ה׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ו (October 18, 2015)

Nazir 57a-b: Rounding a Minor Boy’s Head

As we have learned (see daf 41) Jewish law forbids a man from rounding, or removing the hair around, his head – pe’at roshkhem – and from shaving his beard – pe’at zekanekhah (see Vayikra 19:27). These prohibitions do not apply to women, since they do not have beards, nor do they apply to children. Nevertheless, Rav Huna teaches that an adult who cuts a child’s hair in the forbidden manner will be held liable.

In a rather disturbing passage, the Gemara relates that Rav Adda bar Ahava asked Rav Huna who cuts his children’s hair in such a manner, to which he replied that Hova – his wife – was the one who did it. Rav Adda bar Ahava responded “Hova should bury her children!” Following this exchange the Gemara concludes that as long as Rav Adda bar Ahava lived, Rav Huna’s children passed away at a young age.

According to Tosafot, Rav Adda bar Ahava actually saw that Rav Huna’s children had their hair cut in a forbidden manner, while Rashi suggests that it was simply common practice to cut children’s hair this way after they recovered from an illness. The Meiri understands Rav Adda bar Ahava’s caustic statement as being based on Rav Huna’s ruling that adults cannot cut children’s hair in a forbidden manner, which created a situation according to which his wife was purposefully performing a prohibited activity. The Rosh suggests that Rav Adda bar Ahava’s statement was simply one of surprise – “according to your opinion, how can Hova do this? Does she want to bury her children?”

Not only according to the Rosh, but even according to the other rishonim, Rav Adda bar Ahava certainly did not intend to curse Rav Huna’s children. believed, however, that even an innocent statement made by a person as pious as Rav Adda bar Ahava would have significance, based on the passage ki-shegagah ha-yotzeh mi-pi ha-shalit: “Like a mistaken word uttered by the ruler [that must be followed]” (see Kohelet 10:5).

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