Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Manna Now at Costco Nazir 60 + Nazir 61 We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

Our Gemara on Amud Beis records a discussion between Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his students:

שָׁאֲלוּ תַּלְמִידָיו אֶת רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחַי נָזִיר טָהוֹר וּמְצוֹרָע מַהוּ שֶׁיְּגַלֵּחַ תִּגְלַחַת אַחַת וְעוֹלָה לוֹ לְכָאן וּלְכָאן אָמַר לָהֶן אֵינוֹ מְגַלֵּחַ

The students of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai asked Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: With regard to one who was a pure nazirite and a leper, what is the halakha concerning the possibility that he may shave one shaving and it will count for him both for this and for that? In other words, can it serve for his shaving of leprosy as well as for his naziriteship? He said to them: He may not shave once for both requirements.

אָמְרוּ לוֹ לָמָּה אָמַר לָהֶן אִילּוּ זֶה לְגַדֵּל וְזֶה לְגַדֵּל וְזֶה לְהַעֲבִיר וְזֶה לְהַעֲבִיר יָפֶה אַתֶּם אוֹמְרִים עַכְשָׁיו נָזִיר לְהַעֲבִיר וּמְצוֹרָע לְגַדֵּל

They said to him: Why not? He said to them: If the aim of both shavings were the same, this one to grow hair and that one to grow hair, or this one to remove hair and that one to remove hair, you would have spoken well. Now in actual fact the two shavings have different functions: A nazirite shaves to remove his hair, and a leper shaves to grow hair, so that he can shave again after the days of his counting.

We must analyze exactly why this is so.  After all, if the hair is cut, so be it – and the requirement ought to be adequately fulfilled.  Before we answer this question it is important to note that. The idiom, “ שָׁאֲלוּ תַּלְמִידָיו אֶת רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחַי “ “The students of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai asked” throughout Shas invariably involves a philosophical question. For example, Megillah (12a) where Rabbi Shimon’s students ask why the Jews of Haman and Mordechai’s time were deserving of annihilation. Or, Niddah (31b) where the students asked why does a Yoledes (woman who gave birth) bring a sin offering when there was no overt commission of sin? Or Yoma (76a) when the students queried as to why the Manna did not come down in “Costco-like”, economy-size bundles to last an entire year, instead of a daily portion?”

Given this idiomatic pattern, it is highly likely that here too the question being asked was not halakhic as much as hashkafic. I find in a contemporary Sefer (Ohr Chanah, Rav Zundel Kroizer (1923-2014) a meaningful explanation.  The function of shaving for the Metzora is at opposite ends to the shaving of the Nazir.  The Nazir’s hair is considered a “crown” and is offered as part of the sacrifice (Numbers 6:7 and 18.). The shaving represents a demarcation from a holy state to a mundane state, and the older holy hair must be shaved, sanctified, and not mixed with the new hair which is profane.  However, the Metzora shaves his hair to purify himself from his old ways and sins that have been encased in his hair (see Psychology of the Daf Nazir 9, where we saw that psychological trauma is recorded in the hair.)

Therefore, Rabbi Shimon and his students were discussing a philosophical point that emerged from the halakhic truth that these two rituals are not combined.

Nazir 61 We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph implies that Gentiles are not specifically obligated in the commandment to honor thy father and mother. Likewise, Kiddushin (31a) indicates that even the notable Dama ben Nesina, whose stories of honoring his father were legendary examples and object lessons for the sages, was still technically not obligated in honoring his father.

A number of commentaries (see Yad Avraham and Rabbi Akiva Eiger on Shulkhan Arukh YD 241:9) raise objections to this formulation, as we see that Ham was punished for disrespecting his father Noach (Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer 23.) We also see that Rabbenu Bechaye (Devarim 21:13) holds there is indeed an obligation for a Gentile to honor his or her parents. The mourning time of one month for the captive woman, as described in the verse, is to allow her to fulfill her obligations to honor her parents who (likely) died the war.

Some offer an answer based on Rabbenu Nissim Gaon’s opinion (introduction to his commentary on Berachos), that Gentiles are obligated in “rational commandments” “מצות שכליות”.  Rav Moshe Feinstein found this to be a forced answer (שו”ת אג”מ יו”ד ח”ב סי’ ק”ל) and instead suggests that a Gentile’s obligation to honor parents stems from a principle of hakaras hatov (gratitude) which he says is universal and obligatory to all. (He cites midrashim which discuss lack of gratitude on the part of Adam and other biblical figures that predate the giving of the Torah.)

I will add my thoughts to explain Rav Nissim Gaon’s position.  Just because one is not commanded in a particular law, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for behaving poorly. The whole idea of a commandment might be just a formalization of a particular expectation, and it does not mean that every other matter not stated is permitted by default, just because it’s not the law. This may be especially true in regard to Gentiles.  It is one thing for a Jew, who has a  covenant with God and 613 commandments, he can argue purely legalistically that matters outside the letter of the law are not obligatory.  Granted, he might be a “נבל ברשות התורה“ “A disgusting person who behaves with technical permission of the Torah”, but his argument is still valid.  While a Gentile, who has no covenant, might be more obligated to use his intellect to behave morally. This might be compared to the idea that Gentiles are not subject to specific thresholds (shiurim) in halakha, unlike a Jew. Therefore, a Gentile violates theft for less than a peruta, unlike a Jew,  and Ever Min Hachai for less than a kezayis, unlike a Jew. (See Rambam, Laws of Kings 9:10 and also Annotations of Minchas Chinukh on Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings.) Another idea, which could be combined in tandem with the above, is that since the requirement for making laws and courts is one of the Seven Noachide Laws, perhaps the core rationale is that self evident morality must be enacted and enforced.  The law is secondary to the idea of the obvious moral principles.

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