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Nezirut - Chapter 1

Nezirut - Chapter 1

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Halacha 1

A nazirite vow is one of the types of vows involving prohibitions,1as [Numbers 6:2] states: "When one will take a nazirite vow...." It is a positive commandment for [a nazirite] to let the hair of his head grow,2 as [ibid.:5] states: "He shall let the mane of the hair of his head grow." If he cuts [his hair] in the midst of the days of his nazirite vow, he violates a negative commandment,3 as [ibid.] states: "A razor shall not pass over his head." Similarly, he is forbidden to contract ritual impurity from a corpse4 or eat those products of a grape vine which the Torah forbids him from eating5 throughout the entire span of his nazirite vow.6

Halacha 2

When [a nazirite] transgressed and cut his hair, became impure [due to contact with a corpse], or partook of wine grapes, he receives two sets of lashes:7one because of the prohibition "He shall not desecrate his word,"8 and one because of the prohibition that he transgressed from the unique prohibitions that apply to a nazirite.9

Halacha 3

When a person takes a nazirite vow and fulfills his vow according to the mitzvah, he has performed three positive commandments: a) "He shall act in accordance with all that he uttered with his mouth,"10 and he has acted [accordingly], b) "He shall let the mane of the hair of his head grow," and he has let it grow, and c) shaving and bringing his sacrifices,11 as [ibid.:18] states: "And the nazirite shall shave at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting."

Halacha 4

When a person says: "I will not depart from the world until I become a nazirite," he becomes a nazirite immediately, lest he die at that time. If he delays [implementing] his nazirite vow, he transgresses the prohibition:12 "Do not delay in paying it." Lashes are not given for the violation of this prohibition.13

Halacha 5

With regard to a nazirite vow, we do not say: [The vow does not take effect] until he makes a statement that every person would be able to understand [that] in his heart [he desired to take a nazirite vow]. Instead, since he made a decision in his heart to take a nazirite vow and verbally expressed concepts that suggest this intent, he is a nazirite although these concepts are distant and [their simple meaning] does not communicate the concept of a nazirite vow.14

Halacha 6

What is implied? A nazirite was passing in front of a person and he said: "I will be," he is a nazirite. Since in his heart, he intended to say that he will be like that person, [it is considered as if he made such a statement] even though he did not explicitly say: "I will be like him." Similarly, if he took hold of his hair15 and said: "I will become attractive," "I will grow my hair," "I will cultivate my hair,"16 "I will let my hair grow long," he is a nazirite, provided he made such a decision in his heart.

Halacha 7

If he says: "I am obligated to bring doves [as offerings],17 he is not a nazirite even if a nazirite is passing in front of him and even if he had the intent of becoming a nazirite. It is as if he did not say anything.18

Halacha 8

All nicknames for a nazirite vow are considered like a nazirite vow.

What is implied? In places where people mispronounce the words they use, if one says: "I am a nazik, a naziach, a paziach,19 he is a nazirite."

Halacha 9

If a person says: "I am a nazirite only with regard to grape seeds" or "...with regard to grape peels," "I am a nazirite with regard to shaving," or "I am a nazirite only with regard to impurity," he is a nazir in the complete sense and he must keep all the particular laws incumbent on nazirites even though his inten was to forbid himself only with regard to the particular he mentioned. Since the matter concerning which he took the nazirite vow is forbidden to nazirites, he is a nazirite in the full sense of the term.20

Halacha 10

If, however, one says: "I am a nazirite from dried figs," "...from cakes of dried figs," or the like, he is forbidden [to partake of] the article specified, but he is not a nazirite.21

Halacha 11

When a cup of wine was mixed22 for a person and given to he to drink and he said: "I am a nazirite from it," he is a nazirite in the complete sense.23 If he was a morose person, angry, or in mourning and the others were trying to have him drink to release his burden and he said: "I am a nazirite from this [cup]," he is forbidden to drink only that cup, but he is not a nazirite. [The rationale is that] his intent was only that he would not drink that cup.

