“‘There they are to present their offerings to the LORD: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering . . .’” — Numbers 6:14
The Torah portion for this week is Naso, which means “count,” from Numbers 4:21–7:89, and the Haftorah is from Judges 13:2–25.
Recently I was walking through an Israeli shuk, an open marketplace, and a thought hit me. As I took in the vast array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, and other delicacies on display in the marketplace, I appreciated just how wonderfully God created the world for you and me.
God could have made the world purely functional. He could have made everything black, white, and shades of gray. He could have made all food taste like oatmeal. He could have made all animals, birds, and fish look like minor variations of a standard model.
But He didn’t. God created a world bursting with vibrant colors, tastes, textures, and aromas. He created animals so unusual and perfectly beautiful, distinct from one another. He created gorgeous roses and stunning sunsets. In Psalm 104:15 we read that God made “wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.”
God has made us a wondrous world! Why? Because He doesn’t want to us merely get through life; He wants us to enjoy our lives and celebrate each day.
In this week’s Torah portion we learn about the laws of becoming a Nazirite. The Nazirite was an individual who had chosen to take upon himself extra constraints, such as abstaining from wine and not cutting his hair, for the purpose of growing closer to God. At the end of the period observing these restrictions, the Nazirite was to offer sacrifices to God to mark the end of his journey.
Interestingly, among those required sacrifices was a sin offering. But what sin did the Nazirite commit? On the contrary, the Nazirite had attempted to go above and beyond the regular requirements in order to reach a higher level of righteousness. The Jewish sages explain that while the intention of the Nazirite was admirable, the fact that he abstained from fully enjoying all that this world has to offer – wine and all – was in essence a sin because God wants us to enjoy His world fully.
In Genesis 2, God told Adam that while he was prohibited to partake of the Tree of Knowledge, he and Eve were “free to eat from any tree in the garden” (v.16). The sages explain that this is actually a commandment that we must eat from all the other trees of the garden. In other words, God wants us to enjoy those things that are permissible for us in His wondrous world, and we will be held accountable if we squander the opportunity.
So how will we enjoy God’s gifts to us today? It’s not just our privilege, it’s our responsibility.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President