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Naso 5770

Rabbi Siegel

Parshat Naso

May 24, 2010
The Gemorah in Meseches Nazir poses the question – For what reason is the portion dealing with the Isha Sota placed adjacent to the one of the Nazir, in Parshas Naso? What possible connection exists between them? The gemora answers – In order to instruct us, to guide us – All those who witness the disgrace of the Sotah woman, as a result thereof, should distance themselves from wine by accepting the vow of a Nazir.


The question which stands out prominently is that one might think that a vow of Nezirus is in order if one saw the Sotah woman at the height of her enjoyment, blissfully ignorant of the consequences which are to come upon her. Then one might fear falling prey to the passions of the Yetzer Hara. But why is being present by the disgrace of the Sotah a cause for abstinence from wine?

And they disgraced her. Her hair was revealed, her clothes rent from her body. Her shame revealed for all the women to see. She was made to roll in the dirt. Her Korban Mincha was different. It was from barley flour, rather than wheat. There was no Levona spice added. She was dragged from one corner of the Azara to the other carrying the heavy weight of her korban, in order to tire her out.

In the end, she dies in a horrific fashion. No one could envy such a life, no matter how sweet it seemed in the moment of desire.

Why should one undertake Nezirus due to this?

If one might attempt to answer, that the power of wine is so strong, that it overcomes all resistance, and one must take care, despite seeing the horrors that befall the Sotah. This answer is insufficient. There are other, less drastic ways of refraining from wine. One need not become a Nazir. A simple vow to abstain from wine would suffice. One need not take upon himself all the additional restrictions of the Nazir (even grapes are forbidden, along with coming in contact with a dead body, and shearing one’s hair).

Yet, from the words of the Gemora it is clear that it is not enough to forbid one’s self in the drinking of wine. One must abstain from wine specifically because he is a Nazir.

Background/Deeper Understanding

The Medrash tells us of a father, a father who was an alcoholic. He spent his nights in the pubs and dragged himself home, reeking from his own regurgitated matter.

Family intervention did not work. Nothing did. It seemed hopeless. One day the son was walking along the road. In the gutter he sees the most disgusting, revolting sight he has ever seen. He approaches this “thing”. It was a rag-clothed man, in the gutter, looking more like an animal than a human. So inebriated, that he wasn’t at all conscious of his disgusting state.

The son ran home. He found his father in a rare sober state. He begged his father to accompany him. “I have something important to show you”, he said.

His father gazed at the shape lying in the gutter. He was in shock. “Is that what I look like each and every night?” he asked his son. “I had no idea”. And then the father approaches the man, he leans over and whispers something in his ear. The man responds.

The son, convinced that his mission was a success, asks his father, “what was it that you whispered in the ear of that tragic figure?” The father responds, “I asked him where he got such great stuff”.

My rebbe, Rav Mordechai Gifter explained, we have two parts to us. The higher self, the human part, filled with lofty aspirations and drives. The part of us that “makes sense”. We also are possessed of a Nefesh HaBehamis, an animalistic nature, which drags us down, and drives us to feed our animalistic passions, although they are truly a form of self-mutilation.

The father, when faced by the sight of a human being lying in an animalistic state reacts in two totally contrary manners. His intellect is assaulted by the sight of man descending so low. But beware, his animalistic nature has been exposed to a lowly state, heretofore unimaginable, a state of oblivion, and removal from humanity. And it wants it.


The Gemora tells us, the Sotah committed the act of a beheima (animal) therefore her korban is comprised of animal fodder (barley). In the Beis HaMikdash, she is reduced to her true proportions, to that of an animal. An animal mates for no higher purpose. It’s union is not blessed by the presence of the Shechinah. For an animal, it is a pure physical act. This is what she did and this is what she is.

One who is exposed to the animalistic side of the person coming out and being highlighted so prominently is in danger. He is in danger of discovering within himself this potential of pursuit of self gratification for no other purpose than self-serving pleasure.

Wine removed the inhibitions, the restrictions that the mind places upon the physical body. Therefore, one must be very careful when imbibing wine. But abstinence from wine is not enough.

A Nazir is more than one who abstains from wine. Temporarily he lifts himself above humanity, like a Kohen or a Levite. He exists a higher existence for thirty days. The word “Nazir” is related to the word “Nezer”, which means crown. A Nazir is a glimpse into the true greatness that each and everyone us is capable of. We are royalty, and when we are cognizant of the royal blood running through our veins, we would never stoop to animalistic behavior. It is simply beneath us.
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