Nazir 27

Fathers and sons.

Yesterday, we read that Rav Nahman held that if one has designated animals to be sacrificed at the end of their nazirite vow, then “a blemished animal is as unallocated money.”

The logic is this: If someone sets aside an animal who is obviously unfit to be sacrificed, they can’t actually intend to sacrifice it and instead must be setting aside the money they would get from selling this animal to purchase a fit sacrifice. Which means that although they have set the animal aside (which would ordinarily mean they can’t sell it), because it’s injured they can in fact sell it, and use the money to buy any of the nazirite sacrifices. 

But today, Rav Nahman’s peer Rav Hamnuna expresses skepticism about this ruling: 

And do we say a blemished animal is considered like unallocated funds? 

To make his case, Rav Hamnuna cites beraita that he thinks contradicts Rav Nahman’s position. The beraita is a bit confusing chronologically (and that’s not just you – even the medieval commentator Rashi notes its strange flow) but here’s what is happening: 

A man takes a vow to be a nazirite, sets aside what he needs for the sacrifices at the end of his naziritehood and then dies. At this point, his son declares:

I am hereby a nazirite on the condition that I will shave, through the money my father set aside.

It seems this son declares that as soon as he shaves it will begin a period of naziriteship that he plans to conclude with sacrifices brought through the money his father designated. Ordinarily, one person’s designated sacrifices can’t be used by someone else — even if the first person is dead, and even if they are father and son. So since the son has vowed to do something he shouldn’t, what now actually happens to the money or animals? 

If he had unallocated funds, they are allocated for gift offerings. If he had allocated animals, a sin-offering must die, a burnt-offering is sacrificed as a burnt-offering and a peace-offering is sacrificed as a peace-offering.

The beraita lists only two possibilities for what the father had set aside: funds which were set aside for nazirite vows but not allocated to each specific sacrifice and animals fit to be sacrificed. In the first case, the unallocated funds are used to buy a gift offering. In the second case, the animals are offered up as what they were designated to be. But the beraita doesn’t address animals that are designated as sacrifices but unfit to be sacrificed. So, what should happen to them?

Rav Hamnuna points out that the beraita only gives us two categories: money (which is unallocated in the context of the beraita) and animals (which are allocated in the beraita). He therefore concludes that all animals belong in the allocated category, including animals with injuries. That means they can’t be sold. Sorry, Rav Nahman.

But the Gemara rejects this reading. After all, the beraita also talks about animals fit to be sacrificed. So maybe we should consider the injured animals as being more like the unallocated funds. The anonymous voice of the Talmud reads the beraita as agreeing with Rav Nahman — after all, if an animal with an injury is dedicated to the Temple, it is sold and its monetary value used instead. So the blemished animal is essentially included in the first clause about unallocated money. 

The discussion of Rav Nahman’s position and the case of a son who wants to use his late father’s designated offerings for his own naziritehood is going to continue onto the next page (where, spoiler alert: Rav Nahman’s parallel between unallocated funds and animals with injuries is upheld). 

What’s the upshot? The son can make use of the injured animals his father designated for his own naziriteship. A fitting legacy for a son who wants to honor his father’s initial nazirite vow (and save a little money doing it!).

Read all of Nazir 27 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on February 19th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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