Friday, March 28, 2008

Ruling Leniently by a Nazir; Even Nowadays

The braisa states (Nazir 8a): If someone said that he will be a nazir on condition that in this silo there are one hundred kur (type of measurement), and it was found out that some of the grain was stolen or lost and there is therefore no way of knowing for sure how much grain was there, Rabbi Shimon says he must be a nazir as a doubt of nezirus is resolved stringently.

Rabbi Yehudah said: He does not have to be a nazir, as a doubt of nezirus is resolved leniently.

The Mefaresh explains that we do not rule that he should be a nazir based upon our uncertainty, since we do not want that he should offer unconsecrated sacrifices (if he is actually not a nazir) into the Beis Hamikdosh upon conclusion of his nezirus.

It should emerge, according to this logic, that nowadays, when there are no korbanos, and the aforementioned concern is not applicable, Rabbi Yehudah should agree that we should rule stringently that he is a nazir.

However, the Maharam Mipadava (71) writes that we find many places that the ruling does not change because perhaps the Beis Hamikdosh will be built the following day. So too, here, we say that the Beis Hamikdosh might be built the following day, and he will be bringing unconsecrated offerings into the Beis Hamikdosh. Therefore, the ruling remains that he is not regarded as a nazir.

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A Short Term of Nezirus

The Mishna states (Nazir 7a) : If one says, “I am hereby a nazir for one large period,” or “I am hereby a nazir for one small period,” or “from here until the end of the world,” he is a nazir for thirty days.

The Meiri explains that when he said “one small period,” he meant to accept a nezirus less than thirty days; and when he said “one large period,” he meant to accept a nezirus longer than thirty days.

Tosfos explains differently: When he said “one small period,” he meant that the observance of the laws of nezirus is easy for him; it is not a bother for him at all. When he said, “one large period,” he meant that an abstinence of thirty days seems to him as a very long time and is a burden upon him.

The Mishna Lemelech asks: Why did Tosfos not explain like the Meiri?

The Be’er Moshe answers: Tosfos wanted the two cases to be similar. Just like by the case of “the large period,” he meant that it is difficult for him, so too, in the case of “the small period,” he meant that it would be easy for him.

The Birchas Rosh writes that there is a practical halachic difference between the two explanations. If one would say, “I am hereby a nazir for one large period and for one small period.” According to Tosfos, he will be required to observe two periods of nezirus. However, according to the Meiri that “a small period” means a nezirus less than thirty days, it will be regarded as if he said, “I am a nazir and one day,” where the halacha is that he will be a nazir for thirty-one days.

Reb Moshe Mordechai Halevi Shulzinger writes that there can be another difference according to that which the Minchas Chinuch (368:4) states: If one accepts to become a nazir for one day, although he is obligated to observe a nezirus for thirty days, nevertheless, the prohibition against violating his word is only applicable for one day. According to the Meiri, when one said, “I am hereby a nazir for a small period,” he is only accepting for one day. Although the halacha is that he is a nazir for thirty days, the prohibition against violating his vow will only be applicable for one day. However, according to Tosfos, he is accepting an ordinary nezirus; he is just saying that it is easy for him. Accordingly, the prohibition against violating his word will apply for the entire nezirus.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thirty Day Extreme

The Mishna (Nazir 5a) states: An ordinary nezirus is for thirty days (if he doesn’t specify for how long he wishes to be a nazir, he is a nazir for thirty days; he also cannot specify for any time less than thirty days).

The Ram”a (Toras Ha’olah) explains the significance of the thirty days. The Gemora had stated: Whoever sees a sotah when she is being degraded should restrain himself from consuming wine. The nazir wishes to inspire himself that he should not be influenced by the sotah’s immoral behavior. For one to break a trait which is at one extreme, he should go to the opposite extreme. Eventually, after practicing this condition for some time, he will balance out to the correct measure. This is why the nazir abstains from drinking any wine.

We find that situations are established after thirty days. Halacha states that it takes thirty days for one to become accustomed to a change in davening. If one is uncertain if he inserted a certain prayer during Shemoneh Esrei, after thirty days of recital, we can assume that he said it. One is regarded as a resident of a city after he lives there for thirty days. So too, the Ram”a suggests, this can be applicable to a change in one’s character traits. Someone who wishes to be cured from his desires to act immorally should become a nazir for thirty days. Practicing this extreme for thirty days will enable him to reach the perfect balance in this area.

