Introduction to Masechet Nazir
by Gitta Jaroslawicz-Neufeld
זכות לרפואה שלמה לדוד בן איידל נ”י ורחל בת גולדא מרים שתחי’ בתוך שאר חולי ישראל
Masechet Nazir follows Masechet Nedarim because it is a specific type of neder. The vow of nezirut is described in Bemidbar 6:1-21:
|וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃ דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אוֹ־אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַה’׃ מִיַּיִן וְשֵׁכָר יַזִּיר חֹמֶץ יַיִן וְחֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וְכׇל־מִשְׁרַת עֲנָבִים לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וַעֲנָבִים לַחִים וִיבֵשִׁים לֹא יֹאכֵל׃ כֹּל יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר יֵעָשֶׂה מִגֶּפֶן הַיַּיִן מֵחַרְצַנִּים וְעַד־זָג לֹא יֹאכֵל׃ כׇּל־יְמֵי נֶדֶר נִזְרוֹ תַּעַר לֹא־יַעֲבֹר עַל־רֹאשׁוֹ עַד־מְלֹאת הַיָּמִם אֲשֶׁר־יַזִּיר לַה’ קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה גַּדֵּל פֶּרַע שְׂעַר רֹאשׁוֹ׃ כׇּל־יְמֵי הַזִּירוֹ לַה’ עַל־נֶפֶשׁ מֵת לֹא יָבֹא׃ לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לְאָחִיו וּלְאַחֹתוֹ לֹא־יִטַּמָּא לָהֶם בְּמֹתָם כִּי נֵזֶר אֱלֹהָיו עַל־רֹאשׁוֹ׃ כֹּל יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ קָדֹשׁ הוּא לַה’׃ וְכִי־יָמוּת מֵת עָלָיו בְּפֶתַע פִּתְאֹם וְטִמֵּא רֹאשׁ נִזְרוֹ וְגִלַּח רֹאשׁוֹ בְּיוֹם טׇהֳרָתוֹ בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי יְגַלְּחֶנּוּ׃ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי יָבִא שְׁתֵּי תֹרִים אוֹ שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי יוֹנָה אֶל־הַכֹּהֵן אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד׃ וְעָשָׂה הַכֹּהֵן אֶחָד לְחַטָּאת וְאֶחָד לְעֹלָה וְכִפֶּר עָלָיו מֵאֲשֶׁר חָטָא עַל־הַנָּפֶשׁ וְקִדַּשׁ אֶת־רֹאשׁוֹ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא׃ וְהִזִּיר לַה’ אֶת־יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ וְהֵבִיא כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן־שְׁנָתוֹ לְאָשָׁם וְהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים יִפְּלוּ כִּי טָמֵא נִזְרוֹ׃ וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת הַנָּזִיר בְּיוֹם מְלֹאת יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ יָבִיא אֹתוֹ אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד׃ וְהִקְרִיב אֶת־קׇרְבָּנוֹ לַה’ כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן־שְׁנָתוֹ תָמִים אֶחָד לְעֹלָה וְכַבְשָׂה אַחַת בַּת־שְׁנָתָהּ תְּמִימָה לְחַטָּאת וְאַיִל־אֶחָד תָּמִים לִשְׁלָמִים׃ וְסַל מַצּוֹת סֹלֶת חַלֹּת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשֶּׁמֶן וּרְקִיקֵי מַצּוֹת מְשֻׁחִים בַּשָּׁמֶן וּמִנְחָתָם וְנִסְכֵּיהֶם׃ וְהִקְרִיב הַכֹּהֵן לִפְנֵי ה’ וְעָשָׂה אֶת־חַטָּאתוֹ וְאֶת־עֹלָתוֹ׃ וְאֶת־הָאַיִל יַעֲשֶׂה זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים לַה’ עַל סַל הַמַּצּוֹת וְעָשָׂה הַכֹּהֵן אֶת־מִנְחָתוֹ וְאֶת־נִסְכּוֹ׃ וְגִלַּח הַנָּזִיר פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד אֶת־רֹאשׁ נִזְרוֹ וְלָקַח אֶת־שְׂעַר רֹאשׁ נִזְרוֹ וְנָתַן עַל־הָאֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר־תַּחַת זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים׃ וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן אֶת־הַזְּרֹעַ בְּשֵׁלָה מִן־הָאַיִל וְחַלַּת מַצָּה אַחַת מִן־הַסַּל וּרְקִיק מַצָּה אֶחָד וְנָתַן עַל־כַּפֵּי הַנָּזִיר אַחַר הִתְגַּלְּחוֹ אֶת־נִזְרוֹ׃ וְהֵנִיף אוֹתָם הַכֹּהֵן תְּנוּפָה לִפְנֵי ה’ קֹדֶשׁ הוּא לַכֹּהֵן עַל חֲזֵה הַתְּנוּפָה וְעַל שׁוֹק הַתְּרוּמָה וְאַחַר יִשְׁתֶּה הַנָּזִיר יָיִן׃ זֹאת תּוֹרַת הַנָּזִיר אֲשֶׁר יִדֹּר קׇרְבָּנוֹ לַה’ עַל־נִזְרוֹ מִלְּבַד אֲשֶׁר־תַּשִּׂיג יָדוֹ כְּפִי נִדְרוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִדֹּר כֵּן יַעֲשֶׂה עַל תּוֹרַת נִזְרוֹ׃|
