Talmud Tips

For the week ending 25 February 2023 / 4 Adar 5783

Nazir 16-22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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The Sinful Nazir

Rabbi Elazar Hakapar says, “Why does the Torah say ‘He will atone for sinning against himself’ — what did he sin against? He sinned against himself by forbidding the pleasure of wine. And we can learn by means of a kal vachomer: Since a nazir who denies himself from only wine is called a sinner, all the more so someone who lives ascetically and denies himself worldly physical pleasures is considered a sinner.”

There is another opinion in the gemara for why a nazir is called a sinner: Because defiled his state of being pure by coming in contact with the ritual impurity of death. This other opinion fits well with the fact that the Torah specifically wrote that the nazir sinned regarding one who became ritually impure (Bamidbar 6:11), instead with regards to a nazir who remained ritually pure.

The gemara, however, questions the placement of this verse, which calls him a sinner distinctively for a nazir who became ritually impure, according to the opinion of Rabbi Elazar Hakapar. Rabbi Elazar Hakapar deems the nazir a sinner for merely becoming a nazir, without becoming ritually impure. The answer provided by the gemara is that although every nazir is indeed considered a sinner because of self-denial, the Torah emphasizes that a nazir who became ritually impure is a “sinner” since he “compounded his sin.” One explanation for this “compounding” is that not only did he sin by forbidding wine to himself, but he also was negligent in not being careful to not become ritually impure (Rashi). Another explanation for the Torah calling him a sinner when he becomes ritually impure is due to the fact that his ritual impurity increased his sin by increasing the number of days of denying himself the pleasure of wine (Tosefot).

Nazir 19a

Just in Time!

One who said, “Behold, I am a nazir”, and his friend heard this and only after ‘toch kdei dibur’ said “Me too.” The first one is a nazir and the second one is not.

This statement is taught in a beraita on our daf and the length of time of “toch kdei dibur” (literally “within the time of speech”) is explained in the gemara as the length of time for a student’s greeting to his Rabbi with the words “Shalom alecha Rabbi” (Rashi). The commentaries explain why this period of time is not called a “delay.” It is in order to allow for a person to display honor in greeting his Rabbi without losing the sense of continuity of his current involvement.

Nazir 20a

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