Friday, May 02, 2008

The Nazir's Barber and Hair that will be Cut Off

The Torah states, “A razor should not pass over his head.” This can be read as not allowing a razor to be passed over his head by anyone, whether it is him or someone else.

The Rishonim learn that the one who gives the nazir a haircut has violated this prohibition.

The Haflaah asks: How do we know from this verse that the one who gives the haircut has violated this prohibition? Perhaps it is the nazir who is transgressing by allowing the other fellow to give him a haircut, but the “barber” has not violated anything!

Hair that will be cut off is still not a Chatzitzah

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 44b) cites a braisa: If he cuts his hair on the eighth day, he brings his korbanos on the ninth day.

Rava explains that the braisa is talking about a case where he did not go the mikvah on the seventh day.

It is evident from this Gemora that the immersion of a nazir is valid, even though it occurred prior to his haircut! One might argue that his hair should be regarded as a chatzitzah (interposition), since it will shortly be cut off.

The Chasam Sofer (Y”D 195) derives from here the following halacha: Although a bride will be shaving her hair immediately after she marries (for her head will be covered), nevertheless her hair is not regarded as a chatzitzah when she immerses in the mikvah before her marriage.

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Buried on the Land where he Died

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 43b) states that if a person dies and has no one to bury him, he is considered a meis mitzvah. The halacha is that he is buried on the land where he died, even if the land is privately owned. This is one of the ten conditions that Yehoshua made upon the division of Eretz Yisroel.

Why did Yehoshua make such a condition? Would it not be more appropriate to bury a person in a regular cemetery? The Chazon Ish writes that there was a concern that one who dies without relatives would be left to the devices of other people who would neglect the dead body on the road, thus leaving the corpse unprotected. Yehoshua therefore decreed that a person who dies and has no one to attend to his burial should be buried where the body was found.

The Taz and Shach write that nowadays in lands outside of Eretz Yisroel, we must bury an unattended corpse in the cemetery, because even if the person was buried at the site of his death, we are not certain that the site will be undisturbed.

Perhaps there is another aspect to burying an unattended corpse at the site of his death. It is said: v’chiper admaso amo, and He will appease His Land and His people, and this can be interpreted to mean that the land itself atones for the person. Burial is a sign of respect for the dead body, and although one normally buries a corpse in a cemetery, Eretz Yisroel is unique that anywhere in the Land is considered a respectful location. This would explain why Yehoshua was the one who set this condition, because the condition was unique for Eretz Yisroel.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Distinction between a Kohen and a Nazir

The halachic distinction between a nazir and a Kohen is noteworthy. A nazir is forbidden to become tamei to anyone, including his close relatives, whereas a Kohen is permitted. Why is that?

The following explanation is brought in the name of the Avnei Neizer: The sanctity of a Kohen emanates from his ancestors. It is fitting therefore that he should be allowed to contaminate himself by involving himself in the burial of his close relatives, for it was them (his father) that brought about his kedushah. The kedushah of a nazir, on the other hand, he imposed upon himself, and it does not create any type of bond between him and his relatives.

The Beis Yisroel suggests an alternative explanation. The sanctity of a Kohen emanates from heaven, and there is no concern that by becoming tamei to his relatives that he will tarnish that kedushah. However, a nazir, where his sanctity was self-imposed, the Torah was concerned that contaminating himself in any manner, even to his relatives, could blemish his kedushah.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Woman Shaving

The Torah writes [Vayikra 19:27]: Lo sakifu pe’as rosheichem. You shall not round the corners of your head. Here, it is written in a plural form “rosheichem.” Yet, by the destruction of one’s beard, it is written: V’lo sashchis pe’as z’kanecha. And you shall not destroy the corners of your beard. There, it is written in the singular form, “z’kanecha.” Why does the Torah change?

