Nezirut Outside of Israel
The Sages determined that nezirut applies in the Land of Israel and outside the Land of Israel, as is brought in the Tosefta, Tractate Nazir 1:5:
Nezirut applies in the Land of Israel and outside the Land of Israel, whether he has hair or whether he doesn’t have hair.
On the other hand, it is said that nezirut applies only in the Land of Israel, as you can see from the Mishnah, Tractate Nazir 3:6:
If someone vowed many vows of nezirut and completed his nezirut, and afterwards came to Israel, Beit Shammai say: He is a nazir for thirty days. And Beit Hillel say: He is a nazir from the beginning. It happened that Queen Helene’s son went to war, and she said: “If my son comes from the war in peace, I will be a nezirah for seven years, and at the end of seven years, she came to Israel, and Beit Hillel taught her that she must be a nezirah for seven more years. And after seven years she was contaminated, and she turned out to be a nezirah for twenty-one years. Rabbi Yehudah said: She was a nezirah only for fourteen years.
And Rabbi Ovadyah of Bartenura explained there:
“And completed his nezirut, and afterwards came to Israel” – because nezirut only applies in Israel, because of the impurity of the land of gentiles. And if someone vows nezirut outside of Israel, we obligate him to move to the Land of Israel and to conduct his nezirut there.
And in another place, Rabbi Ovadyah of Bartenura wrote on Tractate Eduyot 4:11:
“He is a nazir for thirty days” – We penalize him to fulfill an ordinary nezirut in the Land of Israel, which is thirty days.
And the Rambam wrote in his Commentary on the Mishnah on Tractate Nazir 3:5:
Nezirut is impossible outside of Israel because of impurity. And what is stated in the Tosefta, that nezirut applies in the Land of Israel and outside the Land of Israel, means that one who obligates himself in nezirut outside of the Land is obligated in it as a penalty, and therefore he must move to the Land of Israel and conduct his nezirut there. And one who vowed outside of Israel is penalized. Beit Shammai say that the penalty is that we obligate him in an ordinary nezirut in the Land of Israel, which is thirty days. And Beit Hillel say that we obligate him to conduct his nezirut in Israel as much as he obligated himself.
And Rabbi Yehudah holds that one who becomes impure on the day of completion doesn’t cancel everything, but only cancels thirty days, as Rabbi Eliezer says, and thus it is clarified that he received this ruling from him. And he bases this on what the Torah says (BaMidbar 6:13), “This is the teaching (torat) of the nazir on the day of completion” – the Torah said that if he becomes impure on the day of completion, give him the status (torat) of a nazir, meaning nezirut, which is thirty days. And therefore he said that she was only a nezirah for fourteen years, and he didn’t count thirty days because the year wasn’t completed. And the law is not like Rabbi Yehudah.
The Rambam writes the same in his Commentary on the Mishnah on Tractate Eduyot 4:11:
All agree that there is no nezirut outside of Israel, and we penalize someone who vowed nezirut outside of Israel. Beit Shammai make the penalty that he is obligated in an ordinary nezirut in Israel, which is thirty days. And Beit Hillel penalize him that he is obligated in the nezirut in which he obligated himself in Israel, and even if it was a hundred years.
For him to be a nazir twice means to be a nazir for sixty days. And this law and its explanation have already been mentioned in the third chapter of Nezirut.
The Rambam rules likewise in Laws of Nezirut 2:21:
Nezirut only applies in the Land of Israel. If someone becomes a nazir outside of Israel, we penalize him by obligating him to move to the Land of Israel and to be a nazir in the Land of Israel for the number of days that he vowed to be a nazir. Therefore, if someone vows nowadays outside of Israel, we force him to move to the Land of Israel and to conduct nezirut there until he dies or until the Temple is rebuilt, so that he can bring his sacrifices at the completion of the days of his nezirut.
Rabbenu Yerucham writes similarly in Toledot Adam VeChavvah 14:7, page 114a:
If someone vows to be a nazir nowadays, we force him to move to the Land of Israel and to conduct nezirut there until he dies or until the Temple is rebuilt, so that he can bring his sacrifices at the completion of the days of his nezirut. And all the time that he is outside of Israel, he is forbidden to drink wine, and he may not become impure from a corpse, and he may not shave, and all the specific laws of nezirut apply to him, even though these days don’t count for him. And if he transgressed by drinking, shaving or becoming impure by touching a corpse and the like, he is lashed for it. This is the wording of the Rambam in Nezirut, and this is simple and clear for a nazir.
