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Parashat Naso
by Adrian Kelaty, Dvar Yerushalayim Student
Gur Aryeh



This week's Sedra includes the discussion of the Sotah (a wife
suspected of adultery). However, it does not seem to fit into the
basic topics of the opening chapters of the book of Bamidbar. They
deal primarily with the topics of national import, primarily the size,
roles and position of the respective tribes in the Jewish nation at
this point in history.

The Mikdash Mordechai explains that there is a very strong connection
between the matter of the Sotah and the matter of the tribes: The
linking factor is the concept of "Limishpechosam l'beis avosam"
(according to their families, according to their father's homes). Here
is a great nation, consisting of over 600,000 males of military
age-and yet the Torah keepson stressing over and over again the idea
of "L'mishpechosam l'beis avosam" -- that this nation and these tribes
are all composed of family units.

The idea is that Klal Yisroel as a whole is not stronger than those
individual families. That's why the portion of Sotah is inserted here.
The Torah is telling us that when the basic family unit breaks down,
eventually Klal Yisroel as a great nation breaks down as well. If
there isn't a secure family unit, then the result will be a suspected
adulteress wife, and eventually the whole structure will collapse,
since there is no L'mishpechosam l'beis avosam.

Using this concept, the Mikdash Mordechai then explains an
interesting dispute we find in the Sifre. At the end of the portion of
the Sotah and the Nazir we have Birkas Kohanim, which ends with the
blessing "...v'yasem lecha Shalom" (...and He shall grant you Peace).
There is a dispute as to what this is referring to; R. Chanina Segan
haKohanim says this refers to peace in the home (Shalom Bayis). R.
Natan says this refers to peace on a national level (Shalom Malchus
Beis Dovid).

This seems to be a strange dispute with totally disparate opinions as
to the nature of the Priestly Blessing. The Mikdash Mordechai
reconciles the two opinions and shows that the two sages are not
arguing! Everyone agrees that the concern is for national peace-peace
for Klal Yisroel. But in order to have peace for Klal Yisroel, two
types of peace are necessary; peace with enemies on the borders, and
peace at a national level. However, in order to achieve national
peace, peace in the individual home is also a must. This huge,
tremendous Klal Yisroel is nothing more than a collection of family
units and if the family unit is not secure, peace on a national level
is not secure either.


One of the sections in this week's parsha deals with the laws of the
nazir (Numbers 6:1-21). A nazir is one who vows to abstain from wine
(and grape products), notto become spiritually defiled by touching a
dead body, and not to cut his hair for a specific period of time. The
essence of the concept of the nazir and his abstentions needs to be

It is written in the Torah, "Do not add anything to what I am
commanding you, and do not decrease from them, to keep the
commandments of the L-rd your G-d which I have commanded you"
(Dueteronomy 4:2). In other words, one who adds to the mitzvot is
equivalent to one who takes away from them in such a way as not to do
some of them. Maybe the one who adds is even worse than the one who
takes away. Therefore, what is the achievement of a person who takes
the vow of a nazir and increases upon himself prohibitions that he was
not commanded?

Furthermore, Chazal have warned us not to make vows at all. It is
written, "It is better not to vow, than to vow and not pay"
(Ecclesiastes 5:4). Chazal have amplified this verse in such a way
that we should understand that not making vows is even better than
vowing and paying. Consequently, what is the justification for the
nazir to increase upon himself prohibitions by taking an oath?

To these questions, which are really one, there are two answers.
First, when the Torah said not to add to the mitzvot, it was warning a
person who haughtily thinks that he is so great that the existing
mitzvot are insufficient for him. In truth, it would be sufficient if
a person like this does not falter in what there is.

However, a person who adds "fences" and precautions in order to stay
far away from the prohibition itself is different. The warning did not
apply to him, and he is not acting from haughtiness, but humility. For
example, Chazal said that if someone sees a woman who has behaved
immorally, then he should make a nazarite vow to abstain from wine.
Because he is concerned that he may also falter, like that which he
saw, he needs to add precautions in order to negate the possibility of
even approaching a situation where he could fall into sin.

There is a second answer to the question of what is the nazir's
justification for taking upon himself additional prohibitions. Many of
the later commentators have explained that the intention of the nazir
is not additional prohibitions, but he really wants to achieve
additional kedushah. The additional prohibitions merely come as a
natural result of his ascending level of kedushah.

