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[page v] Nazir or Neziroth, as it is also sometimes known, is the fourth treatise of Seder Nashim, and deals with the laws regulating naziriteship. The assumption of nazirite vows, the different types of naziriteship, the observance and breach of the accompanying obligation to abstain from wine, shaving the hair, and contact with the dead, and the order of sacrifice on contact with the dead and on the completion of a nazirite's term, are all discussed. Little not narrowly relevant to these topics will be found in these pages, and the tractate contains but few haggadic passages.
The destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. and the consequent cessation of the sacrificial system, precluded the nazirite vow from being properly terminated and so naziriteship was no longer undertaken; but the inclusion of the treatise in the order Nashim instead of Kodashim, whether as an antidote to Gittin and Sotah (v. fol. 2a) or because of its resemblance to Nedarim (v. Sotah 2a) led to its provision with an adequate Gemara in both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmud. In Geonic times, however, in common with Nedarim and Kodashim in general, the treatise was neglected, so that its text lacks the finish and excellent state of preservation of other talmudic treatises, whilst the absence of a commentary by Rashi, embodying traditional interpretations, increases the difficulties of the student. The commentary in the standard editions of the Talmud, bearing Rashi's name, is a much glossed one, ascribed to his son-in-law RIBaN (R. Judah b. Nathan); the Tosafoth issued from the school of R. Perez b. Elijah of Corbeil (13th cent.). RIBaN notes a number of resemblances in style between our treatise and the Jerusalem Talmud (v., e.g., fol. 32a), and in this connection it should be remarked that the placing of Nazir between Gittin and Sotah on fol. 2a, follows the order of the treatises in the Palestinian Talmud and not in the Babylonian Talmud.
Of individual cases of naziriteship, the Bible records few — Samson and Absalom naturally spring to mind. Our tractate [page vi] affords ample evidence, however, of the existence of numerous nazirites in Maccabaean and later times, whilst the naziriteship of Helena, the illustrious proselyte Queen of the Adiabene, should be noted, for it is to her residence in Jerusalem which its observance entailed that we may no doubt trace the many stories of herself and her family preserved elsewhere in the Talmud.
Naziriteship, with its ascetic obligations, found little favour in Pharisee circles, as is evidenced by the implied disapproval of Simeon the Just (v. fol. 4b), and the later statement of R. Eleazar ha-Kappar ( fol. 19a) that the nazirite is indeed a sinner. It is not impossible that many of the ascetic sects that flourished in the early centuries of the current era, began as nazirite groups. Little positive evidence of this can, however, be found in our treatise. A brief summary of the contents follow.
CHAPTER I. Assumption of the vow and its duration. The various circumlocutory ways in which naziriteship was undertaken should be noted as instancing the extreme reluctance to utter a direct vow, observed throughout rabbinic literature. The Samson nazirite and the life-long nazirite are also defined.
CHAPTER II. Continues the themes of the first chapter, and discusses whether it is possible to undertake a naziriteship, limited to part only of the nazirite duties.
CHAPTER III. The procedure of polling at the close of naziriteship and when uncleanness intervenes is described.
CHAPTER IV. The annulment of naziriteship by appeal to a Sage, a husband's rights over his wife's nazirite vows, and a father's power to impose nazirite vows on his son are here discussed. In this Chapter there occurs an Haggadic passage dealing with the importance of motive in action.
CHAPTER V. Other aspects of the incidence of nazirite vows are examined, and reference is made to the situation that arose when the destruction of the Temple rendered impossible the completion of nazirite vows previously undertaken.
CHAPTER VII. When a nazirite may knowingly break his vow, and unwitting breaches of the same.
CHAPTER VIII. Deals with uncertain breaches of the vow. CHAPTER IX. Gentiles cannot become nazirites, women and slaves can. The last Mishnah discusses whether or not the prophet Samuel was a nazirite.
The translation was prepared jointly by my brother, Mr. Hyman Klein, M.A., and myself, and many valuable notes were added by him. The whole of the manuscript was read by Mr. Maurice Simon, whose influence will be apparent to all who are acquainted with the fluidity and charm of his prose. To both of these I take this opportunity of expressing my thanks.
Authorities consulted are mentioned in the notes. Occasionally the German translation of Lazarus Goldschmidt and the English translation of the Mishnah by Canon H. Danby were also referred to.
B. D. KLIEN
The Indices of this Tractate have been compiled by Judah J. Slotki, M. A.
PREFATORY NOTE BY THE EDITOR
The Editor desires to state that the translation of the several Tractates, and the notes thereon, are the work of the individual contributors and that he has not attempted to secure general uniformity in style or mode of rendering. He has, nevertheless, revised and supplemented, at his own discretion, their interpretation and elucidation of the original text, and has himself added the notes in square brackets containing alternative explanations and matter of historical and geographical interest.