Addition by Subtraction

As rabbis, we often encourage our congregants to explore adding more mitzvoth into their lives. We suggest eating Kosher foods, observing Shabbat, praying regularly, and giving charitably among countless other Mitzvot because we believe that you will find them to be enriching. We tell people that Judaism is a religion of action and that our religion is about practice even more than belief. That is why the case of the Nazirite is so interesting. In order to sanctify themselves to God, the Nazirite vows to refrain from grape beverages, cutting hair, and avoids contact with the dead (even direct relatives). Notice how in this case, sanctification is coming from not acting and refraining from certain behaviors, rather than by positive behaviors. Blessing comes to this individual through various inactions rather than through actions.

I believe that the example of the Nazirite teaches us the value of restraint. Some argue that the very institution was created for individuals who could not limit themselves by their own volition, so this vow would force them to drink and act responsibly. In our lives today, there are still behaviors that require limitations. What would happen if for one day or even part of one day we put away our computers and phones? Could we even imagine leaving our cellphones at home or in the car while in Shul on Shabbat where we wouldn’t be using them anyway? What would it feel like to be email/phone free for a sustained period of time? In many of our lives, we have become so hooked to technology that we have become as compulsive as the Nazirite before his vow. Let us all make a vow to God and to ourselves to separate ourselves from our work, phones and emails for a period of time every week. Maybe, just like the Nazirite, our lives will be enriched by the removal of actions. I truly believe that it will make our personal and professional lives all the stronger.