Nazir Shimshon

Nazir (1:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 years ago

This week we began Masechet Nazir. A nazir vow is where one is thereby prohibited from cutting their hair, becoming tameh from tumah that emanates from a corpse (tameh met), and consuming grape products. The assumed duration of the neder is thirty days unless one stipulated a longer time.

The second Mishnah discusses another type of a NazirNazir Shimshon. Shimshon was one of the Shoftim and known for being a nazir from birth. Shimshon however was not a regular nazir, as the Mishnah explains. Firstly, Shimshon was a nazir from birth and it continued for duration of his life. Furthermore, Shimshon could become tameh met.

The Mishnah teaches that if one says, I am like Shimon, the son of Manoach, the husband of Dalilah, like the one who uprooted the doors of Azah, or like the one whose eyes were gouged out by the Plishtim, then he becomes a Nazir Shimshon. The Gemara explains that the Mishnah is according to the opinion of R' Yehuda. R' Shimon however disagrees and argues, "if one said I am a Nazir Shimon, he has said nothing [and it has no effect] for we do not find that Shimon accepted upon himself to be nazir". The Tosfot notes that Shimshon was a nazir from birth. Recall that when making a neder in general, the neder needs to be associated with something that can be voluntarily adopted (davar ha'nadur). For example, making a neder than an object is forbidden like a korban would work, while making a neder that an object is forbidden like non-kosher food would not. Consequently, according to R' Shimon, in this case associating the nazir oath with Shimshon who was a nazir from birth would not work. It would appear then that R' Shimon disagrees with the concept of nazir Shimshon.

The Rashash (Nedarim 19b) however argues that the Tosfot's rationale is only true if one said, "I am like Shimshon". If however one said "I am a nazir like Shimshon" then even R' Shimon would agree that he would be a nazir Shimshon. This is because terming it this manner is not making himself like Shimshon, but rather accepting a nazir oath of the Shimshon type – a unique type of nazir that can become tameh met.

We find these two ways of understanding R' Shimon in the Chazon Yechezkel. The Tosefta, when citing the R' Shimon's opinion writes that he argue if one states, "I am like Shimshon". The Gra, comments that the Tosefta should read "I am a nazir Shimshon". The Chazon Yechezkel explains that there is a significant difference between these two readings. He explains if the text of the Tosefta was only "I am like Shimshon", one might think that the R' Shimon only disagrees in that case, as the Rashash maintains above. If however, as the Gra reads it, R' Shimon argues if one said "I am a nazir Shimshon" then it would mean that R' Shimon discounts the entire category. Citing the Shita Mekubetzet, he explains that Shimshon became tameh met and R' Shimon maintains one cannot accept a nazir oath while only accepting some of the prohibitions. The case of Shimshon was different, he was not a truly a nazir. The Malach simply told Manoach through prophecy that his future son was chosen by Hashem and that the son should be kept away from wine and not cut his hair.1

According to the second understanding we have difficulty. The Gemara explains that R' Shimon's issue is that Shimshon did not take the oath. It appears the issues with taking an oath to be like Shimshon is that it is not a davar a nadur, like the Rashash maintains. The Chazon Ish (EH 137:3) answers that R' Shimon maintains that Shimshon was a unique case in history.2 Had he drank wine, he would not have violated one of the prohibitions of nazir, but rather gone against the instruction of a navi. Nevertheless, if someone could associate his neder with something prohibited and not only a davar ha'nadur, then R' Shimon would agree that one could make themselves assur like Shimshon was. Since however one cannot, R' Shimon maintains one can never make a neder to be a nazir Shimshon nor to be like Shimshon.


1 According to this second understanding, we can appreciate that the R' Yehuda and R' Shimon argue about whether there is a unique category of nazir called nazir Shimon with R' Yehuda maintaining it is a halacha le'moshe mi'sinai. However according to the Rashash's understanding, how can R' Yehuda disagree. The fact that a neder only works when associated with a davar ha'nadur is accepted by everyone. See the Tosfot Yom Tov that raises this question on the opinion of the Rambam and cites two answers found in the Kesef Mishnah - the Ri ben Lev and the Kesef Mishnah's own. The Chazon Ish however lists this as one of the difficulties with this understanding.

2 The Chazon Ish also maintains this understanding of R' Shimon's position and raises a number of difficulties on the position of the Rashash. See inside for more details.

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