Nezirut – Fit for a Queen

Nazir (3:6) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 14 years ago

Someone who accepted upon himself a nezirut of a long duration (in chutz la'aretz), and completed his term of nezirut, and afterwards came to the Land of Israel - Beit Shammai say: He is a nazir for thirty days. Beit Hillel say: He is a nazir from the beginning of his term.

It happened that Queen Helena’s son went to war and she declared, “If my son returns in peace from the war, then I will be a nazir for seven years.” Her son returned from war, and she was a nezirah for seven years.

At the end of the seven years she went up to the Land of Israel and Beit Hillel ruled for her that she must be a nezirah for another seven years. At the end of those seven years she became temei'ah and so it resulted she was a nezirah for twenty-one years. R' Yehuda said: She was a nezirah for only fourteen years.

(Nazir 3:6)

Tosfot state that the case in the Mishnah is lav davka (happenstance). Tosfot hold that the case Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai argue about is a case that could occur if a nazir was to go up to Eretz Yisrael toward the end of his nezirut.

The Bartenura however, disagrees with this view and states that this Mishnah is talking about a case which is davka. He states that there cannot exist a nazir in chutz la'aretz due to the presence of tumat Eretz Ha'amim (the assumed impurity of chutz la’aretz). Therefore, according to the Bartenura, if a person vowed to become a nazir outside of Eretz Yisrael he is obligated to move to Eretz Yisrael in order to fulfill his vow. Interestingly the Tosfot Yom Tov adds, that a person who takes on nezirut is obligated to move to Eretz Yisrael immediately upon taking his vow.

The Rambam (Hilchot Nezirut 2:21) rules like the Bartenura and Tosfot Yom Tov. He states explicitly that the concept of nezirut does not exist in chutz la'aretz, and one who takes on a vow of nezirut is obligated to move to Eretz Yisrael, and be a nazir there for the amount of time stipulated in his vow.

The Kesef Mishnah finds this ruling from the Rambam problematic. The second half of the Mishnah indicates that Queen Helena took a vow of nezirut and yet she was not obligated to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael immediately! The Mishnah explicitly states that she waited seven years before moving. It seems that those who hold a nazir must move to Eretz Yisrael are ignoring the ma’aseh (case) of Queen Helena!

The Kesef Mishnah provides three possible answers to his own question. Firstly, it is possible that the reason that Queen Helena moved to Eretz Yisrael is precisely because the Rabbanim held that it was an obligation on every nazir to undertake their nezirut in Eretz Yisrael. This answer is seemingly still difficult as the Rambam rules that one must move immediately to Eretz Yisrael upon accepting a vow of nezirut upon themselves.

Secondly, Queen Helena ruled a country called Adiabene, and she converted to Judaism with her son, Munbaz (Bava Basra 11a). Since she was the Queen of this country, it is very possible that the Rabbanim of the time did not know that she had taken on a vow of nezirut. Consequently, because they did not know, they could not force her to move to Eretz Yisrael immediately. It is only when she moved to Eretz Yisrael after seven years, that they became aware of her situation and ruled accordingly.

Thirdly, on a more practical level, the Kesef Mishnah suggests that Queen Helena was obligated to move to Eretz Yisrael immediately, however, for the first seven years of her nezirut she was bound by her obligation to rule the country. It is only after seven years, once her rule was over, that she was able to move to Eretz Yisrael.

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