כ״ז באלול ה׳תשע״ה (September 11, 2015)

Nazir 21a-b: “And I”

The Mishna (20b) teaches that when a person accepts nezirut upon himself, others who hear him can join by saying va-ani – “And I.” Reish Lakish limits this to a situation where the statement of va-ani is made tokh kedei dibbur – within the amount of time it takes to say something – which the Gemara interprets to mean within the amount of time that it takes for a student to greet his teacher.

In an attempt to offer support to Reish Lakish’s position, the Gemara points out that our Mishna appears to limit the number of people who can join the nazir by saying va-ani to just two individuals, since it says va-ani just two times. The suggestion is that since a third person would not be able to say va-ani within the time limit, it appears that we are limited by the time restraint. This reading of the Mishna is rejected by the Gemara, which uses an interesting phrase: tana ki rukhla lihshiv ve-lezil? – “Is the author of the Mishna a peddler that he must list all cases?” In other words, the Mishna may believe that even more people responding va-ani can become nezirim; it did not feel obligated to repeat the word over and over again.

The rukhla – the peddler mentioned by the Gemara – is one who traditionally traveled from one community to another, servicing small villages or, in larger cities, going from house to house with his wares. Such a person usually traveled with his peddler’s basket, a box that contained many compartments holding perfumes, jewelry, and small utensils like thread, pins and needles. Since he carried many items, upon engaging the interest of a potential customer the peddler would recite a list of things that he had for sale. The ability of peddlers to recite this list led to the expression used by the Gemara relating to a detailed repetition of a list of things.

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