March 11, 2023

Nazir 11

he Mishna (Nazir 2:4) in today’s daf (Nazir 11a) addresses a situation where someone declares: הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר עַל מְנָת שֶׁאֱהֵא שׁוֹתֶה יַיִן וּמִיטַּמֵּא לְמֵתִים – “Behold, I am Nazir on condition that I can drink wine or [on condition that I can] become spiritually impure through contact with the dead”, to which the Mishna responds by informing us that the person is a Nazir and that these actions are forbidden to them. As Rambam (Hilchot Nezirut 1:13) explains, this is because ‘the individual made a stipulation that ran contrary to what is written in the Torah, and whenever one makes a stipulation against what is written in the Torah, the stipulation is nullified’.
However, while we are told that this individual is a Nazir, it seems obvious that anyone who declares that they are a Nazir on condition that they can drink wine or come in contact with the dead is clearly confused (in a similar way that someone who commits to being teetotal on condition that they can drink alcohol is confused). So while our Mishna informs us that their condition is ineffective and that they are a Nazir, perhaps the law should actually be that they are not a Nazir because how can they commit to being something that they so profoundly misunderstand?
The Rambam, on the basis of our daf, addresses this point in the next halacha (Nezirut 1:14) where he writes that, ‘when a person takes a nazirite vow and [afterwards] says: “I did not know that a nazirite was forbidden to partake of wine…, ” or “[that a nazirite is forbidden] to become impure,” or “[that a nazirite is forbidden] to cut hair” and “had I known this I would not have taken the vow,” the laws is that he is a nazirite… because he knows that he is obligated in at least one of these [prohibitions]’.
What this means is that were someone to commit to being a Nazir with no knowledge whatsoever of what such a status entails then they would not be considered to be a Nazir, whereas if they commit to being a Nazir with some knowledge of what this entails – notwithstanding the fact that they are confused about other aspects of what a Nazir may or may not do – then they are considered to be a Nazir.
What this goes to show is that while ignorance may be bliss, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and while someone who commits to being a Nazir while wishing to continue to drink wine or be in contact with the dead is clearly confused, they are still considered as a Nazir.
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