Nazir 34 - 40
The Missing Number
A nazir is commanded to refrain not only from drinking wine but also from eating grapes. It is therefore possible, says the beraita, for him to incur a number of penalties of lashes in just one sitting. If he ate a kezayit each of fresh grapes, raisins, grape skins and grape pits, and he drank a revi'it of the juice he squeezed from those fresh grapes, he will be punished with lashes for each of these five violations, each of which is separately mentioned in the Torah (Bamidbar 6:3-4).
According to the Sage Abaye he will be punished with a sixth set of lashes for violating another prohibition mentioned in the same passages, to refrain "from anything which is made from the grapevine." The Sage Rava disputes this view, because that is an all-inclusive prohibition for which there is no separate lashes.
Rabbi Papa had his doubts as well as to whether Abaye's position was based on something he had learned from his teacher or rather a product of his own logic. He therefore decided on an ingenious way to determine the source. He challenged Abaye from the aforementioned beraita but added one word to it. Whereas the beraita did not explicitly mention how many sets of lashes will be incurred by the man who does all that eating and drinking, Rabbi Papa inserted the number five. His reasoning was that if Abaye had not built his position on a tradition received from his teacher, only on his own reasoning, he would have easily retracted from this position in the face of a beraita and conceded to the position of Rava. It was only when he saw that Abaye was adamant in his position and desperately sought to reconcile it with the language of the beraita that Rabbi Papa finally realized that Abaye's position was indeed based on the solid foundation of tradition. He thereupon revealed that there was no need for him to struggle for a reconciliation with the beraita because no number actually appeared in it, and it could well be that six sets of lashes were incurred as Abaye held.
- Nazir 38b
How the Hair Grows
Does hair grow from the bottom or the top? This seemingly theoretical question has an interesting halachic ramification in regard to a nazir. The Torah forbade a nazir to cut his hair during all the days of his nezirut period. What if bandits captured the nazir at the end of his nezirut period and forcibly cut his hair, reducing it to what is considered the minimal level of hairiness? If we assume that hair grows from the bottom, that the piece of hair which was next to the scalp has now been elevated to a higher level after being displaced by the new growth, then the hair which was in existence when the vow was made has been cut by the bandits. This would then require the nazir to once again let his hair grow before completing his nezirut.
But if we assume that hair grows from the top, that the section of hair which was next to the scalp remains in its place and the new growth is merely an extension of it, then the hair present when he made his vow has not been affected by the haircut forced upon him, and he has no need to let his hair grow any farther before completing his nezirut period with a complete haircut and sacrifices.
The gemara rejects a number of attempts to determine if hair grows from the bottom or top. One tried to solve this riddle from the position of lice, live and dead, found in the hair, and from the position of the hairs in a particular braided masculine hairdo. In the end, two practical proofs are cited that hair grows from the bottom.
One is from the mishna (Mesechta Bechorot 58b) which describes the method in which a man tithes his animals. As he counts the animals passing singly through a narrow passage, he marks each tenth one with paint to indicate that this animal must be set aside for a sacrifice. The paint causes the animal's wool to bind together and form a firm surface. As the wool grows, the part next to the animal's skin is soft and unaffected by the paint on the exterior. This is a proof of hairs growing from the bottom, taken from a mitzvah-practice mentioned in a mishna.
The other proof is from the experience of people dyeing their hair or beards in order to achieve a more youthful appearance. As the hair grows, the color is seen only on the exterior part of the hair, not on the portion next to the skin. (This second proof needs examination in light of the ruling of Rambam (Laws of Idolatry 12:10) forbidding a man to dye his hair for such a purpose because it is considered a violation of the Torah ban on a man effecting a feminine characteristic.)
- Nazir 39a