Posted in D'var Torah

How to Separate from Your Community While Still Living in it

Imagine deciding to live your life away from everyone, although you are not really away from them. You live amongst the community, but you are not allowed to participate like everyone else. You can’t cut your hair. You can’t drink wine or eat any grape products. You can’t go to anyone’s funerals.

This would have been the life of a Nazir. I can only imagine how isolating this might be. People chose to become a Nazir for many reasons, and there are very few who did it for longer than a month at a time. But even with that, there are many laws that followed this new idea of life. I am not sure if the people who chose this way thought they were getting closer to God or if they wanted a bit of a break from things or if they wanted to be different from everyone else.

I think about the life of a Nazir in relation to the life of an orhtodox female rabbinical student (or at least my experience). I’m not growing out my hair, and I am not abstaining from grape products, but still there is something to how I need to dress and act, and more noticeably how people interact with me. I need to make sure that I look the part, because I never know who I will meet. There are some cases that I am the first orthodox female rabbinical student that people meet or at least the first from my school, and there is a lot of pressure to represent that world, even in my times of doubt. I need to be careful of my opinions and who I share them with and how they are shared.

People talk to me differently. They assume a certain religious way of life without trying to actually get to know who I am and what I do. There is also a form of isolation. No one knows what to do with me. In some circles I am too liberal, while in others I am not liberal enough.

This life path is also my choice. I think (I hope) that this is my calling and path. In some ways it has to do with God, in others it has to do with community. But this choice makes me live in a community, but also always be separated.

At the end of the time that a person is a Nazir they shave their head. I was once speaking to friends about why are they so interested in hair when it comes to the Nazir. I said that hair is something that we as humans have control over and also don’t have control over. We are able to cut and style our hair in many different ways. But at the same time it is not in our control how much hair we have or how fast it grows. By saying that I won’t cut my hair says that I will leave it to God to have it do what it needs to. By cutting my hair at the end I am leaving the world of fully trusting God, I am going to go back to the mundane world and wait for my hair to grow back so I can do what I want, back to where I have control.

I hope that for those of us studying to be clergy, we find ways to actually be part of the community. That our time is not that of isolation and only part of God, but rather a place that we too have bits of control over who we are and how we show ourselves.

הֲדַרַן עַלָךְ מַסֶּכֶת נזיר וְהֲדַרַך עֲלָן, דֲעֲתֵן עֲלֵך מַסֶּכֶת  נזיר ודֲעֲתֵך עַלָן. לָא נִתֽנַשֵׁי מִינָךְ מַסֶּכֶת [שם המסכת] וְלֹא תִּתֽנַשִׁי מִינַן, לָא בְּעָלְמָא הָדֵין וְלֹא בְּעָלְמָא דְאַָתֵי.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אלקי, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁעֲזַרֽתַּנִי לְסַיֵים מַסֶּכֶת נזיר כֵּן תּֽעַזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל מַסֶּכְתּוֹת וּסֽפָרִים אַחֵרִים וּלְסַיֵימָם, לִלְמֹד וּלְלַמֵּד לִשְׁמֹר וְלַעֲשׂוֹת וּלְקַיֵּם אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָתְךָ בְּאַהֲבָה וּזְכוּת כֹּל הַתָנָאִים וְאָמוֹרָאִים וּתַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים יַעֲמוֹד לִי וּלְזַרְעִי שֶׁלֹא תָּמוּש הַתּוֹרָה מִפֽי וּמִפִי זַרְעִי עָד עוֹלָם. וַיִתְקַיֵים בִּי בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ, תַּנְחֶה אֹתְךָ, בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ, תִּשְׁמֹר עָלֶיךָ, וַהֲקִיצוֹתָ, הִיא תְשִׂיחֶךָ. כִּי בִי, יִרְבּוּ יָמֶיךָ, וְיוֹסִיפוּ לְּךָ, שְׁנוֹת חַיִּים. אֹרֶךְ יָמִים, בִּימִינָהּ, בִּשְׂמֹאלָהּ, עֹשֶׁר וְכָבוֹד. ה’ | עֹז, לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן; ה’ | יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם.

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Author:

I'm not always the greatest at sharing what is in my head. Here is a place that I am experimenting with sharing my ideas and thoughts. They are about my life, my experiences in becoming a rabbi, things that I see going on around me, and sometimes words of Torah.

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