Sedra of the week: Naso

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Sedra of the week: Naso

Rebbetzin Dr Hadassah Fromson of Golders Green Synagogue looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

As a psychologist, I see people struggling with a range of mental health challenges. This past year, there has been a substantial spike in people suffering from work-related anxiety and stress. Therapy can help, but the best thing I can do is help people to help themselves. 

When people are struggling or overwhelmed, the first thing they often cut back on are their hobbies. We view these activities as extras in our life: there’s not really any point to them, they’re just for fun.

But there is a paradox: rather than having more time to be productive, they lose their simple pleasures and their emotional outlet, and this makes their situation worse. 

This makes me think of something we learn from the Nazir in this week’s parasha. A Nazir is a person who takes a vow to live by a strict and holy lifestyle for a duration of time as a way of attaining greater spirituality. 

One of the things this vow includes is abstaining from drinking wine. At the end of this time, the Nazir is required to bring a sin offering. Why? The Talmud offers two options: either the Nazir is atoning for abandoning their refined level of spirituality and returning to an everyday routine, or perhaps has to atone for causing suffering to themselves by refraining from wine, which represents physical and earthly pleasures. 

We are not a religion of ascetics. We embrace the pleasures of this world and, moreover, we need a healthy relationship with those pleasures in order to thrive. 

The Talmud and modern psychology give a clear message: God made the world for us to enjoy and we are better for allowing ourselves to enjoy it.

  • Dr Hadassah Fromson is the Community Rebbetzin of Golders Green Synagogue 
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