Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Inexplicable, Mysterious And Wonderous Nazir 46 and Nazir 47 Honoring the Dead

Nazir 46

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph quotes a verse (Devarim 6:20):

אַחַר יִשְׁתֶּה הַנָּזִיר יַיִן

“And after that the nazirite may drink wine”

The rabbis use it to derive a law that the Nazir is still bound to his obligations, until after his sacrifices are brought.

However, because the text is anomalous, there are a number of commentaries that see a particular lesson and message for the Nazir. The problem with the text is he is referred to as a Nazir, even though he actually completed his Nazirhood. This hints to the idea that there is some remaining aura and effect from his choice to live temporarily in abstention and asceticism.

The Alshich (ibid) says that really it is a mitzvah to enjoy wine in moderation; wine generates inspiration and joy in peak spiritual moments. However, the Nazir correctly determines that he is unable to participate in such indulgences without getting carried away and becoming hedonistic. The assurance from scripture is, “If you observe the Nazir state properly, you will then be able to return to regular life and enjoy wine in the way it was meant to be enjoyed.” He notes that when Shimshon‘s father asks the prophet/angel what is his name, he answers, “Why do you ask my name, is it not Peleiy?” (Shoftim 13:18) One way to understand that word is from the Hebrew word peleh which means something inexplicable, mysterious and wonderous. This is referring to the fact that only the Nazir himself knows how much he should abstain, and for how long. (see Psychology of the Daf Nazir 16).

Tzror Hamor (ibid) develops this idea further with a number of brilliant observations about the symbolism behind the rituals. The verse states (Bamidbar 6:9):

וְלָקַ֨ח הַכֹּהֵ֜ן אֶת־הַזְּרֹ֣עַ בְּשֵׁלָה֮ מִן־הָאַ֒יִל֒ וְֽחַלַּ֨ת מַצָּ֤ה אַחַת֙ מִן־הַסַּ֔ל וּרְקִ֥יק מַצָּ֖ה אֶחָ֑ד וְנָתַן֙ עַל־כַּפֵּ֣י הַנָּזִ֔יר אַחַ֖ר הִֽתְגַּלְּח֥וֹ אֶת־נִזְרֽוֹ׃

The priest shall take the arm of the ram when it has been boiled, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and place them on the hands of the nazirite after the consecrated hair has been shaved.

The rabbis have a tradition that the arm of the sacrificial ram brought by the Nazir is 1/60 of the entire animal. From this tradition, we derive the idea that something 1/60 or less becomes nullified (Chullin 98a). The consecrated arm of this sacrifice does not disrupt the rest of the sacrifice and can be eaten, because any flavor coming from the arm becomes nullified in the other 59 parts of flesh.

We also know that matzah represents humility; the opposite of arrogant sin (See psychology of the Daf Nazir 36).

Therefore, the scripture is hinting to the following point: Now that the Nazir has reestablished proper personal boundaries, he can participate in a bit of the flesh (the arm equals power, strength and self-reliance), and also have a degree of bread, which is appropriately non-leavened and humble, without getting into trouble. The entire mixture is placed in the palms of his hands to remind him that going forward, it is in his hands to be present in the world with proper boundaries, priorities, and proportion.

Nazir 47 Honoring the Dead and the Great

Our Gemara on amud beis continues to discuss that for a Meis Mitzvah (an abandoned corpse), even a Cohen Godol must bury him, and this need overrides the Cohanic prohibition to not be defiled from a corpse. It is evident from how Tosafos (“Hachi Garsinan De-Iylu”) analyzes the particular situation, that the Cohen Godol is permitted to engage in taking care of the corpse even when burial is not possible such as Yom Kippur. For example, moving the corpse away from the Sun to the shade so as to forestall rapid decomposition is also included in this directive. We see from here that the idea of Meis Mitzvah is not just burial, but it is anything that preserves the dignity of the human body after it is deceased. This is under the larger rubric of kvod haberiyos (see Rashi Berachos 20a, “aval metameh”.)

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe OC IV:69) uses this approach to explain a difficult section in the liturgy of the Yom Kippur prayers. (This comes courtesy of Rabbi Moshe Zev Granek’s Bais Vaad Halacha Center Shiur on Nazir 47.)

In Yom Kippur Musaf we recite the chronicle of the 10 martyrs. We are told that Rabbi Yishmael picked up the severed head of Rabbi Shimon, crying bitterly. However, there is a technical problem. Rabbi Yishmael is a cohen and he was not allowed to defile himself by touching Rabbi Shimon’s head. We might say he was in such a grief that he did not know what he was doing. But that answer is not satisfactory because we mightnot be giving Rabbi Yishmael enough credit, assuming he would lost all self-control. Secondly, even if that were true, it would not be a great praise to record it for posterity in the liturgy. (Although the counter argument is that this, gufa, was his praise – how much he valued the life of his colleague.) Therefore, Rav Moshe used the opinion of Tosafos that we discussed above to explain that the special dispensation allowing a cohen to become defiled to take care of a Meis Mitzvah applies to all manner and form of showing honor to the deceased, and is not dependent on burial specifically. Therefore, at that tragic moment in time, the only type of eulogy and honor that rabbi Yishmael could show for his beloved fallen comrade, was to cradle his decapitated head, and lament bitterly.

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