י׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ה (May 28, 2015)

Nedarim 4a-b: Vowing Nezirut in a Cemetery

A closely related concept to nedarim – or becoming obligated by making a vow – is the acceptance of nezirut. When a man or a woman states that he or she desires to accept the status of a nazir the following prohibitions come into play.

  • No drinking wine or eating grapes or their products
  • No cutting hair
  • No contact with dead bodies. This condition is essential, as someone who becomes tameh – ritually impure – by coming into contact with a dead body will need to begin the nezirut anew.

Ordinarily, nezirut extends for 30 days, unless a different time frame is expressed when the person accepts nezirut.

What would happen if a person states that he or she is accepting nezirut even as that person is standing in a cemetery?

Our Gemara makes reference to this case, which is the subject of a dispute between Resh Laḳish who says that the nezirut does not immediately take effect and Rabbi Yohanan, who believes that it does. Some of the commentaries explain that even according to Reish Laḳish, although this nezirut does not take effect, the individual will be obligated to accept nezirut upon himself after the period that he is tameh concludes. This is because his statement is taken seriously and we view it as a commitment, even though it could not take effect in the cemetery. Rabbi Yohanan, on the other hand, believes that the nezirut does take effect immediately. Nevertheless, since the individual is tameh, the nezirut will be suspended for the moment, but it will take effect immediately when the person becomes tahor (ritually pure), without the need for any further statements.

Our Gemara quotes Mar bar Rav Ashi who offered an alternative approach to the dispute between Resh Laḳish and Rabbi Yohanan. He understands that both sages agree that the nezirut takes effect immediately, but they disagree with regard to the punishment. Tosafot explain this approach to mean that all agree that the person standing in the cemetery will be punished if he drank wine or cut his hair; the disagreement is whether he will receive punishment for being tameh, given that that was the state he was in at the moment when he accepted nezirut.

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