answer that a person who restricts what is permitted is performing a wrong act. One who prohibits what is permitted is considered a transgressor. (See Nedarim 10a)