Kenneth Cohen

Narcissism and Nazir

It is so fascinating to find parallels in Judaism to secular concepts. The term “narcissism,” describes a personality disorder where an individual has an excessive preoccupation with oneself. The term is based on a story written by a Roman poet named Ovid, in the year, 8, c.e. He describes the mythical story of a handsome young man named, Narcissus. After rejecting many women, he falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. When he realizes that the object of his affection cannot love him back, he is so tormented, that he eventually dies.

Contrast this story to the one mentioned in Masechet Nazir 4b. The Kohein Gadol, Shimon Hatzzadik told the story of a young man who decided to become a Nazir. He would not drink wine nor cut his hair. He came to Shimon completely shaven as he began his period of Nezirut. He told the High Priest that he was a shepherd, and one day he saw his reflection in the water. He saw his beautiful locks and realized he was extremely good looking. This frightened him, as he realized that this could lead to all kinds of sins of immorality. In order to protect himself, he shaved his head and took the vow of Nezirut.

Shimon Hatzaddik goes on to explain that in the forty years he served as High Priest, this was the only time that he, personally, ate from the sacrifice of the Nazir. Unlike others, who may have taken this vow upon themselves for a variety of reasons, this young man was totally sincere.

What a contrast between this story and that of the Narcissist. This demonstrates how Judaism is meant to set the example to the world of moral and proper behavior, on the highest level.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at