Rabbi Shlomo Odze
A person who voluntarily adopts the status of a Nazirite takes upon himself three restrictions as set out in this weeks’ portion chapter 6 verses 1-8. One of these restrictions is that they may not become contaminated by a human corpse. As stated in verse 7 there are no exceptions to this restriction which includes “to his father or to his mother, to his brother or to his sister – he shall not contaminate himself to them upon their death”. The reason given for this is because “…the crown of his G-d is upon his head. All the days of his abstinence he is holy to Hashem”.
This all-encompassing restriction is in stark contrast to that of a Kohen (priest) who, because of his holiness, is also not allowed to contaminate himself to a human corpse. However, in the case of a Kohen an exception is made for immediate family (7 close relatives - father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter and wife) to whom he is allowed to contaminate himself.
This begs the question – why? Why is a Kohen permitted to contaminate himself to immediate family and a Nazirite is not?
The answer given by the Sefer Hachinuch (a work which systematically discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah published anonymously in 13th century Spain) is that a Kohen did not choose to become holy, he was born as such. It could be therefore that he would not be able to withstand such a restriction of not contaminating himself to immediate family.
A Nazirite on the other hand, who has voluntarily chosen to take upon himself such a status would have made the calculation beforehand, knowing these restrictions, that he was able to cope with it. If not then he should not have chosen to become a Nazirite – he knew what he was signing up for and could have no complaints afterwards.
This distinction provides a rare deep insight into the workings of G-d and the Torah. It tells us that G-d only gives us what we can deal with. As difficult as things may be, the exceptions made for the Kohen teach us that, G-d has at the same time given us the strength to be able to overcome, even if we do not feel it at that time. This knowledge itself is the first step to finding the strength to pull through and overcome.
If however, like the Nazirite, we make our own choices which lead to a struggle and difficult times, we must know that we only have ourselves to blame. We should therefore think and consider very carefully about what choices we make in life because if things later on unfortunately get tough, we cannot blame G-d.