בס״ד

Kavanot: פרשת נשא תשע״ד

Thoughts on Tanach and the Davening

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:

ויקריבו נשיאי ישראל ראשי בית אבתם; הם נשיאי המטת הם העמדים על הפקדים׃

במדבר ז:ב

שהיו שוטרים עליהם במצרים והיו מוכים עליהם, שנאמר (שמות ה:יד) ויכו שוטרי בני ישראל וגו׳.

רש״י, שם, ד״ה הם נשיאי המטת

יג והנגשים אצים לאמר: כלו מעשיכם דבר יום ביומו כאשר בהיות התבן׃ יד ויכו שטרי בני ישראל אשר שמו עלהם נגשי פרעה לאמר: מדוע לא כליתם חקכם ללבן כתמול שלשם גם תמול גם היום׃

שמות פרק ה

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:

יג וזאת תורת הנזיר: ביום מלאת ימי נזרו יביא אתו אל פתח אהל מועד׃ יד והקריב את קרבנו לה׳ כבש בן שנתו תמים אחד לעלה וכבשה אחת בת שנתה תמימה לחטאת; ואיל אחד תמים לשלמים׃ טו וסל מצות סלת חלת בלולת בשמן ורקיקי מצות משחים בשמן; ומנחתם ונסכיהם׃

במדבר פרק ו

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:

והנזירות הוא חינוך לשבירת הרוח והלב המתאבוה; לכן מביא קרבנות חינוך.

משך חכמה, במדברו:יד, ד״ה כבש בן שנתו תמים אחד לעלה

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:

יביא את עצמו, זה אחד משלשה אתים שהיה ר׳ ישמעאל דורש כן. כיוצא בו והשיאו אותם עון אשמה (ויקרא כב:טז), את עצמם, כיוצא בו ויקבור אותו בגיא (דברים לד:ו), הוא קבר את עצמו

רש״י, במדבר ו:יג, ד״ה יביא אתו

כשהוא מסתכל על עניני עצמו כמביט על מפעלות אחרים…אז בטוח יקח מהנאות העולם במזג הראוי ולא יבוא למותרות, ואדרבה, ייהנה מהעולם ותהיה דעתו מעורבת בין הבריאות.

משך חכמה, שם

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:

לכפר על קבר התהום וטומאת ספק

רש״י, במדבר ז:טז, ד״ה שעיר עזים אחד לחטאת

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:

דתניא ר׳ אלעזר הקפר ברבי אומר מה תלמוד לומר (במדבר ו:יא) וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש וכי באיזה נפש חטא זה אלא שציער עצמו מן היין.

תענית יא,א

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:

ט וכי ימות מת עליו בפתע פתאם וטמא ראש נזרו וגלח ראשו ביום טהרתו ביום השביעי יגלחנו׃ י וביום השמיני יבא שתי תרים או שני בני יונה; אל הכהן אל פתח אהל מועד׃ יא ועשה הכהן אחד לחטאת ואחד לעלה וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש; וקדש את ראשו ביום ההוא׃

במדבר פרק ו

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:

וטעם החטאת שיקריב הנזיר ביום מלאת ימי נזרו נתפרש, ועל דרך הפשט כי האיש הזה הוא חוטא נפשו במלאת הנזירות, כי הוא עתה נזור מקדושתו ועבודת השם, וראוי היה לו שיזיר לעולם, ויעמוד כל ימיו נזיר וקדוש לאלקיו, כענין שנאמר ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים, השוה אותו הכתוב לנביא, וכדכתיב כל ימי נזרו קדוש הוא לה', והנה הוא צריך כפרה בשובו להטמא בתאוות העולם.

רמב״ן, במדבר ו:יד

Rav Simcha Zissel Broide asks how the Ramban can offer such an interpretation which seems to contradict the Gemara which states that the Korban Chatas is for having abstained from wine in the first place?

