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Nazirite Vows

Being Torah Observant

   We understand that the Torah (i.e., the first five books of Moses containing instructions, laws, etc.) is prominently taught and emphasized by Judaism, as well as by prominent Messianic teachers. We also, at Yahweh's Assembly in Yahshua, put emphasis on Yahweh's Word which includes the foundation we see set from the beginning.
   However, we also understand there are certain aspects of Torah that are not done today in Messiah Yahshua. In addition, there is no physical standing Temple today and no operational Levitical priesthood. These things are in the works to be restored for the physical people in the coming Kingdom, as prophecy indicates (Ezek. 40 - 46). For now all physical blood sacrifices and other aspects, such as purification rites, have been set aside.
   Nazirite vows, some from birth by parents, others being temporary, are also something we find are unnecessary today in the New Covenant.

New or Renewed?
   A question sometimes comes up about whether or not the agreement to accept Yahshua the Messiah as our personal Savior, is to be understood as a new or, rather, a renewed agreement. Quite frankly, there is evidence to accept both as true, even though it can depend on the perspective of where one has been.
   Some are coming directly out from current Torah observance, understanding the covenant of Abraham and promises to those who keep covenant with Yahweh. These same men and women are now coming to an understanding that the Savior had come in the 1st century, and is coming a second time in the near future. This has been a paradigm shift in thinking for them, but they are better equipped in some ways to more fully obey Yahweh, if they can unlearn and reject the many traditions that are not in line with the Holy Scripture, Matt.15:1 - 9.
   Some of these are now looking to His Son for forgiveness of sins, as the Perfect Sacrifice in a newer covenant, still being obedient to the laws, statutes, and holy convocations of Yahweh, but on a higher spiritual level with the help of the Spirit.
   To these, the covenant is joyfully renewed through the Messiah with better promises, such as, eternal life and a portion of Yahweh's Spirit being granted to stay with the individual brother or sister. Others, on the other hand, coming from nominal worship, have completely new perspectives of who they are and what they need to know to be doing. Many Christians, though they are accepting the Father and His Son, haven't understood the previous covenants and don't fully understand what is required today in Messiah, though clearly prophesied:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them, Ezekiel 36:26 - 27.
   Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, Jeremiah 31:31.
   What is happening for them is they are understanding, in part, that this is a New Covenant. They never were in covenant with Yahweh. They just believed superficially. They had a form of repentance, but it did not meet the requirement of the covenant. In effect, they were never in agreement with Yahweh.
   Yet, there are still others who have been agnostic or even outright atheists, or who have believed in pagan deities all their lives, but who now recognize that there is an Almighty Creator of heaven and earth named Yahweh.
   They are now seeing what they had believed previously was, in all actuality, error. They are now coming forward learning what they had not known before. This is all new to them, but they are being called out to live their lives to be holy unto Yahweh through Yahshua the Messiah.
   They are learning about Israel and the grafting in process, through Messiah, not only of those who had lost sight of who they are as a people, but others who recognize they will be considered part of the family, if they join and abide by the house rules,
Yahweh called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult He hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken. For Yahweh of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense unto Baal, Jeremiah 11:16 - 17.
   Romans 11:16 - 22 says,
   For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if Yahweh spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of Yahweh on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
   Whether new or renewed depends on the perspective of the one seeking salvation and eternal life in the Messiah. But to stay renewed all the time is to suggest that everything stays the same in the agreement through the Messiah, and that is just not the case.

Higher Ground
   The spiritual is emphasized for those in the Messiah, while abiding in the standard set forth from the beginning. The Messiah Himself not only quoted Scripture often, and quoted the Commandments as a foundation, but also spoke of keeping them from the heart.
   We need to keep in mind, however, that not everything that is done today was done in the beginning. They (all the laws) cannot all be done because to do so is to make Messiah's blood sacrifice of no effect, Rom. 4:11; Gal. 5:4. Circumcision of the flesh or sacrificing a Passover lamb are a couple of things that should be readily evident, but still we find other things we are no longer doing today.
   While we are all called to walk on higher ground, there is a process of losing long held traditions through continued study from Genesis to Revelation to fully grasp our role as a set-apart people today in the body of Messiah.
   The Spirit adds a missing dimension to us today by helping us to have fruits and character traits of the Spirit and weightier matters of the law, while not neglecting foundational laws that are to be kept holy, Lev. 11:44 - 45; Acts 5:32.

