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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim
MISHNAH. [IF ONE SAYS] 'AS THE VOWS OF THE WICKED, HE HAS VOWED IN RESPECT OF NEZIROTH, A SACRIFICE, AND AN OATH.1 [IF HE SAYS:] 'AS THE VOWS OF THE RIGHTEOUS,' HIS WORDS ARE OF NO EFFECT. [BUT IF HE SAID,] 'AS THEIR FREEWILL-OFFERINGS,' HE HAS VOWED IN RESPECT OF A NAZIRITE VOW AND A SACRIFICE.1
GEMARA. But perhaps he meant thus: 'I do not vow as the vows of the wicked?' — Samuel answered: The Mishnah refers to one who said, 'As the vows of the wicked behold I am,' [or] '[I take] upon myself,' [or] '[I am debarred] from it': [which means,] 'Behold, I am a nazir,' [or] 'I take upon myself [the obligation] to offer a sacrifice,' [or] 'I [am debarred] by an oath [to derive any benefit] therefrom. Behold, I am a nazir': but perhaps he meant, 'Behold, lam to fast'? — Said Samuel: That is if a nazir was passing in front of him.2 'I am [debarred] by an oath [to derive any benefit] therefrom.' But perhaps [hemennu] [from or of it] means 'that I am to eat of it'? — Said Raba: It means that he said, '[I am debarred] from it not to eat it.' If so, why state it?3 — I would argue, But he has not explicitly taken an oath!4 Hence we are informed [otherwise].5
[IF HE SAYS], 'AS THE VOWS OF THE RIGHTEOUS,' etc. Which Tanna recognises a distinction between a vow and a freewill offering:6 shall we say, neither R. Meir nor R. Judah? For it was taught: Better it is that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay.7 Better than both is not to vow at all: thus said R. Meir. R. Judah said: Better than both is to vow and repay.8 — You may even say that it is R. Meir:
Nedarim 9bR. Meir spoke only of a vow, but not of a freewill-offering. But the Mishnah states: AS THEIR FREEWILL-OFFERINGS, HE HAS VOWED IN RESPECT OF NAZIR AND A SACRIFICE?1 — Learn: HE HAS made a freewill-offering IN RESPECT OF NAZIR AND A SACRIFICE. Now, wherein does a vower differ, that he is not [approved]: because he may thereby come to a stumbling-block?2 But a freewill-offering too can become a stumbling-block?3 — [He does as] Hillel the Elder.4 For it was taught: It was said of Hillel the Elder that no man ever trespassed through his burnt-offering;5 he would bring it as hullin6 to the Temple court, then sanctify it, and put his hand upon it7 and slaughter it. That is well in respect of a freewill-offering of sacrifices; but what can be said of a freewill-offering of neziroth?8 — It is as Simeon the Just.9 For it was taught: Simeon the Just said: Only once in my life have I eaten of the trespass-offering brought by a defiled tear. On one occasion a nazir came from the South country, and I saw that he had beautiful eyes, was of handsome appearance, and with thick locks of hair symmetrically arranged. Said I to him: 'My son, what [reason] didst thou see to destroy this beautiful hair of thine?'10 He replied: 'I was a shepherd for my father in my town. [Once] I went to draw water from a well, gazed upon my reflection in the water, whereupon my evil desires rushed upon me and sought to drive me from the world [through sin]. But I said unto it [my lust]: "Wretch! why dost thou vaunt thyself in a world that is not thine, with one who is destined to become worms and dust?11 I swear12 that I will shave thee off [his beautiful hair] for the sake of Heaven."' I immediately arose and kissed his head, saying: 'My son, may there be many nazirites such as thou in Israel! Of thee saith the Holy Writ, When either a man or a woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a nazirite, to separate themselves unto the Lord.13
R. Mani demurred: Wherein does the trespass-offering of an unclean nazirite differ, that he did not eat [thereof]: because it comes on account of sin? Then he should not have partaken [of] all trespass-offerings, since they come on account of sin? Said R. Jonah to him, This is the reason: When they regret [their evil deeds], they become nazirites, but when they become defiled, and the period of neziroth is lengthened,14 they regret their vow, and thus hullin is brought to the Temple court.15 If so, it is the same even with an undefiled nazir too?16 — A clean nazir is not so, for he [previ ously] estimates his will-power, [and decides] that he can vow.
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