April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

When minyanim restarted again, everyone was so excited. Finally, we’d be back together, charged up to daven with true intensity!

And yet…I received a phone call from someone who was virtually in tears. “I was so excited to return to davening with a minyan and looked forward to a beautiful, heartfelt tefilla,” he said. “But the minyan I attended raced through the davening. I was shocked, horrified, and broken-hearted. Even my teenage son came home crying!”

This man was shocked, but is it really so surprising? Over the last couple of years, we have experienced multiple events that have caused klal Yisrael to be awakened, scared and moved. Tragic drowning accidents, antisemitic attacks on people in the streets of Brooklyn, terrorists in Union City and Monsey, deaths from the coronavirus, and just recently the Meron tragedy. Now, our beloved Eretz Yisrael is under attack, with hundreds of missiles being fired at civilians each day. We are getting serious wake-up calls from Hashem!! But are we changing? Not necessarily so. Why not? We need to understand a fundamental principle of human nature that is learned from the laws of the nazir.

Parshas Naso discusses the nazir, one who makes a vow to abstain from wine, cutting his hair and having contact with a corpse or grave. Why did he accept these restrictions on himself? The Gemara explains that the Torah precedes the discussion of the nazir with the discussion of the sotah, who was suspected of adultery. We learn that someone who witnessed a sotah procedure in the Beis Hamikdash needs to strengthen himself in an area that could otherwise lead him to a similar outcome. Drinking wine lowers a person’s inhibitions, and undesirable behavior can result. Still, isn’t witnessing the possible horrific death of the sotah frightening enough to keep the person in line? The Torah says no; the observer must accept upon himself to be a nazir. An awakening by observation alone is insufficient.

At the conclusion of his nazirite period, the pasuk instructs, “Yavi oso,” they shall bring him.” Rashi says he brings himself. So which one is it?? The Seforno explains that normally a person of higher stature is needed to escort a person, in order to release him from a bond of any kind at the conclusion of the period of restriction. For example, a kohen escorts out a metzora and a master escorts out a slave. But since a nazir transformed himself through his vow, that puts him on a higher than normal level and he can “escort himself.” Indeed, by accepting upon himself a small positive action to become better, he is considered to be on a higher level than even the kohen gadol!

Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk indicates that the standard time for someone to be a nazir is 30 days. Imagine that: In just 30 days we can achieve a degree of change that puts us on a higher level than the kohen gadol!

The word nazir comes from the root word nezer, which means “crown.” As the pasuk says, “The crown of Hashem is on his head.” When the nazir completes his term, the pasuk tells us, “Afterward, the nazir should drink wine.” Once he is permitted to drink wine, it’s clear he is no longer a nazir. So why is he still referred to as a nazir afterward? Rav Simcha Bunim Alter explains that the elevated status of being a nazir remains even after his term of nezirus has been completed. The crown remains on his head forever.

Inspiration is temporary; it’s like a flash of lighting. We couldn’t go to minyan for several months, yet after we returned to shul, the behavior of most was soon the same as it was before. When we don’t truly resolve to change and commit ourselves to a new, better course of action or behavior, we ultimately remain the same…bad habits and all. That’s human nature. True positive change is not passive; it requires us to reflect, decide and act! We must actually take on something new to solidify a change. This is true in all areas of avodas Hashem.

How do we do this? How do we really adopt something new and keep to it?

Take on something small. But be firm in your resolve. Any aspect of avodas Hashem we do in this manner will remain with us forever. For some, it may be leaving the phone at home when going to shul—not even in your pocket, because trust me, it will be a distraction. Others who daven from an “app” on their phone might choose to use a siddur instead. For others, smiling while saying “Good Morning” to everyone may be their small, transformative act.

As the corona crown is vanishing, we need to replace it with the “crown of the nazir.” Whatever small positive change we take on with purpose will have a lasting impact.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate Rosh Yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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