Nazirite Origins
   In all of this, what can we confidently say about Nazirites or the Nazirite vow? Where did the term even come from? Going back as far as we can in Scripture, on the surface, we find an entire section in the book of Numbers, starting in chapter 6 verse 2,
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 Yahweh, ESV.
   Here we have a special vow, separating an individual to Yahweh. The word Nazirite is from the Hebrew word nazir (naw– zeer), meaning consecrated, devoted, in this particular section.
   There are some other closely related words, but If we look for this particular word (H5139, nazir) in the Hebrew, we find it is typically classified in three ways, depending on context.
   One, it is considered a noun which is masculine, meaning a particular leader or ruler.
   Two, it is considered a noun, as in proper, that is, a person who is dedicated, consecrated, and separated.
   And, three, an adjective, that is, descriptive, such as, meaning "an untended vine." This makes a little more sense when we look at the next two verses in Numbers. He shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin, Numbers 6:3 - 4 NASB.
   Today, there are individuals being encouraged to take vows such as this. They desire to be separated unto Yahweh.
   It's commendable, but a bit misguided, especially when we can be set apart in the Messiah. Some other requirements of a Nazirite vow are found as we continue to read in Numbers.
   During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to Yahweh is over; they must let their hair grow long, Numbers 6:5 NIV.
   This would be easy enough for women to do, but it's not evident that this type of vow is for women. In verse two, when it says, "when either a man or a woman makes a special vow," it may be more of a reference to parents making a decision to dedicate their child to Yahweh for His service, rather than an individual woman making a vow for herself.
   Noticing the NIV, which we've used here, it actually changes "his" to the word "they." While there are about three ways the Hebrew word
nazir can be translated, the Nazirite vow itself is either lifetime, having been dedicated from birth, or temporary, as a personal vow. We find both in Scripture, but we find only men are mentioned in these vows.

Samson's Strength
   Before moving forward in Numbers, let's take a look in Scripture at those having been set apart from birth under the Nazirite vow. The first example we have is Samson, where the Angel of Yahweh goes to the wife of Manoah and speaks to her.
And the angel of Yahweh appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to Elohim from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines,” Judges 13:3 – 5 ESV.
   There are a number of things here, but essentially, this is the proclamation to Manoah's wife to make sure that the child Samson never breaks the vow and that she herself is not to defile herself since Samson is being set apart from her womb.
   Becoming defiled by breaking any of the laws specific to the vow is not good. We know that the vow was broken with the cutting of his hair by Delilah who had found out how to defile him and it also removed Yahweh's blessings of strength from him. It removed his protection, and he was blinded by the Philistines and imprisoned.
   After some time, with the help of a boy who held him by his hand, and probably with his hair having grown back, Samson received strength enough to remove two support pillars in a large building in which all the Philistines rulers were along with thousands of people. It says that there were 3,000 on the roof alone, so the number was substantial overall in this building.

Samuel the Prophet, Priest, Judge, etc.
   Another Nazirite vow, that was to be lifelong, was that of Samuel.
   So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked Yahweh for him.” When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to Yahweh and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before Yahweh, and he will live there always," 1 Samuel 1:20 – 22 NIV.
   Here is an example of where the woman alone dedicated her child under the Nazirite vow to Yahweh. She, of course, told her husband what she was planning on doing, but he didn't object.
   This takes us back to a man or woman making a Nazirite vow. In this example, it was a woman making the vow for the child Samuel. The same Samuel was the one who anointed Saul King over Israel, and then David after him.
Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible says this about Samuel:
   "In these stories he appears in multiple roles of authority: priest, prophet, judge, military leader. Samuel occupies a unique role in Israel’s story. He is the representative and defender of an older tribal covenant order in Israel, yet he is [Yahweh]’s prophetic agent for ushering in the new day of kingship."

John the Baptizer
   Another lifetime Nazirite was John the Baptist (Immerser). We find the account of this in Luke chapter 1.
   In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth, Luke 1:5 – 6 NASB.
   They were both righteous in the sight of Elohim, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of Yahweh. Want to be righteous, and without blame, in Yahweh's sight? Do what He says.
   While we don't have a Temple to go to today, and we don't have the Levitical priesthood, we can still live righteous lives being obedient to those things fitting for us to do in Messiah Yahshua. He foretold of these days we're in now, in John chapter 4:21 - 24:
   Yahshua saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. Yahweh is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
   Continuing in Luke 1:7 - 12 NASB, we read,
   But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before Elohim in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of Yahweh and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of Yahweh appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.
   One might be inclined to think this was the same Angel of Yahweh that first appeared before Manoah's wife, but this is actually Gabriel, another angel and spokesman for Yahweh, but not The Spokes man as a study of the other Angel of Yahweh shows. Make sure you request the free in-depth booklet called, "Did the Savior Pre-exist?" In Luke 1:13 - 16 NASB, we continue to read,
   But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of Yahweh; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to Yahweh their Elohim."