Halacha 12

Similarly, if a drunken man was given a cup to make him totally inebriated and he said: "I am a nazirite from it," he is forbidden to drink only that cup, but he is not a nazirite. [The rationale is that his intent was] only that they should not have him become overly drunk. If he was as drunk as Lot24 his statements are of no consequence and he is not liable for any transgression that he performs. For when he reaches a state of inebriation equivalent to Lot's, he is not liable at all.25

Halacha 13

When a person says: "I am a nazirite on the condition that I can drink wine," "...become impure because of contact with the dead," or "...cut my hair,"26 he is a nazirite and is forbidden to perform all of the above. [The rationale is that] he made a stipulation against what is written in the Torah and whenever one makes a stipulation against what is written in the Torah, the stipulation is nullified.27

Halacha 14

When a person takes a nazirite vow and [afterwards] says: "I did not know that a nazirite was forbidden to partake of wine..., "...to become impure," or "...to cut hair. Had I known this, I would not have take the vow," he is a nazirite and is obligated in all these prohibitions. [The rationale is that] he knows that he is obligated in at least one of these [prohibitions] and as we explained,28 even if one took a [nazirite] vow, forbidding only one of these acts, he is forbidden in all of them.29

Halacha 15

If the person says: "I know that a nazirite is forbidden in all of the above, but I thought that it would be permitted for me to drink wine, because I cannot live without wine," or "[I thought that I would be permitted to become impure,] because I bury the dead," he is not a nazirite,30 because his vow is included in the category of vows made in error31 which need not be absolved by a sage, as we explained.32

Halacha 16

When a person says: "My hand is a nazirite" or "My foot is a nazirite," his words are of no consequence. If, however, he says: "My head is a nazirite" or "My liver is a nazirite," he is a nazarite." This is the general principle: Whenever a person designates as a nazirite an organ upon whose removal33 from a living person would cause him to die, he is a nazirite.34

Halacha 17

When a person says: "I will be a nazirite when a ben is born to me," if a son is born to him, he is a nazirite. If, however, a daughter, a tumtum,35 or an androgynus36 is born to him, he is not a nazirite.37

If he says: "I will be a nazirite when offspring is born to me," even if a daughter, a tumtum, or an androgynus is born to him, he is a nazirite. If his wife miscarries, he is not a nazirite. If she becomes pregnant again and gives birth, he is a nazirite.38

FOOTNOTES
1.

Thus it is governed by the laws mentioned in the previous set of halachot. As mentioned in the beginning of Hilchot Nedarim, there are two types of vows: vows involving prohibitions and vows taking on an obligation to bring sacrifices. A nazirite vow also involves bringing sacrifices, as will be explained. Nevertheless, it is considered primarily a vow involving prohibitions (Radbaz).

2.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 92) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 374) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

3.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 209) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 373) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

4.

Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandments 207-208) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvot 375-376) include two prohibitions involving this matter among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. See Chapter 5 which describes this prohibition.

5.

This includes prohibitions against drinking wine and eating fresh grapes, raisins, grape seeds, and grape peels. Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 202-206) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvot 368-372) include five prohibitions against partaking of these grape products among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

6.

The Radbaz explains that the Rambam does not mention these prohibitions in the order that they are mentioned in the Torah, not in the order that they are mentioned in the Mishnah. The rationale is that the mitzvah of letting one's hair grow is mentioned first because it involves both a positive and a negative commandment.

7.

For with his deed, he has violated two of the Torah's prohibitions.

8.

Which applies with regard to the violation of all vows, as stated in Hilchot Nedarim 1:5.

9.

If he violates his nazirite vow in several ways, e.g., he eats grapes and becomes impure, he receives lashes according to the number of violations involved (Radbaz).

10.

I.e., the commandment to observe the vows one takes. See Hilchot Nedarim 1:4.

11.

Which is done at the fulfillment of one's nazirite vow. Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 93) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 377) include this commandment among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. See Chapter 8 which describes this procedure.

12.

Deuteronomy 23:22. As the Rambam states in Hilchot Arachin VaCharamim 1:1, this prohibition applies to any person who delays keeping the vows and pledges he makes. He does not, however, list this prohibition as one of the 613 mitzvot in these halachot, but instead, in Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot (in the introduction to those halachot and in Chapter 14, Halachah 13).

