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What is a nazir?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. Before the hippy, there was the nazir. A nazir was a man who would isolate himself from certain material luxuries for purposes of spiritual heightenings. (A female nazir was called a nezirah; pronounced neh-ZEE-rah.) He or she was a sort of a hippy, but without the "Hey-do-your-own-thing" attitude.

B. A nazir (pronounced NAH-zeer) or nezirah is a nazirite, but what's a nazirite (other than a poor translation of the word nazir)? These Hebrew words both mean "delineated one;" they come from the root word neizer (pronounced NAY-zehr) which means delineation or designation. The nazir or nezirah would delineate certain things as off-limits, the absence of which would enhance their spiritual sensitivity and deaden their cravings for physical pleasures.

C. Here's a excellent definition of "nazir" by Encyclopedia.com: "In the Bible, a man dedicated to G-d. The Nazarite, after taking a special vow, abstained from intoxicating beverages, never cut his hair, and avoided corpses. An inadvertent breach of these rules called for purificatory rites. His vow was for a fixed term (though it could also be for life), at the end of which he was released. Samuel, the prophet, and Samson were Nazarites. The name is also spelled Nazirite."

How do I become a nazir/nezirah?

1. Don't

While nezirut can be technically enacted today, it is unheard of in our times. There are many other viable, equally deep--and practical--means towards the end of heightened spirituality outside of the vow of nezirut (nazir status). You can become more spiritual through meditation, prayer, study of Chassidic philosophy, volunteer work, giving charity, or any combination of the above.

2. Get Out of It

Though the Holy Temple doesn't stand today, and hence, purification rites cannot be applied to the nazir who becomes impure, if one takes the vow of nezirut, the vow stands. But since nezirut is profoundly unadvisable, if one does take a Halachically valid vow (if it was uttered jokingly or it stipulated impossible conditions, it is invalid), he or she should beat a path to the nearest rabbinical court post-haste to undo it.

3. The Rules

A collection of singular mitzvahs apply specifically to the nazir. Again, only technically speaking, here's what nezirut would take: nothing "from the vine," meaning alcoholic drinks (Negative Mitzvah #202) in addition to any grape (Negative Mitzvah #203), raisin (Negative Mitzvah #204), grape seed (Negative Mitzvah #205) or grape rind (Negative Mitzvah #206), may be ingested. The nazir's hair may not be cut (Negative Mitzvah #209) and must be allowed to grow unhindered (Positive Mitzvah #92). To stay within that bubble of spirituality, the nazir cannot enter a building or facility--a "tent" as the Torah puts it--in which a dead body is located (Negative Mitzvah #208), and neither can he come into physical contact with the dead (Negative Mitzvah #207). And upon completion of the accepted term of nezirut, the nazir must bring certain sacrifices to the Temple and shave his head (Positive Mitzvah #93).

TAGS: nazir, nazirite

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COMMENTS

Nazarene?

Posted by: Anonymous on Feb 16, 2005

Does this have any relation to the Nazarenes or Nazarath? Just curious.

Great site!

Editor's Comment

No. A Nazarene is a native of the city of Nazereth. The two Hebrew words have no relationship to each other.


RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Holy Temple Mitzvot
History » The Holy Temples » Holy Temple Mitzvot

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Halachically
According to Jewish law.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Samuel
1. A prophet and judge who appointed Saul as the first king of Israel in the 9th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, named after the abovementioned Samuel, one of the main characters of the book.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.