Abstaining for a Greater Purpose

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

The Western world in which most of us live is full of indulgences. While there is no problem with enjoying nice things, our human inclination is often to overindulge. In other words, we tend to run towards comfort and away from discomfort. In this week’s Parashah, we read:

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 abstinence for a specific amount of time, to be devoted to 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. All these things can be potential distractions from that which the LORD may call this person to do during the allotted time of their vow.

While the original call to be a Nazirite is a personal choice, we see one exception in the Haftarah where we read that God appointed Samson to be a Nazirite not just for a specific period of time, 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 named this commentary, “Abstaining for a Greater Purpose”, and I would like to challenge us regarding abstaining from something for a period of time- or forever, if the Holy Spirit convicts - for the purpose of drawing closer to God. Sometimes, abstaining or fasting from things can be seen as a negative thing or be considered legalistic. Yet, the reality is that the world is overflowing with things that may distract us from drawing near to God and His holiness.

What is that thing in your life that may be hard for you to give up for a period of time? Perhaps certain food, drink, or outward appearance? Or in our modern times, screens, daily news, social media, or whatever else you feel that on a personal level would be challenging for you to go without.

What is important, however, is being led by the Holy Spirit in this process. Otherwise, it can become unhealthy, legalistic, and even obsessive. And remember that it is a very personal process. God may convict you personally to abstain from something, and not your spouse, child, sibling, friend, etc.; please do not judge because we will each be held accountable to God.

We have an immense privilege to live a life that reflects the One in whom we believe; may you take that with you as you consider asking the LORD if there is something from which He would ask you to abstain.

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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