"G‑d spoke to Moshe: take a census…"(Num. 4:21-22)

This is a continuation of the census that began in last week’s reading. This week’s census focuses on the Levites and the Kohanim/Priests and the unique services and rituals that was their duty to perform in the Temple.

Later in the reading, the Torah speaks of the laws of the Nazir/Nazirite. The Nazir is a person who chooses to separate himself or herself from the norms of society, and live a life detached from earthliness.

Some of the practices of the Nazir are similar to the laws of conduct of the Kohen, such as the law of ensuring that one does not become tameh/impure.

The priesthood is a birthright.

While there are similarities between the Kohen and the Nazir there is also a marked distinction between the two. The priesthood is a birthright. You must be born a Kohen, and a non-Kohen can never become a Kohen, whereas the Nazir is a personal choice, anyone at any time can choose to live as a Nazir.

A reflection of this dynamic is also mirrored in the Nazir and the Kohen’s relationship with hair.

The Kohen needed to shave his head (Ibid. 8:7), his hair needed to be orderly; the high priest would cut his hair once a week and the other priests would cut their hair once a month (Ta'anit 17b), whereas for the Nazir it is written, "No razor shall pass over his head — it shall be sacred, and he shall allow the growth of the hair of his head to grow wild." (Ibid. 6:5)

The Kohen represents the orderly and routine, the day-in-day-out service of the Temple, and thus serves with short and tamed hair. In direct contrast, the Nazir goes with long untamed hair that suggests the non-orderly and the rebellious, a breaking of the status quo.

Historically, in fact, many Nezirim/Nazirites in Temple times were young, single and infused with passion. In their personal dedication they would vow to be a Nazir, most often for a temporary period of time, thirty days or so, and live for that period detached and removed from society.

The Kohen represents the one who upholds the order of the system, maintaining the organization which is impersonal. The Kohen serves in the Temple as the representative of the community, with the same routine each day, whereas the Nazir represents the non-ordinary and more personal expression and passionate service.

...the Nazir represents the non-ordinary and more personal expression and passionate service.

Everything in life has both a context, which is its structure, and a content, which is how the structure is filled.

We need both.

To survive and flourish as both a human and a spiritual being we need both the structure/routine and the content/passion, the priest and the prophet as it were. We need the day to day routines in life to give our lives structure, but we must also have our personal moments when we feel connected.

In a relationship, such as marriage, there is the underlying context - the structure and formality of the marriage agreement, yet within that structure there must also be passion, a non-order within the order, as it were.

Prayer is yet another example of this within our lives. We pray every day, and we pray a set prayer within a set time. Yet, within the structure of prayer there needs to be our personal involvement, manifested in our Kavana/intention and focus.

There is always the delicate balance between maintaining routine, which is preserving the underlying structure and simultaneously ensuring that the routine does not become stale. We need to be passionate and personally invested and engaged on all levels of our being in all that we do, and still be supported by a strong and unshakeable structure of routine and ritual.

The Torah reading this week juxtaposes both these spiritual ways of being, the Kohen and the Nazir, to teach and inspire us to live within both of these frameworks. Keeping the structure and the passion, the order and beyond order and in this way upholding the system and infusing it with life and vitality.

[From "Energy of the Week" on //Iyyun.com]