י״ב באלול ה׳תשע״ה (August 27, 2015)

Nazir 5a-b: The Term of Unspecified Naziriteship

Someone who accepts nezirut without specifying the amount of time remains a nazir for 30 days (in the language of the Mishna, “Stam nezirut sheloshim yom.“). This law appears in the Mishna on our page with no explanation.

The Gemara demands a source for this rule. Rav Matana suggests that the source is a gematria – that it is based on the numerical value of the letters of the word yihiyeh. Gematria assigns a numeric value to each of the Hebrew letters. The first ten letters (aleph through yod) are valued at 1-10. The next nine letters (kaf through kuf) are valued at 20-100. The final three letters (resh through taf) are the numbers 200, 300 and 400.

The Torah teaches (Bamidbar 6:5) that someone who accepts nezirut “will be holy” – kadosh yihiyeh. Taking the value of the letters:

  • י – yod = 10
  • ה – heh = 5
  • י – yod =10
  • ה – heh = 5

we arrive at a total of 30.

In his commentary to the Mishna, the Rambam argues that Rav Matana does not really suggest that the gematria is the source for this halakha, but rather that there was a long-standing tradition – a halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai – that standard nezirut lasts for 30 days. Rav Matana points to the gematria as a reference point, but not as a true source.

Our Gemara also quotes bar Pada who says that the root word nazir appears 29 times in the Torah. In truth, this is not a source for the rule that appears in the Mishna, as it seems to offer a position that argues with the Mishna’s ruling.

The Talmud Yerushalmi brings two additional opinions, although the authors of these opinions have different names. and adds a number of others:

  1. The Torah teaches that the nazir is to keep the rules ad melot ha-yamim: “Until the days are over.” The yamim of the nazir are compared to the yerah yamim of an eshet yefat to’ar (see Devarim 21:13) – 30 days.
  2. We can only talk about “completion” of days in the context of a month, which, in the Jewish calendar, is sometime “lacking” (29 days) and sometimes “full” (30 days).
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