Nasso – "Nazirites vs. Negotiators:" We live in a world today of nazirites. Not actual nazirites as in the Torah portion this week; people who swear off wine and cutting their hair and maintaining a high level of purity, but people who get too focused on their own saintliness, their own rightness, at the expense of the rest of the world.
Judaism makes room for the nazirite, and throughout Jewish history there have been all sorts of variations on the idea of perfecting oneself – from the Hasidic tradition to the mussar tradition. And while none of these completely pulls the person from society, equally none of them keeps the person in the midst of society, making the hard, messy, dirty choices that society requires to keep functioning. That is why Judaism rejects as an ideal the nazirite and why the Torah even insists such a person brings an offering of atonement after their nazirite period ends.
The ideal person is the rabbinic sage of ancient times. Enmeshed in the world, seeking to make the words of Torah, already ancient in rabbinic times, meaningful and alive in the new circumstances in which they lived. Those rabbis often supported themselves through other sorts of work and were actively engaged with their fellow Jews and non-Jews in real ways. And they still sought to improve the world and make it better. They just weren’t fanatics about it.
We need more people like that. Those willing to compromise. Those willing to see how others live. Those willing to get their hands dirty. It is all too easy to retreat to a corner of ideological purity like the nazirite does, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But you are no longer engaging in the world when you do that. Meeting people where they are, even if you don’t like it, that is how things get done.