Vowing to be Set Apart

Parashat Nasso (Lift Up)
Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89
Haftarah: Judges 13:2-25

In this week’s Parashah, we read of a very special vow that a person could take upon themselves, which is the vow of the Nazirite:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When a man or woman makes a special vow to set himself apart, namely, the vow of a Nazirite, to live as a Nazirite for the LORD…”  
Numbers 6:1-2

It then goes on to describe the Torah (teaching, instructions or precepts) that the Nazirite should live by (Numbers 6:3-21).

To take the vow of the Nazirite upon oneself is a personal choice; it is a special vow of strict abstinence for a specific amount of time, the purpose of which is holiness. This vow would require abstaining from worldly pleasures such as anything that has to do with grapes (juice, wine, or vinegar), humbling oneself by not shaving the head, showing a lack of concern with one’s appearance, and not coming near anything that has to do with the dead. The idea is to abstain from anything that would distract the person from their pursuit of holiness.

Today, we live in a world that is full of temptations and distractions that can easily take our eyes off the Lord. They may even unintentionally cause us to focus more on self rather than God. The list of these distractions is long and seems unending, but it’s important to take time to reflect and identify those things that distract us, with the goal to limit them from our everyday lives; how we spend our days is how we live our lives, after all.

While the original call to be a Nazirite is a personal choice, we see one exception in the Haftarah portion where we read that God appointed Samson to be a Nazirite not just for a specific period, but for life:

And there was a man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was infertile and had not given birth to any children. Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are infertile and have not given birth; but you will conceive and give birth to a son. And now, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he will begin to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” 
Judges 13:2-5

Here, we see that God’s call to abstain from wine, strong drink, and unclean food did not begin with Samson, but rather with his mother. God predestined Samson to become a Nazirite and save Israel from the Philistines. Yet, as we know from the story, it was in those specific areas of God’s call for Samson that he was tested. This should not surprise us, as I believe that we are tested and tempted in the areas from which God called us to be set apart.

I would like to give two points of exhortation regarding the special vow. The first is that if you feel you want to commit to abstaining from something, keep in mind why you are doing it. For what purpose are you committing to that vow? It is a personal choice, and the primary purpose should be to honor God above all else. Please do it quietly, without big, loud statements as you allow the inner change that happens to be reflected outwardly in a natural way. I always think of the principle of quiet, humble prayer that Yeshua taught us:

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full! But you, when you pray, go into your inner room; and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you.
Matthew 6: 5-6

The second point of exhortation is to know that revival always starts within. While we may have a pure desire to see God’s revival come on a macro scale, remember that He always starts on the micro level. That is, he starts with us as individuals. We, the community of believers, need to fully return to Him first, remember that it is all about Him and allow Him to do the work from within us as individuals first, and then as a community. Only then can we really be His hands and feet to a world that desperately needs Him.

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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2 Comments on “Vowing to be Set Apart”

  1. Thank you for the article on abstinence. I am reminded that the act of Holiness starts with our thoughts. Phillipians 4:8 is a good template to judge the thoughts that come to our mind. If they do not line up with God’s word, they do not come through the door of our mind. Steadfastly being Diligent to Judge what things are just and Pure. I purpose to stay humble, to ask forgiveness when wanting to have my way, and to listen closer to the promptings of the Ruach HaKodesh to guide me daily. Please continue to write, it blesses myself and my husband as I share w him.
    Karen Fulcher

  2. Thank you for these insights.

    When I see the venomous hatred toward Israel, even by some who claim to believe in the God of Israel, my heart aches, and I ask God to touch people and draw their hearts toward Him, knowing that this is going to be a one by one issue. I am not optimistic about a “revival” awakening of people toward the one true God of Israel happening in the world. It will be one at a time as God speaks to the hearts of individuals.

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