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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

You can't control what happens, but you can choose whether to stay or go!

Daf Yomi Nazir 17


The Holy of Holies in the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was such a sanctified place that only one person would enter on one occasion each year – the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur.  In order to ensure he would be ready for the task, for the week leading up to the Day of Atonement he was quarantined, to guard against any impurity.  For if he were to be defiled, he would be unable to enter the Holy of Holies. 

And yet despite the unparalleled measures taken to protect him, there was still a back-up plan.  A replacement Kohen Gadol was on hand, just in case he became defiled by accident.  How was that possible?  They had shielded him from every possible impurity!  The answer is that while he was indeed protected from any outside impurity, the potential still existed that he might experience a sudden internal impurity from a nocturnal emission that was completely beyond his control. 

Rava inquired: What is the law of a nazir in a cemetery?  Does he need to linger there in order to incur lashes or is he automatically guilty?
The Gemara asks: What is the case?  If they told him not to take the vow of nazirism, why would lingering be a factor?  A nazir who enters a cemetery does not need to linger to be liable because they warned him not to enter.  Similarly, if they warned him not to vow, he should be automatically guilty!
The Gemara clarifies: We must say that Rava is inquiring about a situation where the nazir entered the cemetery in a carriage, box, or closet, and someone came and removed the bottom.
Tosfos explains: When he enters the cemetery, he does so permissibly since the box shields him from the impurity of the cemetery.  When his friend opens the box, is he automatically guilty or only if he lingers and does not leave the cemetery immediately?

The world around us is full of spiritual impurities.  In order to survive and succeed on your Divine mission, you need to shield yourself from the impurity by travelling your journey on earth inside some form of spiritual ‘carriage, box, or closet.’  That means avoiding situations of potential defilement.  It means putting up blinders to the world.

But sometimes, you’ll be doing so well, when someone goes and pulls the rug out from underneath you.  In other words, something happens that’s beyond your control.  At that point you have two choices, do you linger in that state of impurity or do you try to leave as quickly as possible?

For example, let’s say you’re watching a documentary that was ostensibly completely kosher.  Suddenly inappropriate images appear on the screen.  Do you look the other way, or do you say, ‘Well, it wasn’t my fault; I was just watching a documentary’?  Or maybe you’re learning Torah with a chavrusa (study partner) and somehow the topic of conversation switches from the Torah text in front of you to mundane matters, or worse yet, lashon hara.  Do you quickly return to the Torah discussion or do you say, ‘Well it wasn’t my fault; we were learning Torah and one subject led to another’?


If you want to remain in your pristine Divine state, you need to guard yourself from the impurities of the world around you.  But even the best compartment in the world is not failsafe.  Sometimes you will be thrown into impure situations by no fault of your own.  May you merit the strength to extract yourself as quickly and gracefully as possible and not be tempted to linger!