March 11, 2023

Nazir 2

Some weeks ago I read an interesting insight in Rabbi Ephraim Oved’s Torat HaAggadah about the terms used for various Massechot. Specifically, why are certain Massechtot given pluralized titles (eg. Ketubot, Nedarim), while other Massechtot are given singular titles (eg. Nazir, Sotah)?
Rabbi Oved answers this question by explaining that when the title is pluralized, it refers to events that are part and parcel of daily Jewish living, whereas when the title is singular, it refers to rare events. Beyond this, while those that are pluralized are focused on ‘item/s’ (i.e. what is known as the חפצא) such as ‘the ketubah’ or ‘the items forbidden by a neder (vow)’, those that are singular are focused on the ‘person’ (i.e. what is known as the גברא) – namely the human experience of the Nazir or Sotah.
Having explained this distinction I believe that we can now understand the slightly strange question asked in today’s daf (Nazir 2a) regarding why Massechet Nazir is found in Seder Nashim. And why is this a strange question? It is because this question is asked in response to the first Mishna (Nazir 1:1) of Massechet Nazir, and since this Mishna is almost identical in style to the first Mishna in Massechet Nedarim, it seems quite obvious why Nazir follows Nedarim because, from a conceptual perspective, Nedarim and Nazir would appear to be closely related.
Yet if this were to be so, and if Massechet Nazir is so closely related to Massechet Nedarim, surely our Massechet should be called ‘Nezirim’ – not ‘Nazir’?! Given all this, I believe that this is why the Gemara then answers its question by suggesting to us that there is, in fact, a hidden connection between the laws of Nazir and Sotah, and that the likely event that would inspire someone to commit themselves to become a Nazir is by observing the Sotah ritual.
Admittedly, at least on first glance, we may not fully understand the connection between Nazir and Sotah. And this is why I believe that we are actually being taught that while Nedarim spoke of vows relating to items (חפצא) which were, at least during certain periods more commonly expressed, Nazir speaks of the rarer human experiences (גברא), as prompted by observing an equally rare human experience.
But there is one final issue to consider: why would someone who observes a Sotah ritual then commit to becoming a Nazir?
Personally, I don’t think that this is because it is necessarily the right thing to do. Instead, I believe that it is because when we observe rare and traumatic events, we often don’t know how to channel our feelings. Consequently, the idea underpinning why someone may have chosen to become a Nazir because they saw the Sotah ritual teaches us that we need outlets to channel trauma, fear or confusion, and that the rarer the thing we have seen, the more unusual the outlet may be.
Having explained all this, and as we begin our new journey into Massechet Nazir, let us try and remember that the person who has chosen to become a Nazir has likely done so in response to observing or experiencing a prior event, and that Nazir is therefore a ‘rebound’ action, adopted by someone to help them channel some deep feelings.

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