The Meshech Chochmah explains according to the following Rambam (Avodah Zarah 12:5): Although a woman is permitted to shave the corners of her head, she is prohibited from shaving the corners of a man’s head. However, with respect to the prohibition of destructing one’s beard, the Rambam (12:7) writes: A woman is permitted to destroy her own beard if she has beard hair, and if she destroys the beard of a man, she is exempt. It emerges that there is a clear distinction between the halacha of a woman rounding the corners of a man’s head and her shaving a man’s beard.

Accordingly, it can be understood why the Torah uses the plural form when discussing the prohibition of rounding one’s head, for a man and a woman are included in this prohibition. However, with respect to the prohibition of destroying one’s beard, the Torah uses the singular form, because only the man is liable, not the woman.

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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).

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Positive Commandment Overriding Two Prohibitions

Reb Moshe Rozmerin in Dvar Moshe states that the Rambam maintains that one who rounds the corners of his head has violated two prohibitions; one for cutting his payos (corners), and another for following in the statutes of the non-Jews.

Our Gemora states that the positive commandment for the metzora to remove all his hair overrides the prohibition of rounding the corners on one’s head. According to the Rambam, it is actually overriding two prohibitions. Tosfos in Yevamos (3b) discussed this issue and did not cite our Gemora as a proof. Other Rishonim maintain that a positive commandment cannot override two prohibitions.

A question is brought in the name of the Lubliner Gaon: The Gemora in Yevamos (20b) states regarding a widow falling to yibum to a Kohen Gadol that it is a situation where the positive commandment of yibum can possibly override the prohibition of a Kohen Gadol marrying a widow. He asks: There are two prohibitions for a Kohen Gadol to marry a widow; one is lo yikach (he shall not take her), and the other is lo yechallel (he shall not desecrate the kehuna). How can the positive commandment of yibum override two prohibitions?

Reb Chaim Ozer in Achiezer (Even Ezer, 4) answers: The Rishonim concede that when the two prohibitions are dependent on each other, the positive commandment can override both prohibitions. The basis for the prohibition of desecrating the kehuna is because it is an illicit relationship; once the mitzvah of yibum overrides the prohibition of lo yikach, it becomes a permitted relationship and there will be no prohibition of lo yechallel.

[It would seem to me that this is dependent on how we understand that a positive commandment cannot override two prohibitions. We can explain that each prohibition strengthens one another and the positive commandment cannot override any of them; or perhaps the positive commandment does override one of the prohibitions, but it does not have the capabilities to override the second one. Reb Chaim Ozer would be in accordance with the latter explanation.]

According to the Achiezer, we can answer the Dvar Moshe’s question. The positive commandment for the metzora to cut his hair overrides the prohibition against rounding the corners of one’s head, and consequently, there will be no prohibition of following in the statutes of the non-Jews.

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Shaving on Shabbos

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 40a) cites the verse regarding the Levi’im [Bamidbar 8:7]: And they shall pass a razor over their entire skin. The Chasam Sofer asks: According to the calculation, this occurred on Shabbos. How was it permitted for them to shave on Shabbos?

He answers: They shaved in a manner that was less than the amount required for one to be liable.

A similar question is asked regarding Yosef. How was he permitted to shave on the day that he emerged from prison? Chazal say that Yosef was summoned to Pharaoh on Rosh Hashanah! Chasam Sofer answered that it was permitted due to the honor of the king.

Accordingly, the Pardes Yosef said that this answer can be used to explain the Levi’im’s permission to shave as well. Since this shaving was part of the process of anointing and sanctifying the Levi’im, which prepared them to serve Hashem in the Mishkan, it would certainly be permitted, even on Shabbos.

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Stubble Left Behind

They inquired (Daf Yomi: Nazir 39a): Does the new growth of hair grow from the bottom or from the top (and the hairs closest to the head do not move at all)?

The Gemora explains a halachic difference between them. The case is as follows: Bandits shaved a nazir’s head and they left over enough hair to bend the top of the hair to its root. If hair grows from the bottom, they have removed his hairs of nezirus (and his days are forfeited). However, if hairs grow from the top, the hair which he sanctified still remains (and his days are not forfeited).

