Netakim Side by Side

Negaim (10:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 months ago

The tenth perek discusses the netek, a unique form of tzaraat. A netek is a small bald patch in the beard or head, at least the size of a gris (have bean) (see 12 (33)) . The indications of tumah are if the netek spreads or if develops yellow hairs. If however there are two black hairs inside it, the netek is tahor.

The Mishnah (10:6) discusses a case where there are two netakim separated by strip of hair. If the some of that hair falls out leaving a gap in the strip, then the netek is tameh. The Bartenura explains that this is because it is a clear indication that one of the netakim spread. If however the hair falls out in two locations along the strip creating two "breaches", provided that the gaps are at least two hairs wide, the netek is tahor. The reason is because the netakim are now considered one, and the remaining hair from the strip between the two breaches is now considered hair inside the netek, which renders it tahor.

The Mishnah then continues that if there is one breach, and it is the size of a gris, the nega is tameh. What is the meaning of this last statement?

The Bartenura explains that the Mishnah is returning to the original case of a single breach and explains that even if it is as large as a gris, since there is only one gap, the nega is tameh.

The Mishnah Achrona ask, that according to the Barenura's understanding, the last statement of the Mishnah appears unnecessary. Firstly, the Mishnah should not have mentioned the gris since much larger gaps would also share the same law. Furthermore, the beginning of the Mishnah did not appear to suggest that the size of the gap had any limit.

The Mishnah Achrona cites the Rosh that explains that in the first case, when the gap is small, it is considered that one of the netakim are tameh. If however the gap is a gris, it is now considered one large tameh netek, without the need for further quarantine.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains much like the Bartenura, and suggests that the last statement was necessary, since one might of thought that once the gap is the size of a gris, it should be no different to a case where there are two gaps each with a width of two hairs. It should therefore be considered a new netek and require quarantine. The Mishnah therefore needed to teach that even in that case the nega is tameh.

The Rambam (Tumat Tzaraat 8:10) however understand that the Mishnah is referring to the gap itself. In otherwords, if the gap itself is large enough, it is treated is a netek and is assessed independently. The Raavad comments that the logic would also hold true if the gaps were that wide in two places also.

The Mishnah Achrona however is puzzled why once it reaches that size, it is no longer considered a spread of one of the netakim it is considered an independent netek. He suggest that perhaps the Rambam had a different reading of the Mishnah. Instead of "one (achad) place", the Rambam had "another (acher) place". In other words, if another netek appears nearby, we do not treat it as a spread of the first, but rather a new netek. This is in contrast to negaim by clothes and houses, where a new appearance of mark at a distance can be considered a spread.

The Aruch HaShulchan (Negaim 92:11) however explains that the Rambam indeed understands that if the gap is a gris it is considered distinct from the other two netakim due the hair on either side. This is despite the fact that if there were two gaps, it would all be considered one nega. He therefore explains that when the Ravaad adds that this would be the law in two places, he means that this would be the case even if the single gap began as a result of the netakim spreading on either side at the point.

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