In this week’s Parsha we read about a law that is intended to increase one’s piety – a law that we don’t see practiced anymore – the law of a Nazir. A Nazir is a person who takes an oath to abstain from three things. First, a Nazir cannot drink or eat anything made with grapes. Second, a Nazir cannot cut his hair. Third, a Nazir cannot come into contact with or be under the same roof as a corpse, not even that of an immediate relative. A man or woman would become a Nazir in order to raise their level of spirituality. They felt they would become holier by abstaining from these three things -- all of which are a part of our everyday normal life.
A person who expressed a wish to be a Nazir could take upon himself the oath of Nezirus for any period of time that he desired. It could be 30 days – it could be 60 days – it could be for life. Once the period of being a Nazir is over, the Nazir was obligated to bring three sacrifices to the Bais Hamikdosh -- a burnt offering, a sin offering and a peace offering. At that time he would again cut his hair. The entire procedure is discussed in the fourth Aliya of today’s Parsha.
Today there is no Bais Hamikdosh and we no longer offer sacrifices. Thus, there is no way of terminating the Nezirus, the act of being a Nazir. On account of that, people abstain taking vows of Nezirus.
The section of nazir is the second half of the fourth aliya – one of the longest aliyos that we have during the year. The first half of the aliya is the section known as “sota” – the laws related to a suspected adulterous. There is no random order in the Torah. It was dictated by G-d to Moshe and every letter is significant . . . every ordering of sections is significant.
Rashi raises the idea of the ordering of these two sections – sota and nazir. He explains from the Talmud that one who sees the ruin of an adulterous woman and the punishment that she receives will abstain from wine. The Rabbis don’t mince words. They tell us that the Torah is teaching us that wine and alcohol can be destructive. It can ruin livelihoods, marriages and destroy lives.
We see the Torah gives us a warning sign. The Sota is a warning against alcohol consumption. There are many times in life when we receive warning signs.
When something goes wrong, we often hear warnings. Frequently, when a car is in need of a major repair, you will hear it from the car before catastrophe strikes. The brakes will begin making a scraping noise to inform you that you are in need of new brakes, before your brakes fail. G-d forbid, there are often warning signs of a stroke or heart attack before they happen. Do we pay attention to signs of danger or do we ignore them?
G-d sends us messages of all types. Are we aware of those messages? Do we pay attention to them and help ourselves or do we ignore them and potentially harm ourselves? Do we see the yellow light and slow down to stop or do we speed up and try and beat the red light? Do we stop for the lowered railroad crossing barrier or do we try to drive around it? The rabbis teach us a rule, “שב ואל תעשה עדיף” - it is better to sit and do nothing then potentially violate a law. It is better to err on the side of caution. Heed the warning signs.