Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Nazir 19: Ritual Impurity and Nazirut: How the Tally is Affected

Today's daf considers how ritual impurity might change the tally of nazirut days according to specific circumstances.  One of those is a woman who has vowed to be a nazirite and who has brought her three offerings to the Temple but has become impure.  What she should do would be a question on its own.  However the rabbis wonder how this situation might be complicated by her husband nullifying her vow after she has brought the offerings.  What would happen to the tally?  How would her offerings be affected?  The rabbis consider the husband's right to void his wife's vows along with her obligation to go through certain rituals both for nazirut and for becoming impure during nazirut.  It is clear that before her vow is nullified and before she contracts ritual impurity, she is a nazirite and she need not change what she has done.

The rabbis discuss which offerings should be brought to the Temple if one becomes ritually impure at different times.  Some offerings might force a nazirite to begin their nazirut in a state of ritual impurity.  The rabbis speak at some length about the notion that nazirites are sinners, whether or not they become ritually impure.  

I get the sense that the rabbis do not want to encourage people to take on vows of nazirut.  They warn against vows, in general, as we read in Masechet Nedarim.  Today's daf includes the idea that we are not to refrain from pleasure that is permitted by Torah.  Instead, as nazirites, we should only abstain from pleasurable things that create affliction due to their absence.  Judaism is not a religion of martyrdom.  We are supposed to follow halachot, and halachot place us firmly in 'real life' - with our families and communities.  To deprive ourselves needlessly (without Torah direction) is against Torah law.

The beginning of amud (b) was difficult for me to read.  It focuses on minute details: when a person becomes impure during a term of 100 days of nazirut.  The first days?  What might it mean that those first days are 'void'?  Does our tally count all of these days, some of these days, or none of these days?  This sort of argument is detail-oriented and requires great focus to fully understand.

Our daf ends with a new Mishna.  Beit Shammai say that a person who completes his/her term of nazirut and then ascends to Eretz Yisrael need not repeat the days of nazirut as long as thirty days were spent in Israel before bringing the offerings.  Beit Hillel say that the nazirut must be completely redone.  

An example is shared: Queen Helene, a convert to Judaism before the destruction of the second Temple, vowed to observe seven years of nazirut if her son returned safely from war.  She observed that term and then a second term based on the direction of Rabbi Hillel.  At the end of the second term she became ritually impure, and she had to begin that term again.  The rabbis argue about whether she in fact observed twenty-one years of nazirut or whether she only observed the first fourteen years.

No comments:

Post a Comment