Talmud Tips

For the week ending 5 September 2015 / 21 Elul 5775

Nazir 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

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 make a ‘kal vachomer’: since a nazir who denies himself only from wine is called a sinner, all the more so someone who lives ascetically and denies himself worldly physical pleasures is considered a sinner.”

The other opinion in the gemara of why a nazir is called a sinner is that he defiled his state of being pure by coming in contact with the ritual impurity of death. This opinion fits well with the fact that the Torah specifically wrote that the nazir sinned regarding one who became ritually impure (Bamidbar 6:11) and not by 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 being a nazir withoutbecoming 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 from becoming 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

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” (lit. “within the time of speech”) is explained in the gemara as the length time of a student greeting his Rabbi with the words “Shalom alecha Rabbi” (Rashi). The commentaries explain that this period of time is not called a “delay” 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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