Rather than beginning with a presentation of the laws of Nezirut, Massechet Nazir begins by discussing the verbal formulae that renders someone a Nazir, and just as various vows take effect even when abridged terms are used by the person making the vow, so too, there are abridged terms that, when said in a given situation, render someone a Nazir. And of these, one example mentioned by the Mishna (Nazir 1:1) is where someone says: הֲרֵינִי כָּזֶה – “I am hereby like this”.
The question addressed in today’s daf (Nazir 3a) relates to the circumstances or situation whereby someone saying הֲרֵינִי כָּזֶה would become a Nazir – to which Shmuel responds by saying: כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָיָה נָזִיר עוֹבֵר לְפָנָיו – ‘such as in a situation when a Nazir was passing by that person [when they said, “I am hereby like this”]’.
This is a truly remarkable observation as it suggests that we can be moved to make significant life-decisions simply by encountering or observing others who have done the same. However, what is arguably an even more remarkable corollary of this teaching is that we can unknowingly be an example and inspiration to others simply by passing them by, or by being in their line of sight, at a crucial decision-making moment in their life.
Admittedly, unlike famous movie stars, most of us don’t have physical cameras pointed at us to capture our every move. But what we oftentimes forget is that unlike a physical camera which only knows how to capture an image, when someone catches a glimpse of us on the street, on the subway, at synagogue, in the workplace, in a mall, or in the gym, this can – even without our knowledge – inspire them to follow our example in one way or another.
For example, if you wear a visible sign that you are Jewish, this may inspire them to be more visible in how they live as a Jew*. If you show kindness to strangers, this may inspire others to show greater sensitivity to others. And if you are seen to be smiling**, this may inspire another to smile.
Admittedly, it may be a humbling or frightening thought that we might be viewed by others as an example or a role model, but what we learn in today’s daf is that sometimes the simple act of passing someone by at a crucial moment in their life can inspire them to make certain life decisions. So with this in mind, let us live intentionally with the knowledge that we can be an example and we can be a role model – and thereby act in a way that could inspire others as and when we pass them by.