“When a man or a woman separate themselves to take a vow of abstinence, to become a nazir for Hashem.”
The word “yafli,” separate themselves, has two meanings: either to be separate or to do something wondrous — a pele. In this case, by separating themselves with the laws of nezirus, they are doing something wondrous since most of the world follows their desires. (Ibn Ezra)
However, there remains a question on this double meaning. We can understand the concept of wonder once the person has already succeeded in his abstinence. This accomplishment is clearly phenomenal for the person has passed the test and resisted his desires. But in this case, the word “wondrous” refers to the time a person accepts his vow of nezirus, implying that the marvel begins at the moment the vow is taken. Why? (Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Birchas Mordechai)
It was evening and I was exhausted. The day had been hot and humid and the whole house felt sticky. I glanced around the kitchen, noting the juice spilled on the floor and the ketchup stains on the table. A milk carton was spoiling on the counter and the breakfast dishes had not yet been washed. Despite the heat, I roused myself and announced to my children that we were having a “cleaning contest!” Using all the cheer I could muster, I tried to engage them in scrubbing the table and sweeping the floor.
“Not like that,” I chided my son as he gave a half hearted swipe to the ketchup. “You have to scrub it hard.”
“Don’t flip the broom,” I called to my daughter as breadcrumbs went flying across the floor. “You’re spreading the mess instead of cleaning it.” Within minutes I had abandoned my “fun mother mode” and my irritation was rising.
“Take out the garbage. Use hot water! Put down the mop! And somebody put away that milk!” My voice was rising and my inner voice was adding fuel to the fire. Can’t anyone do anything right? Why haven’t I succeeded in raising them properly? As my tension mounted, so did my desire for perfection. That’s it! I gave in to my frustration and began to shout orders. After all, they need to learn!
It’s specifically at the moment he accepts his vow, (even more than after he fulfills it), that the wonder is pronounced. It’s the wonder of beginning a new approach that will bring victory over the force of desires. This is the challenge of being in control.
Interestingly, if a person were to fulfill all of the laws of nezirus, but without making a vow, he would not be a nazir! His nezirus is contingent on the vow because that is the declaration of his spiritual goal and his path to progress.
That evening I sat and viewed my spotless house. Surprisingly, I did not feel a sense of satisfaction. What have I accomplished? I wondered. Capitulating to my annoyance and bullying my children to obey me — all in the name of chinuch.
I’ve been so blind! I’ve chosen to act based on my instincts without thinking about my goals. Tomorrow! I decide emphatically. Tomorrow I’m going to practice control. I’m going to plan my day so I don’t fall into this trap. Tomorrow I’m going to consider the consequences of my words and thoughts and act accordingly.
And as I made my resolution, I felt my heart cleansed, shining even brighter than my polished floors.
This is the explanation of the two meanings of “yafli.” The decision to vow to separate is in itself a wondrous act.
If a person wants to elevate himself, he must pattern all his actions into an approach that combines his resolutions with his service of Hashem.
When he commits himself to the challenge of living a more exalted life, this decision elevates him.
Personal commitment delineates our perspectives in life. That’s how I want to be! That’s my goal! Now I just need to get there.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if I’ll really be more patient or speak more softly. But despite the lack of assurance of my success, I still have this moment of clear resolution. I resolve to try harder. And that’s the greatest wonder of all.