כ״ו באלול ה׳תשע״ה (September 10, 2015)

Nazir 19a-b: Starting Over

We find an argument between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding a person who completes a lengthy nezirut in the Diaspora and comes to Israel to bring the obligatory sacrifices when his nezirut is complete. Beit Shammai rules that such a person must complete a 30-day nezirut in Israel before bringing the sacrifices, while Beit Hillel rules that such a person must begin his nezirut from the beginning – no matter how long it is.

The Mishna on our daf tells the story of Queen Helene, who took upon herself to become a nezira for seven years should her son return safely from war. Upon his safe arrival at home, she began her nezirut, and upon completion of the seven years she went to bring her sacrifices in Israel, where she was told by Beit Hillel that she was obligated to begin her nezirut over again. The Mishna relates that at the very end of those seven years she became temeah and was forced to begin her nezirut a third time.

Helene was the queen of Adiabene, a small kingdom in the north of Syria on the banks of the Euphrates. In the generation prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, Helene, together with her sons Monbaz and Izats, began to study Torah with Jews who traveled through their kingdom, and eventually converted to Judaism. It appears that other members of the ruling elite did so as well. Helene visited Jerusalem a number of times and made donations both to the Temple and to the destitute people living in Israel. Her children followed in her footsteps, and even sent troops to support the Jewish uprising during the Great Revolt.

It appears that she and other members of her royal family are buried in some of the ornate burial chambers in Jerusalem. As is mentioned in several places in the Talmud, Helene was a giyoret tzedek – a sincere convert to Judaism – who accepted upon herself the constraints of halakha as taught by .