The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 17 May 2008 / 12 Iyyar 5768

Nazir 55 - 61

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Hold That Haircutter

Does the Torah's command not to remove the payot (sideburns) from the head of a Jew (Vayikra 19:27) apply to the payot of a minor as well?

This is the subject of a dispute between the sages. Rabbi Huna contends that one who removes the payot of a minor is liable for lashes. Rabbi Ada bar Ahaba's position is that since the Torah included both the one giving the haircut and the one receiving it in the plural phrase used in this command, there is an equation made between the two. Since the minor is not commanded in this or any mitzvah, the one giving him a haircut is also not commanded to refrain from cutting his payot.

Tosefot points out that the gemara (Mesechta Bava Metzia 10b) serves as a support for Rabbi Huna's position. This approach is what led to the ruling in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 181:5) that one who cuts the payot of a minor is liable for lashes.

Even though we rule like Rabbi Huna on this point, we do not follow his example in allowing his wife to cut the payot of his sons. He based his permission on the fact that the above mentioned passage speaks both of cutting payot and shaving the beard with a razor. Since a woman has no beard and is exempt from the ban on shaving, she is also exempt from the ban on cutting payot, whether they are hers or those of a man. When Rabbi Ada heard of what Rabbi Huna's wife, Chova, was doing, he expressed strong objection; because if Rabbi Huna held that a minor's payot may not be cut, this ban should apply to a woman cutting them as well. He even wondered aloud if Chova would not end up burying her children for such a violation. This slip of the tongue of this sage, says Tosefot, was responsible for what the gemara relates about the premature deaths of Rabbi Huna's children during Rabbi Ada's lifetime.

This incident is the background for the mention in the Shulchan Aruch (ibid. 181:6) of a halachic opinion that a woman should not cut the payot of a man, even a minor.

One ruling in the aforementioned section of the Shulchan Aruch requires closer examination: Rema cites a ruling that a minor may have his payot cut by a non-Jew. The problem with this -- a problem raised by the commentaries -- is that a Jew cannot ask a non-Jew to do something that he himself is forbidden to do. It is also highly unlikely that Rema is referring to a situation in which the minor went to the non-Jewish barber on his own, because the issue of whether one must prevent a minor from doing something contrary to halacha is discussed in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 243, and it does not belong here.

  • Nazir 57b

Viva La Difference!

A fascinating chapter in Biblical history is cited by the commentary presumed to be Rashi in explaining a point in our gemara.

After Hashem delivered the Canaanite invaders into the hands of the Israelite forces -- led by the Prophetess Devorah and Barak ben Avinoam their general -- Sisera fled for his life and sought refuge in the tent of Yael. Aware that as long as he remained alive there was a serious threat to her people's security, Yael cleverly induced a deep slumber by giving him milk to drink and then set about slaying him.

Yael could easily have taken the sleeping enemy's sword to kill him. Instead she took the peg of the tent and drove it into his temple (Shoftim 4:21).

The reason for this, writes Rashi, is that Yael was cognizant of the Torah command "A woman shall not don a man's garb" (Devarim 22:5), which Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov in our gemara explains includes a ban on a woman going to war with the weapons of a man. It is this maintaining of femininity, even in the crucial moment of slaying an enemy, which Devorah praised in her victory song: "She extended her hand to the peg" (ibid. 5:26).

In his "Gilyon Hashas" footnotes, Rabbi Akiva Eiger calls attention to the sources for Rashi's comment. One of them is the Targum of Yonatan ben Uziel on the aforementioned passage. Another is the Midrash cited in Yalkut Shimoni (Shoftim 56) which notes that Yael's action was a personification of the praise which King Solomon gives to the "Eishet Chayil" (Woman of Valor) when he describes one of her attributes as "She extends her hand to the spinning peg" (Mishlei 31:19).

  • Nazir 59a

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