Sunday, June 08, 2008

Naso: Seforno on Nazir and Taanis

As a quick follow-up to the Ostrovtze Rebbe's explanation of only someone "sitting" in Taanis being a chotei:

Here is what Sforno has to say on the pasuk. The pesukim state {Bemidbar 6}
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם: אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה, כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר--לְהַזִּיר, לַה'שם. 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When either man or woman shall clearly utter a vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to consecrate himself unto the LORD,
ג מִיַּיִן וְשֵׁכָר יַזִּיר, חֹמֶץ יַיִן וְחֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה; וְכָל-מִשְׁרַת עֲנָבִים לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה, וַעֲנָבִים לַחִים וִיבֵשִׁים לֹא יֹאכֵל. 3 he shall abstain from wine and strong drink: he shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried.

And upon this, Sforno comments:

Thus, a Nazir-ship is a good thing. He wants to separate from the regular taanugim, to separate himself in order that he be entirely dedicated to Hashem, to engage in His Torah, to go in His ways, and to cleave to Him. So what should he do? He should not fast, since this will weaken him from doing the work of heaven. Nor should he engage in makos perushim. See Sotah 22b for more details.

To cite Point By Point Summary:
(l) (Mishnah): Blows of Perushim...
(m) (Beraisa): There are seven types of (improper) Perushim: Shichmi, Nakfi, Kizai, mi'Duchya, one who says 'what is my obligation? I will do it!', from love, and from fear.
1. Shichmi do not act for Hashem's sake;
2. Nakfi shuffle their feet like humble people, and stub their toes;
3. (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): Kizai bleed from bumping into walls, like one who closes his eyes to avoid looking at women;
4. (Rabah bar Shilo): Mi'Duchya walk bent.
and so on... but see inside, on Sotah 22b:
ומכות פרושין וכו': ת"ר שבעה פרושין הן פרוש שיכמי פרוש נקפי פרוש קיזאי פרוש מדוכיא פרוש מה חובתי ואעשנה פרוש מאהבה פרוש מיראה פרוש שיכמי זה העושה מעשה שכם פרוש נקפי זה המנקיף את רגליו פרוש קיזאי א"ר נחמן בר יצחק זה המקיז דם לכתלים פרוש מדוכיא אמר רבה בר שילא דמשפע כי מדוכיא פרוש מה חובתי ואעשנה הא מעליותא היא אלא דאמר מה חובתי תו ואעשנה פרוש מאהבה פרוש מיראה אמרו ליה אביי ורבא לתנא לא תיתני פרוש מאהבה פרוש מיראה דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב לעולם יעסוק אדם בתורה ובמצות אפי' שלא לשמה שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק דמטמרא מטמרא ודמגליא מגליא בי דינא רבה ליתפרע מהני דחפו גונדי אמר לה ינאי מלכא לדביתיה אל תתיראי מן הפרושין ולא ממי שאינן פרושין אלא מן הצבועין שדומין לפרושין שמעשיהן כמעשה זמרי ומבקשין שכר כפנחס:

Rather, continues Seforno, he separates himself from wine. In this way, he reduces his desires and subdues his yetzer.

This idea that the Nazir is doing something good, and that other paths are not good, can fit with the gemara somewhat. Of course, Sforno considers fasting to be a type which is not good, because it weakens one from being able to accomplish avodas Hashem.

However, to reiterate, this might be in accord with other opinions, such as Rabbi Eleazar in the gemara, or Resh Lakish. But Shmuel is in accordance with Rabbi Eliezer haKappar who cited Rabbi, on Taanis 11a:
1. (R. Elazar ha'Kafar citing Rebbi): The Pasuk refers to the Nazir as having sinned, because he deprived himself from wine.
2. If he is called a sinner just for abstaining from wine, how much more so someone who abstains from all food.
Thus, he not only holds that fasting is sinful, but becoming a nazir and abstaining from wine is also sinful. (and that is why later on, we have the words we may cite out of context, וְכִפֶּר עָלָיו, מֵאֲשֶׁר חָטָא.)

If I may be so bold, I would suggest that Shmuel's perspective is that the Torah prohibits certain actions, and one should not add on to them. Just as elsewhere anyone who takes a vow is as if he built a private altar, and whoever fulfills the vow is as if he sacrificed upon it an offering. And with the issur bamos, this is a bad thing -- the Torah dictates a place for a central altar, where everyone goes, and a place where offerings are wanted, and elsewhere it is improper to bring it. So too, the Torah dictates behavior. Aside from that, Hashem wants us to enjoy His world, and this ascetic attitude is not a positive one.

Other Amoraim, and other Tannaim, can of course argue. But I think this approach is what is guiding Shmuel in his statement.

Which is also why I don't see the Ostrovtze Rebbe's response about "nikra chotei" as being correct.

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