Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Holiness of a Nazir

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 41b) asks: How then (since “his head” is used to teach us that a metzora must shave his head with a razor) does Rabbi Eliezer derive that a positive commandment overrides a prohibition?

The Gemora answers: He derives it from tzitzis. For we learned in a braisa: It is written [Devarim 22:11]: You shall not wear shatnez (wool and linen together). But the next verse states: You shall make for yourself twisted cords from them. (If the garment is linen, we are obligated to place woolen strings of techeiles on them; we see from here that the positive mitzvah of tzitzis overrides the prohibition of shatnez.)

Tosfos explains why this exposition is necessary only according to Rabbi Eliezer, and not according to the Chachamim.

Tosfos makes mention of the fact that Rabbi Eliezer maintains that it is possible for a nazir to petition a sage to have his nezirus annulled.

The Acharonim challenge this from a Gemora in Eruchin (23a) where it is evident that Rabbi Eliezer holds that one cannot petition a sage to annul a neder of hekdesh. Accordingly, one should not have the ability to annul his nezirus, for according to Beis Shamai (9a), nezirus and hekdesh have the same halachos. This, Tosfos explains, is because it is written by nezirus: You shall be holy; grow the growth of your hair. Thus we see that the laws of hekdesh apply by nezirus. If so, why does Rabbi Eliezer make a distinction between nezirus and hekdesh with respect to the laws of annulment?

The Asvon D’oraysa suggests the following to explain this: Perhaps Rabbi Eliezer holds that a nazir tahor cannot petition a sage to have his nezirus annulled, for he is regarded as being holy (like hekdesh). However, a nazir tamei would have the ability to petition a sage to have his nezirus annulled; for he presently is not regarded as being holy (this is predicated upon the Rambam, who holds that the positive commandment of “kodosh yih’yeh” does not apply to a nazir tamei).