The Golden Mean by Mr. Bryan Kinzbrunner


Parshat Naso contains the various laws of Sotah (suspected adulteress) and Nazir.  Masechet Sotah (2a) quotes a Baraita (also found in Berachot 63a as well as quoted by Rashi s.v. Yafli) in the name of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, which asks why the Nazir section comes immediately after the Sotah section.  He claims that whoever sees a Sotah in her disgrace will separate from wine, which as Rashi says is because wine makes a person lightheaded, the cause of her actions. 

At first glance, this explanation seems a bit hard to grasp.  Why would one create absolute distance from something as a result of seeing a person punished the crime he committed?  Sure, when first seeing the person, the reaction might be shock, but ultimately, it might be very surprising for a person to completely separate from the “cause” of the sin.  However, the separation from Sotah seems extreme, because the person not only separates from wine, but from grape products and cutting his hair, and from going to a grave or funeral. 

The Maharal, commenting on Rashi (and therefore commenting on Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi), provides a deeper explanation for the juxtaposition of the two sections.  He claims Sotah is the complete opposite of Kedusha, for someone is not Kadosh unless he separates from Arayot (which would be all immorality), as Rashi points out at the beginning of Parshat Kedoshim (19:2) (Maharal, in his commentary on Pirkei Avot, Derech Hayyim, mentions this same idea on Mishnah 5:9).  He then explains how we know Nazir is supposed to follow the Sotah section.  Nazir is a form of making a vow, so the verse (6:2) should have read “Ki Yidor Neder Nazir Lihafli.”  Instead, the verse is “Ki Yafli Lindor Neder Nazir.”  Why does the Pasuk place the word Yafli first?  The Maharal says that Yafli, Haflaa, is the language of separation, as Rashi explains at the beginning of his comment on the word Yafli.  Therefore, according to the Maharal, the way to fix the lack of Kedusha is to perform Kedusha to the extreme, i.e become a Nazir.

However, I am still left wondering why there is a need to go to this extreme.  I understand the need to create a fence around the Torah, but why the need for a brick wall 10 feet high.  Furthermore, becoming a Nazir does not seem to be something recommended, as the Nazir, in order to end the Nezirut, needs to bring a Korban Chatat, implying that extreme Kedusha is somehow a sin.

To understand the reason that Nezirut is in some respects a sin, we need to turn to the Rambam.  In the first two chapters of Hilchot Deot, as well as interspersed throughout his introduction to Pirkei Avot, the Rambam talks about fixing character traits.  He says that if a person has a tendency towards a certain extreme, that person should go to the opposite extreme because eventually the character trait will end up centered.  However, there are limits to this.  For example, to fight off extreme Kedusha, one should not become extremely immoral.  Nevertheless, extreme Kedusha, such as Nezirut, would be sinful because it would remove the person from society.  Hence, the requirement for bringing a Korban Chatat even though it is seen as a remedy for immorality.

As we go into the summer, we need to remember that extremes are not ideal.  There is a need to relax and rejuvenate after a hard year.  However, this is not a license to do nothing but relax.  There is also a need to keep our minds sharp and a need to continue to grow as people.  At the same time, do not think, “Well, in order not to fall prey to evil, I will shut myself away until the next year.”  To grow includes the ability to interact with people at times without compromising ourselves.  We cannot become more stringent when it encroaches on others.  Our stringencies need to be internal.

Giving by Uri Carl

The “Super-Spiritual” Physical Torah by Avi Shteingart (’03) & Eli Shteingart (’07)