As we’ve learned, a nazir who becomes impure in the course of their naziriteship must purify themselves and then start over. On today’s daf, we find a mishnah that lays out the general process by which this works: A priest administers purifying waters on the third and seventh day after the impurity occurred, the nazir’s hair is shaved on the seventh day, and offerings are brought on the eighth day.
But what happens if the nazir doesn’t shave until the eighth day? Rabbi Akiva says they can still bring their offerings on that day, but Rabbi Tarfon says the offerings are pushed to the following day. Rabbi Tarfon arrives at his position by inference from the procedure for purifying a person with tzara’at (a metzora), who also shaves on the seventh day and brings offerings on the eighth. But if a metzora doesn’t shave until the eighth day, the offerings are bumped to the ninth. Consequently, Rabbi Tarfon holds that a nazir who doesn’t shave until the eighth day also must bring offerings on the ninth.
Rabbi Akiva seems to accept the principle that offerings must be brought the day after one becomes pure, but nevertheless makes a distinction between the metzora and the nazir. The purification of a nazir depends on the number of days that have passed — once they hit the one-week mark, they are pure and can bring their offerings on the following day, regardless of when the shaving took place. But a metzora’s purification depends on shaving, and so the offerings must be brought the day after shaving.
The Gemara takes a closer look at this:
The Gemara asks: Did Rabbi Tarfon accept this claim from Rabbi Akiva, or did he not accept it? Come and hear that which Hillel taught: If a nazirite shaved on the eighth day, he brings his offerings on the ninth. And if it should enter your mind that Rabbi Tarfon accepted the claim from Rabbi Akiva, let the nazirite bring his offerings on the eighth day itself.
We seem to have a bit of a conflict here. The mishnah gives Rabbi Akiva the last word, which makes it seem like Rabbi Tarfon accepts his distinction between the metzora and the nazir. But Hillel’s statement seems to support Rabbi Tarfon’s argument that a nazir who shaves on the eighth day brings offerings on the ninth. What to do? Fortunately, Rava comes to our rescue:
Rava said: This is not difficult. The mishnah is referring to a nazirite who immersed on the seventh day. That case of Hillel is referring to one who did not immerse on the seventh day.
Recall that both immersion and shaving are required before offerings can be brought. The mishnah states only that the nazir shaves on the eighth day, but it is silent about when they underwent immersion.
Attempting to make peace between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon, Rava exploits that silence to suggest that the nazir in the mishnah immersed on the seventh day while the nazir in Hillel’s example immersed on the eighth. Assuming the rule about waiting until the next day to bring offerings stands, this would mean that both Rabbi Akiva and Hillel are right.
Given that we’ve spent the past month talking about the intricacies and constraints of the nazir’s life, I’m sympathetic to Rabbi Akiva’s more lenient approach. If the rules can enable a nazir to bring their offerings and formally complete their naziriteship a day earlier, that seems entirely reasonable.
Read all of Nazir 44 on Sefaria.
This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on March 8th, 2023. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.