The second perek of Massekhet Nazir continues with a discussion of how we understand expressions that appear to relate to nezirut. The first Mishna in the perek brings a disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai with regard to a person who says, “I accept nezirut to refrain from eating gerogarot and deveilah.” Gerogarot are dried figs and a deveilah is a collection of dried figs that are pressed together. Although nezirut prohibits specifically grape products, Beit Shammai rules that this person becomes a nazir, while Beit Hillel says that he does not. The Mishna concludes with the teaching of Rabbi Yehuda, who says that even according to Beit Shammai the individual will not become a nazir, rather that the man’s statement must be taken seriously and we understand him as having taking a neder to refrain from eating figs.
Without Rabbi Yehuda’s explanation, Beit Shammai’s position seems difficult to understand, since the person did not accept any prohibitions that relate to nezirut. Several suggestions are raised by our Gemara, with the general approach being that Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree about whether we can discount the person’s statement entirely or if we should accept that part of his statement has validity, even as we reject another part of his statement.
A different approach appears in the Tosefta, and is quoted in the Talmud Yerushalmi in the name of Reish Lakish. The suggestion is that Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree about whether we can see the statement about figs as being an example of kinuye kinuyim. The first Mishna in the tractate (2a) taught that substitute expressions could be used to accept nezirut; is it possible that even the substitute expressions can have other words that can substitute for them? Specifically, can a reference to gerogarot – which are similar to grapes, in that they were also called tirosh, which in modern Hebrew means “grape juice” – be considered kinuye kinuyim of nezirut? Rabbi Ya’akov Emden adds another consideration. Since eating large amounts of figs leads to a sense of intoxication, perhaps they should be considered kinuye kinuyim of nezirut.