|G-d spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If any men or women explicitly utter a nazirite’s vow, to set themselves apart for G-d, they shall abstain from wine and any other intoxicant; they shall not drink vinegar of wine or of any other intoxicant, neither shall they drink anything in which grapes have been steeped, nor eat grapes fresh or dried. Throughout their term as nazirite, they may not eat anything that is obtained from the grapevine, even seeds or skin. Throughout the term of their vow as nazirite, no razor shall touch their head; it shall remain consecrated until the completion of their term as nazirite of G-d, the hair of their head being left to grow untrimmed. Throughout the term that they have set apart for G-d, they shall not go in where there is a dead person. Even if their father or mother, or their brother or sister should die, they must not become defiled for any of them, since hair set apart for their G-d is upon their head: throughout their term as nazirite they are consecrated to G-d . If someone dies suddenly nearby, defiling the consecrated hair, the [nazirite] shall shave the head at the time of becoming pure, shaving it on the seventh day. On the eighth day that person shall bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make expiation on the person’s behalf for the guilt incurred through the corpse. That same day the head shall be reconsecrated; and that person shall rededicate to G-d the term as nazirite, bringing a lamb in its first year as a penalty offering. The previous period shall be void, since the consecrated hair was defiled. This is the ritual for the nazirite: On the day that the term as nazirite is completed, the person shall be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. As an offering to G-d that person shall present: one male lamb in its first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering; one ewe lamb in its first year, without blemish, for a sin offering; one ram without blemish for an offering of well-being; a basket of unleavened cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, and unleavened wafers spread with oil; and the proper meal offerings and libations. The priest shall present them before G-d and offer the sin offering and the burnt offering. He shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of well-being to G-d, together with the basket of unleavened cakes; the priest shall also offer the meal offerings and the libations. The nazirite shall then shave the consecrated hair, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and take those locks of consecrated hair and put them on the fire that is under the sacrifice of well-being. The priest shall take the shoulder of the ram when it has been boiled, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and place them on the hands of the nazirite after the consecrated hair has been shaved. The priest shall elevate them as an elevation offering before G-d; and this shall be a sacred donation for the priest, in addition to the breast of the elevation offering and the thigh of gift offering. After that the nazirite may drink wine. Such is the obligation of a nazirite; except that those who vow an offering to G-d of what they can afford, beyond their nazirite requirements, must do exactly according to the vow that they have made beyond their obligation as nazirites,|
The nazir (fem: nezira)’s vow forbids the person:
- To consume grapes or any product of grapes
- To cut the hair on their head
- To become tamei meit
The vow obligates the nazir in 10 specific mitzvot:
- Eight negative mitzvot
- Not to drink wine or partake of anything in which wine was mixed and has the taste of wine,
- Not to eat fresh grapes,
- Not to eat raisins,
- Not to eat grape seeds,
- Not to eat grape peels,
- Not to become impure through contact with a dead body,
- Not to enter below any roof beneath which a corpse is found,
- Not to shave
- Two positive mitzvot
- To let his hair grow long,
- To shave his hair when bringing the sacrifices at the end of his nezirut or if he becomes tamei me’it
The Torah describes the declaration of nezirut as a neder: אִישׁ אוֹ־אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַה’. As such, it has many of the characteristics of a general neder:
- It is a set of voluntary prohibitions
- There is a verbal declaration
- It is subject to hatara – annulment or (in the case of a woman) hafara –revocation
However, unlike other nedarim¸ nezirut includes specific parameters which cannot be changed. These are the mitzvot outlined above.
