ט״ו בסיון ה׳תשע״ה (June 2, 2015)

Nedarim 9a-b: My Evil Inclination Quickly Overcame Me

Does the Torah consider someone who accepts nezirut upon himself to be a holy person who aspires to higher levels of spirituality, or is he in some way a sinner?

The Gemara tells of Shimon HaTzaddik who testified that only on one occasion did he agree to partake of the sacrifice of a nazir who became tameh (he was bringing a sacrifice because he accidentally became ritually defiled and broke his nezirut. The Talmud Yerushalmi suggests that he refused to partake of any sacrifices brought by nezirim – even from those who successfully completed their obligations). Once a nazir came to the Temple who was particularly attractive and had beautiful curly hair. Shimon HaTzaddik asked him why he chose to become a nazir, thus obligating himself to cut off his hair at the end of his nezirut. The man explained that he was a shepherd and he chanced to see his reflection in a pool. Taken with his own beauty, the evil inclination tried to overpower him. To protect himself, he accepted a vow of nezirut in order to donate his hair to God. Shimon HaTzaddik accepted this as a legitimate explanation, but otherwise rejected the value of nezirut.

The “evil inclination” alluded to by the nazir is understood in a variety of different ways. The Rivan suggests that realizing how good looking he was made him think that he could have his way with women. The Arukh also connects it with sexual behavior, suggesting that seeing how attractive he was made him desirous of homosexual relations. The Maharsha and others argue that this is not necessarily an issue of sensuality, but rather that his appearance gave him the idea that he should abandon his father’s flocks since someone of his talents should not remain a simple shepherd.

Shimon HaTzaddik is the first sage mentioned in Massekhet Avot. Although we have little information about him, it appears that he was the at the beginning of Greek rule in Israel and that it was he who welcomed Alexander Mokdon, who conquered the land. He is mentioned in both Josephus and Sefer Ben Sira, which describes how glorious he appeared upon leaving the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

Previous
Next