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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nazir

Folio 3a

Yes. For even R. Eliezer ha-Kappar who says that a nazirite is accounted a sinner, means only the nazirite who has contracted ritual impurity; for, since he must nullify [his previous abstinence]1  in accordance with the rule laid down by the Merciful One, But the former days shall be void, because his consecration was defiled,2  there is a danger that he may break his nazirite vow.3  But a nazirite who remains ritually clean is not termed a sinner.4

I INTEND TO BE LIKE THIS: Granted that he takes hold of his hair, he does not say 'I intend to be through this,'5  [but only 'like this']? — Samuel said: We suppose that a nazirite is passing by at the time.

I INTEND TO CURL6  [MY HAIR]. How do we know that this [word MESALSEL] refers to the curling of the hair? — From a remark made by a maidservant7  of Rabbi's household, who said to a certain man: How much longer are you going to curl [mesalsel] your hair? But perhaps [it refers to] the Torah8  in accordance with the verse, Extol her [salseleha] and she will exalt thee?9  — Samuel said: Here, too, we suppose that he takes hold of his hair.

I MEAN TO TEND10  [MY HAIR]. How do we know that this [word MEKALKEL] refers to the tending of his hair? — From what we learnt: 'With regard to orpiment.11  R. Judah said that there must be sufficient to depilate the kilkul,'12  and Rab commented: [This means the hair of] one of the temples.13  But might it not mean tending the poor. in accordance with the verse, And Joseph sustained [wa-yekalkel] his father and his brothers?14  — Samuel said: Here too. we assume that he takes hold of his hair.

I UNDERTAKE TO DEVELOP15  TRESSES,'16  HE BECOMES A NAZIRITE. How do we know that this [word] shilluah signifies increase? — From the verse, Thy shoots [shelohayik] are a park of pomegranates.17  But perhaps it has the significance of 'removal'18  in accordance with the verse, And sendeth [we-sholeah] waters upon the fields?19  — The occurrence of the word pera' [tresses] in connection with the nazirite gives the tanna the clue. It says here, He shall be holy. he shall let the locks [pera'] grow long.20  and it says elsewhere regarding an ordinary priest,21  Nor' suffer their locks [pera'] to grow long [yeshallehu].22  Alternatively, we can say that the sholeah used of water,23  also signifies increase,24  for when produce is watered it shoots up.

[IF HE SAYS] 'I TAKE UPON MYSELF [AN OBLIGATION INVOLVING] BIRDS,' R. MEIR SAYS HE BECOMES A NAZIRITE. What is R. Meir's reason? — Resh Lakish said: [In making this vow] he has in mind the birds that are coupled with hair in the scriptural verse, Till his hair was grown long like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.25  R. Meir is of the opinion that a man will refer to one thing when he means something else occurring in the same context,26

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. The period which elapsed before he became unclean.
  2. Num. VI, 22.
  3. He may not be able to control his desire for wine for the longer period.
  4. Cf. infra 29a, where the opposite is asserted.
  5. The text is uncertain. The meaning would apparently be: I intend to discipline myself through my hair, reading [H] instead of [H] in cur. edd.
  6. Heb. mesalsel.
  7. This maidservant always spoke Hebrew, v. Meg. 28a.
  8. I.e., he vows to engage in the study of Torah.
  9. Prov. IV, 8.
  10. Heb. mekalkel.
  11. Heb. sid, usually lime, here orpiment, used as a depilatory.
  12. The transference of this amount from a private to a public domain on the Sabbath constitutes an indictable offence.
  13. Shah. 80b.
  14. Gen. XLVII, 12.
  15. Heb. leshaleah.
  16. Heb. pera'.
  17. Cant. IV, 13.
  18. I.e., he vows to remove his hair.
  19. Job V, 10. I.e. transports the waters from field to field (cf. the context).
  20. Num. VI, 5.
  21. I.e., not the High Priest, who is subject to stricter regulations. V. Sanh. 22b.
  22. Ezek. XLIV, 20. In Sanh. 22b this same comparison is made to show that pera' means a growth of thirty days' duration (the normal duration of a nazirite vow). Thus whether shilluah means 'grow' or remove', the nazirite vow is implicit in the word pera'.
  23. In the verse of Job.
  24. [Cur. edd. add in brackets, 'as R. Joseph translated,' referring to the Targum on the Prophets ascribed to R. Joseph. V. B.K. (Sonc. ed.) p. 9, n. 9. The reading that follows is, however, not found in our Targum.]
  25. Dan. IV, 30. It is assumed that he takes hold of his hair, or a nazirite is passing by (Rashi). Cf. below.
  26. Lit., 'he is seized by what is close to it.' E.g., here, he says 'birds' when he means 'hair'.
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Nazir 3b

whilst the Rabbis are of the opinion that a man will not refer to one thing when he means another. R. Johanan said: Both [R. Meir and the Rabbis] are agreed that a man will not refer to one thing etc.,1  and R. Meir's reason is that we take account of the possibility that what he had undertaken was to bring the birds of a ritually unclean nazirite.2

