We are living in a disjointed world the sages called Alma Deperuda, wherein the pieces of the puzzle remain painfully distant from their natural partners. In such a disjointed world opposing forces of darkness and light intermingle and it becomes difficult to discern and reveal the goodness within the evil. Yet we read in psalms; “ Sur Merah veAseh Tov – Depart from evil and do that which is Good.”( Psalm 34:14 )
One could then assume that the way to deal with the complexities of our existence would be to move as far away from discernible evil as is possible. Following that it would be critical to build walls and fences around what has been salvaged in order to ensure its purity and clarity. Those actions achieve the “Sur Merah – the separation from evil , yet how can or must we deal with the second phase of ” Aseh Tov-doing that which is Good. What then can help us define what is “good”?. Again we turn to the psalms “
“Behold, how good ( Tov) and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”( Psalm 133)
Goodness seems to be defined and rooted in unifying diversity.
In the torah portion of Naso we read of the one making the Nazirite vow;
“. HaShem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them: A man or woman who sets himself apart by making a nazirite vow to abstain for the sake of HaShem.( Numbers 6:1-2) ,
These laws follow immediately after the description of the laws regarding marriages in disarray and unbridled jealousy. The placement of these verses, according to Rashi is not happenstance. Rashi explains” “the Torah places the passage of the Sotah ( ibid 5:12-31) next to the passage of man making the Nazirite vow ( ibid 6:1-21) because, ” he who sees the Sotah in her wantonness will desist from wine since it can lead to sin” . That is to say, a man undertakes upon himself obligations that would help him stear away from situations leading up to such deterioration.
In spite of this we read that after a successful completion of the Nazirite period of abstinence he must bring certain sacrifices to the temple.
“and the Priest will make one as a sin offering, and one as a burnt offering and he will provide him atonement for having sinned regarding the soul, and he will sanctify his head on that day. ” (ibid: 11)
Here was a man who yearned to become more sanctified by separating himself from the things that could lead him away from G-d .Yet he brings a sin offering. What was his sin?
Maimonides offers the view “that a person should not say to himself: “Since material desires lead a person to sin, I will avoid these physical pleasures” and that a person should only withdraw from those things that the torah itself explicitly forbids .” The sin-offering is brought because he has sinned by separating from the world and forbidding upon himself that which the torah has permitted.”
When we sanctify the Shabbat, a festival or a wedding we make a blessing over wine , even though it is that wine that can lead us to sin and drunkenness. Taking the thing that might move us away from G-d and seizing it back towards G-d becomes the ultimate sanctification of G-d. It becomes the ultimate expression of what is “ good”.
This year on the 28th day of Iyar , at a baseball stadium in America ,tens of thousands of Jewish people gathered to focus on and warn the public about the dangers of the internet. The concerns were sincere and the dangers palpable and much effort and prayers were directed to establish the necessary boundaries and fences. It was a classic and powerful expression of ” Sur Merah -Departing from evil”.
Yet on the same day of Iyar in Jerusalem another event was transpiring that went completely unnoticed in some of the Jewish newspapers in America. Tens of thousands of Jewish people, young and old gathered to rejoice and celebrate the re-unification of Jerusalem. This reunification is still not complete and the city of Jerusalem is still beset with concerns of terrorism and livelihood. Yet this Yom Yerushalayim event was a celebration of looking for the good and the pure amidst the complicated and the confused. This was an expression of “Aseh Tov – Doing that which is “Good”.
It is true that one needs to focus on separating oneself from those things that may take us away from our destined goals. On the other hand G-d did not put us on this earth to separate from the world but to elevate it. The event in Jerusalem on Yom Yerushalayim was all about elevating the world and the acknowledgement of G-d’s hand in human history. It is sad then, that many of those in that baseball stadium were not even aware of the great sanctification of G-d’s name that was unfolding in G-d’s city.
The lesson of the Nazirite cannot be ignored. Much effort must be placed in the setting up of boundaries but greater effort must be exerted in yearning to elevate and to acknowledge. May it be so that at the next celebration in Jerusalem those two groups will find common holy ground