Spark: What happens when an ideal fails to live up to our dreams? The Torah describes the Nazir, someone who removes himself from society in order to be holy. However, the Torah says that the Nazir has committed a sin. That sin is a refusal to engage in the problems of society and to try and make them better.



[To download print-out copy, click here]

Key Text:

The description of the Nazir: Numbers Chapter 6:1-22

Numbers 6:14

יד וְהִקְרִיב אֶת-קָרְבָּנוֹ לַיהוָה כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן-שְׁנָתוֹ תָמִים אֶחָד, לְעֹלָה, וְכַבְשָׂה אַחַת בַּת-שְׁנָתָהּ תְּמִימָה, לְחַטָּאת; וְאַיִל-אֶחָד תָּמִים, לִשְׁלָמִים.

14 and he shall present his offering unto the LORD, one he-lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt-offering, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin-offering, and one ram without blemish for peace-offerings.

Framing: Why does the Nazir have to bring a sin offering?

Two conflicting opinions – the Rambam and the Ramban.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) in his commentary on Naso suggests that the nazir needs to bring the sin-offering because he is committing the sin of ending his nezirut. The act of becoming a nazir was a positive one: he left behind the excesses and trappings of the world and entered a more separate, elevated way of life. The return to his normal status is a sin he must atone for.

On the other hand, the Rambam (Maimonides), in Mishneh Torah: Mada, Deot 3:1-4 says that the Nazir’s sin offering is a sign that he has done something wrong. Nezirut represents cutting oneself from society and the Nazir must atone once the process is completed.

What is the Nazir rejecting?

The Nazir is rejecting society’s ills. Wine symbolizes temptation and frivolity. Hair represents vanity and ego. Dead bodies represent death and decay.

Israel is today the most robust, powerful and vibrant Jewish society on the planet. What do we do when we encounter its underside? The trappings of power, the potential for corruption, violence and death are often on full display. Scandal, corruption, and violence are often on full display.

As members of the Jewish people with a profound connection to Israel, how do we respond? Disengage? Retain our own moral highground?

The Ramban, using the Nazir as a model, might say that when we encounter these issues we should pull away, remove ourselves, and maintain our own moral purity. However, the Rambam would say that disengaging is wrong. We must seek and engage with problems and not just sit back, removed. Our own moral purity is worth very little if we have not had any effect on the greater whole. We must choose between the Rambam and the Ramban’s approaches.

Contemporary Applications

One issue that was very distressing to world Jews in the last decade was the sudden increase in sex-trafficking through Israel. Pressure from groups trying to stop trafficking in Israel from all over the world helped stop this problem.

Traffickers target Israeli girls to replace foreign sex slaves: Success in combating the import of women for sex in Israel has led traffickers to recruit local girls.

At the start of the new century, Israel found itself with an unexpected and unwanted reputation – as a destination hotspot for sex trafficking. The government took significant measures against this phenomenon, but the success in stamping out the import of women for sex has led to a new problem.

Share this post