Naso – Num. 4:21-7:89​

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

 Naso – Num. 4:21-7:89

Our Torah portion this week is Naso – Num. 4:21-7:89, and contains the laws of the Nazarite.  A Nazarite was a person (man or woman) who took it upon him/herself, usually for a limited amount of time, to observe special rules of holiness and abstinence: not to drink wine or other intoxicants (including anything made from grapes), not to cut his/her hair, and not to defile themselves by contact with the dead.   On the one had, those who take this vow are called by Torah “holy to God” (Num. 6:8) and on the other hand, when the Nazarite’s vow comes to an end, he/she is to bring a sin offering… as if they had done something wrong.  Is the sin offering presented as a result of leaving a life of holiness… or as a result of sequestering oneself from the pleasures of life itself?   Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments on this (in Essays on Ethics – Naso) as he points out that “…these are two ways of understanding the moral life itself.  Is the aim for the moral life to achieve personal perfection? Or is it to create a decent, just, and compassionate society?… You cannot have both…” One can adopt a life of personal perfection… or realize that there are other people at stake… As Rabbi Sacks writes: “There are members of one’s own family and others within one’s own community.  There is a country to defend and an economy to sustain… We are called on by God to live in the world, not to escape from it…” (Essays, p. 225) Today… at this moment… we are called upon to live and care about and for our family, our community, our country, and our world. And… my heart is crying out… It has been almost two weeks of flashbacks to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s… Civil Rights have moved forward bit by bit… but there have been too many flash-points along the way as the decades have gone by. What CAN we do?  Solutions will not arise overnight. When more and more of us can become better advocates for anti-racism… When it can reach a tipping point… and stay there… we can make and build on systemic change.  It takes effort.  It takes courage.  It takes open hearts and open minds and open hands.  And it takes learning from and listening to each other. I sit on the Community Relations Committee of Cleveland’s Jewish Community Federation, and this past early winter I had the opportunity to take the 21-day Challenge to learn more about racial equity.  It’s not a 1-day challenge.  Change does not happen in one day.  Nor after 21 days; but 21 days are a start.   Please take a look at the following sites and consider taking the challenge yourself, or together with a group… or just making your way through some of these amazing resources… [Please let me know if I can be helpful in any way.] It is an enormous task, to create a decent, just, and compassionate society… but that does not mean we should not do our part to help be and make the change we want to see.   * “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatmas Ghandi^ “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Pirke Avot 2:21

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