Daf Yomi

For the week ending 24 May 2008 / 19 Iyyar 5768

Nazir 62 - Sotah 3

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Two Kinds of "Morah"

Was the Prophet Shmuel a nazir? Rabbi Nehorai contends that he was. As proof he cites the vow that his mother Chana made in her prayer to Hashem to be blessed with a child: "No morah shall come upon his head" (Shmuel I 1:11). This same term morah appears in the instructions which the angel gave to Shimshon's mother before his birth: "No morah shall come upon his head" (Shoftim 13:5). Since that passage continues with the words "for he shall be a nazir to Hashem," we conclude that just as Shimshon was a nazir, so too was Shmuel.

This deduction is challenged by Rabbi Yossi who suggests that the word morah here refers not to a haircutting instrument, but rather to a deference to human power which Shmuel would not suffer from. Rabbi Nehorai rejects such an interpretation because Shmuel's fear of human authority is expressed in his reaction to the Divine commandment to anoint David as the successor of King Saul whom Hashem had rejected as Israel's ruler: "How can I go when it is likely that Saul will hear about it and slay me!" Since morah cannot mean that he will not be forced to defer to human authority, it must then be understood as a vow that no instrument will be used to cut his hair because he will be a nazir.

In one of the very few appearances of Maharsha in this mesechta, he cautions us not to read the term "morah" in Rabbi Yossi's interpretation as "fear" of humans, because the term for fear ends with an aleph, not a hei. He suggests instead that it be read as "authority," that Shmuel will not have to bow his head to human authority. (Malbim, in his commentary on Shmuel, does understand it to mean fear, despite the spelling deviation.)

Maharsha goes even further in suggesting that in Rabbi Yossi's view the term morah used in regard to Shimshon also meant authority, indicating that he would be above human authority as long as he respected the constraints of his nezirut and did not cut his hair. This was expressed by Shimshon himself when he revealed the secret of his superhuman strength to Delilah and told her that his might would disappear if his hair was cut (Shoftim 16:17), a condition never made in regard to the spiritual power of Shmuel.

Rashi on Shmuel (ibid.) quotes the Targum of Yonatan ben Uziel on the passage regarding the prophet in the manner which Rabbi Yossi interpreted it. Maharsha mentions that although some Mishnaic texts actually incorporate this into Rabbi Yossi's statement, it does not appear in the classical texts, which explains why our editions do not include it.

  • Nazir 61a

The "Basherte" Mate

Many traditional Jews refer to the woman whom a man marries as his "basherte" -- the one predestined by Heaven as his mate.

The background for this term is the statement which Rabbi Yehuda made in the name of the Sage Rav: "Forty days before the child is formed, a Heavenly voice proclaims that the daughter of a designated person will be his wife, that a designated house will be his home and that a designated field will be his source of livelihood."

In his eight chapter introduction to Mesechta Avot, Rambam raises a challenge to the concept of "basherte." Since a man has free will and Hashem does not interfere with his ability to decide against doing what is right or electing to do what is wrong, how can it be predestined whom he will marry, since this implies that he must indeed fulfill the mitzvah of getting married in order to produce children? Since this freedom of choice can just as well lead him to marrying a woman forbidden to him by the Torah, can we logically say that this woman was predestined for him?

Rabbi Yaakov Emden agrees with Rambam's premise that there is no such concept as "basherte" meaning that a man must indeed end up marrying the woman predestined for him. A person certainly has the free will to refrain from marrying altogether, or to marry a woman forbidden to him. What our sages meant by the Heavenly pre-natal announcement was that if a man decides he wants to do the will of Hashem and to marry the right woman in fulfillment of Hashem's mitzvah, then Hashem will provide him with the ideal mate designated for him if he takes that proper course.

Tosefot raises the problem of our gemara, which establishes the idea of predestination as absolute in regard to man's first marriage partner, being inconsistent with the gemara in Mesechta Mo'ed Katan (18b) which seems to indicate that even in regard to the first marriage this predestination can be altered through prayer. We may suggest that perhaps the gemara there did not resort to the distinction made here between the first and second marriage because it wishes to teach us that even in regard to the first marriage there is no absolute predestination. Just as a man has free will to not marry, or to marry a forbidden woman, he has the ability to pray to Hashem to alter the predestination to enable him to marry the woman he feels is best for him. (This in accordance with Ritva in Kiddushin, but Rashi in Mo'ed Katan has a different interpretation.)

  • Sotah 2a


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