For the week ending 30 May 2015 / 12 Sivan 5775

Nedarim 9 - 15

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Vows taken in the form of neder or nedavah
  • If it is advisable to make a vow
  • Shimon Hatzadik and the righteous nazir
  • The righteous Jews who longed to bring a sin offering
  • The "sin" of abstaining from wine
  • The kinuy form of a vow
  • When the vowelization of a letter makes the difference in regard to a vow
  • Vow based on reference to avalid or disqualified sacrifice or a day of mourning
  • The tithing of breads accompanying a thanks-offering
  • Difference between vow and oath
  • Vows that have no effect
  • A vow concerning speaking, walking or sleeping
  • Forbidding a wife to visit her parents before the holiday or making a vow regarding their relations

The Holy Haircut

  • Nedarim 9b

"I never ate from the flesh of an asham atonement sacrifice offered by a nazir who had become spiritually impure," declared the sage and kohen gadol Shimon Hatzadik, "except for one case."

His reluctance was based on the fear that a nazir who contracted such impurity through contact with the dead and was compelled to painfully restart his period of abstinence might be regretful of his initial vow and thus compromise the sincerity of his sacrifice.

The exception he mentioned was a handsome young man from the south with beautiful locks of hair who had become impure and came to the Beit Hamikdash to have his hair removed and to offer the required sacrifice. Shimon Hatzadik asked him why he had taken upon himself a vow to become a nazir, which would eventually lead to having such beautiful hair removed even if he completed his period of abstinence without a break of impurity.

"I was a shepherd for my father," the youth explained. "One day I went to a spring to draw water and saw my reflection in the water. My evil inclination suddenly tempted me to take advantage of my looks and indulge my passions."

He then went on to describe how he rebuked himself for even considering a path that would spiritually destroy him, and vowed to remove this dangerous hair for Heaven's sake by vowing to be a nazir. Shimon Hatzadik was so impressed by this youth's piety that he kissed him on his head and said to him, "May there be more nazarites like you in Israel."

The question that arises from this touching story is why the young man with the beautiful hair did not simply go to a barber for a haircut to remove this temptation. The answer, of course, is that on the way to the barber he was likely to change his mind and give in to temptation. The only solution was to immediately take upon himself a vow of nazirut which would eventually force him to eliminate his hair and the problems that accompanied it.

What the Sages Say

"What sin is the nazir accused of by the Torah? Only for afflicting himself by abstaining from wine. Can we then not deduce from this that one who fasts and denies himself everything is considered a sinner?"

  • Rabbi Elezar Hakapar - Nedarim 10a

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