The wonder of the Nazirite

Yesterday we mentioned the connection between the weekly Torah portion (‘Naso’) and the weekly Prophet’s portion which speaks about Samson. The connection between the two biblical parts is the focus on the ‘vow of Nazirite’ – a person’s decision to separate himself to God. When reading the two biblical parts (Numbers 6 and Judges 13) in the original Hebrew, one can notice something quite fascinating:

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when either a man or a woman makes a SPECIAL vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD”(Numbers 6:1-2).

In the original Hebrew the word ‘special’ is nowhere to be found. Instead one can find the unique Hebrew verb ‘Yaflie’ (יפליא) which is derived from the root P-L-A (פ-ל-א) that means ‘wonder’ or ‘miracle’.
In fact, this Hebrew root appears again in the story of Samson’s birth, after the angel of God said that the boy will ‘be a Nazirite to God from the womb’:

“And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is WONDERFUL?” (Judges 13:17-19)

When Manoah asked the angel of God for his name, the angel of God replied – in the literal original Hebrew – ‘Ze Pheliee’ (זה פלאי), meaning ‘this is my wonder’ or this is ‘my miracle.’
However, this Hebrew root has another meaning in the Hebrew Bible and this is ‘to express or to pronounce oneself’, as can be found in the following example:

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, if anyone makes a SPECIAL vow to the LORD…” (Leviticus 27:2)

Here we see the word ‘special’ (again) in the context of vows. And again in the original Hebrew it appears as ‘Yaflie’ like we witnessed in the verse from Numbers.

The reason why this unique Hebrew term appears together with the ‘vow of Nazirite’ is to teach us a very interesting truth. When the Nazirite takes this vow, it is not good enough to just say it quietly (as normally is the case with vows) but the person has to say it out loud – ‘to express’ this vow and that is what makes this vow ‘special’ – as can be seen in the English translation.