Sons of Jacob
   Sons of Jacob (Israel's children) started to turn back to Yahweh from his preaching. He told the Pharisees to produce fruit worthy of this type of repentance, otherwise they would be as a tree cut down.
   That may have hit home with them, since they would have considered themselves the Olive Tree of Israel.
   Speaking of John the Batist, the next verse, Luke 1:17 NASB, says,
   It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for Elohim."
   Gabriel, who is believed to be an Archangel, is quoting, in part, the end of the book of Malachi. He gives us the meaning of what Malachi the prophet spoke about so long ago.
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of Yahweh. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse, Malachi 4:5 - 6 NASB.

Disobedient to the Obedient
   "The hearts of the children to their fathers," means "the hearts of the disobedient to the obedient." The Spirit of EliYah today has the specific purpose of leading people back to Yahweh and His ways of righteousness, according to His Commandments and laws kept by the fathers of old. Not the fathers of the Pharisees, and not the fathers of the 4th century of the Common Era. We're talking about Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
   What did Abraham do, and what did he teach his children to do? What was Abraham told?
I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws, Genesis 26: 4 - 5 NASB.

The EliYah Message
   With the spirit (attitude) of EliYah at work today in the body of Messiah, we have the ability to understand and share with others what Malachi prophesied and what John the Baptist started to preach,
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, Matthew 3:2.
   It's the same message Yahshua had (Matt. 4:17) and told His disciples to preach to the nations which are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, Matt. 10:6 - 7. He moves us with the Spirit of Yahweh to do the same.
   Abraham was obedient to the foundational commandments and laws before the first five books of Moses were written; before any aws written in stone at Mt. Sinai; before any Levitical priesthood was known; before any Jew had ever been born, or for that matter, any Israelites, Gen. 26:5. Isn't it time to wake up to the facts of life? (Deut. 30:19; Matt. 12:50; 19:16 - 17).

Temporary Vows
   Now, let’s shift gears and get back on track with the idea of being a Nazirite or the Nazirite vow. There is recorded, besides the Nazirite making a vow for life, the making of a temporary vow, which could be taken.
And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting, Numbers 6:13 ESV.
   Surrounding this are a number of things which are done. As noted in
Ryrie's Study Bible: "When the period of a temporary vow terminated, the Nazirite had to offer peace, grain, drink, and burnt offerings and shave his head and burn the hair."
   The details are very specific on these things. Let's consider verses 18 - 19, for example:
The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and take the dedicated hair of his head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall take the ram’s shoulder when it has been boiled, and one unleavened cake out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his dedicated hair, Numbers 6:18 - 19 NASB.
   Can this be done today? Not without the Levitical priests and not without the Temple. The Tent of Meeting was the Temple for the people. Today, there is no physical Temple standing.
   No Nazirite vows are to be taken, not even temporary ones, because there is no way to end them properly. People get into a lot of trouble by making vows they can't keep.
   However, one can and should be Torah Observant in Messiah, accepting His blood for atonement of personal sins, Acts 20:21; Rev. 14:12.

The Apostle Paul's Vow
   Someone might say, "But, didn't Paul take a Nazirite Vow?" To understand what was happening we need to go to when Paul met with the other elders in Jerusalem,
The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what Elohim had done among the Gentiles through his ministry, Acts 21:18 – 19 NIV.
   These Gentiles may have been, in part, descendants from the northern tribes of Israel (James 1:1), but they lost sight of Yahweh in their lives and certainly didn't live according to His ways which are found in His laws.
   In Acts 21:20 NIV, we read further,
   When they heard this, they praised Yahweh. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law."
   Being zealous for the law was a good thing, because it means they weren't sinning. The Gentiles were to come and learn, but here is what these Torah observant Jews were hearing of Paul:
   They have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
   What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come, Acts 21:21 - 22 NASB.
   Paul had not told the people to forsake Moses, but that circumcision under the Abrahamic Covenant had to be understood in light of the Messianic Covenant.
   And, evidently, the Torah observant Jews he had to deal with earlier in the 15th chapter of Acts, couldn't grasp the idea of having a different covenant. The covenant that they knew and already accepted was understood to be integrated into the Law of Yahweh.
   They most likely reasoned that one could not forsake any of it, and still be saved. This included circumcision, but circumcision was a token of a previous blood covenant through Abraham, Gen. 17:11; Ex. 4:26. One cannot accept it, saying "you must have it to be saved," and still have the Covenant in Messiah.
   In Messiah, some things changed (Heb. 7:12) because of the New Agreement. It's the nature of agreements that are made. Different agreements are not the same agreements, though we are still to be Torah observant. Read our free in-depth booklet called, “Orthodox Believers.”
   One can find all the promises of Abraham and more, through the Messiah, if one accepts this better agreement. Indeed, it was better (Heb. 8:6), but some of the Jews were having a hard time understanding the implications of accepting it, because they weren't hearing nor understanding correctly.
Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law, Acts 21:23 – 24 NASB.
   Who is telling who to do what here? The other elders have told Paul to take four men that they know of who had taken vows (probably Nazirite vows), and they instruct Paul to also purify himself with them.
   This would help counter the false rumors that Paul was not T orah observant. It would give them a foot in the door, so to speak, to proclaim the better covenant found in the prophesied Messiah.
   Skipping down to verse 26 we read the conclusion of the vows:
   Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them, Acts 21:26 NASB.
   I can imagine Paul did not even feel a need to do this, having already washed his hands of the Jews not accepting of Messiah (Acts 18:4), but he submitted to the others and even allowed sacrifices to be made along with other purification rites to put a stop to the rumors of not being Torah observant.

