The Gemara says in Taanis 11a:

דתניא ר' אלעזר הקפר ברבי אומר מה תלמוד לומר {במדבר ו-יא} וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש וכי באיזה נפש חטא זה אלא שציער עצמו מן היין והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה זה שלא ציער עצמו אלא מן היין נקרא חוטא המצער עצמו מכל דבר ודבר על אחת כמה וכמה

Rav Elazar Hakafar says a Nazir is called a sinner for he pained himself by abstaining from wine.

If a Nazir is called a sinner to the extent that he may bring a Korban, why is it allowed to become a Nazir? Where else do we find that the Torah sanctions becoming a sinner?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28862/472 May 29, 2015 at 15:05
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    Chalila yoledes is a choteh? May 31, 2015 at 3:19
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    She brings a chatat. just like a nazir does
    – Double AA
    May 31, 2015 at 4:15
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    @DoubleAA major chiluk between yoledes and nazir is we have a Gemara calling him a choteh. Agav kdai to see the Klei yakar passuk 14. Beautiful ideas , not pshat. But geshmak May 31, 2015 at 5:31
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    The Gemara in Nidda calls a Yoledes a Chotteh for making a(n automatic) Shvuah.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jun 2, 2015 at 5:45

5 Answers 5


While Rabbi Elazar Hakafar states that the reason for the chatas is that the nazir showed too much asceticism, others state that the reason for the chatas is that he lowered his level of keduasha.

Rabbi Frand points out that there are times that a person needs to become a nazir in order to react to circumstances. This is similar to the story of Shimon Hatzadik and the young shepherd who became a nazir to prevent temptation. While one should not have to make a neder to go to an extreme, there are times when it needs to be done.

In fact, the fact that the Torah has the Parsha of nazir next to the parsha of sotah shows that there are times when one must go to one extreme in order to prevent the problems of the other extreme.

Rabbi Sacks points out that the Rambam says both ways

The Torah does not make a direct evaluation of the nazirite. On the one hand it calls him "holy to God" (Num. 6: 8). On the other, it rules that when the period comes to an end the nazirite has to bring a sin offering (Num. 6: 13-14), as if he had done something wrong.

This led to a fundamental disagreement between the rabbis in Mishnaic, Talmudic and medieval times. According to Rabbi Elazar, and later to Nahmanides, the nazirite is worthy of praise. He has voluntarily chosen a higher level of holiness. The prophet Amos (2: 11) says, "I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and your young men for nazirites," suggesting that the nazirite, like the prophet, is a person especially close to God. The reason he had to bring a sin offering was that he was now returning to ordinary life. The sin lay in ceasing to be a nazirite.

Rabbi Eliezer ha-Kappar and Shmuel held the opposite opinion. The sin lay in becoming a nazirite in the first place, thereby denying himself some of the pleasures of the world God created and declared good. Rabbi Eliezer added: "From this we may infer that if one who denies himself the enjoyment of wine is called a sinner, all the more so one who denies himself the enjoyment of other pleasures of life." (Taanit 11a; Nedarim 10a.)

What is more puzzling is the position of Maimonides, who holds both views, positive and negative, in the same book, his law code the Mishneh Torah. In The Laws of Ethical Character, he adopts the negative position of R. Eliezer ha-Kappar: "A person may say: 'Desire, honour and the like are bad paths to follow and remove a person from the world, therefore I will completely separate myself from them and go to the other extreme.' As a result, he does not eat meat or drink wine or take a wife or live in a decent house or wear decent clothing ... This too is bad, and it is forbidden to choose this way." ( Hilkhot Deot 3:1)

Yet in The Laws of the Nazirite he rules in accordance with the positive evaluation of Rabbi Elazar: "Whoever vows to God [to become a nazirite] by way of holiness, does well and is praiseworthy ... Indeed Scripture considers him the equal of a prophet." (Hilkhot Nezirut 10:14.) How does any writer come to adopt contradictory positions in a single book, let alone one as resolutely logical as Maimonides?

Ohr Somayach :: Torah Weekly :: Parshat Nasso by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com Insights

Returning to the young man in the story told by Simon the Just we can now understand that his “passionate urge” was an irresistible temptation to become like the mythical Narcissus. The young man, who, by the way, is nameless in the story, recognizes that he was susceptible to arrogant pride and self-worship. He feared lest he yield to a self-centeredness which leaves no room for the love of others. And so he resorted to a very potent “therapy”: the Nazirite vow.

