Friday, May 21, 2010

Nezirus Shimshon

In this week’s sedrah the Torah describes the halachos of nezirus. The Torah changes the title of the nazir as it relates the different halachos:

The Torah begins by describing the issur on wine. Here the Torah describes the nazir as a nazir la’hashem.
...אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַה'. מִיַּיִן וְשֵׁכָר יַזִּיר חֹמֶץ יַיִן וְחֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה ...
“A man or a woman who expresses a neder (promise) to become a nazir to Hashem. From wine and mead he should refrain, he should not drink wine vinegar or mead vinegar…”

Then the Torah adds the issurim of not eating any part of the grape and not having a haircut. Here the Torah does not call him a nazir la’hashem, it merely refers to him as a nazir:
כֹּל יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר יֵעָשֶׂה מִגֶּפֶן הַיַּיִן מֵחַרְצַנִּים וְעַד זָג לֹא יֹאכֵל. כָּל יְמֵי נֶדֶר נִזְרוֹ תַּעַר לֹא יַעֲבֹר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ
However when the Torah adds the issur of not becoming tame le’mes, the Torah calls him a nazir la’hashem again:
כָּל יְמֵי הַזִּירוֹ לַה' עַל נֶפֶשׁ מֵת לֹא יָבֹא.
“All the days he is a nazir to Hashem, he should not come close to a mes.”

Why does the description of the nazir change with the different halachos?

The Rambam (Hilchos nezirus, 2:16) brings a passuk to prove that a non-Jew cannot become a nazir:

העכו"ם אין להן נזירות שנאמר דבר אל בני ישראל.
A non-Jew cannot become a nazir as the passuk says “Speak to the benei yisroel”.

Why does the Rambam need to bring a passuk to prove that a non-Jew cannot become a nazir? A non-Jew only has the sheva mitzvos benei noach? The Rambam does not bring a passuk to prove that a non-Jew does not have every mitzva in the Torah?


In this week’s haftoroh the navi describes how Shimshon was born to be a nazir for life. The Rambam  says that it is possible for any person to accept on themselves nezirus Shimshon and if they do so they also become a nazir for life. The Rambam says (Hilchos Nezirus 3:14) that not only are they a permanent nazir, but even if they want to do hataras nedarim they cannot undo their nezirus:

ומי שנדר נזיר כשמשון אינו יכול להשאל על נדרו שנזירות שמשון לעולם היתה
“Someone who accepted the nezirus of Shimshon cannot do hataras nedarim because Shimshon was a nazir forever.”

When someone does hataras nedarim, it is as if they never made the neder. How is it possible for the Rambam to say that it is not possible to do hataras nedarim on nezirus Shimshon because this is forever? If they do hataras nedarim then it comes out that they never accepted the nezirus in the first place?

Why we need a possuk to exclude a non-Jew from nezirus
The navi says in Amos:
ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזרים
“And I made your children become neviim and your bachurim into nezirim.”

We know that once a navi has a nevuah – he is a navi for life, even if he never has a nevuah again. The gemara in Megilla (14b) counts Avigayil as a nevioh even although she only ever said 5 words of nevuah. Once a person has had nevuah they become more elevated than a normal human being. Nezirus is also really a permanent change in the person. A nazir is someone who is constantly more elevated than other people.

Nezirus existed before the Torah was given. This is why the Torah does not say what a nazir is, it simply refers to nezirus and explains the halachos. Similarly the Torah does not describe what kiddushin is, because kiddushin existed before matan torah.

However, unlike the Torah's nezirus – nezirus before Matan Torah was permanent. Because the Torah did not want people to become permanent nezirim (instead they should live ordinary lives within society), the Torah created time limited nezirus. When the Torah describes the halachos of nezirus, it is stating a kulah –that the nezirus that is defined by the halacha can be ended by bringing the korbanos of a nazir and taglachas (hair cutting).

The reason that the Rambam has to prove that a non-Jew cannot become a nazir is because non-Jews used to become nezirim. This is similar to the derasha that excludes a non-Jew from acting as a shliach (messanger) to take terumah. The reason that this is necessary is because being a shliach is a function, it is not a mitzva. Similarly, being a nazir was an act that was adopted by non-Jews, therefore a passuk is needed to exclude a non-Jew from these halachos.

Why can a nazir like Shimshon not be matir neder
The nezirus of the Torah is not ‘real’ nezirus, it is a way that the nazir must act for the duration of his nezirus. Subsequently all the other mitigating rules of the Torah, such as hataras nedarim, apply.

There is one case where a person can become a pre-Torah nazir. This is the halacha le'moshe misinai of nezirus shimshon. It is possible for a person to become a true nazir – where he becomes a different person and a nazir for life. In this case it is not possible for the nazir to be matir neder because he has actually changed permanently.

Even if the nazir would do hataras nedarim, so that it should be as if they never said anything, it does not make them not a nazir because they have changed from whom they were. It is as if someone someone had cut off their leg, they cannot then mend the damage by going to a chacham and saying that they regret cutting off their leg. This is irrelevant, becuase they cannot change the reality of their leg having been cut off.

That is why the Rambam says that it is not possible to be shoel on nezirus shimshon.

Why the Torah changes the expressions used to describe the nazir
A pre-Torah nazir is someone who abstains from drinking wine. The issur of being metame le'mes comes from the fact that not only is this person a nazir – but he is a "nazir la'Hashem". Through his nezirus he wants to come closer to Hashem. Just as someone who is tame le'mes cannot come enter the beis hamikdash so too a nazir who is tame le’mes cannot draw near to Hashem through his nezirus.

This is why when the Torah describes the issur for a nazir to become tame la'mes the Torah adds that he is a nazir le'hashem, it is becuase he has dedicated himself as a nazir in order to come closer to Hashem that this is ossur. Merely the fact that he is a nazir by itself would not make it ossur for him to become tame le'mes.

Shimshon, who was a nazir, but not a nazir la'hashem, was allowed to become tame le'mes. Because he was a nazir by birth he did not have the additional limitations of someone who wants to use his nezirus as a way of approaching Hashem.

1 comment:

MZ said...

Kaftor vaferach!

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