Is the Nazarite Vow for Today?
By Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
I have seen Christians and Messianic/Nazarene Jews/Israelites take on a Nazarite vow upon themselves in order to dedicate their time and resources fully to G-d, to get closer to Him or to see a prayer answered. But can we really do this? Can the Nazarite Vow still be preformed today?
It is said and understood in Christian circles that Samson (Judges 13) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15) were thought to be lifetime Nazarites, but Jewish scholars believe Samuel was also (I Sam. 1:11) all because their mothers did not drink and this was taken to mean that the child would be born a Nazarite for life. The Torah forbids Kohenim (Levitical Priests) to have long hair. This is to be understood as the High Priests, not necessary the Levites who served in the Temple. Samuel was and “adopted” Levite and thus was not a High Priest and John never served in the Temple for it was run by the corrupt Sadducees and it is believed he live with the Essence/Qumran community. So their long hair was never a problem.
Rav Sha’ul took a Nazarite Vow to prove he was a Torah Observant Pharisaical Nazarene Rabbi and that he still taught obligation to the Torah by G-d’s people whether Jew or Gentile.
Acts 21:17-26 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
Here Rav Sha’ul was accused of teaching Gentiles and Jews that they didn’t have to keep the Torah, which was a total lie. So to solve the problem the Elder’s suggested an act on Rav Sha’ul’s part that would prove to the people his allegiance to the Torah, which was to take on a Nazarite vow (which is apart of the “Old Testament” Law) along with other believers and to have Rav Sha’ul fit the bill for the other believers in regards to the sacrifices.
This meant he took on a Nazarite vow, and when the vow was completed he went to the Temple to offer the prescribed sacrifice! Why would Rav Sha’ul do this if he thought the Torah, the Temple and the Sacrifices were done away with, or if he actually was teaching others to forsake the Torah!?
Either Rav Sha’ul was a Torah Observant Jew till the end or right here is proving himself to be a two faced liar, playing what ever crowd he was with at the moment.
I say that the Scriptures are evident and clear that Rav Sha’ul never abandoned Judaism, the Torah, nor did he assimilate into the Roman culture at that time, nor did he convert to “Christianity”.
Yeshua before His execution took a Nazarite Vow at His last Pesach Seder.
Matthew 26:29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
According to the Talmud, it accepts abbreviated statements that are used in and leads one to believe this person is taking a Nazarite Vow upon themselves.
“One of the most basic requirements of nedarim – becoming obligated by making a vow – is that the person have clear intent; he must express himself in a clear manner. This is true not only for nedarim in general, but for nezirut as well. Nevertheless, as our Mishnah makes clear, there is no set formula for taking on nezirut. Substitutes (referred to by the Mishnah as kinuyei nezirut) or abbreviated formulations (referred to by the Gemara as yadot nezirut) also create a full obligation.” – www.steinsaltz.org, Narir 2a-b
Here is what the Torah says in regards to one who wishes to take upon themselves the Nazarite vow.Numbers 6:1-21 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day. And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled. And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings, And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings. And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering: And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings. And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven: And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.
It is understood that if one were to take on a Nazarite vow and one was not a Nazarite from birth one would be a Nazarite for up to 30 days unless specifically vowed by the Nazarite to be one for a longer period of time. Like Yeshua said, “until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
“Without specifying the amount of time remains a nazir for 30 days (in the language of the Mishnah "stam nezirut sheloshim yom"). This law appears in the Mishnah on our page with no explanation.
The Gemara demands a source for this rule. Rav Matana suggests that the source is a gematria - that it is based on the numerical value of the letters of the word yihiyeh. Gematria assigns a numeric value to each of the Hebrew letters. The first ten letters (alef through yod) are valued at 1-10. The next nine letters (kaf through kuf) are valued at 20-100. The final three letters (resh through taf) are the numbers 200, 300 and 400.
The Torah teaches (Bamidbar 6:5) that someone who accepts nezirut "will be holy" - kadosh yihiyeh. Taking the value of the letters
- yod - ten
- heh - five
- yod - ten
- heh - five
we arrive at a total of 30.
In his commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam argues that Rav Matana does not really suggest that the gematria is the source for this halakhah, but rather that there was a long-standing tradition - a halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai - that standard nezirut lasts for 30 days. Rav Matana points to the gematria as a reference point, but not as a true source.
Our Gemara also quotes bar Pada who says that the root word nazir appears 29 times in the Torah. In truth, this is not a source for the rule that appears in the Mishnah, as it seems to offer a position that argues with the Mishnah's ruling.
The Talmud Yerushalmi brings these two opinions (although the authors of these opinions have different names) and adds a number of others:
- The Torah teaches that the nazir is to keep the rules ad melot ha-yamim - until the days are over. The yamim of the nazir are compared to the yerah yamim of an eshet yefat to'ar (see Devarim 21:13) - 30 days.
- The Torah teaches that the nazir is to keep the rules ad melot ha-yamim - until the days are over. We can only talk about "completion" of days in the context of a month, which, in the Jewish calendar, is sometime "lacking" (29 days) and sometimes "full" (30 days).” – www.steinsaltz.org Nazir 5a-b
Technically, one cannot be a Nazarite in the truest sense of the word since there is no Temple standing in Jerusalem for one to complete their vow with sacrifices. But see no problem for one to be accountable to a Rabbi and undertake a form of the Nazarite vow to accomplish a specific purpose while at the same time looking forward to the time when Nazarite Vows can be taken in the fullest meaning of the vow when Messiah returns.
I think a Nazarite Vow is a very noble thing not to be taken lightly and offers an unforgettable spiritual experience that will teach one many valuable things. It is like fasting in that you don’t flaunt or publicize it.
I suggest if one decides to undertake a Nazarite vow in the modern day to keep the vow by abstaining from touching dead things whether people or even a roach, to not consume grapes in any form and to not cut, trim or shave ones head as it states in the Torah (Num.6:1-8), this includes not just the hair on ones head but the beard also. Head in the Hebrew culture meant from the crown of the head to the bottom of ones neck.
Since there is no Temple or working Levitical Priesthood and for now, until Messiah returns, our homes and Synagogues take place of the Temple and it if forbidden to sacrifice anything, even hair unless it is on the altar on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel; I suggest when ones vow is complete one invite the overseeing Rabbi and his family to your house and to treat them to a home cooked meal and have a hair cutting ceremony and give the hair to the Rabbi as a keepsake. If the vow was for a period of time to where the hair could grow considerably long, I suggest one get in contact with a group like “Locks of Love” and donate your hair to make wigs for bald children who are victims of cancer.