By telling this story so dramatically, assuring that it would be retold time and again throughout the ages, Simon the Just addressed the paradox of the Nazirite practice. It is not for every man. For most of us it is a sin to forbid that which the Torah permits. But for those of us who are vulnerable to the temptations of narcissism the “strong medicine” of nezirut may be necessary, if only for a while.

Rigorously pious lifestyles do not render a person immune from the curses of narcissism. The ultimate paradox is that the Nazir, or anyone else who lives a life of extreme religiosity, can become as guilty as Narcissus of arrogant pride and self-worship. They can come to project a “holier than thou” attitude towards others. The Nazir can fail to rid himself of his self-admiration and instead become sanctimonious, cynically convinced that he is spiritually superior to his peers.

For example, Parsha Naso

This practice received adverse and contradictory responses throughout Jewish thought. Some, like Nahmanides (Catalunya, XIII Century) follow the position set in the Talmud by Rabbi Eliezer and Shmuel in favor of the Nazir. According to these sages, the Nazir is a role model, which we should follow not only to fulfill a promise, but to reach a higher level of holiness throughout our lives. On the other hand, Maimonides follows the Talmudic opinion of Rabbi Eliezer HaKapar, who believed that in many cases a Nazir became a transgressor as an extremist alienating himself from the Community. This controversy regarding the Nazir continued all the way through the centuries, and among those who also opposed this practice we find some of the Hassidic sages.

Balancing the Extremes of Parshat Nasso

Both of these interpretations come to explain the necessary situations in which one would assume the holy mission of becoming a Nazir. However, we’ve previously seen that not all sources see Nezirut as a positive undertaking. In fact, the Gemara (תענית יא:א) sees it as a ירידה לצורך עליה, a spiritual downgrade to allow for eventually reaching an even higher level of spirituality. R’ Elazar Hakafar explains there that a Nazir is in fact a sinner for attempting to change human nature. G-d created us with good and evil inclinations, and once one attempts to remove the yetzer hara, he is effectively taking away part of his free will, something which Rambam (הלכות דעות ג:א) calls “wrong,” “sinning,” and “acting like priests of the idol worshippers.”

Now that we understand that Nezirut may not be so ideal, it’s very easy to see the significance of its juxtaposition to Sotah. The Sotah is a woman who was too involved in her looks, and this led her to sin by secluding herself with a man forbidden to her. On the other hand, the Nazir is someone who goes to the other extreme- he is so afraid of sinning, that he doesn’t let himself become involved in the physical parts of the world, like the way he looks.

The end results are just as radically different. The Sotah’s head is shaved as a reminder that she must involve herself less in the world, to avoid sinning in the future (if she was innocent, that is, and isn’t killed by the mei chatat). The Nazir is not allowed to shave his head, possibly to emphasize to him that he must involve himself more in the world, and that this one part of his physical looks must be left be.

We’ve now seen that neither the Sotah nor Nazir lead ideal lifestyles, and this juxtaposition of complete opposites is a warning against going to either extreme.


That Chattas is for becoming Tammei. Rebbi Elazar Hakafar is being Medayek only from the words מאשר חטא על הנפש, which simply mean that he became Tammei from the Nefesh of the dead. But the phrasing of the Pasuk makes it look like he hurt a Nefesh. Rebbe Elazar Hakafar is saying that this hint has the negative attitude. It is not the theme of the whole Parsha.

Tosafos there writes:

אמר שמואל כל היושב בתענית נקרא חוטא. וקשיא דאמרינן בפ' החובל (ב"ק דף צא: ושם) החובל בעצמו רשאי אבל אחרים שחבלו בו חייבים ומפרש התם הא דקאמר החובל בעצמו רשאי אמר שמואל ביושב בתענית אלמא משמע דשמואל קאמר דיושב בתענית לא נקרא חוטא ויש לומר דודאי הוי חוטא כדאמרינן הכא מקל וחומר מנזיר ומה נזיר שלא ציער עצמו אלא מיין וכו' אבל מכל מקום המצוה שהוא עושה התענית גדול יותר מן העבירה ממה שהוא מצער נפשו דמצוה לנדור כדאמרינן (סוטה דף ב.) הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין ומכל מקום יש קצת חטא מידי דהוה אמתענה תענית חלום בשבת דקורעין גזר דינו ונפרעין ממנו תענית של שבת ומאי תקנתיה ליתב תעניתא לתעניתיה

Tosafos points to the Halacha that we can fast a תענית חלום on Shabbos, but then we must fast again for the sin of fasting on Shabbos. This shows us that although fasting is not in itself a good thing, there can be a greater benefit which justifies it. The story of Shimon ben Shetach illustrates this point.

