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May 31, 1996 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

We Defeat Good Deeds
By Seeking Pride

Shabbat Naso: Numbers 4:21-7:89; Judges 13:2-25.

RABBI ELIEZER COHEN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

I

Showroom Hours: Monday-Friday 11-5 • Saturday 11-3 • or by appointment

3160 Haggerty Rd. • West Bloomfield • 48323 • 810-624-7300

0KATI VE

HONORING

N:4%

Rabbi A. Irving. Schnipper

Celebrating His Retirement
from Congregation Beth Abraham Hillel Moses

Wednesday, June 19, 1996
6:30 p.m.

THE DE TR O IT JE WI S H NE W S

Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by dinner.

20

Hosted by:
Congregation Beth Abraham Hillel Moses
5075 W. Maple Rd.
(810) 851-6880

Couvert: $ 150 per person
Sponsors: $ 500 per couple
Patrons: $1000 per couple
Founders: $1800 per couple

Please respond by June 1, 1996.

Next time you feed your face, think about your heart.

Go easy on your heart and start cutting back on foods that are high in saturated
fat and cholesterol. The change'll do you good.

V American Heart Association

WE'RE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE

his week's sedrah, Naso,
contains the verses delin-
eating the laws of Nazir,
the Nazarite. The
Nazarite is one (either male or
female) who voluntarily takes
upon himself a vow that pre-
cludes cutting his hair, consum-
ing any grape product or coming
into direct or indirect contact
with a human corpse.
At the end of whatever time
period (at least 30 days) is spec-
ified in the vow — if completed
properly — the Nazir must bring
prescribed sacrifices and observe
special ceremonies including the
cutting of his hair. Apparently
this institution of Nazirus en-
ables one, so motivated, to be-
come closer to the Divine and
imbue his life with a higher lev-
el of spirituality by restricting
himself and withdrawing from
normal behavior in this specific
way.
The Talmud (Nedorim 9:13)
relates a story that points out
the relative rarity that such re-
striction and withdrawal have
any real spiritual efficacy: "It has
been learned that Simon the
Righteous said, 'Throughout my
entire life, I never participated
in partaking of the sacrifice of a
Nazir with one exception. A
Nazir came from the South and
I saw that he was extremely
good looking, with beautiful hair
in rows of curls. I asked him why
he decided to destroy his beau-
tiful hair (with the ceremonies
at the conclusion of the vow). He
told me that he was a shepherd
for his father's flocks and that
one time he went to draw water
from a spring and saw his re-
flection in the water. He was
overcome with thoughts of pride
and vanity and they became a
threat to him. And he said to
himself: Wicked one, why do you
pride yourself in a world not
your own, with something that
will ultimately be worms?' He
thereupon resolved to cut his
hair for the sake of heaven. I
kissed him and said: 'My son,
may Nazarites like you increase
in Israel — surely the verse was
referring to you when it said: 'A
person that pronounces a vow to
become a Nazir to God."' (Num-
bers 6:1)
It seems from the story that
Simon the Righteous refused to
participate with any Nazir ex-
cept this one fellow who clearly

Eliezer Cohen is the former rabbi
of Young Israel of Oak-Woods.

took the vow to eliminate the
prideful thoughts in his heart re-
lating to his physical comeliness
— particularly his hair. This in-
dividual surely took the vow
upon himself in an attempt to
truly become closer to God by
eliminating the pride and read-
justing his priorities by de-
stroying the source of the vanity
and dedicating it to God. Not
only did Simon the Righteous
partake of the sacrifice but even
declared that such Nazarites
should increase in Israel.

One the other hand, with the
exception of this one case, Simon
the Righteous never participat-
ed with nor encouraged anyone
to become a Nazir. He knew very
well how common it is for people
to perform religious acts (par-
ticularly those we consider ex-
ceptional) simply to impress
other people or, on a strictly per-
sonal level, to observe the prac-
tice in a way to increase our
pride and arrogance: How good
we are, how much better than
others.
To have real, meaningful effi-
cacy, the religious act — as a
mode of relating to the Divine
Ultimate — must be done with
and manifest a sense of absolute
humility and sincere feeling of
inadequacy, which, after all, are
the only proper attitudes that
human beings can have in re-
lating to the Divine.
Certainly one who performs
religious acts or observes the rit-
ual to impress others misun-
derstands terribly the purpose
and function of the act, but even
one motivated by the real desire
for spiritual growth must be
careful. If the observance is per-
formed in a prideful manner or
brings arrogance into one's heart
rather than bringing one closer

411%-1

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