If we are meant to understand from the Nazir that forbidding things which are really mutar in order to be "extra holy" is really not a positive thing (cf. y.Nedarim 9:1), then of what benefit are humroth (if any)? Or are we simply misunderstanding what a humra actually is as spoken of by Hazal (the same rabbanim who told us the lesson of the Nazir)?

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    Is it so bad to be a nazir? hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=1&daf=63&format=text – Shmuel Dec 10 '13 at 1:59
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    mesilat yesharim says it is to be yotze all the opinions, kind of like going the extra mile for the Boss – ray Dec 10 '13 at 6:20
  • Are you asking what we get from observing chumros, or what makes chumros more desirable to G-d (if they are), or merely looking for a source for observing chumros? (For example: "אמר רבא קדש עצמך במותר לך" -Yevamos 20a ) Also, regarding your first assumption, don't forget the gemara in Taanis 11a-b, where the Amoraim discuss whether voluntary fasts are good or bad, using kal vachomers from the nazir. – Hod - Monica's Army Dec 10 '13 at 19:36
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    The Talmud in Nedarim 10A also brings opinions that a Nazir is a good thing. See this article for a possible reconciliation: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/AID/2243/ShowFeedback/true – Menachem Dec 11 '13 at 2:43
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    Can you perhaps better define what you mean by "Humroth"? – Double AA Jun 9 '14 at 18:01

There are different types of Chumrot, as I see it.

1. Fence

Sometimes we (personal or dictated by Chazal) need a fence to keep us away from the actual transgression. This way, if we stumble we hit the fence and don't fall into the pit of sin. This is the fence referred to - and recommended - in the first Mishna in Pirkei Avot.

This is your typical Humra.

An example (dictated by Chazal) would be: not having some people eat meat and others milk at the same table.

An example (personal) would be: not relying on the Eruv in case it's broken.

2. Holiness

There's a concept of being holy והייתם קדושים - which includes refraining from doing things that are permitted, in order to reach a higher level of closeness to Hashem.

The concept of Nazir seems like "an example provided by the Torah" of the second concept. And here we learn a lesson - that it's better to learn how to use "everything" in the service of Hashem rather than outlawing them.

Some things - like meat and wine - are needed only in very small quantities in the service of Hashem. But refraining from them completely - in order not to over-indulge - is not the recommended way, as per the lessons of Nazir.

The better way is to learn how to control yourself; that helps you reach a higher level of closeness to Hashem.

  • The Nesivos famously says (Choshen Mishpat 234:3, also see this) that one gets no onesh for violating a derabanan b'shogeig. If one is halachically permitted to rely on an eiruv, say, because of a chazaka, and even if the eiruv turns out to be passul there is no onesh, what is the point of not relying on it? Isn't that similar to the case of nazir making assur for himself what is muttar? – user3318 Dec 11 '13 at 21:15
  • @Malper, that is not a universally held opinion. – Yishai Dec 11 '13 at 23:52
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    There is at least a third category, regarding being choshed to opinions that are not strictly the halacha. Like pretty much everything that is permitted when there is great loss, but not otherwise. – Yishai Dec 11 '13 at 23:54
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    @Malper - why would our wide thoroughfares be considered a karmelis? – Danny Schoemann Dec 12 '13 at 19:22
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    @DannySchoemann You can't have an eruv around a reshus d'rabim. See this article. – user3318 Dec 12 '13 at 19:46

The סידור מהרי"ד at the beginning of his explanation on Pirkei Avos compares Humroth to protection around a precious pearl. The more precious the pearl, the more layers of protection it is provided. Similarly, by keeping Humroth, we are showing how precious the Mitzvos are to us.

So Humroth have a purpose, even if they forbid things which are permitted. They have a positive aspect and a negative one, and depending on the circumstances it depends which one is controlling.

  • So what about the principle of "Kol mosif gorea`"? If what you referenced is correct, then how do the two things work together? – user3342 Jun 10 '14 at 19:57
  • @Maimonist, בקצור נמרץ - when the Humerah is according to the Torah, then it isn't Mosif. e.g. עשו סייג לתורה, משמרת למשמרתי, Hilchos Deios 2:3-4 etc. – Yishai Jun 10 '14 at 21:19
  • These references are to instituted safeguards made by an active Sanhedrin." In fact, according to the Rambam in the Mishneh Torah, a "humrah" is merely taking the stricter of two opinions in an honest doubt about a Torah law, , not finding ways to be more "frum" about things in which there is no real doubt. We show how precious the misswoth are to us when we perform them, not by abstaining from things which are permitted for the sake of being mahmir. Such a path actually shows our disrespect of the misswoth. (cf. Hilkhoth De`oth 3). – user3342 Jun 12 '14 at 0:59
  • And your reference to the "holei nefesh" of Hilkhoth Deoth 2:3-4 is not really relevant to this discussion since he defines the therapy of the "holei nefesh" as a hakham prescribing certain ways to fix ailing character traits. This has nothing to do with humroth at all. In fact, if you read the overall context of that chapter - and Hilkhoth Deoth as a whole - you will see that the entire goal of all character development and Torah education is to follow the "middle road" and the "golden mean" - not to be mahmir. – user3342 Jun 12 '14 at 1:04
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    @Maimonist, Sanhedrin doesn't have an issue of "Kol mosif gorea"? || That can't be the only definition of Chumra according to the Rambam, see Issurei Biah 11 (which has a counter example of requiring a Sanhedrin as well i.e. Takkanos from Geonim) || Chumras have multiple purposes and sources, but one is for personal development, which was my point. As long as the purpose and source is in the Torah, it has a place. If not, not. – Yishai Jun 12 '14 at 2:46

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