368. Wine Not? The prohibition against a nazir drinking wine
…from wine and strong drink he shall abstain… (Numbers 6:3)
A nazir (commonly rendered “nazirite” in English, as if that helps) is a person who voluntarily undertakes a program of spiritual elevation by abstaining from certain permissible things for a set period of time. First and foremost on the list is that a nazir may not drink wine or other intoxicating beverages. This includes even drinks in which the wine has already turned to vinegar.
The basis underlying the mitzvah is that the nazir wants to get closer to God. In order to do this, he breaks his cravings for certain physical pleasures, wine foremost among them. This serves to remove him somewhat from the realm of the physical more to the realm of the spiritual.
This mitzvah applies to both men and women in all times and places. It is discussed in the Talmud in the sixth chapter of tractate Nazir, starting on page 34a. This mitzvah is codified in the Mishneh Torah in the fifth chapter of Hilchos Nezirus. It is #202 of the 365 negative mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos but it is not listed in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar of the Chofetz Chaim.