by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – May 29, 2012

In the Torah section of Naso, G-d tells Moses (Bamidbar 6:2-3), “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: A man or a woman who shall set [himself] apart by taking a nazarite vow to set [himself] apart to G-d.  From wine and hard drink shall he abstain.”

On the aforementioned, Rashi asks, “Why was the passage of the nazir put adjacent to the passage of the sotah?  To tell you that anyone who sees a sotah in her state of disgrace should take upon himself to abstain from wine, for [wine] leads to adultery.”

As regards the above, R. Yerucham Levovitz (1875 – 1936), the famed mashgiach of the Mir yeshiva, elaborates, as found in a compilation of his talks called Daat Torah: “Someone who sees a woman who is unfaithful to her husband, a loathsome corruption such as that, plummeting to the nethermost depths, should not look upon the matter with indifference….This is not the way of the wise.  A person is duty bound to know that this woman did not turn into a harlot in one moment.  Many causes brought her to this since she did not watch herself from excessive pleasures … and the like.  When one sees a harlot, one should learn [from this] and think about one’s self … and be careful not to come also, G-d forbid, to a similar downfall.  He should refrain from wine, which brings about loss of reasoning, and, without control of reasoning, who can stop the [hedonistic] spirit?  There are many levels of loss of reasoning, and in some cases it leads to taking one’s life….Indeed, all have causes and motivations whereby they can fall to the lowest levels, and there is also ‘drunk but not from wine’ (Yeshaya 51:21).  There are many things that intoxicate a person and make him lose his reasoning, but what more than wine?!  Consequently, one should first refrain from wine and heed his intellect, for no one is immune [from outside influences].  That is what the juxtaposition in the Torah between the passage of a nazir to the passage of sotah comes to teach us.”

We should never become complacent.  Too often, we are inclined to say, when seeing another’s downfall, that such a thing would not happen to us.  We tend to think that the other’s downfall is a result of that person’s general untoward and low behavior, but we think ourselves of much better character.  That is the trap that we must be on guard for.  No one is born low with reprehensible behavioral patterns.  There are causes that lead to a person’s behavior to regress, whereby his emotions totally overtake his intellect and bring about a total breakdown.  R. Yerucham explains that such causes can happen to anyone.  The only way to avoid it, R. Yerucham points out, is to be on guard against it and not be complacent.  That is the wise approach.  That is the approach of G-d as expressed in the aforementioned passage in the Torah.  May we only heed this lesson.

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