י״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ו (October 27, 2015)

Nazir 66a-b: Shmu’el was a Nazir

The last Mishna in this tractate discusses whether the prophet Shmu’el was a nazir. Rabbi Nehorai points to the prayer said by Shmu’el’s mother, Hannah, prior to his birth where she promises u-morah lo ya’aleh al rosho (I Shmu’el 1:11), which he interprets to mean that his hair will not be cut, similar to the statement made about Shimshon (see Shoftim 13:5), perhaps the most famous biblical nazir. Rabbi Yose argues that morah simply means “fear” and that Hannah is saying that should he be born, her son will show no fear of man.

Most of the commentaries on Tanakh, including the Septuagint, translate morah in our context as “metal” – that is to say, a razor. Targum Yonatan, however, suggests that the root of morah is marut – ownership or leadership.

The Tosafot Yom Tov points out that even Rabbi Yossi would have to agree that the word morah indicates nezirut in the case of Shimshon. The Maharsha, however, argues that Rabbi Yossi would not interpret morah as nezirut even in Shimshon’s case. He would understand the statement to simply mean that as long as he kept the rules of nezirut, Shimshon would never fear any man.

It would appear that the reason this Mishna is placed here is to allow the tractate to close with an aggadic concept that highlights the greatness of nezirut. The Tosafot Yom Tov suggests that the correct place for this Mishna would have been as an introductory statement at the beginning of the Massekhet, although Rabbeinu chose not to put it there since identifying Shmu’el as a nazir is a matter of disagreement. In his commentary to the Mishna, the Rambam points out that the discussion about Shmu’el is not merely an academic point, in fact it has ramifications in the realm of halakha. If a person were to announce, “I will be like the prophet Shmu’el,” according to Rabbi Nehorai he would become a nazir.

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