Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Benefits of a Nazir

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Nazir 34a) had stated: There are three different types of prohibitions relevant to a nazir. He is forbidden to become tamei through corpse tumah; he may not shave his head; he is prohibited from eating grapes or drinking wine and anything that comes from a vine.

Reb Tzadok in Pri Tzadik (Naso) explains that abstaining from these three things can be a remedy for the three things that can cause a person to be driven out of this world. Growing one’s hair can be a cure for the character traits of jealousy and anger. Refraining from eating or drinking any product that comes from a vine can be a remedy for desire. Withholding from becoming tamei can be an antidote for someone who chases after his own honor. This is because of the fact that one who pursues honor can be punished with death. This can be proven from the Torah, where after the snake convinced Adam and Chava to eat from the tree of knowledge, where they were told that would be like Hashem, the concept of death was brought into this world.

K’zayis and Revi’is

The Mishna had stated: And he will not be liable for lashes until he eats a k’zayis (size of an olive) from the grapes. According to the earlier Mishna, a nazir will not be liable until he drinks a revi’is (one-fourth of a log) of wine. Rabbi Akiva said: Even if he soaked his bread in wine and there is enough in it to equal a k’zayis, he will be liable. (Rabbi Akiva disagrees with the earlier Mishna, and holds that even regarding drinking wine, the amount for which a nazir incurs lashes is a k’zayis, which is the amount displaced from a full cup of wine when an olive is placed within it; therefore, edibles combine with liquid to equal a k’zayis. He also teaches us that a permissible item can combine to equal the amount needed to be liable.)

The Bartenura explains the first opinion of the Mishna to be like Rabbi Akiva that a nazir will be liable for eating a k’zayis of grapes or drinking a k’zayis of wine. The early Mishna maintains the exact opposite that he will only be liable if he eats a revi’is of grapes or drinks a revi’is of wine.

Rabbeinu Tam asks on this explanation: Why would the Tanna of the Mishna first state the later Mishna’s opinion, then teach the early Mishna’s ruling and then return to the later teaching? He asks other questions as well.

Tosfos therefore explains that when the Mishna taught that the required amount to be liable for grapes is a k’zayis, that is according to everyone. There is only an argument regarding drinking. According to the early Mishna, it is a revi’is, and according to Rabbi Akiva, it is a k’zayis.

The Rambam rules that a nazir is liable if he eats a k’zayis of grapes, and he would be liable if he drinks a revi’is of wine. It would emerge that he is ruling according to the earlier Mishna. This is extremely odd, for the ruling is usually according to the later teaching!

The Brisker Rav explains that the Mishna actually lists three opinions. The Tanna Kamma holds that grapes are a k’zayis and wine is a revi’is. The Rambam rules that this is indeed the halacha. The second opinion is the early Mishna which rules that he is not liable unless he eats or drinks the equivalent of a revi’is. Rabbi Akiva holds that everything is a k’zayis.