Different Laws for Gentiles?
   You might have noticed that we've jumped past verse 25, but want to address it here, and in context of the time of the standing Temple:
As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality, Acts 21:25 NIV.
   Just prior to this statement is the wording "walking orderly, keeping the law," which implies that there are different rules for the gentiles now, but we need to understand the times they were living in.
   Gentiles could not go into the T emple area, they could only go into the synagogues to continue to learn. There was a wall of partition that was set up to keep the gentiles out and a death sentence was on anyone who passed it. Any gentiles, that is.
   This is why verse 25 is mentioned here and it was a decision that they could learn the other basics of the law of Yahweh at the synagogues. But, going into the Temple was not allowed, as is clearly seen in context here:
When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple, Acts 21:27 – 29 NASB.
   Clearly we can see what was happening in the first century. Discovered in 1871 on the site of the T emple area was a large stone block with the inscription written in Greek: "No man of another nation to enter within the fence and enclosure round the T emple and whoever is caught will have himself to blame that his death ensues."
   The gentiles, as also mentioned in Acts 15, were instructed to get the worst things out of their lives immediately and then they could continue to learn. They would continue to learn at the synagogues what the Scriptures spoke of, that is, the main teachings and commandments coming from the books of Moses, verse 20; the same teachings the Messiah walked in, John 15:10; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:4 - 9.

Messiah the Nazarene
   A question that is sometimes asked is "Was Yahshua the Messiah, a Nazirite?" He was a Nazarene, after all, and Torah observant.
   When you look at some of the Bible Dictionaries the word "Nazarene" and "Nazirite" are right next to each other, which gives the impression they are connected.
   Why some today proclaiming the Messiah would be called Nazarene may lay in the idea that somehow a "Nazarene" is automatically born out of when a person takes a Nazirite vow, Num. 6:2. It's in error to think that.
   The term "sect of the Nazarenes" (found in Acts 24:5), for those following the Messiah, was evidently given since Yahshua was from Nazareth, or alternatively, the prophecy of the branch/ shoot (H5342 netzer) from Isaiah 11:1, which reads, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."
   Jesse, of course, was the father of King David, of the tribe of Judah. The "Branch," "Netzer," is specifically referring to the Messiah.
   We received an e-mail recently that was pointing out that netzer is a specific shoot that springs up later out of the original trunk of an olive tree. We already know that in Jeremiah chapter 11, the olive Tree is descriptive of the whole house of Israel. As already touched upon, the same family of Israel we are being grafted into through Messiah, the Jew who only came to search out the lost children, Matt. 15:24. In thinking about Yahshua the Nazarene, we find key verses in the New Testament which helps us to understand prophesy a little better.
   Matthew 2:23 NASB says,
   And (speaking of Joseph, Mary, and Child) came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” As one studies the word Nazareth, it appears it could mean, “City of the Branch.” When we consider everything, it appears that City of the Branch could also relate to the coming Kingdom.
   One who is called a Nazarene can be identified as one who belongs to the "City of the Branch"; in the case of Messiah, the “Righteous Branch,” of Whose city is "New Jerusalem." One can refer to: Isaiah 11:1; Zech. 6:12; Jer. 23:5; 33:15 - 17 for further study of this.

Following in His Footsteps
   A point of interest is that Yahshua had taken no Nazirite vow, and we are to follow in His footsteps. He drank of the fruit of the vine and even touched dead people, something against the law for those under a Nazirite vow.
   Most scholars would concur He most likely had short hair (1 Cor. 11:15) and couldn't easily be picked out from a crowd, John 5:13. Yet, we see the images of a long haired handsome Savior from the Renaissance Era.
   We need to understand what Scripture says in light of the whole of Scripture, being aware of what is said from Genesis to Revelation.
   Taking a Nazirite vow is being Torah observant, but it's not something we can do today. In fact, Yahshua Himself speaks of not making vows:
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, “YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO YAHWEH.” But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of Yahweh, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING, Matthew 5:33 – 35 NASB.
   What Yahshua is basically telling all of us, is "Don't be doing things you don't need to be doing." Today, one of those things we don't need to be doing, is taking Nazirite vows.

-Elder David Brett

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