Parshat Naso: Nezirut

An Ideal? Source for Nezirut Numbers 6:1-7(1) And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: (2) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When either man or woman shall clearly utter a vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to consecrate himself unto the LORD, (3) he shall abstain from wine and strong drink: he shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried. (4) All the days of his Naziriteship shall he eat nothing that is made of the grape-vine, from the pressed grapes even to the grape stone. (5) All the days of his vow of Naziriteship there shall no razor come upon his head; until the days be fulfilled, in which he consecrate himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long. (6) All the days that he consecrate himself unto the LORD he shall not come near to a dead body. (7) He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because his consecration unto God is upon his head. Nezirut as an Ideal Numbers 6:8(8) All the days of his Naziriteship he is holy unto the LORD. The Nazir Portrayed in a Negative Light Numbers 6:13-14

(13) And this is the law of the Nazirite, when the days of his consecration are fulfilled: he shall abring it unto the door of the tent of meeting; (14) and he shall present his offering unto the LORD, one he-lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt-offering, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin-offering, and one ram without blemish for peace-offerings,

Ramban, Bamidbar 6:14: Nezirut as a Mitzvah

וטעם החטאת שיקריב הנזיר ביום מלאת ימי נזרו, לא נתפרש. ועל דרך הפשט כי האיש הזה חוטא נפשו במלאת הנזירות, כי הוא עתה נזור מקדושתו ועבודת השם, וראוי היה לו שיזיר לעולם ויעמוד כל ימיו נזיר וקדוש לאלהיו, כענין שאמר (עמוס ב יא) ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים, השוה אותו הכתוב לנביא, וכדכתיב (לעיל פסוק ח) כל ימי נזרו קדוש הוא לה’ והנה הוא צריך כפרה בשובו להטמא בתאוות העולם

Until now he was separated in sanctity and the service of G-d, and he should therefore have remained separated for ever, continuing all his life to be consecrated and sanctified to G-d, as it is said, I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and your young men for nazirites (Amos 2: 11). Thus Scripture compares the nazirite to a prophet . . . Accordingly, [when he completes the period of his vow and returns to ordinary life] he requires atonement, since he goes back to being defiled by the [material] desires of the world Nezirut as a Sin Taanit 11a:14-16

Samuel said: whoever indulges in [voluntary] fasting is called a sinner. This is in accordance with the view of Rabbi Eliezer Hakappar Berebi, who stated: What is the meaning of the phrase (Num. 6: 11), and make atonement for him, because he sinned against the soul (usually translated as “by coming into contact with the dead”). Against which soul did he sin? We must conclude that it refers to denying himself the enjoyment of wine. From this we may infer that if one who denies himself the enjoyment of wine is called a sinner, all the more so one who denies himself the enjoyment of other pleasures of life. It follows that one who keeps fasting is called a sinner.

Is There a Contradiction In the Rambam?

Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 3:1 – Do Not be Overly Righteous

שמא יאמר אדם הואיל והקנאה והתאוה והכבוד וכיוצא בהם דרך רעה הן ומוציאין את האדם מן העולם, אפרוש מהן ביותר ואתרחק לצד האחרון, עד שלא יאכל בשר ולא ישתה יין ולא ישא אשה ולא ישב בדירה נאה ולא ילבש מלבוש נאה אלא השק והצמר הקשה וכיוצא בהן כגון כהני העובדי כוכבים, גם זה דרך רעה היא ואסור לילך בה, המהלך בדרך זו נקרא חוטא, שהרי הוא אומר בנזיר וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש, אמרו חכמים ומה אם נזיר שלא פירש אלא מן היין צריך כפרה המונע עצמו מכל דבר ודבר על אחת כמה וכמה, לפיכך צוו חכמים שלא ימנע אדם עצמו אלא מדברים שמנעתו התורה בלבד, ולא יהא אוסר עצמו בנדרים ובשבועות על דברים המותרים, כך אמרו חכמים לא דייך מה שאסרה תורה אלא שאתה אוסר עליך דברים אחרים, ובכלל הזה אלו שמתענין תמיד אינן בדרך טובה, ואסרו חכמים שיהא אדם מסגף עצמו בתענית, ועל כל הדברים האלו וכיוצא בהן צוה שלמה ואמר אל תהי צדיק הרבה ואל תתחכם יותר למה תשומם

A person may say: “Desire, honour and the like are bad paths to follow and remove a person from the world, therefore I will completely separate myself from them and go to the other extreme.” As a result, he does not eat meat or drink wine or take a wife or live in a decent house or wear decent clothing . . . This too is bad, and it is forbidden to choose this way. Whoever does so is called a sinner. Indeed G-d says about the nazirite: “He [the priest] shall make atonement for him because he sinned against the soul.” The sages said: If the nazirite, who only abstained from wine, needs atonement, how much more does one who abstains from all [legitimate pleasures] need atonement.Therefore the sages commanded that a person only abstain from things forbidden by the Torah alone . . . Concerning these things and others like them, Solomon commanded, saying: “Do not be overly righteous or over-wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” (Eccles. 7: 16)

Rambam, Hilchot Nezirut, 10:14 – Nezriut as a Mitzvah

האומר הריני נזיר אם אעשה כך וכך או אם לא אעשה וכיוצא בזה הרי זה רשע ונזירות כזו מנזירות רשעים הוא, אבל הנודר לה’ דרך קדושה הרי זה נאה ומשובח ועל זה נאמר נזר אלהיו על ראשו קדש הוא לה’, ושקלו הכתוב כנביא (שנאמר) ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים

Whoever vows to G-d [to become a nazirite] by way of holiness, does well and is praiseworthy. Of such a person, Scriptures says, His consecration to G-d is upon his head . . . he is holy to the Lord. Indeed Scripture considers him the equal of a prophet, for it says I raised up some of your sons for prophets and your young men for nazirites.

How Do We Settle This Seeming Contradiction?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation

Moral life is not always simple: a matter of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. It usually is, but not always. Viewed from the perspective of personal perfection, the nazirite is good and holy. But from the perspective of Jewish faith as a whole, such a life is not an ideal. Judaism wants us to celebrate life, not retreat from it… It is holy to retreat from the world and its challenges – but holier still to engage with them.

RK by Rabbi Josh Koperwas