First, an addendum on last week’s shiur. We talked about the appointment of the נשיאים, and how we don’t have any background information about them, about why they were appointed. Rashi sees a hint of their history in this week’s parasha:
Last week we talked about the qualities of a true leader: one who listens to those he/she leads as well as making final decisions. Here we see another quality: a leader must be willing to suffer for the community, to sacrifice his/herself for the greater good.
This week’s parasha deals in part with the נזיר, who takes a vow of abstinence for a time, then a the end has to bring a series of sacrifices:
The משך חכמה notes that the קרבנות listed here (עולה, חטאת, שלמים) are the same as the ones brought by the נשיאים for the inauguration of the משכן:
The vow of נזירות is meant to overcome a person’s לב המתאבוה, so his return to “normal” society is an inauguration of sorts, the introduction of the “new me”. Note that it is the end of his time that is the inauguration; the period of נזירות is in this metaphor only the building of the משכן. The משך חכמה uses this idea to explain the odd wording of the text: יביא אתו, ”he brings him“. Rashi translates:
The נזיר has to be able to look at his old personality as something truly separate from what he has become; the period of abstinence is supposed to be a time for learning.
We can understand why these sacrifices include the עולה, to bring ה׳ into the celebration; and the שלמים, to include the entire community (as we said when we looked at the mitzvah of פיגול). But why the חטאת, the sin offering? In the case of the inauguration of the משכן, the חטאת comes to atone for the possibility of טומאה getting into the sanctuary:
But what did the נזיר do wrong (or possibly do wrong) that he has to bring a חטאת? We all know the answer, brought by Rashi from the Gemara:
He has to bring a sin-offering because he deprived himself of the pleasures of this world; there are enough restrictions in the halacha and we should not go creating more. The problem with this is that this explanation is on the wrong pasuk. It is talking about the חטאת that is brought if a נזיר becomes טמא, not when he completes his vow:
One answer is from the next pasuk: והימים הראשנים יפלו, כי טמא נזרו. If he becomes טמא, then he has to restart the period of נזירות. Whatever positive value there is to taking such a vow, it is lost in those first days. ר׳ אלעזר הקפר is saying that the חטאת is not because the נזיר has violated the law by becoming טמא. The pasuk explicitly says כי ימות מת עליו בפתע פתאם and we have a principle that אונס רחמנא פטריה. He should not be liable at all. The problem was taking the vow in the first place, and that is even more evident in this case, when he has to serve a second term and the first halachically never existed. But we would say that this reason still applies to the חטאת that he brings at the end of his vow. The Ramban, however, says that the vow was a good thing, and the חטאת is for allowing it to end:
So we come back to משך חכמה's idea that the end of נזירות being like the inauguration of the sanctuary. It has to be the start of an improved life. If you go through the motions of a vow of asceticism but come out from it unchanged, you have wasted your time and, even worse, wasted the gifts that ה׳ has given you. The חטאת is for the טומאת ספק—the possibility that you have done the נזירות wrong.
Rabbi Bernie Fox points out that the Rambam is inconsistent in his treatment of the נזיר. In the מורה נבוכים, he praises him:
But in his commentary on the Mishna he says:
So does Rambam approve or disapprove of the נזיר? Rabbi Fox answers that the two texts are talking about two different things:
Rav Nebenzahl connects this idea to our celebration of יום טוב, especially שבועות:
Abstinence and indulgence within the limits of halacha can both be ways of serving ה׳, as long as our intention is that service, and as long as what we get out of it, the changes that we make in ourselves, make ues better, more spiritually connected people.