Naso – 6 June 2016 / 10 Sivan 5776

In his commentary on this week’s Torah portion, Simon Federbush explained the Torah’s limitation taking vows of abstinence as described in the Nazirite vow. (Num. 6:1-8)  One could take such vows, but only for a limited time and separating oneself from society in very limited ways.  Federbush wrote: “…they rejected those who afflict themselves with asceticism because they were convinced that he who is occupied with ascetic indulgence will have no mind for the needs of his neighbor.”  Our forebears, said Federbush, realized that antisocial behavior is alien to the spirit of Judaism.  (URJ Plaut Torah Commentary, p. 943) In the wake of this week’s tragedy in Orlando, it is difficult to discern what might have been in the mind of the shooter.  But, one thing is clear, which is often true in the case of mass murders:   The perpetrator kept to himself.  Even at his mosque during Ramadan, a time of much communal support, he sat alone in a corner, to the consternation of his fellow Muslims.  Our wise forebears sensed the danger of cutting oneself off from society.  They may not have imagined a result such as the tragedy of Orlando, but they knew asceticism was unhealthy for the individual and society.