Fearless: On Emunah’s Bat Mitvah and being a Nazir

In memory of our friend Sheryl Grossman z”l and in preparation for Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah I learned the mishnayot of Sotah and Nazir. It seemed fitting as they both appear prominently in Naso, Emunah’s Torah portion. There in Nazir we conclude the mishna with an interesting and unusual aggadic statement about the nazir. There we learn:

Samuel the prophet was a nazir, in accordance with the statement of Rabbi Nehorai, as it was stated that when Hannah, his mother, prayed for a son, she vowed: “And no mora shall come upon his head” (I Samuel 1:11). How is it derived that mora is an expression of being a nazir? It is stated with regard to Samson: “And no razor [mora] shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a nazir to God” (Judges 13:5), and it is stated: “And no mora,” with regard to Samuel. Just as the term mora” that is stated with regard to Samson means that he was a nazir, so too the term mora” that is stated with regard to Samuel indicates that he was a nazir. Rabbi Yosei said: But doesn’t the word mora mean nothing other than the fear of flesh and blood? The word should be read as though it were written with an alef, and not a heh, so that it means fear. Rabbi Nehorai said to him: But isn’t it already stated: “And Samuel said: How can I go; if Saul hears it he will kill me” (I Samuel 16:2). This verse indicates that there was fear of flesh and blood upon Samuel. Consequently, the term mora must be understood in accordance with its plain meaning of a razor. If so, Samuel was indeed a nazir.

Mishnah Nazir 9:5

When we read about the nazir, it seems like a theoretical construct, but was this ever something that people did IRL? When we think about person who was actually a nazir most of us jump to Shimshon, about whom we read about in the Haftarah, or Rav David Cohen, known as “Rav Ha-Nazir,” a disciple of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. But, few jump to Samuel. But when we stop to think about them both, it makes sense. The parallels in their origin stories are striking. Both Manoah’s wife and Hannah had difficulty conceiving children. When each of them found that they would be blessed with a child they learned that this child would be a leader and live a life apart from the community. For Samuel in the Temple. And for Shimshon and, according to Rabbi Nehorai, also Samuel as a nazir, not drinking alcohol, not coming into contact with the dead, and not cutting their hair.

This mishna is also interesting in that the distinguishing feature of being a nazir is their hair and not their not drinking or coming into contact with the dead. It is telling in that we associate people less with their experience, how they identify, or even their behavior, and more so with how they are identifiable. Their hair is the signature element of being a nazir.

When I think about this mishnah in the context of Emunah’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah, three things come to mind. The first is how central hair is to the idealities of the Emunah and the nazir. Here is a picture of her from when our little angel was just one with her golden locks:

The second is how Rabbi Yosei’s opinion hangs on a misreading of the word mora. He claims that the word should be read as though it were written with an alef, and not a heh, so that it means fear. Even if it is ultimately rejected, it is seriously entertained. Emunah and I share a bond in that we both have dyslexia. While it can be challenging, I believe that if it is treated seriously this creative reading will open up a worlds of creativity.

The third issue that is compelling regarding the mishna is how we prove Rabbi Yosei wrong. It turns out that Samuel had fear of King Saul who would be upset with him looking for a new king in David. With this Rabbi Nehorai proves that Samuel was actually a nazir. From the earliest age Emunah has been fearless. I recall when they were younger they went to the doctor for some medication. There only had two nasal doses and the rest were shots. Without hesitation Emunah rolled up her sleeve to take the shot, while her older brothers squirmed.

My blessing for Emunah is that she continue to read creatively like Rabbi Yosei, argue respectfully like Rabbi Nehorai, and unlike Samuel continue to be fearless. Emunah is no nazir, but on this occasion of her becoming a Bat Mitzah she is on her way to becoming a wonderful woman.

Mazel Tov- Emunah

Other posts I have written about Emi over the years:

  1. Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog
  2. Little Birdy: Emunah and Protecting Our Children
  3. 7 Years of Emunah: Reflections on Faith and Fidelity
  4. Emunah Second Birthday
  5. Our Type of Emunah
  6. Our Blessing for Emunah

4 Responses to “Fearless: On Emunah’s Bat Mitvah and being a Nazir”

  1. 1 Ivy Mermelstein June 10, 2022 at 6:15 pm

    Mazel Tov Emunah!

  2. 2 Arthur Schwartz June 11, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Avi;

    I so enjoyed your post that I had to read each of your previous posts about Emunah.

    What a treat!

    I had never before heard of the saying that “Mr. Goldfarb goes to synagogue to be in relationship with God. I go to synagogue to be in relationship with Mr. Goldfarb”.

    For some reason, this saying hit home with me.

    Mazel-tov on Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah,


  1. 1 Blessing of Emunah: Reflections of Faith, Fidelity, & Trust for Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah | Said to Myself Trackback on June 17, 2022 at 10:15 am
  2. 2 Teens and Ki Tetzei: Emi’s Birthday | Said to Myself Trackback on September 9, 2022 at 1:14 pm

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