But if we are to take [possible meanings] into account, why should we not say that he was undertaking [to bring] a free will offering of birds? — in that event, he would have said, 'I undertake to bring a nest.'3

But perhaps he meant: I undertake [to bring] the birds of a leper?4  — We must suppose that a nazirite passes by at the time. But perhaps it was a ritually unclean nazirite and he desired to free him from his [obligatory] sacrifices? — We must suppose that a ritually clean nazirite passes by at the time.5

What [practical] difference is there between them?6  — There would be a difference [for example] if he should say: I take upon myself [an obligation involving] the birds mentioned in the same context as hair. According to R. Johanan, notwithstanding that he says this, he becomes a nazirite if one is passing at the time, but not otherwise;7  whereas according to R. Simeon b. Lakish, even though no nazirite passes by at the time [he becomes a nazirite].8

But is there any authority who disputes that a man may refer to one thing and mean another occurring in the same context? Has it not been taught: If a man says, '[By] my right hand,' it is accounted an oath.9  Now, surely the reason for this is the verse, When he lifted up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swore by Him who liveth for ever?10  — Not so. It is because the expression '[By my] right hand,' is itself an oath, as it has been taught: How do we know that if a man says. '[By] my right hand,' it is accounted an oath? From the verse, The Lord hath sworn by his right hand.11  And how do we know that if a man says. 'By my left hand,' it is accounted an oath? Because the verse continues, And by the arm of his strength.11


GEMARA. The Mishnah is not in agreement with R. Simeon, for it has been taught: R. Simeon says that he does not incur the liabilities [of a nazirite] unless he vows to abstain from everything [that is forbidden to a nazirite], whilst the Rabbis say that even though he vows to abstain from one thing only, he becomes a nazirite.

What is R. Simeon's reason? — Scripture says. [He shall eat] nothing that is made of the grape-vine, from the pressed grapes even to the grape-stone.12  And what is the Rabbis' reason? — The verse reads, He shall abstain13  from wine and strong drink.14

What does R. Simeon make of the statement, 'He shall abstain from wine and strong drink'? — He requires it to prohibit wine the drinking of which is a ritual obligation as well as wine the drinking of which is optional. What is this [wine the drinking of which is obligatory]? The wine of Kiddush15  and Habdalah,15  [is it not]?

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. And therefore R. Meir's reason is not the one given by Resh Lakish.
  2. V. Num. VI, 10. [I.e., he undertook to bring such birds should he afterwards become unclean during his proposed naziriteship; hence he becomes a nazirite (Rashi).]
  3. As this was the usual manner in which free-will offerings of birds were made.
  4. Cf. Lev. XIV, 4. [That is he undertook to bring birds for a leper freeing him from his obligatory sacrifices. Asheri.] This question creates a difficulty both for R. Johanan and Resh Lakish (Rashi).
  5. And as such a one has not to bring the offering of birds, he must have referred to himself.
  6. Between R. Johanan and Resh Lakish.
  7. As he may simply be undertaking to bring an offering of birds.
  8. [That is, according to R. Meir; v. Rashi and Tosaf. This difference will, however, apply also on the view of the Rabbis, for where he explicitly states … 'the birds mentioned in the same context as hair,' the Rabbis would also agree according to Resh Lakish that he becomes a nazirite; cf. Rashi 2b (top).]
  9. Tosaf. Ned. I, e.g., if he says, 'My right hand that I shall eat this loaf.'
  10. Dan. XII, 7; and when he refers to his right hand he means the oath in the same context.
  11. Isa. LXII. 8. ['Arm of his strength' refers to the left hand. Ber. 6a.]
  12. The emphasis is laid on the word 'nothing', so that the vow must expressly include everything. Num. VI, 4.
  13. Lit., 'vow to abstain'.
  14. Ibid. VI, 3. Thus it is sufficient if his vow refers specifically to wine only. This verse is made here to refer to the actual taking of the nazirite vow; though from the context it might he thought to he part of the enumeration of objects forbidden the nazirite.
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