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Partial Day as a Minimizer

The Gemora (Nazir 5b) stated that Rav Masna maintains that the Tanna of the Mishna would hold that part of a day is like the entire day and therefore, a nazir may shave on the thirtieth day, even though his nezirus is not complete until the conclusion of the day.

Reb Yosef Engel asks that the Rema Mipano asserts that with respect to things involving sanctity, we do not say that part of a day is like the entire day. This is why it is not sufficient to observe Shabbos and Yom Tov for only part of the day, and on the contrary, we add on in the beginning and upon its conclusion. If so, how could our Gemora say that this principle applies by a nazir? Shouldn’t nezirus be included in halachos involving sanctity?

He answers that since a nazir is referred to as a sinner because of his abstaining from permissible things through a vow, we therefore apply the rule that a part of the day is regarded as the entire day, in order to minimize his sin (by decreasing the amount of time that he would have been required to observe for his nezirus).

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Maharal on the Yetzer Hora

By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

That man's yetzer harah exists only as a result of his arrogance is alluded to by the Rabbis in a number of places. In Nedarim (9b) Shimon HaTzaddik said: I have never partaken from a Nazir sacrifice, except for one time. Once, a person came from the south (at the conclusion of his nazir period) and I saw that he was very handsome, with his hair arranged in long curls. I said to him: My son, why did you see fit to destroy such beautiful hair? (A nazir must cut off all his hair at the end of the nazir period. By undertaking to become a nazir, he ensured that all his hair would have to be cut off.) He said to me: "I was a shepherd for my father in my home town, and I once went to draw water from the spring. As I looked at my reflection, my yetzer harah surged forth in an effort to distract me and undermine my existence. (The commentary attributed to Rashi explains that when he saw how handsome he was, his yetzer harah wanted to seduce him to improper behaviours.) I said: 'Evil one! How can you be arrogant in a world that is not yours, trying to incite one who is destined to become a worm (in the grave). I swear that I will shear you for the sake of Heaven.'" Immediately, I (Shimon HaTzadik) stood up and kissed him on his forehead and said to him "My son, there should be many more Jews like you who commit to a nazir period. It is those like you to whom the Torah refers in the verse 'A man who will make a nazir oath, for the sake of G-d (Bamidbar 6:2)'."

We see that when the man saw how handsome he was (leading to a feeling of arrogance) the yetzer harah was immediately aroused, with the intention of distracting him and leading him astray in order to undermine his existence. For this is the goal of the yetzer harah: To destroy a structure which has a stable existence. When the structure is already in a tenuous state, there is no need to undermine it further, and the yetzer harah leaves it alone. This young man recognized how vulnerable he was to the yetzer harah, and in order to remove (and undermine) the source of his arrogance (which he understood as being the breeding ground for the yetzer harah, and caused by a lack of sufficient clarity of his dependency on G-d) he vowed to cut off his hair for the sake of Heaven. (How much of our arrogance is caused by unwarranted attention given to our appearance? How much of that attention is caused by our need to cover up our own feelings of insecurity?) It was for this reason that Shimon HaTzadik praised him with the blessing that there should be more Jews who undertake neziruth for these pure motivations, and applied the phrase "an oath for the sake of Heaven" to this person.

Normally a person vows neziruth out of remorse for a sin that he committed. But as the neziruth drags on, he may come to regret the neziruth itself, as it becomes more difficult than he anticipated. This regret is even more likely when the person began the neziruth out of feelings of remorse for an earlier act, indicating that his decisions are frequently subject to vacillation. Just as he swung from a sinful act to an act of self-denial, it is possible that, as the difficulty of the neziruth weighs on him, he will once again change his mind.

But this young man wasn't motivated by any regret, making his neziruth purely for the sake of Heaven. (When the source of activity is reactive, it embodies the potential for regret, and is also built on personal motivations - in this case, the desire to protect himself from damage and to eliminate guilt. So the element of lshaim shamayim, for the sake of Heaven, is lacking. When one's behavior is proactive, as it was in the case of the young man in our story, the motivation is to reach beyond the level at which he finds himself, out of an altruistic desire to elevate himself to become closer to G-d. We have discussed in a number of the shiurim the difference between service of G-d out of love and out of fear. Service out of fear includes a dimension of personal motivation. You are afraid of what will happen to you if you don't do the right thing. Service out of love is purely altruistic, and is therefore on a much higher level. This also has relevance to chumroth, adapting halachic stringencies. The Mahral in Chapter 1 indicates that the proper motivation for these stringencies is an intense love of G-d, with the desire to reach higher spiritual levels in order to come closer to Him. Too often, however, people are motivated to increase stringencies out of fear and self-centered motivations.)

