A Nazir like a full basket

Nazir (1:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 10 years ago

Much of the first chapter of Masechet Nazir addresses a varied array of declarations that include the term nazir. The Mishnah discusses whether a nazir vow has been accepted and the terms of that neder if it has. For example, the fourth Mishnahdeals with one who says, “I am a nazir like the hairs on my head”. The Tana Kama understands that since hairs are discrete, the person has accepted very large number of standard nazir terms. In other words after thirty days, he completes one nazir term with all that it involves, and then begins the next one. Rebbi however does not view the association with hairs as being discrete and one very long nezirut has been accepted. According to Rebbi he would be consider a nazir olam and as we have learnt (1:2) this nazir cuts his hair once a year (Bartenura). Rebbi understands such a declaration would only be interpreted as multiple nezirut if the person explicitly said, “I take on nezirut (pl.) like the hairs on my head”.

The next Mishnah (1:5) however discusses a case where the person declared that “I am a nazir, a houseful”, or “basketful”. The Mishnah explains that we question the person regarding his intent. If he was alluding to a “large” nazir oath then, as we have learnt (1:3) it obligates him with the standard thirty-days. If however the person says he had not specific intent other than how the Chachamim interpret it, then we view the basket as if they are filled with mustard seeds and he is a nazir for “all his days”. The Bartenura explains that he is a nazir olam and can shave once every twelve months.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains that in this case there is a doubt regarding the person’s intention: a large single basket or its full contents. Now even though we rule leniently in cases of doubt in nezirut (Taharot 4:12) that is only when there is a doubt whether the neder has taken affect, e.g. a doubt regarding whether the condition of the neder has been fulfilled. In this case he has certainly accepted becoming a nazir; the doubt is only regarding the duration.

He continues that this Mishnah is according to the opinion of Rebbi above that a neder associated with many discrete items (e.g. hair) is treated as one long nezirut. Consequently after one month it is doubtful whether he is allowed to shave and the nezirut according to side of doubt that it is only thirty days, cannot be completed. Recall however that the opinion of the Tana Kama is that for a neder associated with many discrete items, the person has accepted many thirty-day terms of nezirut. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that the Tana Kama would have ruled in this case that then the person could shave after thirty days. From that point onward it is a doubt whether he is a nazir and we would rule leniently.1

The Tosfot Yom Tovnotes that the Rambam rules like the Tana Kama that a nazir vow associated with discrete items is understood as many thirty-day nezirut. In this case however, the Rambam rules that the person would shave once a year. This appears to be the opinion of Rebbi!

The Mahariach cites the Mishneh Lemelech and explains as follows. The earlier debate was when a person said “I am a nazir like the hairs on my head”. The Tana Kama understands that the comparison (using the term “like”) to discrete objects is as if the person stated a number. In this case however, since there was no comparison the Tana Kama would agree with Rebbi that his is a nazir olam.2

1 The Tifferet Yisrael anticipate that one might ask, according to Rebbi why after first twelve-month shave can we not consider the side of doubt that it is thirty days as ending and from that point onward there is a doubt he is a nazir at all? See inside for his resolution.

2 According to the Tana Kama, the necessity, in Mishnah 7, for the person to say “like the number of days of the solar year” for multiple nezirut to be accepted is because, unlike hairs, days or not separate from one another.


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