ט״ו באלול ה׳תשע״ה (August 30, 2015)

Nazir 8a-b: The Capacity of the Basket

We have been discussing the expressions that a person might use to accept nezirut for longer than the standard 30 days. One case presented by the Mishna on today’s daf is the person who says, “I am hereby a nazir in accordance with the capacity of the house,” or, “…the capacity of the basket.” In such a situation the person will be asked what his intention was. If he simply meant that he was taking a serious responsibility upon himself, his nezirut will be the standard 30 days. If, however, he says stam nazarti – “I took a nazirite vow without specification” – then we view the basket as if it was filled with the smallest item usually placed there – mustard seeds – and he will be a nazir until the day he dies. Tosafot point out that this is true only if the house or the basket was empty. If they were full, however, we will count the objects and the length of his nezirut will be based on the amount of objects in the house or the box.

Edible mustard is extracted from a number of different plants – Sinapis nigra (white mustard) or Brassica nigra (black mustard) and similar plants. Often it is a mixture of these plants that are used to make mustard. These plants belong to the Cruciferae family, and grow wild in Israel. The black cabbage, a leafy vegetable, is a related plant whose seeds are used to make the mustard spice. This cabbage is the largest plant from the Cruciferae family that grows in Israel. Normally it grows up to two meters in size, although there are unusual cases where it can grow as large as five meters in height. Since these seeds are very tiny (1.5-2 millimeters), they are often used by the Talmud as an example of something that is small.

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