See also Hilchot Arachin 6:33 which uses this law as support for the principle that a pledge to perform a mitzvah is considered as a vow.

13.

For as stated in Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:2, lashes are not given for the violation of a prohibition that does not involve a deed. Note, however, Chapter 5, Halachah 21.

14.

This concept, which the Rambam illustrates in the following halachot, expresses the principle (see Nedarim 5b) that yadot nedarim, literally "handles of vows," are considered equivalent to vows themselves.

15.

According to the Rambam, when he makes such statements while holding his hair, it is not necessary that a nazirite pass in front of him for his statement to be binding.

16.

The Hebrew uses two expressions to communicate this and the previous concept. Our translations for these terms are taken from Rav Kappach's translation of the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Nazir 1:1).

17.

The offering a nazirite would bring if he became impure (see Numbers 6:10).

18.

I.e., with regard to a nazirite vow. Since it is possible that his statement meant that he intended to offer the doves as a sacrifice, it is not considered as implying a nazirite vow. From the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), it appears that the person is liable to bring these doves as a voluntary offering. It is questionable if here the Rambam is negating that implication.

19.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes that gentiles who lived among the Jewish people would mispronounce the word nazir in this manner. As such, there would be some Jews who would make similar mistakes. See parallel concepts in Hilchot Sh'vuot 2:5, Hilchot Nedarim 1:16.

20.

I.e., since he used the term "nazirite" and the object which he mentioned is forbidden to nazirites, the nazirite restrictions all take effect. Note the contrast to the following halachah.

21.

Because the term nazirite does not apply with regard to those objects.

22.

I.e., in the Talmudic era, the wine was very strong. Hence it was customary to mix water into wine before serving it.

23.

I.e., the situation is comparable to those described in Halachah 9.

24.

Who became so drunk that he lost all consciousness of his actions. See Genesis, ch. 19.

25.

I.e., he is considered like a mentally and emotionally incapable person (a shoteh). See Hilchot Ishut 4:18, Hilchot Mechirah 29:18.

26.

I.e., he seeks to avoid keeping one or more of the obligations of the nazirite vow although he will keep the others.

27.

This is a general principle applying in many aspects of Torah law, e.g., Hilchot Ishut 16:9.

28.

In the previous halachah.

29.

The Ra'avad states that if a person would approach a sage and ask him to absolve his nazirite vow on these grounds, the sage would certainly consent. We are speaking about an instance when the person seeks to have the vow nullified without consulting a sage because it was taken in error. The Radbaz states that the Rambam would also accept this ruling. The Kessef Mishneh, however, does not accept this explanation.

30.

He need not observe any of the nazirite prohibitions, even the ones he had intended to observe.

31.

The Ra'avad considers this as a vow which a person is prevented from keeping by forces beyond his control, citing Nazir 11b which appears to support this interpretation. The Kessef Mishneh and the Radbaz state that while the actual wording of the Talmud fits the Ra'avad's interpretation, the Rambam's explanation can be justified. [Significantly, in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Nazir 2:4), the Rambam uses the wording suggested by the Ra'avad.]

32.

Hilchot Sh'vuot 3:6; Hilchot Nedarim 4:1.

33.

The Or Sameach notes that the Rambam changes slightly the wording of his source, Nazir 21b, based on his ruling in Hilchot Shechitah 8:16. There the Rambam writes that if an animal is born without a liver it may live, but if it was born with a liver and then the liver was removed, it is treifah.

34.

For it is considered as if he took the vow upon his entire person. Compare to Hilchot Arachin 2:1; Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 15:2; Hilchot Mechirah 27:8.

35.

A person whose genital area is covered by a piece of flesh and it is impossible to detect his gender.

36.

A person with both male and female sexual organs (Hilchot Ishut 2:24-25).

37.

Although the term ben can be translated as "offspring," its specific meaning is "son." Hence the Rambam rules in this manner.

38.

The fact that his wife miscarried in the interim does not negate the vow.

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