Shaya Cohen -


The Role of Nazirim

We have, of course, always had malcontents. They tend to be young men, with plenty of energy that needs to be directed and focused in order to avoid becoming a chaotic destructive force.

So the laws of the Nazir make a lot of intuitive sense: the Torah provides a “kosher” outlet for those energies. The laws of the Nazir are, in a sense, a safety valve. But why laws about grapes and haircuts and the dead?

The obligations that a Nazir takes on are unique, and not readily explained as a mere safety valve or diversion of energies. I would suggest instead that they match up with a very specific time and place: the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve in Eden Nazir
Grapes, vines, or wine No mention Not allowed
Haircuts Before Adam and Eve ate from the fruit, people were not self-conscious, which means that they would not have cut their hair Not allowed
The Dead Before Cain killed Abel, death had not yet taken place.[1] No contact allowed

The Nazir, by taking on these prohibitions, was trying to relive a “Golden Age.”

The problem, as the Torah tells us, is that a Nazir must bring a sin offering, which means they have done something wrong. What is the crime in deciding to take on extra obligations?

The answer is that an essential part of being Jewish is to use our energies for the purposes of creation, for completing G-d’s work. Becoming a Nazir is not a destructive act – but by diverting their creative energies away from a constructive act, Nazirim are also not fulfilling their core purpose of being creative.[2]

We live in a world where we are meant to unite the physical and the spiritual realms – where, by being cognizant of the dualisms that were unlocked by the forbidden fruit, we seek to complete the world by, in a spiritually pure way, reuniting the opposites in our world. When someone decides to become a Nazir, they opt out of the post-Eden obligations on mankind. This diversion of the excess energies of youth is safe, but our lives are meant to be more than safe: we are supposed to be productive.

  1. While the creation of life came twinned with the inevitability of death, the world did not experience the death of a man (or hatred between men) until Cain killed Abel.
  2. This is indeed, as Joseph Cox tells me, the problem with going back in time to the time before people had knowledge of Good and Evil (the result of eating the forbidden fruit). Adam and Eve lived in a static world, without human acts of creation. And this is the essence of Goodness – imitating G-d by doings acts of creation: intellectual, physical, and biological. Someone who chooses to put themselves in the static Garden of Eden has also committed a sin by denying their powers of creativity.

Comments are welcome!

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