Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nezirus from Birth

The Mishna (Daf Yomi: Nazir Daf 47) states: A Kohen Gadol and nazir cannot become tamei to their relatives, but they can become tamei to a meis mitzvah. If they were traveling together and they happened across a meis mitzvah, (who should become tamei)? Rabbi Eliezer says: The Kohen Gadol should become tamei and not the nazir. The Chachamim say: The nazir should become tamei instead of even an ordinary Kohen becoming tamei. Rabbi Eliezer told them: Let a Kohen become tamei as he does not have to bring a korban for becoming tamei, and do not let the nazir become tamei, as he will have to bring a korban! They answered him: Better that the nazir should become tamei, as his holiness is not forever, as opposed to a Kohen, whose holiness is forever!

The Tosfos Yom Tov asks in the name of his son: We learned above (28b) that a father can impose upon his son a nezirus vow, and he is even allowed to render him a permanent nazir, like we find by Shmuel. It emerges that a nazir can be a nazir forever! Why did the Mishna not differentiate between a nazir forever and an ordinary nazir? The halacha that the nazir should become tamei before the Kohen Gadol should only apply by an ordinary nazir!

The Tosfos Yom Tov answers: We are compelled to say that the nezirus does not take effect immediately upon birth, for as long as the son does not know how to be careful with respect to the halachos of nezirus, how can he be rendered a nazir? And even though, when he is first born and his mother is watching him in a crib, but as soon as he is capable of walking, his mother’s surveillance will not be sufficient, for she is preoccupied with her daily chores. Not everyone has the means to hire a full-time babysitter, who will ensure and guarantee that the child will not violate any of the laws of nezirus. We therefore must say that nezirus does not become effective upon the child until he reaches the age of chinuch, where he has the ability himself to make certain that he will not violate the halachos of nezirus. It emerges that there is no case where someone can be a nazir forever, and a Kohen is therefore regarded as one who has a higher level of sanctity.