Weekly Parashah

Parashat Naso (Elevate)

9th of Sivan, 5784 / June 15th, 2024

By Robert Franklin

 

This Week’s Readings:

Torah:  Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

Haftarah:  Judges 13:2-25

Brit Chadashah:  Matthew 4:18-25

 

There are a lot of things about G-d that we do not understand. Some of these might be things we just do not understand yet. Some may be questions we have always had that do have an answer. Others might be things that have an answer, but that answer is deliberately vague and open to interpretation. For example, I have never understood the afterlife from a Jewish perspective. I know there is one, and we will serve G-d in it, but I do not really know anything beyond that. And that is okay – I know if I wanted to learn more I could. Finally, there are things that we are just not meant to understand. One of these questions came up for me in today’s readings: Why did G-d want the Nazirites to refrain from cutting their hair? The alcohol part, that makes pretty clear sense; but if anything, I would kind of expect someone taking a religious rite to practice pretty strict grooming, yet G-d wants the opposite. Ultimately, this is something that G-d wants that we do not necessarily have to understand. And as long as we trust G-d that there is a reason and follow him, that is enough.

 

The Torah portion introduces us to the Nazirites and explains how they vow to be Nazirites and to be separate for G-d. The vow includes abstaining from alcohol, and anything that grows from the grapevine, as well as from cutting their hair. Finally, they are never to go near a dead body, for that would make them unclean. If they do, they must shave their head and have it reconsecrated. There is a complicated ritual for this that involves several sacrifices. Now, I believe that the point of leaving one’s hair long is to deliberately set them apart from the rest of the community so everyone can see that they are a Nazirite. However, I do not believe that this is explicitly stated. But maybe I am not supposed to know. Maybe one who makes a Nazirite vow gains an understanding from G-d about the sanctity of keeping their hair long. Or maybe the point is that G-d asks and the Nazirite obeys.

 

The Haftarah portion talks about how Sampson is made a Nazirite from birth. This is interesting, because the Nazirite vow is supposed to be taken intentionally, not from birth. Of course, Sampson is not your typical Nazirite. His long hair grants him immense power, and he kills a lot of people – even though as a Nazirite he is not supposed to be near dead bodies. Perhaps his vow with G-d is different, as firstly he did not have a choice when becoming a Nazirite, and secondly G-d is using him for a specific task. This pushes me further down the path of thinking that a person’s Nazirite vow is not something that everyone is supposed to understand. It is between them and G-d, and that should be all that matters. If I do not understand why they keep their hair long that is kind of not the point. The point is that this is the way they are following G-d and demonstrating their commitment to Him.

 

The Brit Chadashah portion is a separate but great example of following G-d even when you do not understand why. We are not told specifically why Yeshua commands Peter and Andrew to join him, nor what they thought in that moment. However, we see that despite probably not understanding why they were called, they went with Yeshua. This is a bit of an extreme example, but it demonstrates the level of commitment we should be ready to give to follow G-d.

 

We will not always understand what G-d wants or why He asks us to do absolutely everything. But the nice thing about believing in G-d is that we can be assured that G-d does know. And that is very comforting.