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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nazir

Folio 62a

I might go on to infer from this that [gentiles] cannot become nazirites [at all]. Scripture [therefore] says man? — But it has been stated: R. Johanan said, This is a [traditional] ruling with regard to the nazirite.1

Now if it is a fact [that 'man' includes gentiles],2  what need is there for the expression, When a man shall clearly utter a vow … according to thy valuation3  occurring in connection with 'Arakin? For consider! 'Arakin are compared [in this verse] with vows, as it says, When a man shall clearly utter a vow … according to thy valuation,3  and it has been taught in connection with vows: Scripture mentions the word man4  in order to include gentiles, who are allowed to vow vowed-offerings5  and freewill-offerings,6  just as Israelites do.7  What need then is there for the verse, 'When a man shall clearly utter' in connection with 'Arakin?8  — In point of fact, this [word] 'man' is required for the inclusion of [a youth] who can discriminate but has not quite reached manhood.9

This is all very well [if we accept the view of] the authority10  who considers that a youth who can discriminate but has not quite reached manhood has a Scriptural right [to make Vows],11  but [if we accept the view of] the authority12  who considers this right to be rabbinic, what need is there for, When a man shall clearly utter [etc.]?13  It serves to include a gentile [youth] who can discriminate but has not quite reached manhood.14

This is all very well if we accept the view of the authority15  who argues [as follows: The words 'children of Israel' imply that] Israelites can be the subject of 'Arakin vows but not gentiles. I might go on to infer from this that [gentiles] cannot vow 'Arakin, Scripture [therefore] says man.16  If, however, we accept the view of the authority17  who argues [as follows: The words children of Israel imply that] Israelites can vow 'Arakin but not gentiles. I might go on to infer from this that [gentiles] cannot be the subject of 'Arakin, Scripture [therefore] says man: [our difficulty remains]. For seeing that even a baby a month old can be the subject of an 'Arakin vow, what need is there of, 'when [a man] shall clearly utter'?18  — R. Adda b. Ahaba replied: Its purpose is to bring within the scope of the rule an adult gentile who although he is an adult [cannot make even ordinary vows, if he] cannot discriminate.19

Now what need is there of [the phrase,] 'when [a man] shall clearly utter' mentioned in connection with the naziriteship? For seeing that the naziriteship is compared with [ordinary] vowing20  what need is there of 'when [a man] shall clearly utter'? — It serves to include allusions the significance of which is not manifest.21  For it has been stated: Abaye said that allusions whose significance is not manifest have the force of a direct statement, whilst Raba said that they have not the force of a direct statement.22  Now if we accept Abaye's view, there is no difficulty,23  but if we accept Raba's view what can we reply?24  In point of fact 'when [a man] shall clearly utter' is necessary for R. Tarfon's case. For it has been taught: R. Judah on behalf of R. Tarfon said that not one of these people25  is a nazirite, because naziriteship is not intended except when assumed unequivocally.26  This is all very well if we accept the view of R. Tarfon, but [if we accept the view of] the Rabbis what can you reply?27  In point of fact it is necessary for [the following] which has been taught: Annulment of vows has no foundation28  and is without [Scriptural] support.29  R. Eliezer says that it has [Scriptural] support, for Scripture says twice 'when [a man] shall clearly utter'?30  one signifies a distinct binding expression,31  and one a distinctness [which opens the way] to annulment.32

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Hence Scripture cannot be referring to it and the words, 'children of Israel', must entirely exclude gentiles from undertaking naziriteships.
  2. The upshot of the previous discussion is a vindication of the assertion that 'man' usually includes gentiles. It is only because it cannot possibly have that meaning in connection with naziriteship, that it is not so interpreted there. Hence the Gemara now enquires whether gentiles would not have been included for the purposes of 'Arakin even without 'man' being mentioned.
  3. Lev. XXVII, 2.
  4. V. Lev. XXII, 18. Whoever he be (lit., a man, a man) … that bringeth his offering, whether it be of their vows etc. The reference in the following discussion II to vowing sacrifices for the altar. [The text adopted follows BaH. Cur. edd. read: Scripture should have mentioned (only) 'a man' why does it state 'a man, a man'. Though the reading is supported by the parallel passages, it hardly fits in with the trend of the passage where the word 'man' in itself is taken to include gentiles.]
  5. Heb. [H].
  6. Heb. [H]. The difference between a vowedoffering and a freewill offering is this. The former, if it dies or is lost, must be replaced, but the latter need not be replaced.
  7. Cf. Tem. 2b.
  8. For 'Ar. are covered by the interpretation of Lev. XXII, 18 in the Baraitha.
  9. He too may make vows. V. supra 29b.
  10. R. Jose b. R. Judah. V. supra 29b.
  11. This right is then inferred from the word 'man' in Lev. XXVII, 2.
  12. R. Judah the prince (Ibid.).
  13. I.e., We are still without a use for the word 'man' in this verse.
  14. R. Judah the prince also agreeing that his right to make vows is Scriptural.
  15. R. Judah; V. 'Ar. 5b.
  16. Thus permitting gentile youths who have not yet reached manhood to make 'Arakin (and other) vows.
  17. R. Meir. Ibid.
  18. For it can no longer refer to gentile youths since no gentile can make an 'Arakin vow.
  19. The inference being: Only a gentile who knows what he is uttering can make even ordinary vows (Tosaf.).
  20. V. Ned. 3a. And 'shall clearly utter' already occurs in connection with vows in Lev. XXVII, 2.
  21. V. supra 2a-b.
  22. And the vow fails to take effect.
  23. The interpretation will be: The vow must be uttered clearly or it is of no effect.
  24. I.e., what use does be make of the phrase 'to utter clearly?'
  25. Who vow naziriteships of the form. If the person approaching is So and so, I will become a nazirite.
  26. V. supra 34a.
  27. I.e., what use do they make of 'shall clearly utter'?
  28. Lit., 'fly in the air'.
  29. I.e., the possibility of annulling vows is purely a traditional law.
  30. Once in Lev. XXVII, 2 of 'Arakin and once in Num. VI, 2 of nazirite vows.
  31. I.e., once the vow is clearly undertaken, it remains binding.
  32. If annulment is sought, the vow ceases to be binding.
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Nazir 62b


GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: What can his master compel him [to disregard]? [The vow of] Naziriteship, but not [other] vows, or [vows involving] 'Arakin.2

Why this difference in the case of the nazirite-vow? — The Allmerciful has said, To bind his soul with a bond,3  showing that only those who are their own masters4  are referred to, and excluding slaves, who are not their own masters. But if this is the reason, the same should be true of [other] vows?5  — R. Shesheth replied: We suppose here6  that a cluster of grapes lay before [the slave].7  In the case of vows, where if this [cluster] becomes prohibited to him, others will not become prohibited, [his master] cannot compel him [to eat this one]. But in the case of a nazirite-vow, if this one becomes forbidden,8  all others become forbidden; and that is why he can compel him [to eat it].9

But do not [ordinary] vows10  include the possibility that there is available Only the one cluster of grapes in question, so that if he does not eat it he will grow weak11  [and yet the vow takes effect]? — Raba therefore said: We suppose that a pressed grape lay before him.12  In the case of vows, he is prohibited from eating that one only, and so [his master] cannot compel him [to break his vow]. But in the case of the nazirite-vow where he is also prohibited from eating others, he can compel him [to break his vow].

But do not [ordinary] vows include the possibility that there is available only the one pressed grape in question, so that if he does not eat it he will grow weak [and yet the vow takes effect]? Abaye therefore replied: [The Baraitha really means] what is his master obliged to compel him [to disregard]? [The vow of] naziriteship.13  but he does not [even] have to compel him [to disregard ordinary] vows or oaths.14  This is because the verse says [If any one swear] to do evil or to do good.15  Just as doing good is a voluntary undertaking, so must the doing of evil be a voluntary undertaking, the doing of evil to others being thereby excluded, since he has not the right [to harm others].16


GEMARA. Is it possible that R. Meir and R. Jose] differ in regard to the following dictum of Samuel? For Samuel has said: Should a man renounce ownership of his slave, he becomes free, no deed of emancipation being required. Does R. Meir agree with Samuel18  and R. Jose differ from him? — No; both hold this opinion of Samuel.19  But the one who says he should drink considers that since he is ultimately to return to his master, he ought to drink in order not to grow emaciated. The other, who says that he should not drink considers that he should feel the pangs of deprivation in order that he should return [to his master].

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Thus our text, and so Maimonides (Mishnah Commentary a.l. and Yad. Neziruth II, 18). Raabad however, reads 'and he afterwards becomes free, then he must complete his vow'.
  2. Tosef. Naz. VI, where 'oaths' replaces 'Arakin', for which v. Glos.
  3. Num. XXX, 3 of ordinary vows.
  4. V. supra p. 228, n. 9.
  5. Seeing that the passage in which the verse occurs refers to ordinary vows.
  6. In the Baraitha which distinguishes nazirite-vows from other vows.
  7. And his vow, nazirite or ordinary, was made with reference to that bunch of grapes.
  8. I.e. if the nazirite-vow does become operative.
  9. [So as to have his strength unimpaired.]
  10. As referred to in the Baraitha.
  11. And so injure his master.
  12. [It is assumed that abstention from the pressed grape cannot affect his strength (Asheri)].
  13. If he does not wish it to take effect.
  14. These being automatically of no effect.
  15. Lev. V, 4.
  16. And since a slave's vows harm his master, they are inoperative.
  17. Run away after making a nazirite-vow.
  18. And assume that the owner despairs of the slave's return and thus renounces his ownership. The slave being free must therefore complete his naziriteship (v. previous Mishnah).
  19. And do not consider the owner to have renounced his possession of the slave.
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