Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Back to the Future Nazir 6 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the challenge of the Nazir who unfortunately becomes exposed to a corpse.  The verse seems to indicate that he must start his counting all over again.  So whatever time he pledged to become a Nazir must now be repeated after he undergoes a purification process. The verse states (Bamidbar 6:12):

וְהַיָּמִ֤ים הָרִאשֹׁנִים֙ יִפְּל֔וּ כִּ֥י טָמֵ֖א נִזְרֽוֹ׃

and the days that were before shall fall off, because his nazirhood was defiled.

This reminds me of addicts in recovery, who count their days of sobriety.  There are those who managed to be sober for decades and then have a relapse. How difficult it must be, after a relapse, to show up at the next Twelve Step meeting and announce your abstinence counter is back to day one? Difficult, but necessary.

There is one opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that the counter only goes back 30 days.  That is, even if he vowed to be a nazir for 100 days, if he becomes impure on the last day, he only loses 30 days (see Shita Mekubetzes in the name of the Rosh.) There is something that is comforting about this idea, that the poor fellow who came so close to completion, is shown just a little mercy and only has to repeat 30 days.

But, where is the mercy for the person who becomes impure on day 98 or 99, and especially since we do not pasken like Rabbi Eliezer, really even on day 100, it’s back to start.

The Alshich (Rus 2:19) notes the language of “the days that were before shall fall off וְהַיָּמִ֤ים הָרִאשֹׁנִים֙ יִפְּל֔וּ”, which is different than saying the days are not counted, which should be the actual statement.  It should say, “וְהַיָּמִ֤ים הָרִאשֹׁנִים֙ לא יחשבו”, that is the original days shall not accrue.  The Alshich develops a different idea, but I will suggest the emphasis is on the word fall.  Physically, yes, he lost these days as they did not achieve the right spiritual escape velocity. The sudden exposure to a corpse is a divine message that his efforts so far have not reached the right plane, and he must go back to the drawing board.  However, his falling and so-called failure is not to say these days do not count at all.  They fall off because they cannot count in terms of reaching the Nadir that the Nazir must reach, but they are not lost.

My father Z’L, who had an incredible sense and awareness of language and nuance, used to say that in L’shon Kodesh, there is no word for fail.  In modern Hebrew the word used is “Kishalon”, which really means to stumble, but not actually fail.  To develop my father’s idea further, we might ask, but does it not say in Mishle (24:16):

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨בַע ׀ יִפּ֣וֹל צַדִּ֣יק וָקָ֑ם וּ֝רְשָׁעִ֗ים יִכָּשְׁלוּ בְרָעָֽה׃

Seven times the righteous man falls (yipol, same root as yiplu) and gets up, while the wicked are tripped by one misfortune (yiskashel).

This would seem to indicate a falling for the righteous, if not actual failing. And, the wicked seem to merely stumble.  Yet that is exactly the point of the verse.  For the righteous, even when they fall, it is not a fail.  They get back up again, and their mistakes become lessons. As Rabbi Abbahu said: In the place where penitents stand, even the full-fledged righteous do not stand, as it is stated (Berachos 34b.)  On the other hand, for those with a wicked attitude who are not able to learn from their mistakes, even their stumbling becomes part of a downward spiral.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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