(The Maharal will now elaborate on how each element of the young man's story reflected the purity of his motivations, and the fact that he was not acting in a way in which future regret was likely.)

The reason it mentions that he "came from the south," which is a long distance (from Jerusalem, where the nazir sacrifice was brought) is to emphasize that the person knew when he made the vow that he would have to travel that long distance to bring the sacrifices. This diminished the likelihood that the great distance he would have to travel would subsequently cause him to regret that he took the vow. Only unanticipated difficulties, those which a person rarely experiences, such as abstaining from wine for a significant time, raise the possibility of later regret.

The reason that it mentions that he was "a shepherd for his father in his home town" is because the yetzer harah besets a person when he is idle instead of being involved in productive activity. If the young man's yetzer harah was aroused due to his own idleness, then he would have been responsible for having invited the yetzer harah to entice him. Activities which would then be necessary to neutralize that self-inflicted yetzer harah could not be termed "for the sake of Heaven," but would have been a protective measure taken for his own welfare, in response to his own negligence. Therefore, it was significant that he had been a shepherd (a productive activity), not wasting his time in an idle way and not making himself vulnerable to the yetzer harah. Furthermore, the work of being a shepherd was being done for his father, so he was involved in a mitzvah (honoring his father) further insulating him from the yetzer harah. In addition, the task was being done in his home town, where he felt subject to the influence and authority of his father (which enhances humility, further insulating him from the yetzer harah) . Had he been far away from his home, he may have felt the desire and the ability to resist the authority his father, creating a sense of independence and arrogance, inviting the control of the yetzer harah. A neziruth made to in response to a feeling of independence and arrogance would not be judged purely "for the sake of Heaven." (When a person travels away from home, there is a common tendency to lower our inhibitions compared to the way we would behave at home. This is true for young men and women going away to university or camp, and for adults away on vacation or a business trip. This is an important and very relevant insight that we have from the Maharal's explanation.

But the young man did nothing to induce the yetzer harah. Rather it came upon in an unexpected way, as he unexpectedly saw his reflection in the pond and realized how handsome he was, inducing an urge to show off this beauty. This attack by the yetzer harah was no fault of his, and the response to become a nazir, resulting in his cutting off his hair, was purely "for the sake of Heaven."

(In order to fully to understand the connections being made by the Maharal, we again need to focus on the difference between serving G-d out of love and out of fear, which we discussed in the first chapter, especially in Mishna 3. Most dependable people will intervene to rectify a situation for which they feel responsible, with an element of ego being one of the motivating forces. So in the case where the individual was responsible for creating his vulnerability to the yetzer harah, the response to neutralize that yetzer harah can be viewed as having a self-centered component. But when someone observes a situation for which he has no responsibility, he will only take action to rectify a problem if he feels a connection to the outcome on a transcendent level. You look to help a loved one without examining how the situation developed, because of your love and commitment to that person. It is an altruistic and giving perspective. When someone finds himself in a situation where he has a legitimate excuse for inaction, the motivation for taking action is on a higher plane than action taken when one will be blamed for a negative outcome. So, when our young man found himself beset by the yetzer harah through no fault of his own, it would have been very easy to succumb to that yetzer harah. His proactive response, not looking for excuses but looking to do what needed to be done to fulfill the will of G-d, is the result of "service out of love," and is why Shimon HaTzakik referred to this as a nezirut that was purely "for the sake of Heaven," motivated by something that transcends the individual.)

From every element of this story, we see that the source of the yetzer harah is arrogance, with the goal of distracting man from the purpose of his existence in the world, leading to his ultimate destruction.

The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's and Midreshet Rachel for Women.

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By Rabbi Yosef Levinson

The Torah details the laws which apply to one who makes a vow to be a nazir. He must refrain from drinking wine and eating fresh grapes and raisins, grapeseeds and skins. He may not shave his hair; rather he must let it grow long. A nazir may also not defile himself by coming in contact with a corpse. And when the term of his vow has ended, and the nazir wishes to revert to his former life, he must first shave off all his hair and then bring korbanos, offerings, to Hashem. In total, there are ten mitzvos pertaining to the nazir (Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvos 368:377).

The mitzvos which are enumerated in the parsha of nazir were given by Hashem in order to provide a means of self-sanctification for one who wishes to do so. The Chinuch (mitzva 374) writes that by abstaining from wine, one breaks his desires and humbles himself. (While one's main focus should be on spiritual pursuits, nevertheless one should not ignore his physical needs. Abstaining from wine allows the nazir to break his desires in a manner that is not detrimental to his health, Sefer HaChinuch, ibid.)

