Editor’s note: This week Nasso is read in Israel and Bamidbar is read outside of Israel
The Sotah and the Nazir
In this Parsha the Torah discusses the subjects of the Sotah, or suspected adulteress and the Nazir, the individual who, for a minimum of thirty days, refrains from wine and all grape products, lets his hair grow and does not come into contact with the deceased, even members of his own family. Abarbanel cites the Talmudic statement that the reason the subject of Nazir follows the subject of Sotah is that “One who sees the disgrace of the suspected adulteress will vow to abstain from wine, since it is wine that can bring one to adultery.” Abarbanel states that this reason seems insufficient. Since the Nazir has to bring sacrificial offerings either at the end of this period or if he did become ritually impure due to accidental contact with a deceased individual, this whole section should have been included in the book of Vayikra where all the sacrificial offerings are detailed.
Abarbanel answers that this is actually the most appropriate point to discuss the subject of Nazir. The previous parshiot represent the progression of the spiritual purification of the nation. Starting with the construction of the Tabernacle, the Torah has divided the nation into the Kohanim, the Levi’im and each of the tribes under its individual banner. The nation is further purified by the separation of those afflicted by tzara’at and other forms of ritual impurity, and in this Parsha there is the implied separation of the illegitimate child of a proven adulteress. This sets the stage for the Nazir, who represents an even higher level of personal spiritual purification. His level of sanctity differs from that of the Kohanim in that it is not inherited nor is it permanent. It is entirely voluntary. Furthermore, he has the additional restriction of not cutting his hair which is not shared by the Kohanim.
Abarbanel explains that the word Nazir is rooted in the concepts of ‘turning away’, ‘distancing’ and ‘vigilance’. It is also related to the word for ‘crown’ since the Torah explicitly states “…for the crown of his
The wording of this subject in the Torah attests to the difficulty of accepting these obligations. At the beginning of the section, the Torah states, “A man or woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazarite vow of abstinence for the sake of