Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Sin is Temporary Nazir 22 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the nature of the husband’s annulment of a wife’s vow. We know he is given authority to annul a vow that pertains to a wife’s physical comfort as well as matters that interfere in the marriage within a day’s time (see Shulkhan Arukh YD 234:21 and 55, and Bamidbar 30:13.) The question under discussion is how does the annulment operate?  Is it a retroactive removal of the vow, or is it merely neutralized from the moment of annulment and onward?  In the syntax of the Gemara, “Is it uprooted (Meakar Akar), or is it cut (Megaz Gayyaz)?”  There can be numerous halakhic differences, such as if a woman made a Nazirite vow and set aside her sacrifices, and then her husband annulled the vow.  Do the animals set aside for the sacrifice now revert back to their non-sacred status?  That would depend on if the vow was utterly uprooted or only canceled going forward in time.

The majority of poskim rule that the vow is annulled on a going forward basis (megaz gayyaz). It has also been noted that the scripture uses a phrase “hafer” which means to break or crumble, and implies something closer to a disruption of the vow going forward, as opposed to a retroactive uprooting.

The Chasam Sofer (Haftarah Eikev) applies this distinction in a novel way to explain the process of hora’as sha’ah, a temporary abrogation of Torah law. There are times and conditions where it may be necessary to temporarily override a Torah law in order to respond to, or forestall an imminent problem that would otherwise undermine the Torah even further.  The prooftext is Psalm 119:126, and as a example is discussed in Yoma 69a in how Shimon HaTzaddik wore priestly garments outside of the Temple in order to greet Alexander the Great:

״עֵת לַעֲשׂוֹת לַה׳ הֵפֵרוּ תּוֹרָתֶךָ״.

It is apparent from the baraisa that Shimon HaTzaddik wore the priestly vestments even outside the Temple. This would seem to be in contravention of the ruling of the other baraita prohibiting this. The Gemara resolves the contradiction: In times of great need, such as when one seeks to prevent the destruction of the Temple, it is permitted to violate the halakha, as indicated by the verse: “It is time to act for the Lord, they have broken your Torah” (Psalms 119:126).

The Chasam Sofer notes the use of the term, “they have broken” or in Hebrew “Heferu” as related logistically in intent to the idea of Megaz Gayyaz.  That is, when the sages found it necessary to temporarily override a Torah precept, it was done in the spirit of a disruption but not retroactive removal.  The Torah law remains valid and in effect; it is just temporarily neutralized.

This idea of the Chasam Sofer can be applied even more broadly. In a sense, everything in this world is temporary, even sin itself is temporary, as we have seen in Psychology of the Daf, Nazir 3, as well as what we will, God willing, discuss tomorrow in Psychology of the Daf, Nazir 23.  While most people do not technically have the authority to override Torah rules whatever the urgency, in reality, people do not always follow the rules. Most people like to think of themselves as rational instead of caving into lusts or desires that are not easily controlled.  This is why many people seek justifications for why they were allowed to do whatever they did, due to some special circumstances.  And then there are those who feel compelled to go further in their rationalization. They must declare the law itself as not valid.  This eases the conscience but also undermines the ability to work on developing the strength to live by the law. When one is unable or unwilling to fulfill a mitzvah or hold back from a prohibition, it might be healthier, spiritually speaking, to acknowledge that the prohibition or obligation is binding, and rather for whatever reason, at the moment, one might feel unable to comply. This way there are no delusions and the validity of the law remains intact, at least on a psychological level.

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