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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nazir

Folio 40a

since we could not argue to the less stringent1  from the more stringent2  and impose [on the former] greater stringency.3  Rabbi said: This argument is unnecessary.4  For the text [can be] read, A razor shall not come upon his head until [the days of his naziriteship] are fulfilled,5  so that the Torah says explicitly that after fulfilment, polling is to be carried out only with a razor.

But it [also] says, A razor shall not come upon his head?6  — This is to provide for a penalty on two counts.7

R. Hisda said that stripes are incurred by [removing] one hair; [the completion of his naziriteship] is held up if two hairs [remain];8  [the naziriteship] does not become void unless the greater part of his hair is removed by a razor.

[Are we to understand that] a razor only [is meant by R. Hisda] but no other method? Is it not taught 'How do we know that all other methods of removing [the hair are equally forbidden] etc.'? — You must therefore say [in R. Hisda's dictum] 'removed as though by a razor.'9

Likewise has it been taught: A nazirite who pulls out [his hair], or plucks it, or trims it but a little [incurs a penalty, but he]10  does not render void [the previous period] unless [he shaves] the greater part of his head with a razor.11  R. Simeon b. Judah in the name of R. Simeon said: Just as two hairs [if they are left] hold up [the termination of the naziriteship], so also [the removal of] two hairs renders void [the previous period].12

We learn elsewhere: There are three who must poll, and whose polling is a religious duty, the nazirite, the leper, and the levites.13  If any one of them polled without a razor, or left behind two hairs, his act is invalid.14

The Master said, 'There are three who must poll and whose polling is a religious duty.' Surely this is obvious?15  It might have been thought that they are simply required to remove their hair, and even smearing it with nasha16  [is valid] and so we are told that this is not so.17

It is [also] stated, 'If any one of them polled without a razor etc. Now we can grant this in the case of a nazirite where there is written, There shall no razor come upon his head,18  and of the levites where there is written, And let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh,19  but how do we know that a leper must use a razor? Should you reply that this can be inferred from the levites [by the following argument, viz.] The levities require to poll, and the polling must be performed with a razor, and so I will infer of the leper who is required to poll that the polling must be performed with a razor; [your argument] can be refuted. For although it is true of the levites [that they must use a razor, this may be] because they had to be offered as a wave-offering,20  which is not the case with the leper. You will therefore attempt to infer it from the nazirite.21  But [it may be asked] although it is true of the nazirite, [this may be] because his sacrifice must be accompanied by cakes,22  whereas a leper's does not require this. It being thus impossible to infer what is required from one by itself, you will try to infer it from both together in the following way. You will infer it [using the above argument] from the levites. [To the objection] that although it is true of the levites [this may be] because they had to be offered as a wave-offering, [you will reply that] the nazirite will show [that this cannot be the reason].23  [To the objection that] although it is true of the nazirite [this may be] because his sacrifice must be accompanied by cakes, [you will reply that] the levites show [that this cannot be the reason].24  The argument thus goes round; what applies to one side does not apply to the other; and what applies to the other side does not apply to the one side. What they have in common is that they both require to poll25  and this polling must be done with a razor, and so I will infer with regard to the leper26  who is also required to poll that his polling must be done with a razor.

Said Raba of Barnesh27  to R. Ashi: But can it not be objected that another common property of [the levites and the nazirite] is

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. The nazirite who polls only his head.
  2. The leper who must shave his wholy body.
  3. Requiring a razor to be used, because the leper uses a razor. It might well be that a nazirite could use any means for removing his hair.
  4. Viz.: The argument that because the word razor is superfluous in v. 5, polling in v. 18 means with a razor.
  5. By altering the punctuation in v. 5, which concludes 'Until the days of his naziriteship are fulfilled he is holy to the Lord'.
  6. Implying equally that a razor only is forbidden during the naziriteship.
  7. There is a penalty for removing the hair, and a second penalty if a razor is used during the naziriteship.
  8. The polling is invalidated thereby, and the procedure at the termination cannot continue as long as these remain.
  9. I.e. close to the scalp.
  10. Added from the Tosef. agreeing with the reading of the various commentators.
  11. Thus the Baraitha agrees with R. Hisda.
  12. Tosef. Naz. IV, 2.
  13. When first appointed to office the levites had to poll. V. Num. VIII, 7.
  14. Neg. XIV, 4.
  15. For in each case there is a verse requiring them to poll.
  16. Or nesa, a plant the sap of which was used as a depilatory. [Others regard it as a poisonous drug. Krauss, op. cit. I, 642, takes nasa as a variant of nasam mentioned in Neg. X, 10.]
  17. But that a razor is essential.
  18. Num. VI, 5. From this it is inferred that only a razor may be used at the final polling. V. supra.
  19. Num. VIII, 7.
  20. V. Num. VIII, 11. To refute an argument of the above kind, it is sufficient to show some difference however trivial between the procedure to he followed in both cases.
  21. By an argument similar in the above.
  22. V. Num. VI, 15.
  23. For a nazirite was not required to be offered as a wave-offering yet had to use a razor.
  24. For although the same was not true of the levites, yet they had to use a razor.
  25. And it must be this common property that determines the other common property, viz.: that a razor must be used.
  26. Lit., 'add to them the leper …'
  27. [Near Matha Mehasia, a suburb of Sura; Obermeyer op. cit. p. 297].

