Three centres One community
June 2, 2014
My Torah portion is called NASO. It comes from the 4th book of the Torah called BAMIDBAR.
Naso is said to be one of the most interesting parsha's in the Torah and it
is incidentally one of the longest too because it involves so many portions.
At the beginning of Naso the parsha describes a census that was conducted.
The purpose of a census in those days was to see how many people there were
in order to ascertain how many soldiers they could call on in times of
battle; and how many Kohanim and Levi'im they needed in order to maintain
the Tabernacle. It then goes on to talk about making vows and the lifestyle
of the Nazir along with a very old blessing. It is the lifestyle of the
Nazir and the ancient blessing that interested me the most and I'm going to
devote my Dvar Torah to these.
A Nazir was a person who abandoned the pleasures of life to an existence of
abstinence and self restraint. For example the Nazarites vowed not to drink
or eat anything made from grape juice because a product like wine is part of
the sensual pleasure of life. They couldn't cut their hair or even comb
their hair. They were not allowed to go near or touch the body of a dead
person, even if it was the body of their own parent. Both men and women
could become a Nazarite and the vows could last a month, a year or a
The average person today would find it very difficult to take any such vows
for a long period of time but perhaps there are times when a person needs to
take a vow, make a commitment for a certain period of time and to follow it
The kind of vows that we could make today wouldn't have to be for a
lifetime, for a month or even a day. It could be a vow made on a much
smaller scale. For the past year I have dedicated 2 hours a week to
preparing for my Barmitzvah. For many sporting events I have committed to
training and practicing for a particular sports event. And likewise for my
grade 7 exams, I undertook to stick to my exam timetable to prepare for my
exams. The small undertakings can be viewed as vows of commitment similar
to those of the Nazir.
Sometimes the vow or commitment we make, might not be related to an up and
coming event but might relate to our emotional state of mind, a character
trait or even our religious commitments. We could at times behave like a
Nazarite by taking a vow to dedicate an hour a day to prayer or by going to
shul once a week. We could also vow to make an effort not to speak badly
about others. And perhaps something more relevant to my friends here today,
taking a vow to keep your bedrooms tidy.
The point is, to make a commitment or vow, like the Nazir did, and then to
follow it through by trying to keep it.
The last intriguing part of my parsha was the very famous three-line
blessing that was given by the Kohanim to the Jewish people. It is the
prayer that some parents say to their children on a Friday night and also
the same prayer that I fondly remember Mr Gotkin saying to every child at
Highlands Primary who celebrated a Bar or Batmitzvah. I love tradition and
nostalgia so feel very privileged and special that this very old prayer,
whose words have not changed in more than 2700 years forms part of my
portion. The prayer goes, "MAY G-D BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU. MAY G-D CAUSE
HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU; MAY G-D TURN HIS FACE
TOWARD YOU AND GRANT YOU PEACE"
So, to conclude, I feel like the journey of my becoming a Barmitzvah today
has, in a sense, been a yearlong vow of commitment, like a Nazarite vow.
I started the year off somewhat reluctantly because I had to make sacrifices
with regular day to day activities, extra mural activities and free time
however, I stuck to it.
Toward the end of my journey of commitment I felt enthusiastic and proud.
I feel enriched.
I have successfully fulfilled my vow of commitment.
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