Rav Simcha Zissel explains as follows: When this person started out as a regular person and accepted Nezirus upon himself he “pained himself from wine”. However something happened to him in the course of his 30 days of Nezirus—he became a more elevated person. The person who started the Nezirus is not the same person who ended it. The “plain guy” who started the Nezirus is the type of person about whom the Torah says “Do not forbid upon yourself more than the Torah has already forbidden upon you.” There is such a criticism for “regular Joes”. However, once he has completed 30 days of elevated sanctity, he has reached a higher level. He is no longer a “plain guy” anymore. He is now standing at a level where such behavior becomes appropriate for him. Therefore, to pull the plug now on this level of sanctity and go back to being a “regular Joe” does require atonement.

We are supposed to grow through life. Maybe there are certain things in life that when we started out were not appropriate for us. But with time and experience, we grow and then greater things are expected of us.

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:

The object of Nazaritism (Num. vi.) is obvious. It keeps away from wine that has ruined people in ancient and modern times. “Many strong men have been slain by it” (Prov. xxvii. 26). “But they also have erred through wine. . . . the priest and the prophet” (Isa. xxviii. 7). In the law about the Nazarite we notice even the prohibition, “he shall eat nothing that is made of the vine tree” (Num. vi. 4), as an additional precaution, implying the lesson that man must take of wine only as much as is absolutely necessary. For he who abstains from drinking it is called “holy”; his sanctity is made equal to that of the high-priest, in not being allowed to defile himself even to his father, to his mother, and the like. This honour is given him because he abstains from wine.

But in his commentary on the Mishna he says:

לא ציוותה דבר מעין זה. ואין כונתה אלא שיהיה האדם טבעי, הולך בדרך האמצעי: יאכל מה שיש לו לאכול בשווי, וישתה מה שיש לו לשתות בשווי. ויישב המדינות ביושר ובאמונה. לא שישכון במערות ובהרים, ולא שילבש השער והצמר, ולא שיטריח גופו ויענה אותו.

ונאסר עליו הדבר, לפי מה שבא לנו בקבלה, בנזיר: וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש (במדבר ו:יא).

ואמרו (רז״ל): וכי על איזה נפש חטא זה? אלא שצער עצמו מן היין. והלוא דברים קל וחומר: ומה זה שלא צער עצמו אלא מן היין נקרא חוטא, המצער עצמו מכל דבר ודבר, על אחת כמה וכמה.

So does Rambam approve or disapprove of the נזיר? Rabbi Fox answers that the two texts are talking about two different things:

[T]he objective of the Torah is to guide an individual to truth and spiritual perfection. As a person grows spiritually and embraces truth, the individual begins to re-evaluate the meaning of life. Material pleasures loose their glamour and attraction. This abandonment is not the result of vows of self-denial. The tzadik—the righteous person—simply loses interest in material affairs. This tzadik is the individual Maimonides describes in the Moreh Nevuchim…[T]he nazir is not the tzadik described in the Moreh Nevuchim. This tzadik does not require a vow to moderate his interaction with the material world. Instead, the nazir is a person attempting to move away from an extreme attachment to material pleasure. The nazir is striving to achieve the middle road…The nazir adopts the behaviors of the tzadik. He experiments with living the life and adopting the attitudes of a truly spiritual individual.

Rav Nebenzahl connects this idea to our celebration of יום טוב, especially שבועות:

Chazal tell us “filling the stomach ranks among the types of evils” (Brachot 32a), yet we may not refrain from enjoying this world for no apparent reason, as the Yerushalmi states: “a person is destined to be judged on all that his eyes saw and he did not enjoy” (End of Kiddushin).

Even on Yom Tov when we are obligated to eat meat and drink wine, and specifically on Shavuot in which “All agree with respect to Shavuot that we require it to be ‘for you’ too.” (Pesachim 68b), we must realize that the “for you” is not a goal but rather a means by which to arrive at true joy. A true experiencing of simcha is not through the partaking of meat, wine, and even cheese cake on Shavuot, but rather by rejoicing in Hashem and in the Torah he has given us. After all, on Yom Tov we recite the bracha: “may Israel the sanctifiers of Your holiness rejoice in You”, not may they rejoice in meat and in wine. The joy must only be in Hashem “that He gave us the Torah of truth and implanted eternal life within us”. The problem is that the soul cannot rejoice while the body is hungry. It is for this reason that the Torah commanded us to feed our bodies the delicacies it enjoys, for not doing so would cause the body to interfere with the joy of the soul.

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.