This week’s Parashah, Parashat Naso, contains a plethora of topics. It begins with the census of Sheivet Levi, and continues with the Sotah, Nazir, and the offerings of the Nesi’im. At first glance, these topics do not seem to have much to do with each other; one is about a husband thinking his wife is unfaithful, while another discusses the dedication of the Mishkan. However, it seems to be that there is an overarching motif in the Parashah: individuals who are unique from masses.
The types of uniqueness in Naso can be neatly divided into two categories: those which are ingrained in the person and those that he can bring upon himself. Inborn traits are ones that a person is born with; in the Parashah, they are the Levi’im, the Kohanim, and the Nesi’im. The Torah provides two examples of the second type of uniqueness, which are earned through a person’s actions-- the Sotah and the Nazir. The Sotah earned her title by acting promiscuously, as defined by the Halachah. The Nazir, in contrast, is simply a person who decided to become a Nazir. After the recitation of a few words, he becomes obligated in the prohibitions and sanctity of Nezirut.
This is especially startling when many aspects of a Nazir can be compared to the Kohen Gadol-- the only person who can ever enter the Kodesh Kadashim. Both cannot drink wine, though for the Kohen Gadol, this is only during active duty. Both have restrictions on their hair; a Nazir must not cut it, while the High Priest must keep it presentable. Neither can be Mitamei LeMeitim, even for a close relative. Finally, both are described as wearing the “Neizer HaKodesh,” or holy crown; by the Kohen Gadol, this refers to the Tzitz and the anointing oil, while by a Nazir, it refers to his overgrown hair.
Although there are many similarities between a Nazir and the Kohen Gadol, there are also many differences, and these can help teach the underlying differences between them. A Kohen Gadol must abstain from wine only before service in the Temple, while a Nazir can never imbibe this beverage during his term. A Kohen Gadol may marry only a virgin, while a Nazir has no such restriction. While a Nazir cannot cut his hair, the High Priest, according to Rashi (VaYikra 21:10), cannot let it grow for more than 30 days without cutting it, which, incidentally, is the minimum amount of time that one can be a Nazir.
Perhaps this shows the underlying reasons for all these differences: the Kohen Gadol is a representative of the people, while the Nazir is secluded. The Kohen Gadol must keep his hair short and presentable, the antithesis of one in the state of mourning, who must let his hair grow. The Kohen Gadol must also marry only a woman who is a virgin; perhaps this is because we do not want people speaking badly about his wife, thereby tarnishing his public image, whereas the Nazir has no such public image that must be upheld. In addition, the Kohen must also be married within a year of appointment, as, according to Yoma 1:1, he must have a wife to do the Yom Kippur service, and ‘Af Ishah Acheret Matkinin Lo”, we even prepare for him another wife. In the Yom Kippur service, his actions result in the atonement of the entire nation.
As opposed to the Kohen whose job has him rapt in the duties of society, the Nazir’s prohibitions cause him to withdraw from society. If you picture in your head a savage barbarian, it is likely a man with long, disheveled hair. Since he cannot ever drink wine, he cannot fully involve himself in social gatherings. He also would be uncomfortable inviting people to his house for Shabbat, since he would not be making Kiddush or Havdalah on a grape product. But perhaps there is a reason for all this.
Perhaps the Kohen Gadol is meant to be a communal leader, while a Nazir can be anyone. The Kohen Gadol is supposed to be the representative between the nation and HaShem on Yom Kippur. If the people do not respect him, how can he fulfill his role? Perhaps that is also why the Kohanim are all male, who traditionally assumed the roles of leadership. The Nazir, however, can be anyone - the Torah explicitly says that both men and women can become Nezirim. It does not require you to be descended from any specific group, like Kehunah requires. Any committed individual is eligible.
A Nazir can be anyone, and when he completes his term, according to the Sforno (BeMidbar 6:13), there is no one greater than he. Clearly, while the Nazir and Kohen Gadol share a variety of qualities, their roles are different.