Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose: Address to Mirowitz graduates

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose

By Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose

Below please find some words of Torah that I was able to share with the recent graduates of the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School. Though the message is clearly addressed to the graduates, I have been asked by several parents, grandparents, educators and colleagues, to make my comments available to our entire Kehillah Kedoshah. Honored and humbled to do so…I hope they will resonate deeply with many of you. 

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbos filled with peace and health,

Shalom SMJCS Graduates, Yeasher Kochachem, and Mazal Tov!

With the deferral of your matriculation ceremony from its original date last week to today, we are given the unique opportunity to ponder why the Holy-Blessed-One wanted your graduation to take place in this week and not the last. Might there be a Divine Plan to have you celebrate this milestone now, as Jews the world over prepare to engage with the Parashat Hashavua of Naso? Maybe…

As you may recall, in this Torah Reading we are introduced to the Nazir, the Nazarite. The Nazir pledged to live a sanctified and elevated spiritual life. Nezirim vowed – for a period of time – to avoid contact with any dead body, abstain from imbibing any products made of grapes, and refrain from cutting their hair. 

As you hear about the restrictions placed on Nezirim, you may have noticed that these regulations sound similar to those required of the Kohanim. However, the requirements for Nazarites are actually more restrictive than those that apply to the ancient Priests. After all, an ordinary Kohen is permitted to have contact with the deceased members of his immediate family, may drink while off duty, and was required to trim his hair. It appears that during the period of the vow, the sanctity and sacred status of Nazarites was even greater than that of the High Priest.

But why is this the case? Well, it seems to me that our wise Torah in this Sidra may have a special message in mind for us, and especially for you the 2020/5780 SMJCS graduates. 

Often in Jewish Tradition, status is inherited. One is a Kohen or a Levi because one comes from a Kohanic of Levitical family. One’s elevated position in society is attributed to their biology, their DNA. It is not a matter of choice and one has no way to opt in or out. However, the same cannot be said for Nezirim. They alone must voluntarily take upon themselves extra obligations, responsibilities, and strictures. All of this voluntary acceptance is motivated by one yearning – the quest for Kedushah, elevated holiness and spiritual uplift. 

As you end your academic careers at Mirowitz, I want to bless each of you with the wisdom to be like the Nezirim mentioned in the Torah Portion assigned to the week of your commencement exercises. May you, of your own accord, take upon yourselves added rites, rituals, and practices – as well as attitudes and orientations – that demonstrate a continual quest for meaning, purpose, and consequence. Lives consciously infused with a never ending search for the spiritual, the numinous, and the transcendent. Existences that lead you to attaining the lofty goal of Kedushah, uniqueness and holiness. 

Vecheyn Yehi Ratzon! Amen!