I am writing this week’s spiritual insight from Netanya Israel, where I took this photo of the sunset over the Mediterranean.
In this week’s Torah portion Naso (Numbers 4:21–7:89), we are introduced to the Nazir, a man or women who choose to abstain from wine, cutting their hair and contact with death. Samson is perhaps the most well-known individual who was a Nazir.
The Nazir is usually thought of as an ascetic who practices self-denial, and extreme asceticism. However, there is much more to the Nazir, and there is a spiritual lesson we can apply to our lives.
The Nazir is a paradigm of someone who undertakes a spiritual “detox program” to control compulsive impulses. This message is especially relevant today when the internet provides a constant and often uncontrollable flow of stimulation, which influences people to act impulsively.
Although the internet provides countless opportunities for growth, the dark side of the net objectifies women and glorifies violence.
Studies by York University and the US National Center for Health have shown that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Unfortunately, in more than one instance, young active shooters were desensitized to their violent acts and mindlessly moved through their target as if playing a video game. This type of violence is part of a growing trend of young adults lacking impulse control.
The Jewish sage Ben Zoma, address this issue when is posed the question, “Who is the strong? Ben Zoma did not glorify bodybuilders or warriors; rather, he said true strength is found in the person who “overcomes his impulses.” As is says, "slowness to anger is better than a mighty person” (Proverbs 16:32).
The Nazir’s detox program fosters self-control in three areas: Abstinence from wine controls frivolousness, not cutting and grooming one’s hair prevents self-glorification which can lead to lewdness and distancing oneself from death can help avoid violence which can lead to murder. This sanctification of human impulses fosters humility, which is a precursor to spirituality.
Interestingly, the Nazir of defined by behavior and not where the individual lived. This point is relevant in responding to the missionary claim that Jesus fulfilled a prophesy when he moved to the city of Nazareth. As it says, “he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).
A Nazarene is a person from the city of Nazareth. Matthew’s statement is an example of a fabricated prophesy. Nowhere in Jewish scriptures does it say that someone would be called a Nazarene. This would have been impossible since the city of Nazareth did not exist in the time of Jewish scriptures.
In a desperate attempt to explain this discrepancy, some missionaries refer to the story of Samson, who is referred to as, “a Nazirite to God from the womb” (Judges 13:5). A Nazir is a condition which has nothing to do with where a person is born or lives. Although the words Nazir and Nazareth may sound similar, that is all they have in common. They are in fact two different words spelled differently, Nazir contains the Hebrew letter zayin (נְזִ֧יר) and Nazarene contains the letter Tzadik (נצר).
May we be blessed and strengthened with the ability discern the truth and control our emotions to serve God wholeheartedly.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz