QUESTION: A Beraisa quotes Sumchus who states that if a person says, "I am a
Nazir Hin," he observes one period of Nezirus. If he says, "I am a Nazir
Digon," he observes two consecutive periods of Nezirus. If he says, "I am a
Nazir Trigon," "Tetragon," or "Pontigon," he observes three, four, or five
periods of Nezirus, respectively. TOSFOS explains that these are the Greek
words for these respective numbers.
If Sumchus is teaching that one may accept upon himself Nezirus in any
language, then why does he not simply say that a person who accepts Nezirus
in any language is a Nazir?
In addition, we already know that a person may make an oath of Nezirus in
any language, like the first Mishnah in the Masechta states, "A Kinuy of
Nezirus is like Nezirus." According to Rebbi Yochanan (Nedarim 10a), Kinuyim
are "Lashon Umos," foreign languages. What, then, is Sumchus teaching?
ANSWER: TOSFOS in Bava Basra (164b, DH Hin Achas) answers that, normally,
when a person accepts a Nezirus in a foreign language, he becomes a Nazir
only if he understands that language and understands that he is accepting
Nezirus. However, if he uses the words "Hin, Digon, Trigon," etc., then even
if he does not understand Greek, he is obligated to observe the number of
periods of Nezirus that the Greek number denotes.
The RAMBAN elaborates upon this. He explains that if the person has no idea
that he is making a statement of Nezirus, then certainly he cannot become a
Nazir. However, if the person intends to make a Nezirus, then using the
words "Digon" and "Trigon" could obligate him to observe multiple periods of
Nezirus even though he does not know what those words mean, since he knows t
hat he is making himself into a Nazir. He compares this to the expressions
of Kinuyei Nezirus (Nazik, Nazi'ach, Pazi'ach) mentioned in the Mishnah
(2a), which Rebbi Yochanan explains to mean words of foreign languages. Why
does the Mishnah mention specifically these words of foreign languages,
according to Rebbi Yochanan, if any word of a foreign language works to make
Nezirus? The answer is that these languages, which are similar to Lashon
ha'Kodesh, can create a Nezirus even when the person does not know what they
mean, as long as the person intends to make himself a Nazir.
Sumchus, then, is teaching a Halachah that applies specifically to the words
for numbers in Greek, and not for the words for numbers in other foreign
languages. Why, though, are the Greek words for numbers different than other
languages? Perhaps it is because those words are used more commonly by
Hebrew-speakers, as is evidenced by this Beraisa, which uses it to describe
a Halachah in Hilchos Nega'im. Perhaps this is why the Beraisa follows the
quote of Sumchus with a Halachah regarding Nega'im.
(b) Perhaps we might have thought that a person may accept Nezirus in any
language only if he uses a *single* language in his statement. Sumchus is
teaching that a person may mix different languages in his statement, if the
two languages are commonly spoken in that place, such as Hebrew and Greek
which were both spoken in Eretz Yisrael at the same time (see Sotah 49b).