The Commandments of Nezirut in the Torah

Ten of the 613 commandments of the Torah apply to a nazir. Nine of those commandments apply to all the types of nezirut, and one commandment applies solely to a temporary nazir. We will explain them according to their order in the Torah, as the Sefer HaChinnuch explained them. They are as follows:

1) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 368 – that the nazir not drink wine or any type of alcohol:

That the nazir not drink wine or any type of alcohol, which is primarily mixed in wine, which is the product of grapes, whereas the product of other fruits, although it is called alcohol, is only forbidden to the nazir when mixed with a grape product. And about this is said (BaMidbar 6:3), “He shall separate himself from wine and alcohol, and he may not drink anything soaked in grapes.” This means that any mixture that has grapes in it is included in the prohibition. The Torah prohibits what is even more distant, saying that even if the wine soured, or the alcohol that the wine was mixed with, it is forbidden to drink it. And about this Scripture said, “He may not drink wine vinegar or alcohol vinegar.” And these are not two negative commandments, namely a negative commandment for wine and another negative commandment for vinegar, because it doesn’t say “He may not drink wine and he may not drink wine vinegar.” We learn now that one who drinks wine and vinegar is only lashed for one of them.

Among the roots of the matter of nezirut: I wrote what I know on positive commandment 4 (374) in this parashah, and the great distancing of the nazir from every mixture of wine is all because of the reason written there.

Among the laws of the commandment are what the Sages say (in Talmud Bavli, Tractate Nazir 34b) that everything that comes from the vine, whether fruit or waste, meaning the zag, which is the skin, and the chartzan, which is the seed inside it, is forbidden to the nazir, as is explicitly mentioned in Scripture. But the leaves, the shoots, the vines and the buds are permitted, because they are neither fruit nor waste, but are considered a tree. And the rest of the many details of the commandment are explained in the tractate that is founded on this, namely Tractate Nazir.

This prohibition applies to males and females, everywhere and at every time, that whoever vows the vow of nezirut is obligated to separate himself from wine, alcohol, wine vinegar and alcohol vinegar and from everything grapes are soaked in.

2) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 369 – that the nazir not eat moist grapes:

That the nazir not eat moist grapes, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:3): “And he may not eat wet … grapes.” And the Sages said: “And he may not eat wet … grapes” comes to include unripe grapes.

And all the matter of this commandment is in the previous commandment.

3) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 370 – that the nazir not eat raisins:

That the nazir not eat raisins, as it is said: “And he may not eat wet or dry grapes.” This is so that you not say that since their name changed to be called “raisins” and not “grapes,” they are permitted; therefore Scripture explicitly mentions the prohibition with regard to them.

All the matter is in the previous commandments. And whoever eats an olive’s amount of them is lashed.

4) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 371 – that the nazir not eat grape seeds:

That the nazir not eat grape seeds, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:4): “From grape seeds … he may not eat.”

All of its matter is in the previous commandments. And if he ate an olive’s amount of them, he is lashed.

5) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 372 – that the nazir not eat grape skin:

That the nazir not eat grape skin, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:4): “To grape skin (zag) he may not eat.” The meaning of zag is the skin.

The warnings to distance wine and everything that comes from the vine are many, so it seems, because everything that comes from it contains great power to enlarge the inclination. And this is known to the natural scientists.

And the Rambam wrote (in Sefer HaMitzvot):

And the proof that each of these five – meaning the wine, the grapes, the raisins, the grape seeds and the grape skin – is a separate commandment, is the fact that a person is liable to lashes for each one of them, as the Sages said in the Mishnah, Tractate Nazir, in the beginning of the chapter Sheloshah Minin (chapter 6): “And he is liable for the wine alone, the grapes alone, the grape seeds alone, the grape skins alone.” And they said similarly (Nazir 38b), “If he ate wet and dry grapes, grape seeds and grape skins, and squeezed a bunch of grapes and drank, he is lashed five times.” And when they wanted to prove that the tanna who taught the number of lashes left out an item from the list, so that the nazir should be obligated in more than five sets of lashes, they said, “But he left out the negative commandment of ‘He may not profane his word’ (BaMidbar 30:3)!” but they didn’t say “But he left out the negative commandment of vinegar!” And the reason is because he is not obligated twice for the wine and vinegar, as we said, because the vinegar was prohibited because of its essence, which is wine. And the meaning of the verse is as if to say that the essence of the prohibition of wine isn’t removed from it when its state worsens, as we mentioned above in its place (commandment 368). And it is appropriate for you to know that these prohibitions of the nazir all combine to an olive’s size, and lashes are given for an olive’s size.

Until now was a quote. All of its matter is in the previous commandments.

6) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 373 – that the nazir not shave his hair all the days of his separation:

That the nazir not shave his hair all the days of his nezirut, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:5): “No blade may pass over his head.”

Among the roots of this commandment: I wrote above, positive commandment 4 (commandment 374).

Among the laws of the commandment are what the Sages said (Nazir 39a) that whether one shaves with a blade, scissors resembling a blade, or if one tears the hair out with his hands, as long as he detaches it from its root, he is to be lashed; but as long as he left enough of it to bend its top towards its root, he is not lashed, because this is not similar to a blade. If he passed over his head a tonic that causes his hair to fall out, and he caused his hair to fall out, he isn’t lashed [but he transgressed the positive commandment of “wildly growing the hair of his head,” as we have said above (commandment 374). And a nazir who shaved his entire head is only lashed] once for cutting his hair, but if he was warned for each and every hair and he was told, “Don’t shave, don’t shave,” and he shaves, he is lashed for each and every one.

Similarly, this commandment includes what they said (Shabbat 50a) that a nazir may rub and scratch but not comb. This means that he may rub his hair with his hands and scratch with his fingernails, and if hairs fall from the rinsing and scratching, he doesn’t need to be concerned, since his intention was not to detach it, and it was also possible that it wouldn’t have been detached because of this. But he may not comb with a comb, because the comb certainly causes hair to fall and be detached without a doubt. And similarly he may not rub his head on the ground because that certainly causes hair to detach, but if he did so he isn’t lashed. And further details are in Tractate Nazir (chapter Sheloshah Minin).

As to whom this applies to and when it applies, and the punishment for one who transgresses it, it is all the same as the law for the other commandments of the nazir that we have written.

And this prohibition applies everywhere and at every time, to males and females, that whoever accepted nezirut upon himself, even in this time, is forbidden to shave even a single hair.

7) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 374 – the commandment for the nazir to grow his hair:

That the nazir, who is a person who separated himself from wine, is commanded to grow the hair of his head all the days of his being a nazir to HaShem, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:5): “Wildly growing the hair of his head.” And the words of the Mechilta (Sifri Zuta here): “‘Wildly growing’ is a positive commandment. And from where do we learn a negative commandment? It teaches by saying, ‘A blade may not pass over his head.’”

Among the roots of the commandment: Introduction: I have already written in the introductory preface to the book that since there exists in HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s world a creature combined of matter and intellect, namely man, it would be appropriate and necessary for God’s praise to come nicely from his creations, that with this creature no possibility that we have in our minds to achieve would be missing, etc., as I have written there.

And no doubt, if not for the reason that our intellect was obliged to dwell in matter conducive of lusts and sins, it would be appropriate for our intellect to stand in service before its creator and recognize His honor as one of the angels that stand before Him. And indeed, because of this obligation, it was enslaved to dwell in “houses of matter” (Iyyov 4:19), and since it was enslaved, it is compelled at any rate to turn away from the service of its creator sometimes and to work for the necessities of the house in which it dwells. For the materials of the house – its wood, its stones and its foundations – would not subsist if a man didn’t watch over it.

And if so, since the intention of man’s formation was as we said, whenever his intellect can decrease the service of matter and turn its goal to the service of its master, then it would be happy, as long as it doesn’t totally abandon the work of the house and destroy it. For this too would be counted to it as a sin, since the king desires to have such a creature, as Rabbi Yosi said in Tractate Ta’anit, chapter 3 (22b) that an individual is not permitted to afflict himself in a fast. And Rav Yehudah explained in the name of Rav that the reason of Rabbi Yosi is because it is written (BeReshit 2:7), “And the man became a living soul” – the Torah said, take care of the life of the soul that I have given you. And about this the wise king said (Kohelet 7:16), “Do not be very righteous, and do not be too wise: why should you be desolated?”

