How was Shmuel Hanavi, who was a nazir (Nazir 66a, Rambam Nezirus 3:16) allowed to kill Agag if in doing so he became tamei l'mais? I am looking for answers other than Shmuel using a wooden sword or him only terminally wounding (but not outright killing) Agag.

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    According to some mefarshim (yerai'im...) Gentiles aren't metamai at all. In that case the question wouldn't start. Mar 16, 2014 at 13:58
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    "I am looking for answers other than...": why?? This is an episode that actually occurred, not a thought experiment. If he actually used a wooden sword, why won't you accept that answer?
    – msh210
    Mar 16, 2014 at 16:03
  • @msh210 The pasuk seem to say that he used a regular sword. Mar 16, 2014 at 16:32
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    @sabbahillel Actually, the verse suggests that he could have used an ax.
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 16, 2014 at 16:43
  • if downvoters could explain the problem with the question I would be happy to improve it. Mar 18, 2014 at 1:16

3 Answers 3


Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau (known as the Noda Beyehuda) in his work Doresh Letziyon, Derush 5 (new print p.46-47) poses this question. He takes the view that Shmuel Hanavi was allowed to kill Agag because of the principle of 'Aseh docheh lo saaseh'. The mitzva to kill Amalek (particularly, as he was the last living Amalekite at the time,) superseded the aveira of becoming tamei. This is quite a novel answer. The Noda Beyehuda understands from Shmuel's actions that this principle applies even when it would be possible to fulfill both mitzvos. Shmuel could have had someone else kill Agag who had no transgression to become tamei, or as he suggests, Shmuel could have killed Agag by shooting arrows at him. The fact that he personally killed him by cleaving him into four pieces, (ND"B citing Rashi) means that the mitzva overrode the issue of tuma.

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    How does one cut someone into four pieces in a single act? If instead he cut in half, and cut the halves in half, isn't the latter action unneccesary to the killing, and thus problematic from a tumah angle? Feb 4, 2015 at 19:45

Rabbi Reisman in one of his shiurim said that Shmuel could have worn gloves in order to prevent tumas mes. I found the reference when I sent the answer to MailJewish:

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <hsabbam@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2004 12:44:56 -0500
Subject: RE: Thank G-d for Tupperware

From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
That is where Tupperware comes in. It is made of plastic, and to the best of my understanding, plastic is not mekabel tumah (capable of becoming impure). Tupperware, and other plastic implements and utensils will make our lives much easier.

Might Tupperware be a good stock to buy as investment?

Rabbi Reisman in on of his recent tapes brought up the fact that gloves will be needed. He pointed out that when Shmuel killed Agag, or when Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi, they could have required gloves so as not to become tamei. IIRC they would have needed two pairs of gloves so that the tum'ah does not cause the gloves (which are now tamei) to make the person tamei. I think that is because the level of tumah for a sword is higher than a regular object that touches a dead body.

The comment about plastic means that a person can wear plastic disposable gloves and not become tamei at all. Just pull out the gloves and put them on before touching anything tamei.

Sounds like a good investment.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz - <sabbahillel@...>


Whether Shmuel was a nazir is a matter of dispute on Nazir 66a. Rabbi Nehorai says he was while Rabbi Yossi says he was not.

The derivation of Shmuel's nezirut is from Shimshon. Thus:

שנא' (שמואל א א, יא) ומורה לא יעלה על ראשו נאמר בשמשון (שופטים יג, ה) ומורה ונאמר בשמואל ומורה מה מורה האמורה בשמשון נזיר אף מורה האמורה בשמואל נזיר

If so, perhaps the extent of Shmuel's nezirus was the same as that of Shimshon, which did not include ritual impurity. As the Rambam writes about Shimshon's status:

יג שִׁמְשׁוֹן לֹא הָיָה נָזִיר גָּמוּר--שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא נָדַר בְּנָזִיר, אֵלָא הַמַּלְאָךְ הִפְרִישׁוֹ מִן הַטֻּמְאָה; וְכֵיצַד הָיָה דִּינוֹ--הָיָה אָסוּר בְּיַיִן וְאָסוּר בְּתַגְלָחַת, וּמֻתָּר הָיָה לְהִטַּמֵּא לַמֵּתִים. וְדָבָר זֶה, הֲלָכָה מִפִּי הַקַּבָּלָה.

יד לְפִיכָּךְ מִי שֶׁאָמַר הֲרֵינִי נָזִיר כְּשִׁמְשׁוֹן--הֲרֵי זֶה נָזִיר מִן הַיַּיִן וּמִן הַתַּגְלָחַת לְעוֹלָם, וְאֵינוּ מְגַלֵּחַ כָּל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ כִּשְׁאָר נְזִירֵי עוֹלָם, וּמֻתָּר לְהִטַּמֵּא לַמֵּתִים. וְאִם אָמַר לֹא נִתְכַּוַּנְתִּי אֵלָא לְאִישׁ אַחֵר שֶׁשְּׁמוֹ שִׁמְשׁוֹן, אֵינוּ נָזִיר. וּמִי שֶׁנָּדַר נָזִיר כְּשִׁמְשׁוֹן--אֵינוּ יָכוֹל לְהִשָּׁאֵל עַל נִדְרוֹ, שֶׁנְּזִירוּת שִׁמְשׁוֹן לְעוֹלָם הָיְתָה.

Admittedly, the Rambam there explicitly distinguishes the nezirus of Shimshon from that of Shmuel, but perhaps one might argue.

  • All this does is change the question into: According to those who say Shemu'el ha-Navi was a Nazir Olam, how was he allowed to kill Agag if in doing so he became tamei l'mais?
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 17, 2014 at 4:59

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