Today I would like us to talk about two subjects that I believe have much to say to us in our life today. First, I want us to discuss the Nazarite vow. As you know I sent out a few questions concerning a Nazarite Vow to you.
My first question was who could you find in scripture that took a Nazarite vow? What did you find?
Samson Judges 13:5-7
Samuel, I Samuel 1:11
Paul Acts 21:21-22:26
John the Baptist Matthew 11:18, Luke 1:15, Luke 7:33 are a few that took this vow.
My second question: What was required of a Nazarite? We read in Numbers 6:1-21 the description of this vow. The vow has five features and they are covered in Numbers 6:1-8.
My third question: What was the purpose of a Nazarite vow? The vow was to dedicate themselves to G-d.
My fourth question: How long did a Nazarite vow last? It usually was for a specific time frame. Usually the person set a fixed time for their vow. It had a beginning and an end. But there are exceptions to this rule. Samuel and Samson.
My fifth question: What is the meaning of the word Nazir? It means to be separated or consecrated. A Nazir is a living sacrifice to G-d. When we accepted the Messiah we too became living sacrifices for Him.
My sixth question: Can one make a Nazarite vow today? No, there is no Temple today and sacrifices were to be made at the temple when the vow was completed.
My seventh question: Can a person make a Nazarite vow for someone else? Yes Hannah made a Nazarite vow for her son Samuel before his birth. I Samuel 1:11.
My eighth question: Are there verses in the Messianic Scripture that are similar to a Nazarite vow? Romans 8:30, Romans 9:24 and Romans 12:1-4 are three passages that to me have the same message.
I believe the calling G-d has for us is not to just secure our salvation but it is also to direct us where our lives can best be used to fulfill G-d’s purpose for us. If we try to run away from His direction and guidance, in the end with pain and sometimes with suffering too we will still be used and get the mission accomplished. We can run but we can’t hide from G-d’s calling. Just like every Biblical hero; there are those who run toward G-d like Moses and those like Samson who tried to run away from G-d and from themselves. I read a great statement by Wayne Hillsden this week, “If you go against the grain of G-d’s will don’t be surprised if you get splinters.” We have a choice, we can either run toward or away from G-d’s purpose for us.
Now on to our second topic for the evening. I read an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks this week that I thought was very thought provoking. At 176 verses Naso is the longest of any Parasha in Torah. How many of you enjoyed reading this portion? It could be a little overwhelming by the repetition. However, it does contain one of the most moving passages in the Torah. This passage is very short and known by the name, the Priestly Blessings. It is found in Numbers 6:23-27. From a historical view it is one of the oldest of all prayer texts. It was used by the priests in the temple, used by parents to bless their children on Shabbat and is often said to the bride and groom under the chuppah.
This blessing is also one of the oldest Biblical text to have physically survived until today. It was found in Jerusalem in 1979 in an area now occupied by the Menachen Begin Heritage Center. Included in the other artifacts found were two tiny silver scrolls no longer than an inch. It took three years of work to unroll them without causing them to disintegrate.
These scrolls contained among other text the Priestly Blessings. They have been scientifically dated to the 6 Century BCE. This was also the time of Jeremiah and the last days of the first Temple. By comparison they are 4 centuries older than the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What gives these blessings their power is their simplicity and beauty. In Hebrew the lines of the Blessings contain 3 words, 5 words and 7 words respectfully. In each line the second word is HaShem or the L-rd. In all three verse the first part of each verse refers to an activity of G-d, such as bless, make His face shine and turn His face toward. The second part describes the effect of the blessing on us, giving us protection, grace and peace. As we read these lines they become more and more personal. The third is the most personal of all.
Rabbi Sacks shares a story that is most moving. A group of people were gathered on a hill by the sea to watch a great ship pass by. A young boy was waving vigorously. One of the men in the crowd asked him why. He replied, “I’m waving so the captain of the ship can see me and wave back.” But, said the man, “The ship is too far away and there is a crowd of people here. What makes you think the captain can see you?” Because said the boy, “The captain of the ship is my father. He will be looking for me among the crowd.” Back to our verses, that is pretty much what it means, “May the L-rd turn His face toward you.” Think about it. There are 7 billion people who live on this planet. What makes any of us more than a face in the crowd or a wave in the ocean, a grain of sand on the seashore? The difference is, we are G-d’s children and He is our Father. He turns His face toward us. He cares.
By the holy name of G-d which is used in the Priestly Blessings and almost all Priestly texts is G-d as He relates to us as individuals, each with our own problems, hope, fears, gifts and possibilities. So when we read this name of G-d it is the aspect of G-d that allows us to use the name, You. He is the G-d who speaks to us and listens when we speak to Him. When we use the holy name of G-d it is a confirmation of our significance. We matter as individuals because G-d cares for us as a parent cares for a child. The knowledge that G-d turns His face toward us- that we are not just a face in the crowd but that G-d relates to us in our uniqueness is the most profound and ultimate source of peace.
Many of the things we struggle with like lawlessness, violence come from the need to prove that we matter. We do things to prove I am more powerful than you, richer than you, I can make you fear me. I can turn you into my victim. All these things testify not to faith but to a failure of faith. Faith means I believe G-d cares for me. I am here because He wanted me to be here. Even though I’m like the child on the hill watching the ship pass by I know that G-d is looking for me, waving to me as I wave to Him. We don’t need to prove ourselves in order to receive G-d’s grace and mercy. All we need to know is His face is turned toward us. When we are at peace with ourselves we can begin to be at peace with the world. Peace of mind comes when we feel that G-d sees us and hold us in His everlasting arms.
We are to be the channels through which G-d’s blessings flow into the world and into our lives. Love means we are not focused on ourselves but on others. This is truly a valuable pattern for our lives when we can come to the place of seeing our worth in G-d eyes and not in what we do.