In Short – Just One Day!
“I Am Hereby A Nazir”
Several Mishnayos (7a, 7b and 8a) discuss various situations where one has declared that he will be a nazirite (nazir). The Mishna (7a) states that whether one has declared, “I intend to be a long[-term] nazirite” or whether one has declared, “I intend to be a short[-term] nazirite” – one is considered to have accepted to be a nazirite for a [minimal] period of 30 days.
An Unspecified Term
Rashi as well as the Mefaresh indicate that when saying “a short[-term] nazirite,” the person might have intended to accept to be a nazirite for a few days only (or even for just one day). The Mishna, however, rules that he becomes a nazirite for 30 days, as stated above (5a), because an unspecified term obligates him to 30 days. This is also how Me’iri understands the statement.
Difficult Or Easy
The interpretation of Tosafos (7a, s.v. Hareni nazir) is that when the person said “short [-term]” or “long[-term],” he might have meant to state, after he declared himself a nazirite, that his vow will apply whether he finds the observance of the nazirite vow to be easy or not. The Mishna teaches us that in any case he has obligated himself to be a nazirite for 30 days.
The commentary Mishneh LaMelech (Rambam, Hilchos Nezirus 3:5) wonders why Tosafos rejected the Mefaresh’s literal interpretation (peshat), which seems quite simple, and opted for an apparently more forced explanation.
Administration of Lashes
Mishmar HaLevi [see the manual Tosefot Nazir to Tractate Nazir (7a), end of Note 125, citing Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 368)] points out a possible halachic difference between the Mefaresh and Tosafos. According to the Mefaresh, a person who declared, “I am a ‘short-term’ nazirite” and then transgressed one of the applying restrictions during that 30-day period might not be subject to the administration of lashes for having violated “… he shall not profane his word…” (Numbers 30:3). The Minchas Chinuch explains that if a person pledged to abide by the nazirite’s vow for one day, he is not subject to lashes for “profaning his word” after the first day, since he did not explicitly accept a 30-day term.
Mild or Strict
Tosafos might not have wanted to limit the liability for the violation of “profaning his word” in this case. They therefore explain that when a person declares, “I am a short-term nazirite,” we assume that he intended to declare a standard 30-day vow of nazirite, and the expression “short term” was not added to limit the duration of the vow but was a remark regarding the level of the vow (whether mild or strict). Accordingly, he would be subject to lashes for “profaning his word” for the full 30-day term, since he had implicitly accepted upon himself a standard [30-day] term.