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    A Nazirite from birth – Naso

    The haftarah relates the story of the birth of Samson.

    Samson & Delilah, by Gustav Dore

    God tells Samson’s mother, “The child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb” (Judges 13:5).

    The nazir lives an ascetic life without wine or pleasures. But to be a nazir “from the womb” seems a tall order.

    Gersonides explains that God foresaw that Samson would be a sensual, passionate man, who even from birth had to be kept to a strict discipline.

    Whether this helped in the end is a matter of opinion; it may be that tragic as his end was, things might have been far worse without the strict controls that started the moment he was born.

    This leads to another question in relation to our own children.

    We bring them up as Jews from the moment of birth; indeed even before birth a child can be influenced by the spiritual choices made by its parents.

    But was the child given a vote about being Jewish? Is not Jewishness something that we impose, as it were, regardless of the child’s own feelings and desires?

    In one sense, the answer is “yes”. But on the other hand no-one consulted the child about other things either – about whether to be born at all, whether to be born to these particular parents, and whether to inherit a particular genetic make-up or not.

    Yet there is a halachic principle that one may benefit a person even in their absence – zachin l’adam shello b’fanav (Kidd. 23a etc.).

    So we may be said to have a right to benefit a child with the gift of life, identity and a spiritual heritage.

    We can only hope and pray that the child will grow up to cherish these gifts and regard them as blessings.

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