Becoming a Nazir
A person becomes a nazir by making an oral declaration. While the simplest form is הריני נזיר – “I am hereby a nazir,” there are other declarations (discussed in the masechta) that are also valid. Regardless of the form of the declaration, the person must also have intent. Similarly, only intent alone does not suffice; there must be a verbal declaration. As with other nedarim, partial declarations (ידות) and substitute terms (כינויים) are valid. Additionally, as with other nedarim, common usage of words is used as the determinant for validity of the nazir declaration.
Nullifying the Nazir Vow
As with other nedarim, nezirut can be annulled (hatara) by a chacham or a panel of three competent laymen. A husband can revoke his wife’s vow of nezirut and a father can revoke his minor daughter’s vow (hafara).
Ground for hatara are the same as for all nedarim:
- Charata (regret): the person genuinely regrets having made the vow
- Petach (opening): there is an unforeseen undesirable consequence to the vow that would have kept the person from making the vow in the first place
Grounds for hafara by a husband are that it impacts on the marital relationship or that it causes the wife to be deprived. Thus, by its very nature, nezirut is a neder that is susceptible to hafara.
Hatara serves as retroactive nullification – it is as if the neder never existed. On dapim 21-22, we will learn that the retroactivity of hafara is a subject of debate.
The minimum length of time for a nezirut vow is 30 days. If no other duration is specified, it is assumed that the vow is effective for that time period. This is known as stam (standard) nezirut. While the nazir can perform the head-shaving and offer the three korbanot that mark the end of his nezirut at the end of thirty days, as long as this is not done he remains a nazir with all its attendant regulations. The Rambam explains that, in the absence of a Bet HaMikdash where these rituals are performed, anyone who undertakes nezirut is now bound to that vow forever. A contemporary example of this is “The Nazir of Jerusalem,” Rabbi David Cohen (1887-1972). Not only did he become a nazir, he was also a vegetarian and did not wear any leather. He practiced taanit dibbur (abstention from all speech other than prayer) on every Shabbat, erev Rosh Chodesh and from Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur (41 days!) and would only speak Hebrew, despite his proficiency in multiple languages. When Israel lost the Old City of Jerusalem to Jordan in 1948, he vowed not to leave his home until it was restored to Israeli sovereignty (in 1967). He also vowed not to leave Jerusalem once Israel became an independent state (1948) and only left the city 3 times in the ensuing 24 years, each time receiving hatara from Bet Din.
A person can also adopt:
- A single term for any length of time beyond thirty days
- As many consecutive terms as he wishes.
The Gemara will discuss the difference between these two obligations.
There are also two types of lifelong nezirut:
- Nazir olam (permanent nazir): A person who assumes nezirut for the rest of their life. Based on Torah she-Baal Peh, he may cut his hair at regular intervals. However, the duration of these intervals is debated on dapim 4-5. Any haircut is accompanied by korbanot. If the person undertakes nezirut for a specified term but the term is so long that it will surely last his entire life, he is called a nazir le’olam (nazir forever). He is forbidden to ever cut his hair.
- Nazir Shimshon (a nazir like Samson/Shimshon): A lifelong nazir who may never cut his hair or drink wine, but who may become tamei met. This type of nezirut can never be annulled. The most famous nazir like this is its eponym, Shimshon, who was declared a nazir by an angel before his birth. As Manoach’s wife tells him about the angel’s pronouncement (Shofetim 13:7)
|וַיֹּאמֶר לִי הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן וְעַתָּה אַל־תִּשְׁתִּי יַיִן וְשֵׁכָר וְאַל־תֹּאכְלִי כׇּל־טֻמְאָה כִּי־נְזִיר אֱלֹהִים יִהְיֶה הַנַּעַר מִן־הַבֶּטֶן עַד־יוֹם מוֹתוֹ׃|
|He said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and bear a son. Drink no wine or other intoxicant, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death!’”|
There are three categories of prohibitions affecting the nazir:
- Cutting Hair:
כׇּל־יְמֵי נֶדֶר נִזְרוֹ תַּעַר לֹא־יַעֲבֹר עַל־רֹאשׁוֹ עַד־מְלֹאת הַיָּמִם אֲשֶׁר־יַזִּיר לַה’ קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה גַּדֵּל פֶּרַע שְׂעַר רֹאשׁוֹ׃
Hair of the head may not be cut, shaved or plucked out. This applies even if only one hair is affected. Should the head be shaved (by accident or intentionally), the nezirut does not need to be repeated. However, at the conclusion of the nezirut he must have at least 30-days worth of hair growth on his head. Therefore, if there are less than thirty days to go when his head is shaved, he must postpone the concluding rituals until 30 days have passed.