The Maharal writes in Nesivos Olam (Nesiv Teshuva 7):

מכל מקום נראה שלא נאמרו דברים אלו רק מי שהוא מתענה שלא על החטא, אבל מי שמתענה על שום חטא ועושה תשובה לאדם כזה ראוי לו התענית בודאי אף לצער נפשו בשביל חטא שעשה, וכן בשביל צרה פשיטא שיש להתענות

He writes here that for a sin or time of need it is good to fast. We see here again that there are larger factors that justify what would have been problematic on its own merit.


Dont mean to be too repetitive but here's a piece I found on the subject where the author parallels the two step process of doing a necessary "quasi-wrong" as a stepping stone to becoming much greater, to two consecutive sections of mesillas yesharim - the difference between tahara and kedusha.


Maalim BeKodesh, ve Lo Moridim. We always strive upwards in holiness, and not to decline. the Nazir is compared to be at the level of holiness of a Kohen Gadol, wherein Kohen Gadol is holy because of the oil of anointment, which is external to his body, the nazir holiness grows out of his body (internal), Ki Nezer Elokav Al Rosho his hair. (Rabinu Behaye, Alshich, Ramak). Since he chose to descend and stop dwelling in such high holiness, ie. the termination of his nazirut, he is considered a Chote (transgressor), and therefore he has to bring a korban hataat.

this answer was posted in a different question which relates to this question as well. Nazir and Korban Chatas

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    It was a good answer to the other question and I +1'd it there. But it doesn't really answer this question which "Why is it allowed to be a nazir" ?
    – mbloch
    May 1, 2018 at 14:16
  • i have just shared another post, of the importance of Nazirut in this page.
    – NaTaN
    May 1, 2018 at 15:40

Kedoshim Tehyu Ki Kadosh Ani.

Kedoshim Tehyu, the Reshit CHochma, states that Kedoshim Tehyu ( holy you shall be) is mentioned many times in the Torah, but is not part of the 613 Mitzvot, but rather the ROOT of all the 613 Mizvvoth.

The Ramban "You shall be holy: "One should be separate from sexual transgressions and from sin, for any place that one finds a fence [before] sexual transgressions, one [also] finds holiness (kedusha)" - this is the language of Rashi. But in Sifra, Kedoshim, Section 1, Chapter 2, I saw only, "You shall be holy." And [so,] they learned there (Sifra, Shemini, Chapter 12:3), "'And you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, since holy am I' (Leviticus 11:44) - Just like I am holy, you should be holy; just like I am separate, you should be separate." But according to my opinion, this separation is not to separate from sexual transgressions, like the words of the rabbi (Rashi). But [rather], the separation is the one mentioned in every place in the Talmud where its [practitioners] are called those that have separated themselves (perushim). And the matter is [that] the Torah prohibited sexual transgressions and forbidden foods, and permitted sexual relations between husband and wife and the eating of meat and [the drinking of] wine. If so, a desirous person will find a place to be lecherous with his wife or his many wives, or to be among the guzzlers of wine and the gluttons of meat. He will speak as he pleases about all the vulgarities, the prohibition of which is not mentioned in the Torah. And behold, he would be a scoundrel with the permission of the Torah. Therefore, Scripture came, after it specified the prohibitions that it completely forbade, and commanded a more general [rule] - that we should be separated from [indulgence of] those things that are permissible: He should minimize sexual relations, like the matter that they stated (Berakhot 22a), "That Torah scholars should not be found with their wives [constantly] like chickens." And he should only have relations according to the need for his execution of the commandment. And he should sanctify himself from wine by minimizing it - just as Scripture calls the Nazarite, holy (Numbers 6:5);" ( taken from https://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Leviticus.19.2.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en)

According to Rabbai Moshe Alshich on his commentary on the Torah Parashat Naso, the level of a Nazirite is the highest level of Kedusha, the level of Keter, which every jew man or woman can attain, in fact he states that it is an obligation of the Gdol Dor, leader of the Generation to sanctify himself to this level of Holiness. As Moshe Rabbeinu did before his passing away, he was seeking for those who could take upon themselves this high level of Kedusha, as he states in his commentary.

most of this information was learned from http://nazirut.com/

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