Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Talmud on who can be a nazirite, shaving body hair, etc.

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmudury Tales. Women without underarm hair, transvestites seeking illicit sexual relations, lepers who can’t shave, nazirite gentiles, grape-eaters, and other Chauceresque characters, in this week’s ‘Daf Yomi.’
Throughout Tractate Nazir—whose end Daf Yomi readers approached this week—there has been a very natural assumption that the only people who can become nazirites are Jews. Indeed, it never occurred to me that it could be otherwise: Isn’t naziriteship a part of Jewish law, as laid down in the Torah? Yet in Nazir 61a, the rabbis point out that the textual basis for naziriteship, in the Book of Numbers, is not crystal clear on this point. The subject is introduced with the words, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When a man or woman shall clearly utter a vow, the vow of a nazirite, to consecrate himself to the Lord.” The phrase “speak to the children of Israel” seems to imply that what is to follow—the rules and restrictions of naziriteship—is intended for Jews only.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.