The gemora in Nedarim tells us that Shimon Hatzadik never ate from the korbon of a Nazir, except for one time. He did it for a youth, who was handsome, and in order to curb his arrogance, took the Nazir oath and eventually shaved the long flowing hair from his head. On a simple level the gemora is letting us know that in order for one to do a mitzvah, he has to do it with the proper kavanah, and this was the first time that Shimon Hatzadik was convinced that a Nazir had the proper intentions. However, I was bothered by a question: There are other korbanos that people might have brought due to improper intentions (to show off or to look righteous, etc…). Why was it only with the korbon of a Nazir that Shimon Hatzadik was concerned about the intent of the person bringing the korbon?
In our very complex world, we seem to have a confusing array of options, in regard to following halacha. Though one has the ability to follow the straight halacha, statements such as “the one who is stringent will receive a reward, a pious person should be stringent and someone who is lenient, won’t lose”, confuse us. Many times a person would really like to do the correct thing, but he is not sure what is the correct way to proceed in his personal service to The Creator. This quandary was always in existence and this is a question of doing a mitzvah for Hashem’s sake or are there other underpinnings determining our actions.
The medrash tells us that taking an oath to forbid the eating of certain foods is not really the correct thing to do. Hashem gave us a world from which He wanted us to partake and benefit, and the stringency of the vow of a Nazir has an aspect of sin to it. Therefore, one must be particularly careful in regard to taking on this “stringency” as it may not be exactly what Hashem wants.
This can be compared to the chemotherapy medicines that a person with cancer (lo aleinu) takes. These medicines are highly toxic, and a well person would be halachikaly forbidden to even try them. However, for the person who is afflicted with that disease, taking them is a mitzvah of ushmartem miode linafshoseichem (guard your life). Shimon Hatzadik was teaching us that if a Nazir was afflicted with a yetzer hara that affects him in a “cancerous” way, then taking this “Nazir” medicine could be a mitzvah (if he does it for Heaven’s sake). Whereas others who would take the vow, would be doing something wrong. Other stringencies, may not necessarily have such a severe downside to them.
With Shavuos behind us we feel invigorated and have a desire to go all-out in our fulfillment of the mitzvahs. May we merit to choose the prescription that is befitting for our growth and individual needs.