In Parashah Naso, God explains to Moses the law of the Nazarite, a man or woman who consecrates him/her self to God through adhering to certain restrictions. The Nazarite was not permitted to consume alcohol, or eat any grape product, cut his/her hair, or have contact with a corpse. Although these laws are ascetic and Jews are not ascetic, there we can learn from the Nazir. The root of the word, NZR, means to make separate, to separate oneself, much like the root KDS, to make holy. When we make a commitment to learning about our Jewish tradition and practice ritual, in whatever form, we make ourselves holy. We take responsibility for our Judaism, finding the right fit for ourselves. But like anything, we can’t determine the fit without trying something on.
Fulfilling mitzvot enrich our inner spiritual life. For instance, keeping Shabbat, at any level of practice, allows us to take a much-needed break from the everyday pressures of life to connect with family, community and ourselves. Reciting the Shema at bedtime or reciting a blessing before eating reminds us of our relationship to God and the earth. We are part of a larger entity. Rituals within Judaism keep us grounded. To disengage from mitzvot because “there is someone else doing it” or, “we are Reform Jews” cuts us off from any potential of engaging in a closer relationship with God and does us a personal disservice.
A Nike ad claimed, “Just do it”. Our Torah says, “Na’aseh V’Nishmah” do and you will understand. When we learn about and take on a ritual commandment, we make ourselves NZR, separate, and KDS, holy. Rabbi Tanchuma said, “God said: Let one who has a bullock bring a bullock. Let one who has a ram bring a ram… Let one who has a dove, bring a dove. Let one who has none of these things bring a flour offering. And let one who has no flour bring words.”
Questions to Consider:
1. What are ways that we can make Shabbat more meaningful in our lives?
2. What is one new mitzvah that you and or/ your family can add to your life/lives?
3. How can you separate time from your present life, to do something spiritually enriching for yourself or those around you?
4. What would you be willing to let go of to feel more holy?
Suggested Reading: “Jewish Family and Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values” by Yosef I. Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman, Golden Books, 1997.