Delaying Inspection of Negaim

Negaim (3:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 7 months ago

We have learnt that the point from which a nega is considered tameh, is when the kohen declares it to be so. The Mishnah (3:2) lists two instances where one may delay showing the nega to a kohen. They are the chatan (groom) during the seven days from his wedding and anyone during the festivals. The Tifferet Yisrael notes that anyone else may not delay, and can be forced to present the nega to the kohen. We shall try to understand these two exceptions.

The Gemara (Moed Katan 7b) records a debate regarding the source of this exception. R' Yehuda derives the exception from the pasuk "On the day healthy flesh appears (heraot) in it, it shall be contaminated." (Vayikra 13:14). R' Yehuda understands that there are "days" where the kohen inspects the nega and other situations where he does not. Rebbi however understands that prior to inspecting negaim in a house, the kohen would instruct the individual to clear out the house. This is in order to prevent the contents from becoming tameh if the house is declared tameh. Rebbi reasons that if the inspection can be delayed for mundane needs (reshut), i.e. one's property, then certainly it can be delayed for the sake of a mitzvah.

The Gemara continues that according to Abaye there is not practical difference between the position of R' Yehuda and Rebbi; it is simply a matter of how the exceptions are derived. Rava however maintains that Rebbi broadens the licence to delay inspection to matters of reshut for negaim that effect the body, just as it is allowed for negaim that effect houses.

The Pnei Yehushua notes that the Gemara implies that the week of celebration for a wedding is a biblical mitzvah similar to that of enjoying the festivals.

Returning to the derivation of Rebbi, the Chazon Ish (Negaim 13:17) reflects on the fact that the Torah had to teach that one could delay the inspection until the house was cleared. It implies that in general, without a specific licence granted by the Torah, if one delays the performance of a mitzvah that does not have a fixed time for mundane needs, then they violate a positive mitzvah.

The Chazon Ish however dismisses that conclusion. He explains that the case of negaim is an exception. There is a serious prohibition if one cuts of a nega and there is a positive mitzvah to "guard" the nega. That being the case, had the Torah not allowed one to clean out the house first, one might have thought the inspection must be performed as soon as possible. Alternatively, since in general it is positive to perform a mitzvah as soon as possible -- zerizim makdimim le'mitzvah -- the Torah needed to teach that for negaim this is not the case.

The Tosfot however ask, why was clearing out the house prior to inspection necessary? R' Meir (Moed Katan 7a) argues with the Chachamim, that one can inspect and rule on negaim during the festival if it results in a tahor nega. If it is indeed tameh, the kohen can simply remain silent. The Tosfot cites R' Yitzchak that the debate is only regarding a case where the individual has already been placed in quarantine. For a first inspection however, everyone would agree with R' Meir's approach. That being the case, regarding a house that has a nega, the kohen could first inspect it prior to removing the possessions. If the kohen was then going to declare that the house was tameh, he could tell the homeowner to clear out the house prior to the declaration. That way one can avoid emptying the house unnecessarily (in the case that the house is tahor).

The Chazon Ish however answers that that is not a possibility. The Chazon Ish (O.C 135, 7b) reasons, that if the kohen would only instruct the individual to clear out their possession if he was going to declare the house as being tameh, then it would be equivalent declaring the house as being tameh.

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