The Chinuch adds that this is also why the nazir must let his hair grow long. By not concerning himself with his appearance, he humbles himself. Similarly, the nazir shaves his hair completely at the end of his nazirus because there is no doubt that either, extremely long hair or totally bald distorts the appearance of man.

The Chinuch proves that the purpose for growing the hair is to subdue the yetzar hara, evil inclination from the following anecdote recorded in the Gemara (Nedarim 9b). "Shimon Hatzaddik (who was the Kohen Gadol) related that once a certain nazir appeared before him. The man had beautiful eyes, was very good looking and his locks were arranged in curls. Shimon Hatzaddik asked him: 'Why do you make a vow of nazirus, which necessitates that you destroy your beautiful hair?' (For he will be required to shave his head at the end of his nazirus.) The man replied: 'I was a shepherd for my father. Once I went to draw water from the well and gazed at my reflection in the water. My yetzer hara seized me and wished to drive me from the world. I said - Rasha (wicked one), why are you conceited in a world that is not yours, with one who is destined to be consumed by maggots and worms? I swear that I will shave you for the sake of Heaven.' "

The Steipler Gaon, HaRav Y. Y. Kanievsky zt"l observes that although the shepherd did not mention the sin that the yetzer hara was enticing him to transgress, nevertheless from his response to himself, we see that he was concerned lest he become conceited. Indeed there is nothing that can drive one from both this world and the next, other than ga'ava, haughtiness. As it is written: "It is an abomination to Hashem, all who are haughty in their heart (Mishlei 16:5)." Chazal also say that regarding one who is conceited, Hashem says: "I and him cannot live in the world together" (Sota 5a). The Shechina departs from a ba'al ga'ava and he is left to his own defenses to combat his yetzer hara and survive in this world.

The Steipler continues that when one is praised for his accomplishments, he is overjoyed. At times, he might let this joy "go to his head" and he begins thinking that he is deserving of honor. One must be wary lest he fall into the trap of haughtiness. We see how this shepherd trembled when he saw his handsome features and realized that it might lead him to ga'ava. He therefore took an oath of nazirus.

HaRav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l points out that growing one's hair can have the opposite effect and can lead to ga'ava as is evident from Shimon Hatzaddik's story. It all depends on one's intent. One may become obsessed with his appearance and become conceited. Hashem despises such a person. On the other hand, if one lets his hair grow so that he appears disheveled, he will be humbled. Such an individual is Kadosh L'Hashem, holy to Hashem. Moreover, the hair itself becomes kadosh. This is meant literally - the law states that it is forbidden to derive pleasure from the hair of a nazir. Thus, the status of the nazir's hair is similar to the status of Kodashim (articles sanctified for the Beis Hamikdash).

This is the lesson of the nazir. We must realize the significance of humility. In addition, the nazir teaches us that we have the ability to elevate and sanctify ourselves. If by abstaining from wine and letting one's hair grow, a nazir is sanctified, all the more so, one who sincerely undertakes to improve himself and tackle his desires and bad character traits, is Kadosh and beloved to Hashem.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson and reprinted here with permission

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A Virtuous Nazir and Food for Thought

The Gemora (Nazir 4b) states: A nedavah for nezirus is regarded as virtuous in cases such that of Shimon the Righteous (a great Kohen Gadol who served in the beginning of the second Beis Hamikdosh). For we learned in a braisa: Shimon the Righteous said, “I never ate from the meat of an asham sacrifice offered by a nazir who had become tamei except for one case. There was once a handsome young man from the south with beautiful eyes and locks of hair arranged in curls (who had become tamei and came to the Beis Hamikdosh to have his hair removed and to offer the required sacrifice). I asked him why he had taken upon himself a vow to become a nazir, which would eventually lead to having such beautiful hair removed (even if he would have completed his term of nezirus without becoming tamei, a nazir shaves his head upon completion). He responded to me, ‘I was a shepherd for my father and one day I went to a spring to fill my pail of water and saw my reflection in the water. My evil inclination suddenly tempted me to take advantage of my looks and wished to drive me out from this world. I said to my evil inclination: Wicked one! Why are you being so haughty in a world that is not yours, with one that in the future will be worms and maggots? I swore at that time to become a nazir.’ I was so impressed (by his piety) that I kissed him on his head and said to him, May there be more vowers of nezirus like you in Israel.”