Nazir 40b

that their sacrifice could not be offered in poverty,1  whereas the sacrifice of a leper could be offered in poverty?2

Raba b. Mesharsheya said to Raba: This Tanna first asserts that [the rule of the nazirite] could not be deduced from that of the leper3  because we must not argue to the less stringent from the more stringent in order to impose on it the same stringency, and then he goes on to say that [the case of the leper itself] should be inferred by argument,4  whereas in fact we are not able to infer it from any argument!5  — [Raba] replied: The former discussion is based on the view of the Rabbis,6  the latter on that of R. Eliezer,7  for we have learnt:8  Whilst there is no penalty9  unless he plucks out [the hair] with a razor. R. Eliezer said that even if he plucks it with tweezers or with a rohitni10  he incurs a penalty.11

What is the reason of the Rabbis?12  It has been taught: Why does Scripture mention his beard?13  Because we find elsewhere14  the verse, Neither shall they shave off the corners of their beards,15  it might be thought that this applies even to [a priest who is] a leper. We are therefore told [that the leper must shave] 'his beard'.16  Whence [do we know] that he must use a razor? — It has been taught: [The verse,] Neither shall they shave off the corners of their beards17  could mean that even if they shaved it with scissors there would be a penalty, and so we are told [elsewhere], Neither shalt thou mar [the corners of thy beard].18  [This last verse alone] could mean that even if he plucks it out with tweezers or a rohitni there is a penalty, and so we are told, Neither shall they shave the corners of their beards. How [do we make the inferences from these verses]? The kind of shaving that also mars [the beard] is with a razor.19

But how does it follow?20  For may it not well be that even if [the leper] uses tweezers or a rohitni he has carried out his religious duty, the purpose of the verse21  being to tell us that even if he uses a razor there is no penalty? — I will explain. If you assume that even if he uses tweezers or a rohitni he has carried out his religious duty, the verse should have remained silent on the subject22  and I should have argued as follows. Seeing that a nazirite, who has done what is forbidden,23  is nevertheless obliged [to use a razor], then [the leper] who is here doing a religious duty24  should certainly [be allowed to use a razor].

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. A nazirite or a levite who could not afford the necessary sacrifices was given no alternative but had to wait until he could do so.
  2. For a leper who was poor, special sacrifices of doves were permitted (v. Lev. XIV, 21ff.). Hence the leper is less stringent than either of the others, and so should perhaps not be obliged to use a razor for his ritual shaving.
  3. Thus assuming that a leper certainly has to use a razor (v. supra 39b end). Raba b. Mesharsheya is here taking it for granted that the two Baraithas to which he makes reference form a single text.
  4. For the gathering together of the three cases, nazirite, leper, and levites, into a single Baraitha is an indication that the case that is not explicit is deducible from those that are.
  5. Since the argument from the levites or the nazirite fails completely. Even to an argument from the common properties there is the objection of Raba of Barnesh. How then, Raba b. Mesharshaya asks, is the sequence of the two Baraithas to be explained?
  6. Who do in fact deduce that a leper must use a razor from an independent source. V. infra.
  7. Who deduces that a leper must use a razor from the nazirite obligation to do so. V. infra 41a.
  8. This Mishnah is quoted simply in order to show the existence of a controversy between R. Eliezer and the Rabbis, the Baraithas adduced to expound the sources of the controversy being anonymous.
  9. For rounding the corners of the head.
  10. Rohitni, usually a plane, here appears to mean some instrument for removing single hairs, since it is compared to a tweezers. V. Jastrow s.v.
  11. Mak. 202.
  12. I.e., what is their source for the case of the leper?
  13. In Lev. XIV, 9, of the leper, for we already know that he must shave 'all his hair'.
  14. Of the priests.
  15. Lev. XXI, 5.
  16. Even if he is a priest.
  17. Lev. XXI, 5.
  18. Of ordinary Israelites, not priests. Here the word 'mar' is used and a scissors does not 'mar'.
  19. And since what is forbidden the ordinary person is prescribed for the leper, as is inferred in the previous Baraitha, a leper can, nay must, use a razor.
  20. That he must use the razor.
  21. Which says that the leper must shave, and also that he must shave his beard, and not simply that he must remove the hair.
  22. Not using the word shave'.
  23. By becoming defiled; aliter, by becoming a nazirite at all, in accordance with the opinion of R. Eleazar ha-Kappar, v. supra 19a.
  24. He was not responsible for his leprosy, so that the act of purification is purely a religious duty, not an expiation.