March 29, 2023

Nazir 18

The Torah (Bemidbar 6:11) informs us that if a Nazir is in contact with the dead, then – as we are taught in greater detail in today’s daf (Nazir 18a) – having counted a week, undergone a purification ceremony (including cutting their hair), and brought a sacrifice, the Nazir ‘shall consecrate their head anew’ (וְקִדַּשׁ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ) which is understood to mean (see Rashi on Bemidbar 6:11) לַחֲזֹר וּלְהַתְחִיל מִנְיַן נְזִירוּתוֹ – ‘by going back and starting over the count [of the days] of being a Nazir’.
Clearly, these are very specific details for a Nazir. However, as Rabbi Yechezkel Rabinovitz (1862-1910) observes (in his ‘Knesset Yechezkel’ commentary on the Torah), there is a lesson embedded in these words which is relevant to us all.
Rather than referring to days of being a Nazir, Rabbi Rabinovitz interprets these verses as being the days of our life, and rather than referring to a situation where a Nazir finds themselves in contact with the dead, he understands these verses to refer to the spiritual struggles that each of us encounter. Given this, he writes as follows: זו העצה להאדם להעלות כל הימים לקדושה – ‘[in these words of וְקִדַּשׁ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ – ‘and the Nazir shall consecrate their head anew’] is found the advice to all people who wish to sanctify all their days for holiness, אם יקדש את מחשבתו – ‘[which is] to sanctify their mindset’. וזה וְקִדַּשׁ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ – ‘This is the meaning of “and the Nazir shall consecrate their head anew”’, היא המחשבה שבראש – ‘meaning, that it refers to our mindset’. וזה וְהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים יִפְּלוּ – ‘And this is also how we should understand the phrase “and the former days which fell by the wayside” (Bemidbar 6:12)’, היינו שאם חלילה לא יקדש את מחשבתו – ‘meaning that if, God forbid, we do not change our mindset [in response to experiencing spiritual struggles]’, הימים אשר פגם בהם יפלו ח”ו – ‘then the days where we spiritually stumbled will fall by the wayside’.
What Rabbi Rabinovitz is something both simple and sadly too often overlooked, which is that if (and when) we struggle and stumble, we should respond by taking some time to reflect on our situation and perhaps also seek advice from others. Having done so we should then undergo a mindset shift, because if we do not do so, we will have wasted the learning and growth opportunity that we were meant to take from our struggle and stumble.
Admittedly, this process of וְקִדַּשׁ אֶת רֹאשׁוֹ is one that we should be doing on a very regular basis. However, given the fast pace of life I often rely on Shabbat not only for personal and spiritual respite, but also for personal and spiritual reflection. Shabbat isn’t just its own mindset. Instead, it also provides us with an ideal opportunity to undergo shifts in our mindset.
Given this, as it is Erev Shabbat, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you Shabbat Shalom and to bless you that just as you sanctify the Shabbat, may Shabbat give you the time to reflect on how to live a life of sanctity, and how to turn the struggles and stumbles that you encounter into lessons from which you can learn and grow.
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