It is evident from this Gemora that if the bandits left less than enough to bend the top of the hair to its root, the nazir will forfeit all his previous days.

Tosfos HaRosh asks that this would seemingly be inconsistent with Rav Chisda’s ruling below (40a), who states that a nazir is only liable if he cuts his hair similar to that of a razor. This means that he cuts the hair down to the skin, leaving no stubble at all!

He answers that Rav Chisda is only referring to a case where the nazir shaved most of his head (but not all the hairs on his head). That is when the halacha is that the hairs must be completely cut in order to forfeit the previous days. However, if he (or the bandits) cuts all the hairs on his head, he will forfeit his previous days even if the hairs are not completely cut.

The Sfas Emes (and others) say that Rav Chisda disagrees with our Gemora.

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The Novelty of the Midianite Utensils

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 37b) had concluded regarding the emissions of utensils used by idolaters that have been used within twenty-four hours, it is impossible that the absorption is not deemed slightly bad, and although with respect to all prohibitions, such a taste would be permitted, nevertheless, the Torah states that one is prohibited from using such a pot unless it is first scalded.

The Ramban asks: If in regards to those utensils used by idolaters, the flavor is regarded like the substance, how is it possible to say that with respect to other prohibitions, the flavor is not forbidden like the substance? Are the emissions from the idolaters’ utensils a distinct class of prohibition, different from any other prohibitions? The Midianite utensils were forbidden out of the concern that there were non-kosher foods cooked inside of it!

He answers that the Torah elevated its prohibition with respect of utensils that a utensil that absorbed flavor from a forbidden food is forbidden. And although the flavor that will be emitted from this pot will be slightly spoiled, and is not equivalent to the substance, nevertheless the Torah decreed that the flavor is not nullified and is forbidden. This is similar to the halacha that one must immerse in water a utensil purchased from an idolater even though it has not been used. There, if one would use it without immersion, the food would not be forbidden; here, it would be.

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Drinking Bread

The Maharil writes that if one eats bread that wine fell into it, he should recite the blessing made over wine, i.e. borei peri hagafen. In the footnotes, the following verse is mentioned as support to this halachic novelty: Anything which is soaked in wine, he may not drink. Although he is eating something which was steeped in wine, the Torah refers to it as “drinking,” not “eating.”

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Blessing after Coffee

The Tosfos Yom Hakippurim (Yoma 79b) wonders as to the necessity of reciting a blessing after one drinks coffee. Perhaps it should not require a blessing at all since a person does not drink a revi’is at once; rather, he drinks a little at a time, and it emerges that he does not drink a revi’is within the amount of time it takes to eat a peras (half a loaf of bread). Or, perhaps one might counter and say that this principle should only apply to other liquids, where one has the ability to drink it at once, but he chooses not to. However, coffee, which one cannot drink at one time, and on the contrary, it is natural to take short sips with long intervals in between, perhaps the entire drinking will combine to the required amount for the blessing to be recited.

He resolves this question from our Gemora (Daf Yomi: Nazir 36b) which states that if one eats the Babylonian kutach (a dip that has a minimal amount of chametz in it) in a “dip-like” fashion, he will not be liable for eating chametz on Pesach. This is because he did not eat it a k’zayis within the amount of time it takes to eat a peras. Now, it is not normal to eat a dip at once, and nevertheless, one is not liable for eating the dip in its normal fashion. This would prove that one should not recite a blessing after drinking a cup of coffee.

The Minchas Chinuch rejects the proof: One would not be liable because of the kutach. It is because of the chametz that is mixed into it. Chametz by itself is normal to eat a k’zayis within the amount of time it takes to eat a peras. Therefore, he is not liable on the dip when he eats it in a normal manner. However, with respect to coffee, it is usual to drink the coffee slowly, and therefore, one would be obligated to recite a blessing afterwards.

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