A non-Nega Nega

Negaim (7:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 months ago

The Mishnah (7:1) discusses beharot (white marks) that have all the features of a tameh nega, yet they are tahor. One of the cases is if the baheret appeared in the hair of the head or beard, which are not locations where a regular nega affecting the skin can become tameh. The Mishnah continues that if the hair then falls out at the location of the nega, it is still considered tahor. The reason is because when it formed it could not be considered a nega tzaraat. The Mishnah then continues with a debate regarding a case where the baheret appeared on a bare face, the beard then grew and then the hair fell out. When the baheret formed and where it is currently, is in a location where it can be defined as a nega tzaraat. However, in the intervening period, when the beard grew, it was not. R' Eliezer maintains that all that matters is where it was located in the beginning and where it is when it is being assessed. Consequently the nega is tameh. The Chachamim however disagree. We shall try to understand the position of the Chachamim.

The Tifferet Yisrael (Yachin 7:15) comments that it does not matter whether or not each of the changes were inspected by the kohen. Once the nega is in a tahor location, according to the Chachamim it becomes tahor. The Aruch Hashulchan (88:14) however argues that the changes in our Mishnah should be no different to other changes with a nega, like fluctuations in size or the appearance and disappearance of simanei tumah. In other words, if it changed and changed back during quarantine and the first change was not assessed by the kohen, that change is disregarded. According to the Aruch Hashulchan, the debate in our Mishnah would therefore only be if the kohen inspected the beharet at each of the stages mentioned in our Mishnah.

The Tifferet Israel (Boaz 2) however differentiates between our case and whether it fluctuates in size. In the case where the nega shrunk during quarantine to below the minimum size and grew back, the nega was always in a location that it could become tameh. In our case however, the location of the nega changes to one in which no nega would be tameh. According to the Tifferet Yisrael, that phenomenon does require a kohen as there can be no negaim in that place -- it is a mekom tahor.

Focusing now on the Chachamim, the Mishnah Achrona cites the Tosefta where it records that the Chachamim maintain that it is treated as a new nega. The difference between R' Eliezer and Chachamim would be if the nega grew. According to R' Eliezer it would be an indication of tumah since the nega now is the same as the original nega and it has increase in size. The Chachamim however would maintain that we treat this nega as a new nega, albeit larger than the previous one, and it would require quarantine. Consequently, when the Mishnah says that the Chachamim "metaharim", it is to be understood that they would treat a spread as being tahor. Since the Rash cites the Tosfeta when explaining the Mishna, the Mishnah Achrona concludes that this is also the Rash's explanation of our Mishnah. The Tifferet Yisrael (Boaz 2) maintains this understanding.

The Mishnah Achrona however cites the Rambam that understand our Mishnah literally. In other words, according to the Chachamim, the nega is considered completely tahor. The Aruch Hashulchan maintains that this is clearly the position of the Chachamim. When addressing the Tosfeta he suggests that it was referring to a different case, where all the changes occurred prior to any inspection by the kohen.

Perhaps the debate between whether the Mishnah or Tosephta is literal can be connected to the previous debated Recall the Tifferet Yisrael and Aruch HaShulchan debated whether our case is equivalent to a case where the nega shrunk and grew. If it is considered like a nega that shrunk and grew, recall in the issue two weeks ago, that Raavad understood that once it became less that the minimum size, what remains is completely tahor and is not included if the nega then spread. According to the Aruch HaShulchan this case would be the same and the nega would be completely tahor. According to the Tifferet Yisrael however, our case is different. Recall that once its location became a tahor, it did not need a kohen to inspect it. One can suggest that the location being tahor was the technical issue preventing the nega from becoming tameh. The substance of the nega itself was not defined as a nega tahor. No kohen actively was required to do that, because the terminology of tameh and tahor is not relevant to a skin condition in that location. Consequently, according to the Tifferet Yisrael, once the location changed, the Chachamim maintain that the nega can be treated anew.

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