Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

Seizing the Moment of Inspiration Imagine a college freshman away from home for the first time; the feeling of freedom sets in immediately. He can finally party, drink, and do other activities whenever he likes but he isn’t mature in how he uses his new autonomy. After a month or two he begins to see the effects of his recent lifestyle changes. He has awful grades, a run in with the police, and begins to feel isolated; his old friends even caution him about his reckless behavior. What can he do? When he finally realizes that his newfound freedom is destroying him, he must take back his life. He determines that merely refraining from his careless lifestyle won’t be enough; he must do something extreme and, consequently, decides to cease drinking any alcohol until the end of the semester. No social drinking even if it’s minimal; not even a cup of wine when his parents visit and take him out to dinner. Although his behavior is severe, being as he knows his weaknesses and inclinations better than anyone else, he feels that until the end of the semester, this extreme behavior is a necessity. Hopefully by then, he will be able to know how to live with his newfound freedom. Although he might not know it, the freshman in our story could have gotten inspiration for his idea from this week’s Torah portion.
Two topics are juxtaposed; one involving a suspected adulterous, the other involving a Nazir, “Nazirite,” (not to be confused with Nazarene), a person who voluntarily accepts three restrictions on himself: He will not (1) drink wine or even eat grapes or (2) cut his hair or (3) come near a corpse. The topics of the suspected adulterous and the Nazir are juxtaposed to teach a practical lesson: sometimes a person indulges so much that he becomes a slave to these excesses. Before getting to that point, a person might need to take extreme action to pull back from some of the stimuli in his world and that’s what the juxtaposition in this week’s Torah portion teaches us.
When witnessing the trial of a suspected adulterous, a pensive question should be elicited; what led to this? One reasonable answer might be alcohol consumption because people often do things they regret when intoxicated. One explanation for why the two topics are juxtaposed is to teach that one who sees the suspected adulterous in disgrace will be so taken by the tragedy that he will be inspired to take an action—similar to our college freshman—to make sure it doesn’t happen to him. The same way an alcoholic refrains from even a tiny amount of liquor, so too each of us has weaknesses having the potential to make our lives unmanageable. How many teachers have been fired due to inappropriate conduct? How many political, sports, entertainment and other careers have been ruined because people didn’t respect boundaries? Sometimes we need extreme steps to get us out of our downward spiral.  
The Nazir might appear to be an extremist but he’s actually a realist. He saw a woman in a state of degradation and wants to make sure it won’t happen to himAre there issues in your life you are less sensitive to now than you were years ago? Throughout life we have moments in which we are inspired to be better than we are now. If we don’t react and take concrete action to actualize the moments, we will become cold to them.
The Nazir was inspired to give up drinking wine for a month so he could recalibrate his life. He felt awful when he saw a woman who had made a bad life choice and didn’t want to lose the inspiration of that moment. If we don’t learn how to cultivate the occasional moment of inspiration, we risk becoming cold to it. Whether it’s being more organized or honest, whether it’s spending more time with the family or spending more time at the gym, we need to do something concrete to seize the moment of inspiration and make it a reality in our lives.  Good Shabbos
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