The Torah portion this week, Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) presents us with the strange and pure commitment of the Nazir, a Hebrew word meaning “consecrated” or “separated” from the community.
The most famous Nazirite in history was the Biblical Samson, arguably the most physically powerful figure in the Hebrew Bible. His hair was illumined by a thousand suns, and his strength was drawn from his direct spiritual connection with God.
The Nazir could be a man or a woman who voluntarily undertook the self-disciplined and self-denying life. The Nazir was forbidden to cut his/her hair, drink wine or have contact with the dead.
Each year at this time when the Nazir presents itself in our weekly Torah readings I find myself fascinated by his/her commitment and motivations of heart, mind, body, and soul. Here are my poetic musings on such a life.
That chasm just doesn’t go away, / The yawning gap between You and me, / Between Your infinity and my infirmity.
We seekers yearn to know You and be near, / To breach the darkness / And merge into Your Light.
We’ll consider any way to You. / And some will do any thing, / Follow any one, / Even dip their burning toes into any pool / Or enter any lion’s den, / If they believe Your promise is their reward.
We seekers call You by many names – / Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Vishnu, Buddha, Allah.
We Jews have had our ecstatic prophets / And mystic souls, / Lured by otherworldliness, / The ain sof of being-less-ness.
We are infinity-seeking, / Soul-yearning, / Paradise-praying, / Chariot-riding, / Angelic-praising, / Spirit-winged-flapping-souls!
Some suffer mightily in their quest, / Their hearts quartered and bleeding, / Flesh crawling and yearning, / Never sated, / Never resting, / Never still.
‘O Ecstasy,’ they cry, / ‘To be any thing but me!/ To be any where but here! / To be one with You, / That is my quest / My life’s yearning / My soul’s delight!’
Eternal One – / Is this the thing? / Is this what You ask of me? / Of us all?
If so, how do we come near? / Is not performing the mitzvot enough? / Or should we become Holy offerings, / Given-over, burned and denied / Turned into ash before You? / Must we wait for death/ When our souls are released / And they return to You / To know You truly?
For me, here and now – / I demur. / Your Torah must be enough. / Its letters and words, / They are beautiful in my eyes, / Graceful upon my lips, / Life-giving within my breath / The inspiration of my love.
Yes, this must be enough! / As for other seekers, / Those who wish / Can have the life of the Nazir.