Strengthening Personal Kedushah by Rabbi Yosef Grossman


          In this week's Parsha, we find a discussion of the laws pertaining to the Nazir, a person who has decided to dedicate himself to Hashem by abstaining from certain activities (במדבר ו:א-כ"א).  Rashi (שם פסוק ב'), quoting the Gemara in Sotah (דף ב.) which notes that these laws immediately follow the laws pertaining to the Sotah, a woman whose husband has good reason to suspect that she has been unfaithful in her marriage (שם ה:י"א-ל"א), asks, "למה נסמכה פרשת נזיר לפרשת סוטה," why is the section about the Nazir put next to the section about the Sotah.  The answer is that the Torah is trying to tell us "שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין שהוא מביא לידי ניאוף," that anyone who sees a Sotah in her state of degradation must separate himself from wine (like a Nazir) because (excessive) wine leads one to commit adultery."

            Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, in his דרש משה, asks why the Gemara says that a person must separate himself specifically from wine, which isn't so intoxicating, as opposed to other, stronger drinks, which are far more intoxicating, and are far more likely to cause a person to get drunk and then engage in inappropriate behavior.  He then explains that apparently the concern here is not that the person will become drunk; a Nazir himself is indeed permitted to drink other intoxicating beverages besides wine.  Moreover, we find that a Nazir is prohibited from partaking of all grapes and grape products even though they don't cause one to become drunk at all.  Avoiding שיכרות, drunkenness, then, is apparently not the purpose of these requirements.  If the goal here were to keep a person from becoming intoxicated so that he will not be led to sinful behavior, the Nazir should indeed be prohibited from drinking all intoxicating beverages, and only such items should be forbidden.

            Rather, Rav Moshe suggests, the intent is that someone who sees a Sotah in her degraded state, brought on by a failure to manifest the Kedushah required by the Torah in sexual matters and in general,needs to sanctify himself.  He must realize that he is in fact endowed with Kedushas Yisrael and to maintain that Kedushah, he must, upon seeing a Sotah, look to increase and strengthen the Kedushah by going to the opposite extreme.  This is what Chazal mean when they tell us in the Gemara in Yevamos (דף כ.), "קדש עצמך במותר לך," one should sanctify oneself by means of that which is permissible to him.  This means that even if a particular activity is technically permissible, one should abstain from it nonetheless if that abstention will lead him to a higher level of Kedushah. When one sees other Jews, who also have this special Kedushas Yisrael, this sanctity of the Jewish people, sinning and disobeying the Torah, then he must realize that he has to add on to his own holiness in order to avoid being influenced by the negative behavior of those around him, and in order to strengthen his own Kedushah thereby.  If society is lax in a particular area of behavior, one must sanctify himself by being even more strict in that area.  It is therefore not the avoidance of getting drunk that the Torah wishes to stress here, but the abstention from certain permissible activities in order to strengthen one's Kedushah.

            One should also realize that the Kedushah attained through the study of Torah, the giving of which we celebrated this past week on Shavuos, well also help us in our quest for a heightened level of personal Kedushah.  For example, the Rambam writes (פרק כ"ב מהל' איסורי ביאה הלכה כ"א): "...יפנה עצמו ומחשבתו לדברי תורה...שאין מחשבת עריות מתגברת אלא בלב פנוי מן החכמה," "...a person should always turn himself and his thoughts toward the words of the Torah...because the thoughts of forbidden sexual conduct increase only in a mind which is devoid of wisdom."  The same may be said of transgressions in general.  If one focuses on Torah all the time, he is much less likely to think about and then involve himself in other activities which are sinful and weaken his personal Kedushah.  Torah study, then, can help maintain a high level of Kedushah.  We must learn this message of the Nazir and the Sotah very well so that we can all increase our personal commitment to our holy Torah and with that, prepare ourselves to usher in the period of the Melech HaMoshiach.

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