- Grapes and Wine:
מִיַּיִן וְשֵׁכָר יַזִּיר חֹמֶץ יַיִן וְחֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וְכׇל־מִשְׁרַת עֲנָבִים לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וַעֲנָבִים לַחִים וִיבֵשִׁים לֹא יֹאכֵל׃ כֹּל
יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר יֵעָשֶׂה מִגֶּפֶן הַיַּיִן מֵחַרְצַנִּים וְעַד־זָג לֹא יֹאכֵל׃
A nazir may not drink wine or eat grapes or grape products. He is also forbidden to drink sheichar, which usually means an intoxicating beverage. However, in the context of nezirut, it means either aged wine (Targum) or something mixed with wine (Rambam).
כׇּל־יְמֵי הַזִּירוֹ לַה’ עַל־נֶפֶשׁ מֵת לֹא יָבֹא׃ לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לְאָחִיו וּלְאַחֹתוֹ לֹא־יִטַּמָּא לָהֶם בְּמֹתָם כִּי נֵזֶר אֱלֹהָיו
Becoming tamei met is forbidden. If the nazir becomes tamei met, any days of nezirut already observed are forfeited. This means that after he becomes tahor (through the standard para aduma process), he shaves his head on the seventh day and offers three korbanot on the eighth day – 2 birds as a chatat and olah and a lamb as an asham.
When the nezirut term is over, the nazir shaves his head and offers three korbanot. The nezirut is considered to be in effect until this happens (although there is a dispute if the shaving is needed or whether all three korbanot must be offered).
Head Shaving: While normally an adult male may not shave the corners of his head (Vayikra 19:27), the nazir must remove all the hair on his head with a razor (both at the conclusion of his nezirut or if he becomes tamei met). This is a classic example of asei doche lo tasei (Positive commandment supersedes a negative one). If there is a question about the nazir status of a man, he may not shave his head, since the override is questionable. However, a woman whose nezirut is doubtful may shave her head, since she is not subject to that prohibition.
Korbanot: The Torah specifies three korbanot to be offered at the conclusion of nezirut:
- A male lamb as an olah
- A female lamb as a chatat
- A ram as a shelamim
Why Be a Nazir?
Already in Talmudic times, there was a debate as to whether being a nazir is a positive or negative act. Rabbi Elazar HaKappar regards it as sinful, since the person is choosing to voluntarily deprive himself of permissible pleasures. On the other hand, Rabbi Elazar (an Amora), in Taanit 11a, seems to approve of it, citing the Torah’s description as kadosh (holy). In the same vein, there is a discussion of the chatat (sin offering) brought at the end of the nezirut. What is it atoning for? The Gemara (19a) sees it as atonement for the act of becoming a nazir, while Ramban (on Bemidbar 6:14) sees it as atonement for not continuing the nezirut. Since the person’s motivation appears to be the deciding factor, the Mishna in Nedarim (9a) includes nezirut vows among the vows of the wicked as well as the vows of the pious. In his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, Rambam concludes the laws of Nazir with this statement (Laws of Nazir 10:14):
|הָאוֹמֵר הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר אִם אֶעֱשֶׂה כָּךְ וְכָךְ אוֹ אִם לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה הֲרֵי זֶה רָשָׁע וּנְזִירוּת כָּזוֹ מִנְּזִירוּת רְשָׁעִים הוּא. אֲבָל הַנּוֹדֵר לַה’ דֶּרֶךְ קְדֻשָּׁה הֲרֵי זֶה נָאֶה וּמְשֻׁבָּח וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר (במדבר ו ז) “נֵזֶר אֱלֹהָיו עַל רֹאשׁוֹ” (במדבר ו ח) “קָדשׁ הוּא לַה'”. וּשְׁקָלוֹ הַכָּתוּב כְּנָבִיא (שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר) (עמוס ב יא) “וָאָקִים מִבְּנֵיכֶם לִנְבִיאִים וּמִבַּחוּרֵיכֶם לִנְזִרִים”:|
