We read in this week’s portion the laws of a Nazir. A Nazir is one who takes upon himself a vow not to drink wine, not to cut his hair and not to come in contact with a dead body. If he accidentally came in contact with a corpse he becomes defiled and after fulfilling the rituals of being purified again he must bring a sacrifice in the Temple. The reason the Torah gives for this sacrifice is: VECHIPER ALAV ME’ASHER CHATA, “…and he will atone for having sinned.” (Num. 6,11)
What was his sin? Firstly, he accepted upon himself greater restrictions than the Torah commanded. This should be commendable. Secondly, he was defiled accidentally. Why should he be considered as having sinned? He did everything right.
Rabbi Elazar in the Talmud states that he sinned in that he prohibited upon himself drinking wine which is permitted. (Naz. 19a) He further states that if he is considered a sinner because he prohibited himself from drinking wine how much more so does he sin when he fasts unnecessarily.
From this we see the opinion of the Rabbis that one should not expand on the Biblical or Rabbinic prohibitions. What is permitted should not be prohibited. It is no pious act to be stricter than Halacha calls for.