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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nazir

Folio 41a

Moreover, should you assume that if he uses tweezers or a rohitni he has carried out his religious duty, then because a razor is not mentioned explicitly [it should be entirely forbidden]1  in accordance with the dictum of Resh Lakish who has said that wherever we find both a positive command and a prohibition2  then, if it is possible to observe both3  well and good, otherwise the positive command is to override the prohibition.4

And what is R. Eliezer's reason?5  — It has been taught: Why does Scripture mention 'his head'?6  — Since it says in connection with the nazirite, There shall no razor come upon his head7  it might be thought that this is true even of a nazirite who becomes a leper. We are therefore told that [the leper must shave] his head.8

How does it follow?9  May it not well be that even if he uses tweezers or a rohitni he has carried out his religious duty? And should you object that the razor should not have been mentioned,10  [the answer would be that] this tells us that [the leper] may use even a razor; for I might have thought that because a nazirite who uses a razor11  incurs a penalty, so does a leper12  who uses a razor incur a penalty, and so we are told that this is not so?13  — If you assume that a leper who uses tweezers or a rohitni has carried out his religious duty, then because a razor is not mentioned explicitly [in his case, it should be forbidden entirely], in accordance with the dictum of Resh Lakish.14

What interpretation do the Rabbis put on [the mention of] 'his head'?15  — They require it to override the prohibition against rounding [the corners of the head], as it has been taught: [The verse] Ye shall not round the corners of your heads16  might mean that the same is true of a leper, and we are therefore told [that he must shave] 'his head'.

But this17  can be deduced from [the mention of] 'his beard'. For it has been taught: Why does Scripture mentions his beard? Since it says, Neither shall they shave off the corners of their beards,18  it might be thought that even [a priest who is] a leper may not do so. And we are therefore told [that the leper must shave] 'his beard'. Now why should it be necessary to mention both 'his head' and 'his beard'?19  — It is necessary. For had the All-Merciful mentioned 'his beard' and not 'his head' it might have been thought that the rounding of the whole head is not considered [as infringing the prohibition against] rounding,20  and so the All-Merciful Law also mentions 'his head'.21

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., even if the word 'shave' had been used without the additional use of the expression 'his beard' we should not have made the inference that he is allowed to use a razor because of the dictum of Resh Lakish now given.
  2. I.e., a command to do something (e.g., the leper is told to shave his beard) forbidden under certain circumstances.
  3. I.e., carry out the positive command without transgressing the other.
  4. The positive command must be fulfilled at all costs.
  5. I.e., what is his source for the law that a leper must use a razor, since he holds that the prohibition of marring his beard applies to all instruments, there is no proof that a leper is obliged to use a razor.
  6. Of a leper, seeing it has already said he must shave all his hair. Lev. XIV, 9.
  7. Num. VI, 5.
  8. And we see also that it must be with a razor, since it is this that is explicitly forbidden the nazirite.
  9. That he is obliged to use the razor.
  10. In Num. VI, 5, in connection with the nazirite, seeing that all things are forbidden him.
  11. During his naziriteship.
  12. [Who is also a nazirite.]
  13. But there is still no proof that he must use a razor.
  14. V. supra p. 149.
  15. Since they already know that a leper may use a razor.
  16. Which applies to all persons. Lev. XIX, 27.
  17. Viz. the fact that the injunction to the leper to shave overrides any prohibition that might otherwise prevent him from so doing.
  18. Lev. XXI, 5; of the priests.
  19. Seeing that either case could be inferred from the other.
  20. I.e., that shaving the head is permitted even to an ordinary person, only the rounding of the corners without the rest of the head being forbidden because it was a heathen practice. Whether this is in fact the case is discussed infra 57b-58, both sides of the question receiving arguments in its favour.
  21. Enabling us to infer that even the shaving of the whole head is also forbidden an ordinary person.

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Nazir 41b

Again, had 'his head' been mentioned and not 'his beard' I would have understood that two things are implied, first that the positive command [to shave] overrides the prohibition, and secondly that the rounding of the whole head is considered [to infringe the prohibition against] rounding, but there would still remain [the question], how do we know that a razor must be used?1  And so the All-Merciful Law mentions his beard.2

And whence does R. Eliezer learn that a positive command overrides a prohibition? — He infers it from the [command to wear] twisted cords. For it has been taught: Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, [linen and wool together];3

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. For there the expression 'rounding' is used, and in fact 'rounding' is forbidden even if no razor is used.
  2. In this case the expression is 'shave' which has been shown (supra 40b) to imply the use of a razor.
  3. Deut. XXII, 11. The next quotation is the beginning of the next verse.
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