The question that is asked is why the young man with the locks of hair arranged in curls did not simply go to a barber for a haircut to remove this temptation.

Rabbi Mendel Weinbach answers that on the way to the barber he was likely to change his mind and give in to temptation. The only solution was to immediately take upon himself a vow of nezirus which would eventually force him to eliminate his hair and the problems that accompanied it.

Food for Thought

*** What was the necessity to state that the nazir came from the south? What difference did it make where he came from?

*** How was he permitted to look at his reflection in the water; isn’t it forbidden for a man to look at a mirror?

*** Why connection is there between the “haughtiness” of the evil inclination and the temptation to sin?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Nazir and Fasting on Shabbos

The Gemora asks: [Why does the Mishna assume that beautiful means “nazir?”] Perhaps it means that he will perform mitzvos in a beautiful fashion. The braisa states: “This is my G-d and I will beautify him” means that I will beautify my mitzvos. I will make a nice Sukkah, Lulav, Tzitzis, and Sefer Torah with nice silks. Shmuel says: The case is where he holds onto his hair and says that he will be beautiful.

The Gemora asks: If accepting nezirus is regarded as sinful (abstaining from permissible things), how can we call it “beautiful”?

The Gemora answers: Yes! For even according to Rabbi Elozar HaKappar, who says that a nazir is a sinner, that is only referring to a nazir who became tamei, for he is required to start his nezirus over again, as it is written [Bamidbar 6:12]: the previous days shall be canceled because his nezirus has become tamei. Since he is now obligated to observe a longer nezirus than he originally anticipated, he might come to violate his nezirus, but a nazir tahor is not referred to as a sinner.

Tosfos asks: There are several Gemora’s elsewhere, where it is evident that Rabbi Elozar HaKappar holds that even a nazir is referred to as a sinner since he pained himself by abstaining from wine.

Tosfos answers that while it is true that a nazir tahor can be referred to as a sinner, but nevertheless, the mitzvah of becoming a nazir is greater that the sin of abstaining from wine, and therefore, he can be called “beautiful.” A correlation to this (something that is both a mitzvah and an aveirah) could be the halacha of fasting on Shabbos for one who experienced a bad dream. There is a mitzvah to fast on Shabbos in order to nullify the bad dream (this Tosfos would seemingly be inconsistent with the Shalah, who maintains that one should not fast on Shabbos unless the fasting is a pleasure to him, since otherwise, he would be more distressed) even though there is a semblance of a sin by fasting on Shabbos and negating the obligation of having pleasure on Shabbos.

The Gevuros Ari challenges Tosfos’ comparison: He asserts that fasting on Shabbos is not a mitzvah, for it is negating the obligation of having pleasure on Shabbos, but rather, one is permitted to fast on Shabbos if the dream is causing him distress. And furthermore, one who fasts on Shabbos is obligated to fast another day during the week in order to atone for the sin of fasting on Shabbos. However, in regards to a nazir, who has no reason to accept the nezirus, it is either a mitzvah or a sin. If the transgression is greater that the mitzvah, it should be regarded as a sin, and if the mitzvah is greater, it should not be regarded as a sin at all!

The Tosfos Nazir explains Tosfos to mean as follows: There are times when there is somewhat of a necessity for a person to accept upon himself the vow of nezirus. If a person is in a difficult situation, or he wishes to atone for a transgression that he committed, or if he saw an adultress in her debasement, there is a mitzvah to become a nazir. In these cases, although there is an element of sin, the mitzvah is greater than the aveirah, and he will not be referred to as a sinner.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Distancing Oneself from a Sotah

The braisa (Nazir 2a) states that whoever sees a sotah when she is being degraded should restrain himself from consuming wine.

The Alter from Kelm said that it is evident from the Gemora that even the extremely righteous people, upon seeing the adulteress in her disgrace, can be effected by this. Even though it is highly improbable that they will succumb to sin, perhaps a semblance of desire will penetrate their thick armor, and they, therefore, should abstain from wine as well.

One may ask: If the sotah is seen in her disgrace, wouldn’t this be a motivation for people not to sin?

It would seem evident from our Gemora that just being in the vicinity of immorality, even while the adulteress is being humiliated and punished, can induce a person to sin.

Reb Chaim Kanievsky adds: The verse: ki yafli lindor neder nazir l’hazir is the same gimatriya as “kol haroeh sotah b’kilkulah, yazir atzmo min hayayin.”

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