|When a person says: “I will be a nazirite if I do this and this” or “…if I do not do [this or this],” he is a wicked man and a nazirite vow of this type is one of the nazirite vows taken by the wicked. If, however, a person takes a nazirite vow to God in a holy manner, this is delightful and praiseworthy and concerning this, [Numbers 6:7-8] states: “The diadem of his God is upon his head… He is holy unto God.” And Scripture equates him with a prophet, as [Amos 2:11] states: “And from your sons, I will raise [some] as prophets, and from your youths, [some] as nazirites.”|
Rashi – Not Rashi (again…)
The standard commentary attributed to Rashi was not written by Rashi. As Rabbi Akiva Eiger notes in the Gilyon HaShas on 2a:
|בספר שם הגדולים להגאון מוה’ חיים יוסף דוד אזולאי באות ש’ כתב בשם הרב יד מלאכי דפי’ נזיר אינו מרש”י|
|In the book Shem HaGedolim written by the sage, our master Chaim Yosef David Azulai, under the letter shin, he writes citing the Rabbi Yad Malachi [apparently the name of his book] that the commentary on Nazir is not written by Rashi.|
Apparently, it was written by Rashi’s son-in-law (and student), Yehuda ben Natan, known as Rivan. Rivan also completed Rashi’s commentary on Makkot. The Rashi text on Makkot 19b reads:
|רבינו גופו טהור ויצאה נשמתו בטהרה לא פירש יותר מכאן ואילך לשון תלמידו ר’ יהודה בר’ נתן.|
|Our Master, his body was tahor, and his soul exited in a state of tahara. He did not explain any further. From here and on is the words of his disciple Rabbi Yehuda bar Natan.|
Structure of the Masechta
|Chapter 1||2a-8b||כׇּל כִּינּוּיֵי נְזִירוּת||The language used to make a nazir vow
A permanent nazir
|Chapter 2||9a-16a||הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר||The role of intent
Uncertain nezirut status
Overlapping terms of nezirut
|Chapter 3||16a-20b||מִי שֶׁאָמַר||Tuma and nezirut|
|Chapter 4||20b-30b||מִי שֶׁאָמַר||Becoming a nazir by extending prohibitions on items already forbidden
Dissolution of the vow
A father obligating his child in nezirut
Heritability of the korbanot
|Chapter 5||30b-34a||בֵּית שַׁמַּאי||Statements that are nazir vows|
|Chapter 6||34a-47a||שְׁלֹשָׁה מִינִין||The prohibitions of nezirut
Comparison of the procedures when nezirut ends because of completion of the term vs. due to tuma
|Chapter 7||47a-57a||כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל||Tumat met as it applies to a nazir|
|Chapter 8||57a-61a||שְׁנֵי נְזִירִים||An uncertain nazir|
|Chapter 9||61a-66b||הַגּוֹיִם אֵין לָהֶם||Who can become a nazir|
 In the interest of brevity, I will refer to a male nazir throughout; however, women also undertook this vow. One of the most famous nezirot was Queen Helena of Adiabene, known in the Talmud as Hilni haMalka. Interesting background: https://www.thetorah.com/article/queen-helena-of-adiabene-and-her-sons-in-midrash-and-history
 Ritually impure through contact with a corpse or specific cases associated with that type of impurity.
 Other nedarim without a specified term are assumed to be permanent.
 There is a debate whether a person can voluntarily undertake this type of nezirut (4b).
 We will learn on dapim 49a and 54a that this is not an absolute statement – while the nazir is prohibited from becoming tamei met, there are certain types of tumat met which do not cause forfeiture of the nezirut and do not require the korbanot. However, should the nazir intentionally incur one of those types of tumat met, he is subject to malkot (lashes) from the Bet Din.
 Or if it is unclear if he has become tamei met