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Jewish Journal

The Nazirite Quest - D’var Torah Parashat Naso

by Rabbi John Rosove

May 31, 2012 | 9:42 am

The Torah portion this week, Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) presents us with the strange and pure commitment of the Nazir, a Hebrew word meaning “consecrated” or “separated” from the community.

The most famous Nazirite in history was the Biblical Samson, arguably the most physically powerful figure in the Hebrew Bible. His hair was illumined by a thousand suns, and his strength was drawn from his direct spiritual connection with God.

The Nazir could be a man or a woman who voluntarily undertook the self-disciplined and self-denying life. The Nazir was forbidden to cut his/her hair, drink wine or have contact with the dead.

Each year at this time when the Nazir presents itself in our weekly Torah readings I find myself fascinated by his/her commitment and motivations of heart, mind, body, and soul. Here are my poetic musings on such a life.

—————————————————

That chasm just doesn’t go away,
The yawning gap between You and me,
Between Your infinity and my infirmity. 

We seekers yearn to know You and be near,
To breach the darkness
And merge into Your Light.

We’ll consider any way to You.
And some will do any thing,
Follow any one,
Even dip their burning toes into any pool
Or enter any lion’s den,
If they believe Your promise is their reward.

We seekers call You by many names -
Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Vishnu, Buddha, Allah.

We Jews have had our ecstatic prophets
And mystic souls,
Lured by otherworldliness,
The Ain Sof of being-less-ness.

We are infinity-seeking,
Soul-yearning,
Paradise-praying,
Chariot-riding,
Angelic-praising,
Spirit-winged-flapping-souls!

Some suffer mightily in their quest,
Their hearts quartered and bleeding,
Flesh crawling and yearning,
Never sated,
Never resting,
Never still.

‘O Ecstasy,’ they cry,
‘To be any thing but me!
To be any where but here!
To be one with You,
That is my quest,
My life’s yearning,
My soul’s delight!’

Eternal One –
Is this the thing?
Is this what You ask of me?
Of us all?

If so, how do we come near?
Is not performing the mitzvot enough?
Or should we become Holy offerings,
Given-over, burned and denied,
Turned into ash before You?
Must we wait for death
When our souls are released
And they return to You
To know You truly?

For me, here and now –
I demur.
Your Torah must be enough.
Its letters and words,
They are beautiful in my eyes,
Graceful upon my lips,
Life-giving within my breath
The inspiration of my love.

Yes, this must be enough!
As for other seekers,
Those who wish
Can have the life of the Nazir.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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