No wine? No grapes? No hair cutting? Why would someone take a vow to become a nazir and what are we to think of such a vow? The Torah clearly allows for nezirut, but is it encouraged? In this course with Mrs. Sarah Rudolph explore the core text about the nazir from the Torah, as well as Talmudic and later analyses on nezirut. We will also take some time to consider how the nazir’s “optional” prohibition from wine serves as one of the paradigmatic examples through which the Sages discussed the prohibition of leading another person to sin.
The Nazir: Introduction to Nezirut
The first step is always to read the text in the Bible – carefully, with an eye toward detail as well as the big picture, and always on the lookout for questions to explore. We will read Numbers chapter 6 together, uncovering details and broad questions to engage us through our next few classes as we begin thinking about the nazir in relation to self, God, and other people.
The Nazir: The Essence of Nezirut?
What motivates a person to become a nazir? What is nezirut all about, from the nazir’s perspective?
While there are many answers to this question, we will approach it by exploring a number of details in the text of the Torah – including the word “nazir” itself, the concept of “holiness,” and more. Through our study, we will build two different models of nezirut that may -or may not – affect how we view the entire concept.
The Nazir: The Ideal of Nezirut?
Last week, we explored some of the considerations which might lead one to choose to become a nazir. But what is the Torah’s view of that choice? Is it encouraged, or merely grudgingly allowed? What might the nazir paradigm convey about the relationship between physical and spiritual? How might it serve as a paradigm for other cases in which we might feel compelled to choose between conflicting values?
The Nazir: Nazir and Friends
Anytime one individual in a community practices differently, there can be tensions. In our final session, we will explore the nazir’s choice in relation to other people: those the nazir approaches, and those he or she might seem to leave behind. From the other direction, we will consider Rabbinic guidance for how other people might view and relate to the nazir.
Sarah Rudolph is Director of TorahTutors.org. She is a freelance Jewish educator, writer, and editor and has been sharing her passion for Jewish texts of all kinds for over 15 years, with students of all ages. Sarah’s essays have been published in a variety of internet and print media, including Times of Israel, Kveller, Jewish Action, OU Life, The Lehrhaus, TorahMusings, and more. She is Editor-At-Large, Deracheha: womenandmitzvot.org. Sarah lives in Cleveland with her husband and four children, but is privileged to learn online with students all over the world.