And this is the holiness and virtue of the nazir, when he sets aside the service of matter and breaks his lusts in that which is not a total destruction of the house, such as refraining from drinking wine and growing his hair. For the inclination is thereby vanquished and the house will not leak because of it, and its foundations will not be destroyed; but the service of the intellect will strengthen and his movements will shine, and the honor of HaShem will dwell over him, and the intent of the creation will be fulfilled in this man without decreasing the service of his intellect to his creator because of the combination of matter in him.

And the proof that the matter of growing the hair is also in order to vanquish the inclination, as we said, is what the Sages said in the beginning of Nazir, chapter 1 (4b):

Rabbi Shimon the Righteous said: I never ate the asham of an impure nazir except for one. Once, a man who was a nazir came before me from the south, and I saw that he was beautiful of eyes and good of appearance, with curly locks.

I said to him: My son, why did you decide to destroy your beautiful hair?

He said to me: I was a shepherd for my father in my town. I went to fill up water from the well, and I saw my reflection, and my desire rushed upon me and sought to divert me from the world. I said to it: Wicked one, why are you priding yourself in a world that doesn’t belong to you, upon someone who will be maggots and worms? By the Temple service, I will shave you off for heaven!

Immediately, I stood and kissed him on his head. I said to him: My son, may there be many nezirim like you in Israel. About you the verse says (BaMidbar 6:2), “If a man or a woman expressly vows the vow of a nazir, to separate himself to HaShem.”

Therefore, in order to vanquish the inclination, he is also commanded to shave all his hair at the completion of the days of his nezirut, and he is not permitted to fix them and to take some of them so that his inclination not return to him like before. But he is obligated to shave them totally, because there is no doubt that excessively long hair or total shaving degenerates a person’s appearance.

Don’t object to this reason that I have written from what the Sages said (Nazir 19a), “Let him bring an atonement for himself for having caused himself distress by separating from wine,” because this could also make sense according to our reason. Because since I said that a person doesn’t have permission to destroy his house and to ruin something on the structure that the first builder built, it would be appropriate for him to bring an atonement for himself, for perhaps he strayed from the bounds that he was obligated in with regard to his body and soul, for perhaps his nature and his structure are firm such that the nezirut is too much of an affliction on himself. And all the ways of HaShem are straight, and “the righteous walk on them” (Hoshea 14:10).

But the Ramban wrote in his commentaries (BaMidbar 6:11), according to the simple understanding regarding the reason for the chattat that the nazir brings for atonement, that the matter is that he needs atonement when he returns to contaminate himself in worldly desires, because since the spirit of HaShem was upon him and he began to be a nazir to HaShem, he should have stayed that way his entire life. And there are seventy facets to the Torah.

Among the laws of the commandment are what the Sages said (Mishnah, Nazir 39a) that if the nazir shaved, whether on purpose or by accident, or even by compulsion, he cancels his count and begins to count thirty days [this refers to a temporary nazir], because we hold (Nazir 5a) that an unspecified nezirut is thirty days so that his hair can be wild. And when does this apply? When he was shaved in the majority of his hair, whether with a blade or with a blade-type, and there was not enough left to bend their top to their roots. But if he shaved the minority of the hair of his head, he doesn’t cancel his count because of this, and similarly he doesn’t cancel his count because of drinking wine, and even if he drank from it for many days. But he does cancel his count because of impurity, as is explicitly mentioned in Scripture.

And this commandment, that one who vowed to be a nazir is obligated to grow his hair, applies everywhere and at every time, to males and females. For although the Sages taught us (Nazir 19b) that nezirut applies in the Land of Israel, meaning that every person is obligated to conduct his nezirut in the Land of Israel for the amount of days that he vowed, and that the days that he vowed for his vow of nezirut only count there, even outside of Israel all the specific laws of nezirut apply to him. Therefore, someone who vowed to be a nazir in this time is a lifelong nazir, because now because of our sins we don’t have a temple for him to bring his sacrifices at the completion of the days of his nezirut. And the Sages further said that if we have the power to force him, we force him to move to Israel and to conduct his nezirut there until he dies, or until the Temple is built and he can fulfill his sacrifices.

8) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 375 – that the nazir not enter the tent of a corpse:

That the nazir not enter the tent of a corpse, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:6): “He may not come upon a dead body.”

Among the roots of distancing impurity from a holy place, I wrote what I know above in this parashah in the first commandment (362), and this is the law and this is the reason to distance a holy man from it. As to the reason for the impurity of the body of a dead person, I also wrote what I understood in the parashah Emor El HaKohanim.

Among the laws of the commandment are what the Sages said (Nazir 43a) that the nazir is only obligated for entering into the tent of a corpse once he enters it entirely. And although he becomes impure from the moment his nose or toes enter, even so it is not called “coming” until he enters entirely. Therefore, if a nazir enters a house containing a corpse in a cabinet, a box or a tower, and his friend comes and removes the top of the box while he is aware of it, he is lashed twice: once for “He may not come,” and once for “He may not be contaminated” (BaMidbar 6:7) because in this case the contamination and coming happen at the same time. And if a nazir enters the tent of a corpse or a cemetery unintentionally, and after it was made known to him he remained there for the amount of time it takes to prostrate in the Temple, he is liable to lashes. And the rest of its details are explained in Tractate Nazir.

And this prohibition applies everywhere and at every time, to males and females.

9) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 376 – that the nazir not be contaminated from a corpse or from other contaminations:

That the nazir not become contaminated from a corpse, as it is said (BaMidbar 6:7): “To his father and to his mother … he may not be contaminated,” etc.

Among the laws of the commandment is what the Sages said (Nazir 49b) that there is impurity from a corpse that if the nazir is contaminated by it, he shaves and cancels the previous days and begins to count the days of his nezirut afterwards [this refers to a temporary nazir]; and there is impurity from a corpse for which he doesn’t shave for it or cancel the previous days, even though it is impurity for a period of seven days: because it is not said about him, “And if he becomes impure by contact with a corpse,” but “If someone dies to him” (BaMidbar 6:9), which implies that this is only so once he is contaminated by impurities that come from the dead body itself.

And these are the contaminations that a nazir shaves because of them [this refers to a temporary nazir]: for a miscarried fetus, even if its limbs were not connected by sinews; for an olive-sized piece of a dead body; for an olive-sized amount of corpse fluid; for bones which are the majority of the number of bones in the body, even if they are less than a quarter kav; for bones which are the main structure of the dead body, even if they are less than a quarter kav; for half a kav of bones, even if they don’t contain the majority of the structure or quantity of bones in the body, provided that all the bones are from one dead body and not from two dead bodies; for the spine which comes from one dead body; for the skull of one dead body; for a limb of the dead body, and for a limb from a living body from another person, which have enough flesh for a scab to grow if it were alive; and for half a log of blood which comes from one dead body; for two handsful of corpse rot.

What is corpse fluid? This is the flesh of the dead body that dissolved and became a foul secretion.

And the rot of a corpse doesn’t contaminate unless he is buried naked in a marble coffin and is entirely whole. If he was missing a limb, or if he was buried in his clothing, or in a coffin of bone or metal, he doesn’t have rot. And rot only applies to one who dies by himself, excluding one who was killed, because some of his blood is missing. If two corpses were buried together, or if they cut off his hair or his fingernails and buried them with him, or if a pregnant woman died and was buried with her fetus in her belly, their rot doesn’t contaminate. And similarly, if the corpse was grinded until it became rot, it doesn’t contaminate unless it rots by itself.

And similarly, if he was contaminated by a quarter kav of bones which come from the spine or from the skull in their tent, he is thereby doubtfully impure.

Regarding all these twelve impurities that we enumerated, if the nazir touched one of them, or carried or was situated as a tent over it, or if the impurity was situated as a tent over the nazir, or if the nazir and one of these impurities were together in a tent, he must shave the shaving for impurity, and bring a sacrifice for impurity, and cancel his entire count, except for rot, which doesn’t contaminate by touch, because it’s impossible for him to touch all of it, because it isn’t a single body. But if he carried it, or was made impure in a tent containing it, he shaves.

Similarly, a nazir who touched the bone of a dead body, even a bone the size of a grain of barley, or carried it, must shave for it, and he brings sacrifices of impurity, and he cancels the previous days. But a bone the size of a grain of barley doesn’t transmit impurity in a tent.

But if he was contaminated by earth from the land of the idol worshipers; or a field in which a grave was threshed which transmits impurity through touching and carrying; or if a tent covered him along with one of the aforementioned twelve impurities; the vines that extend from trees; or the stray wood that comes out of a fence; or a bed, or a camel or the like; or if he was contaminated in a tent with a quarter kav of bones which have neither the majority of the structure or quantity of bones in the body; or if he was contaminated by a revi’it of blood from the dead body, although it transmits impurity by touching, carrying, and in a tent; or if he was contaminated by the cover of a tomb and a tomb, which transmit impurity by touch and in a tent; or if he was contaminated by a limb from a living person or a limb from a dead person which don’t have enough flesh on them according to the way we mentioned – he does not cancel the previous days.

Although all of these contaminate him for seven days, and he is sprinkled on the third and seventh day, he doesn’t shave the shaving for impurity, nor bring sacrifices, nor cancel the previous days; but none of the days of impurity count for the days of his nezirut.

And this prohibition applies everywhere and at every time, to males and females.

10) Sefer HaChinnuch commandment 377 – the commandment for the nazir to shave his hair and bring his sacrifices [entirely referring to a temporary nazir]:

That the nazir shave his hair and bring his sacrifices when he completes his nezirut, and also when he becomes impure, as it is written (BaMidbar 6:13): “On the day of the completion of his nezirut,” and similarly: “If someone dies to him,” (BaMidbar 6:9), etc. And they said in Sifra (Metzora 2:6): “There are three who shave whose shaving is a commandment: the nazir, the metzora, and the leviyyim.” However, these three are not equal in everything, since the shaving of the leviyyim was a temporary measure in the desert, whereas with the two others, this is a commandment that applies to all generations.

And the Rambam writes that these two shavings of the nazir – namely shaving for impurity and shaving for purity – are only to be counted as one commandment, because the shaving for impurity is not an independent commandment at all, but one of the laws of the commandment of nezirut which Scripture explains: that if the nazir was contaminated during his period of nezirut, that he should shave and bring a sacrifice and then go back to wildly growing his hair in holiness as before for all of the days of nezirut that he forbade to himself. Just as the metzora has two shavings which are a single commandment, since this is not the main part of the commandment but one of its laws, it should not be counted as an independent commandment, as the Rambam explained in his Sefer HaMitzvot in the seventh principle.

And in the parashah Zot Tihyeh, positive commandment 2 (174), I also wrote in the name of the Rambam what the reason is for counting the shaving of the nazir and his sacrifices as one commandment, but the shaving of the metzora and his sacrifices as two commandments, and you may see it explained there if you wish to learn.

Among the roots of this commandment of shaving all the hair at the completion of the period of nezirut and bringing the sacrifices: I included what I know in the root of the previous commandment (374).

Among the laws of the commandment are what the Sages said (Middot 2:5), “Where does he shave his hair? In the women’s courtyard. And there was an office for nezirim there in the southeast corner, and there they would cook their shelamim and throw their hair into the fire.” But if he shaved outside of the Temple, he fulfilled his obligation, and wherever he shaves, he throws his hair under the furnace. And he doesn’t shave until the door of the courtyard is open, as it is said, “In the opening of the Tent of Meeting.” But the explanation of this verse is not that he should shave opposite the door, because that would be a disgrace to the Temple.

And similarly what the Sages said about this commandment (Nazir 46a), “A bald nazir doesn’t need to pass a razor, even though he doesn’t have hair.” And similarly, if he doesn’t have hands, he offers his sacrifices and afterwards he can drink wine and become impure, and even if he has hair: since he brought his sacrifices, although he didn’t shave, the shaving doesn’t prevent him, and he can drink and become impure in the evening; because once one of the blood was thrown from his sacrifices, he is released, even though he didn’t put it on his hands or wave it, because all of these things are done for the commandment but don’t prevent its fulfillment.

And although the shaving doesn’t prevent the fulfillment, it is a commandment to shave even after a long time. And a nazir who shaved without a blade, or shaved with a blade but left two hairs, didn’t do anything, and he didn’t fulfill the commandment of shaving, whether a pure nazir or an impure nazir.

If he shaved for a shelamim sacrifice and it turned out to be invalid, his shaving is invalid and his sacrifices didn’t count for him. If he shaved for the three animals that he sacrifices and one of them turned out to be valid, his shaving is valid, and he must bring the rest of the sacrifices for them to be offered according to their laws. These three animals that we mentioned are a lamb for olah, a ewe for chattat, and a ram for shelamim, and he brings with the ram six and two thirds isaron of fine flour and bakes twenty loaves from them. And the rest of its details are in Tractate Nazir (chapter 7).

And this applies in the time of the Temple to males and females.