Other rishonim write the same.
From the aforesaid, it follows that this applies to a temporary nazir, and even if he vows nowadays. He became a nazir for a limited time, and he did not thereby become a lifelong nazir, but he must remain a nazir until the end of his life, because there is no Temple to offer sacrifices at the completion of the days of nezirut that he promised. And the wording of the posekim also indicates this, because they said: “We force him to move to the Land of Israel and to conduct nezirut there until he dies or until the Temple is rebuilt, so that he can bring his sacrifices at the completion of the days of his nezirut.” But a lifelong nazir doesn’t offer any sacrifices, and there is nothing to penalize him for.
The matter is that with a nazir who apportioned a limited time for his holiness, the Sages came and decreed a place for his holiness to be limited in until the completion of his days of nezirut. But a lifelong nazir’s holiness has no limited, neither in time nor in place, as we have said in the previous chapters, and the decree was not relevant to him. And therefore, a lifelong nazir is permitted to stay wherever he wishes.
However, there is a simple possibility to permit even an ordinary nazir in this time to stay outside of Israel, which is learned from the law of kohanim. Kohanim too are forbidden in impurity of corpses, as is said in VaYikra 21:1:
HaShem said to Mosheh: Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you shall say to them that he should not contaminate himself for a dead person in his nation.
And if so, why should they not be forbidden to be in the land of the nations, and not be forced to move to the Land of Israel for them to conduct kehunah until they die?
Now, the Rambam wrote in Laws of Mourning 3:14:
A kohen is permitted to become impure in a field of scattered bones or outside of Israel for a matter of a commandment, when there is no way other than it, such as if he went to marry a woman or to learn Torah. Even if there is someone who can teach him in the Land of Israel, a person doesn’t succeed in learning from everyone. Similarly, he can become impure from rabbinical-level impurities for the sake of human dignity.
This is because a temporary nazir would not be inconvenienced to stay in the Land of Israel for the amount of time that he promised, because soon after the nezirut ends he would offer the sacrifices and be permitted in everything. But a kohen, whose prohibition to become impure is in effect forever, can’t be limited in place all the days of his life. And therefore, the Sages allowed the kohen to become impure from rabbinical-level impurities and to stay in the land of the nations. It follows that in this time, a temporary nazir who became a lifelong nazir and is forced to live in holiness until the end of his life, as long as the Temple is not built, the rule for him is similar to that of kohanim, and he can use the permission that the Rabbis allowed them.
But in any case, it’s good for you to know that the prohibition to stay outside of Israel applies to all of Jews generally and individually, and not only to those who are forbidden to become impure from a corpse. This is brought in the Talmud Bavli, Tractate Ketubbot 110b:
The Rabbis taught: A person should always dwell in the Land of Israel, even in a town that is mostly idol-worshipers, and not dwell outside of Israel, even in a town that is mostly Jews. For anyone who dwells in the Land of Israel is similar to one who has a God, and anyone who dwells outside of Israel is similar to one who doesn’t have a God, as it is said (VaYikra 25:38): “To give you the land of Canaan, to be a God for you.” And does anyone who doesn’t dwell in the land not have a God? Rather, this is to teach you that whoever dwells outside of Israel is considered as if he worships idols. And similarly it says about David (1 Shemuel 26:19): “For they have banished me today from being attached to the inheritance of HaShem, saying, ‘Go worship other gods.’” Who told David to worship other gods? Rather, this is to teach you that whoever dwells outside of Israel is considered as if he worships idols.
Also in the Zohar, Parashat Yitro 2:79b, it is explained:
This is what we are taught: Whoever dwells in the Land of Israel is similar to one who has a God, and whoever dwells outside of Israel is similar to one who doesn’t have a God. What is the reason? Because holy seed rises to the holy land, and the shechinah sits in the place, and each depends on the other.
The same is brought down in the Rambam, Laws of Kings 5:12:
A person should always dwell in the Land of Israel, even in a town that is mostly idol-worshipers, and not dwell outside of Israel, even in a town that is mostly Jews. For anyone who dwells outside of Israel is considered as if he worships idols, as it is written (1 Shemuel 26:19): “For they have banished me today from being attached to the inheritance of HaShem, saying, ‘Go worship other gods.’” And among the punishments it is written (Yechezkel 20:38): “And he will not come to the ground of Israel.”
