July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Nazir: A Holy Sinner

The nazir, one who vows not to drink wine, is elevated to a level of holiness similar to that of the Kohen Gadol. Like the Kohen Gadol, he is prohibited from defiling himself for the dead, even his closest relatives, and the Torah describes his hair- which he must let grow- as sanctified. Yet this very same nazir must bring a korban chatat – a sin offering – at the termination of his vow. The Gemara explains that this sacrifice is to atone for the sin of denying himself the pleasure of wine. Thus, the same vow which elevates him to an exalted level of holiness also causes him to be judged as a sinner. Why?

“All that the Holy One, Blessed is He, created in His world, He created solely for His glory” (Pirkei Avot 6:11). Hashem created the world for man to utilize in His service, not to be retreated from. Every aspect of creation can and must be utilized to aid one in understanding and drawing closer to His Creator.

The Torah outlook on the physical world is diametrically opposed to the Christian viewpoint. Christianity teaches that the material world is inherently evil. Any enjoyment of the pleasures of the physical world is permissible only as the lesser of two evils. The only sacrifice a gentile may bring is an olah, which is wholly consumed. The only kedusha understood by the nations of the world is total negation of the material world. By contrast, our most exalted sacrifice is the shelamim (literally a perfect, harmonious offering) where only a small portion of the offering is burnt on the altar. Most of the offering is eaten by the one who brought the sacrifice and the Kohen who offered it.

The wine from which the nazir chooses to abstain can enhance our performance of various mitzvot and occasions of joy by helping us give expression to our innermost sentiments. When detached, however, from mitzvot, and utilized as an end in itself, it degrades a person by robbing him of his most precious possession, his mind. Thus, one who “sees a sotah in her disgrace,” i.e., brought to shame from an abuse of wine, and who recognizes a similar weakness in himself, should vow to abstain from wine for a period of time to control his weakness.

Recognizing one’s weakness and choosing abstinence over abuse elevates a person and renders him holy. But lest the nazir lose sight of the ideal, the Torah reminds him that he is nevertheless a sinner. He has not yet achieved the ultimate goal of life: elevating the entire physical world. Were he on the ideal level, he would not have to abstain from wine, but would instead utilize it for spiritual growth. Thus, the same vow that renders him holy is also a compromise of the true ideal.

This explains why on Shavuot we are mandated to celebrate not only spiritually- by studying the Torah- but also physically, by enjoying a festive meal, since Torah is the ultimate bridge connecting the spiritual and physical worlds.

This is one of the distinctions of life in Eretz Yisrael. The Chatam Sofer explains that any pursuit that enables one to settle in Eretz Yisrael fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael Hence, in Eretz Yisrael all physical and material pursuits are elevated to mitzvah status and endowed with spirituality.

May we utilize the physical and material opportunities Hashem offers us in this world in His service and thereby merit the day when we all will be in Eretz Yisrael with the coming of Mashiach soon in our days.


Rabbi Zev Leff is the rabbi of Moshav Matityahu, and a renowned author, lecturer and educator. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles