The Status of the Denier of Nezirut
Since the principle of the Torah and the principle of the Creator’s will is holiness, as it is written (VaYikra 19:2), “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” the question may be asked: Who is it who dared to deny nezirut in Israel?
We know that it was the erev rav (mixed multitude) who made the golden calf and caused the Nation of Israel to sin after the exodus from Egypt, as is evident from Zohar, Parashat VaYakhel 2:195a:
And that erev rav came and made the calf, and those who died strayed after it, and they caused death and killing to Israel.
And why did they make the calf? For the reason that they came from the root of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and not from the Tree of Life like the Nation of Israel, as is also evident from the Zohar, Parashat BeReshit 1:26a:
The etz hachayyim, which is the Tree of Life, shall be planted inside the Garden, about which it is said (BeReshit 3:22): “And he will also take from the Tree of Life, and eat and live forever.” And the tree of the other side doesn’t rule over the shechinah, which are the erev rav, who are the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and it receives nothing else impure. This is what is written (Devarim 32:12): “HaShem guides them alone, and no strange god is with Him.”
It is said about Israel (BeReshit 2:17): “But you may not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” which are the erev rav, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu revealed to them that on the day they eats of it, they caused two losses, which are the First Temple and the Second Temple. This is the meaning of: “For on the day you eat of it, you will surely die (mot tamut),” twice.
Holiness comes from the side of the Tree of Life, as stated above, and it follows that whoever denies holiness is at root from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, meaning to say that he is from the erev rav!
In addition to this, the harshest of the erev rav are the Amalekites, our enemies and haters from generation to generation, whose memory the Torah commands us in Devarim chapter 25 to erase. On the fact that the Amalekites are the harshest of the erev rav, the Sages testify in Tikkunei Zohar, tikkun 69, 119b:
But when Amalek, who are the firstborn of Egypt, the erev rav mixed with Israel, about them it is said (Devarim 25:19): “Erase the memory of Amalek,” for no trace of them survived, for they are a mix of all the nations, and even of Kayin. And as soon as they are erased from the world, “Then HaShem’s name began to be called upon” (BeReshit 4:26).
In addition to this, we have said above that nezirut is rising to holiness, and whoever denies nezirut denies holiness in Israel, and has the status of an epikuros. And this is evident from the words of the Rambam, Laws of the Foundations of the Torah 6:8:
If a Jewish epikuros wrote a Torah scroll, we burn it together with its sacred names, because he doesn’t believe in the holiness of the name, and he didn’t write it for his sake.
And from Rambam’s Commentary to the Mishnah, Tractate Sanhedrin 10:1:
And the work epikuros is an Aramaic word referring to belittling and disparaging the Torah or the sages of the Torah.
And since the principle of the Torah and the principle of the Creator’s will is holiness, as it is written (VaYikra 19:2), “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” it follows that if one doesn’t believe in the holiness of a nazir, and all the more so if one fights against nezirut, he is a certain epikuros.
Epicurus was the Greek philosopher who denied the existence of HaShem and His providence, and he is considered the archetype of heretics, and therefore in the language of the ages, an epikuros is a person who denies the principles of belief.
And this brings us back to the depth of Jewish history, to the formative period of the Tzaddukim. The Tzaddukim are those who opposed nezirut and denied holiness in Israel. And about them the Sages said in Talmud Bavli, Tractate Shabbat 116a:
Rabbi Tarfon said: I swear by the life of my children that if I got my hands on them [writings of heretics], I would burn them together with the sacred names inside them. For even if a man is chasing after him to kill him, and a snake running to bite him, one should enter a house of idolatry, but not enter their houses. For these know and deny, while those don’t know and deny.
But if you ask, is there even an epikuros in the world? You will get a convincing answer from the words of the Sages in Midrash Tehillim 104:
It is written (Tehillim 104:25): “Innumerous crawling beasts are there” – these are the wicked and the heretics and the epikursim.
And if there is a Jew who is assumed to be a great Torah scholar, and he makes a legal decision against nezirut, and forces nezirut to be annulled, and he has a great reputation among the nation, what shall we respond to him? About him his like, the Sages said in the Mishnah, Tractate Avot 2:14:
Rabbi Elazar says: Be diligent in learning Torah, and know what to respond to an epikuros.
And this is what we will respond to him: It is stated in the Midrash BaMidbar Rabbah 10:
“Speak to the Children of Israel” – these are those who vow as a nazir.
“And you shall say to them” – to warn the courts not to allow the nazir to transgress his nezirut, for it they see that he wishes to annul his nezirut, they should force him to fulfill his words. This comes to teach you that the great are warned regarding the lesser, and they are punished through them if they don’t rebuke them, as it is said (VaYikra 26:37): “And each man will stumble on his brother” – each man for the sin of his brother. This teaches that all of Israel are guarantors for each other.
It follows that one who opposes nezirut should not be considered a great Torah scholar; he should not be greater than Mosheh’s Torah and its Sages. And after all that has been said in this chapter and in this book, it is understood that that scholar is an epikuros.
And if you want to know who is truly wise, come and see the words of the Sages in Midrash Rabbah, BaMidbar Rabbah 11:
“And He gives favor to the humble” (Mishlei 3:34) – these are the nezirim who hold onto humility in themselves, by separating from wine and growing their hair wildly, in order to afflict themselves and to guard themselves from sin. HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives them favor, as is written in birkat kohanim (BaMidbar 6:25): “And may He favor you.”
“The wise inherit honor” (Mishlei 3:35) – because the nezirim would fear sin, they were called wise, as you say (in Tehillim 111:10): “The beginning of wisdom is fear of HaShem,” and it says (Iyyov 28:28): “Indeed, the fear of HaShem is wisdom.” They inherit the honor that HaKadosh Baruch Hu lifts his face towards them and grants them peace.
The heretics and the epikursim will have no hope, and all the wicked will be lost in a moment, for “there is no peace, said my God, to the wicked” (Yeshayahu 57:21). And the prophet Yeshayahu (chapter 5) rebukes them:
O you who call evil, “good,” and good, “evil”; who turn darkness to light, and light to darkness; who turn bitter to sweet and sweet to bitter! O you mighty at drinking wine, and valiant men at pouring alcohol; who vindicate the wicked because of a bribe, and remove the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Therefore as a tongue of fire devours straw, and as a flame scorches hay, their root will become like rot, and their flower will blow away like dust, for they have rejected the teaching of HaShem of Legions, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore HaShem’s anger flared at His people, and He raised His hand against it and struck it, and the mountains trembled, and their corpses were dismembered throughout the streets. Even so, His anger has not turned back, and His hand is still stretched out.
But about the nezirim, HaShem’s holy ones, the prophet Yeshayahu 4:3 says: “And it shall be that those left in Tziyyon, and those remaining in Yerushalayim, will be named holy; all who are written for life in Yerushalayim.”