Just as it is forbidden to leave from Israel to outside out Israel, so too it is forbidden to leave from Babylon to the other lands, as it is written (Yirmeyahu 27:22): “They shall be brought to Babylon and they shall be there.”
The same is brought down in the Rambam, Laws of Kings 5:9:
It is always forbidden to leave from the Land of Israel to outside the Land of Israel, except to learn Torah, or to marry a woman, or to save oneself from idolaters; but he should return to Israel. Similarly he may leave for commerce, but to dwell outside of Israel is forbidden unless there is such a strong famine there than one dinar worth of wheat becomes two dinarim.
When does this apply? When money is abundant and fruit is expensive. But if fruit is cheap but he can’t find money or a way to earn money and his wallet is empty, he may leave to any place where he finds profit. And although it is permitted to leave, this is not a pious standard, because Machlon and Kilyon were two leaders of the generation, and they left because of a great distress, yet God considered them culpable to be destroyed.
And the Ramak, Pardes Rimmonim 25:2, explained as follows:
And the air of the land of the nations transmits impurity, but the air of the Land of Israel purifies, and the air of the Land of Israel makes one wiser, because the kelippot have no control at all over it. And this matter is also explained in the Zohar, Parashat Terumah:
In the holy land, everything is fixed in another way, because the harsh kelippah is broken from that place, where kelippah has no control at all. The harsh kelippah is always broken from that place, and it is opened from this side and that side, and that opening was in the holy land at every time that service is performed appropriately.
Once the sins caused otherwise, this opening was drawn to this side and that side, until it approached the kelippah altogether. Once the kelippah thus sealed the mocha, this kelippah ruled over them and pushed them outside of that place. Nevertheless, although it pushed them outside, that kelippah was unable to rule in that holy site which was not its place.
And if you say: If so, since that harsh kelippah is unable to rule in that holy site, why does it remain destroyed, since destruction only exists in the world from the side of that harsh kelippah? Rather, certainly when it was destroyed, it was only destroyed from that side at the moment that it sealed the mocha. And HaKadosh Baruch Hu made it so that that harsh kelippah wouldn’t rule over that site; and when it pushed Israel away from it, that kelippah was returned and was opened as before. And because the holy nation weren’t there, a holy covering of a light curtain covered over that opening to guard that place from being sealed by that harsh kelippah and being attached to all its sides.
For there to be a holy greatness over the land as before is impossible, because that light covering is attached so as not to descend downwards, because the holy nation is not there; and therefore, the destruction was not rebuilt from the day it was destroyed. For that harsh kelippah to rule is impossible, because that light covering is attached to all the sides of that opening, so that it not rule there and that the covering of a curtain not seal the mocha, which is from the drawing of the holy curtain above which guards that place.
And therefore, when all the souls of the other nations who dwell in the land depart from this world, it doesn’t accept them and pushes them outside, and they go and wander and become reincarnated in many reincarnations until they depart from all of the holy land and surround their side with their impurity. And all of the souls of Israel that depart from there rise, and that light covering accepts them, and they enter the supreme holiness, because each type goes to its own type. And when the souls of Israel go outside of the holy land, in the domain of that harsh kelippah, it goes and wanders and is reincarnated until it returns to the site and rises to the place that is appropriate for it, etc.
Until now was a quote. And all of its words are clear and pure, and they are an enormous necessity and wide exposition of our matter, that there is no kelippah in the Land of Israel at all, so that there is no need to pass through kelippot, God forbid. And similarly, the souls of the wicked, i.e. the wicked of the nations, are reincarnated outside, as it is written (1 Shemuel 25:29): “He will cast away the soul of your enemies in the sling of a slingshot.” For the heavenly gate to enter holiness is the Land of Israel. And because of this, prophecy only dwells in the Land of Israel. And there is no refutation from the prophecy of Yechezkel, which was outside of Israel, because the Rabbis have already answered it. And there is no refutation from the matter of the generation of the desert, because the air of the Land of Israel would go with them, because if not, how were they able to eat kodashim outside of Israel? Rather, the air, the firmaments, the heavens, the windows and the ministers would all travel with the shechinah, which would travel with them. And this is explained in the Zohar, Parashat Terumah (140b).
This would all be fine if we knew the true location of the biblical Land of Israel, but today we are unable to know what the boundaries of the biblical Land of Israel are, and we don’t even know where its place is.