כ״ה בתשרי ה׳תשע״ו (October 8, 2015)

Nazir 47a-b: A Priest and a Nazir Find a Corpse

The sixth perek of Massekhet Nazir begins on our daf, and its focus is on the law forbidding a nazir to allow himself to become tameh by coming into contact with a dead body. The first Mishna in the perek compares and contrasts these laws in the context of a nazir and a , since neither of them can allow themselves to become ritually defiled. The Mishna teaches that a kohen gadol and a nazir are similar in that they cannot even participate in the funeral of an immediate relative; nevertheless, both of them are obligated to take care of the needs of a met mitzva – someone who has died in a situation where no one is there to bury him.

The Mishna asks: In the event that a kohen gadol and a nazir come across a met mitzva together, which one of them should forgo his state of purity and deal with the met mitzva? According to Rabbi Eliezer, it is the kohen gadol who should step forward; according to the , the pure status of even an ordinary kohen takes precedence over that of a nazir. Rabbi Eliezer’s reasoning is that for a kohen gadol to reestablish his ritual purity, he merely needs to wait a week, undergoing the ordinary process of purification. The nazir, however, also needs to bring sacrifices, pointing to the greater severity of his tumah. The Hakhamim argue that the ritual status of the kohen is greater, since it is kedushat olam – permanent holiness – as opposed to a nazir, whose unique status is temporary.

Several explanations are given in an attempt to clarify how the kedushat olam of the kohen differs from the status of a nazir, given that a nazir can also choose to accept his status as a nazir forever. Rabbi Avraham min ha-Har suggests that it means that the kohen is born with his kedusha, as opposed to the nazir who accepts his status later in life. The Talmud Yerushalmi argues that kedushat olam refers to the fact that the kedusha of a kohen is biblically imposed, while nezirut is created by the statement of the nazir. According to the Rashash, what is unique about the kohen is that his kedusha will be transferred to his children and his children’s children, while the nazir‘s status will not carry over to the next generation.

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