A person should not fool himself to think that his achievements are so
great that he is worthy to accept upon himself additional
prohibitions. However, it is proper for a person who has truly
achieved a distinguished level of accomplishments to increase his
responsibilities towards man and G-d. In this case he might be
compared to the High Priest who is circumscribed by prohibitions that
do not apply to his fellow priests, and we do not ask why he thinks
himself more distinguished than others. In the same way, the nazir has
taken upon himself to become a person of distinguished character, and
the additional prohibitions have come upon him as a natural result of
his unique achievements.

In any case, we have learned from here two important lessons. The
greater a person is, in truth, then the greater are his
responsibilities and the demands made upon him. Also, a person has the
right, and even the obligation, to build fences and unique precautions
around himself in order to guard himself from falling into sin in a
place where he may be susceptible.


We also have in this week's parsha a discussion of a situation in
which a man or a woman commits a sin described by the Torah as "Limol
ma'al ba'Hashem" (committing a trespass against the L-rd). The Sages
tell us that this section of "Limol ma'all ba'Hashem" is referring to
the crime of stealing from a convert. The Sforno on this section makes
a very beautiful comment: Why if you steal from a convert is it
considered to be a "sin against Hashem"? Look at this convert... he
just went ahead and became a Jew, he wanted to envelope himself in the
Divine Protection and now some Jew steals from him? What will his
reaction be? Imagine the situation... A person is a gentile and he
"sees the light" and decides to become a convert. He comes into a
shul. He puts down his briefcase. He just finishes davening. He feels
wonderful about being a Jew... and he turns around and someone walks
off with his briefcase! This, says the Sforno, is not only a sin
against another human being, this is a Chilul Hashem-a sin against
G-d. That's what the verse means by the term "Limol ma'al ba'Hashem".

Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg speaks about the tremendous responsibility that
we as religious Jews have in connection with this precept. There are
some things, the Rambam tells us in Hilchos Yesodei haTorah, that are
absolutely permissible. But if a person who is an "Adam Gadol" (great
individual), renowned for his piety (mefursam b'Chassidus), people
expect more from him. If such a person does something in this
category, says the Rambam, that can be a Chilul Hashem. Something as
innocent and innocuous as not paying the butcher back on time can be a
Desecration of G-d's Name. An "Adam Gadol" has a different set of

Rabbi Weinberg introduced a novel, but important concept: Nowadays,
every single one of us has the law of an "Adam Gadol". Wherever we
find ourselves -- be it in the office or in the super market or in
traffic-we are in the position of a "great individual renowned for
their piety". That is how our neighbours who are not as religious or
observant look at us. And if you do so much as cut off another person
in traffic and the person sees that you have a beard or you're wearing
a black hat or you have a bumper sticker proclaiming "Thank G-d
Shabbos is Coming" and you advertise your Yiddishkeit, then how does
that person look at you when you cut him off? That's today's
equivalent of the Rambam's statement about not paying the butcher back
on time.

When a person is in an office he may feel that it is religiously
appropriate not to socialise with non-Jews, but there is a necessity
to be civil. You have to say a "Good Morning" if you meet somebody by
the water fountain or by the copy machine. It's not frumkeit (piety)
and it's not da'as Torah (sanctioned Torah practice) to be a hermit to
the extent that people will murmur about you. At the eulogy of R.
Yaakov Kaminetzsky, zt"l, one speaker related the following: There was
a nun in Monsey, New York who complained about the way the Jewish
population related to her: Everyone used to walk right past her... The
"correct" people ignored her, and the "super correct" people spat.
This nun then related that there was, however, one old Jew with a
white beard that used to say "Good Morning" every single day. (That
Jew was R. Yaakov.) That's Kiddush Hashem and "looking the other way"
is Chilul Hashem. And that's how it has to be in an office. True, you
don't have to socialize; you don't have to "go have a drink"
afterwards but simple civility, simply being a "mentsh"... that's what
the Rambam means when he says people have to say "How pleasant are his

Every person has to look at himself nowadays like a "great person,
renowned for his piety" because every one of the non-Jews and even
other Jews look at you and say "That's an Orthodox Jew". It doesn't
matter if you are or you aren't a Talmid Chacham, to them it's all the
same-you are an "Adam Gadol u'mefursam b'chassidus". Therefore, we
always must strive for the standard of "How beautiful are his actions,
how pleasant are his ways" and not to do that can result, chas
v'sholom, in a Chilul Hashem. On the other hand, a person who is
courteous and polite and will take a few extra minutes in traffic, and
will be a little more pleasant at the checkout counter in the super
market, it is about him that the Torah says " are My servant,
through whom I will be glorified."