Thursday, 10 September 2015

Nazir 20: Principles of Air, Earth, Consent to Vow

A number of distinct concepts are examined in today's daf.  For a beginner like me, it is more interesting to understand the concepts than to understand the halacha that is established because of their application.

First, the rabbis discuss whether or not a nazirite who enters Israel at the end of his/her term is required to redo at least some of their nazirut.  We lean that early Sages believed that all nations outside of Israel imparted ritual impurity through contact with the earth.  Later, the rabbis considered even the air of the nations to carry ritual impurity.  Thus a nazirite who enters Israel at the end of his/her nazirut must repeat at least thirty days longer, regardless of the length of his/her nazirut.

Second, a new Mishna tells us about a person forgetting the length of his/her nazirut, and two pairs of witnesses have different memories of his/her vow.  Beit Shammai say that the vow is void as we cannot determine its length.  Beit Hillel say that the vow is determined to be the lesser of the two lengths of time.  The rabbis debate this and agree with Beit Hillel.  Their argument includes stating the value of counting aloud.  

Amud (b) is the beginning of Perek IV.  A Mishna tells us of one person vowing nazirut, followed by others who respond with, "and I".  These are valid vows, as are vows of nazirut where a person says, "my mouth is like his mouth", or "my hair is like his hair".   If a wife hears her husband's vow of nazirut and responds, "And I", he is permitted to nullify her vow that day. However, if a husband hears his wife vow to be a nazirite and he responds, "and I", both are nazirites.  Further, he cannot nullify her vow because he has agreed to the vow.  He cannot nullify his own vow because that is forbidden.  

This husband can also declare his nazirut and say, "And you" to his wife.  As long as she agrees to this vow with "amen", it is valid.  He is permitted to nullify her vow, however, if he changes his mind that day - and his own vow will remain intact.   If she says, "I am hereby a nazirite, and you", and he says "amen", he cannot nullify her vow.

The Gemara begins with a discussion between Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yehuda regarding the amount of time that is permitted between one person's vow and another saying, "And I".  Is it the amount of time required to say Shalom alecha?  Or, if greeting one's teacher, "Shalom alecha, Rabbi"?  Is that enough of a greeting to one's rabbi?  

Again, the larger principals hold my attention much more than the discussion of nazirut.  Could that be intentional?  Perhaps the rabbis used these discussions to continue to teach the principles that will apply to many situations not mentioned in the Talmud. 

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