Joining differently coloured tzaraas

Different types of skin tzara’as
The possuk in this week’s sedrah describes different types of tzara’as that can occur in skin:
אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת וְהָיָה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת וְהוּבָא אֶל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אוֹ אֶל אַחַד מִבָּנָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים
“When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a se’es, or a sapachas, or a baheres, and it becomes in the skin of his flesh a plague of leprosy, then he shall be brought to Aaron the cohen, or to one of his sons the cohanim.”

The mishna in the beginning of Negaim ((מסכת נגעים פרק א' משנה א' explains that a סַפַּחַת is not a type of tzara’as – rather it is a tolda (sub-type) of one of the two main types (avos) of tzara’as:
מראות נגעים, שנים שהן ארבעה:  בהרת עזה כשלג, שניה לה כסיד ההיכל; והשאת כקרום ביצה, שניה לה כצמר לבן, דברי רבי מאיר.  וחכמים אומרין, שאת כצמר לבן, שניה לה כקרום ביצה.
“There are 2 main types of tzaraas, each of which has a subtype.
A baheres is a tzaraas which is as white as snow, the tolda of a baheres has the colour of the plaster of the heichal.
  • According to Rb Meir; A se’es has the colour of the membrane of an egg, the tolda of a se’es is like white wool.
  • According to the chachamim it is the other way around; A se’es has the colour of wool, the tolda of a se’es is like the membrane of an egg.”

Order of whiteness
The gemara says in shevuos (5b) explains that the order of whiteness of tzara’as according to the chachamim is as follows:
  • Baheres
  • Se’es
  • Sapachas of baheres
  • Sapachas of se’es

Anything less white than the sapachas of se’es (egg membrane) is not tzara’as.

Joining negaim
In order to be tame, the tzara’as has to be the size of a gris (this is the same size as an old English sixpenny).
There is a machlokess rashi, tosafos and the rambam concerning combining small negaim to make up a gris:
  • Tosafos (Shevuos 5b, d”h im ken) hold that different types of tzaraas cannot join at all. However an av and a tolda can join: 

    • Rashi (Shevuos 5b) holds that in addition to an av and a tolda joining, avos can also join with each other. However an av cannot join with the tolda of another av

      • The Rambam holds that all types of tzaraas can join together.
      Rashi is based on the Toras Cohanim, Tosafos and the Rambam are based on the Yerushalmi. (Although Tosafos and the Rambam have opposite opinions, the Rambam is based on the introduction of the Yerushalmi, tosafos is based on a derasha brought in the Yerushalmi, as follows…)

      The Yerushalmi
      The Yerushalmi (Shevuos, 1:1) says:
      מראות נגעים שנים שהן ארבעה -  אמר ר׳ יוסי שאל יהושע בן ר׳ עקיבה את ר׳ עקיבה אמר לו, מפני מה אמרו מראות גגעים שתים שהן ארבעה? אמר לו, ואם לאו מה יאמרו? אמר לו, יאמרו מקרום ביצה ולמעלה טמא? אמר לו, לומר שאם אין בקי בהן ובשמותיהן אין רואה הנגעים.
      ומנין שמצמרפין זה עם זה? א״ר מנא מנו אותן חכמים שנים ומנו אותן ארבעה. מה שנים מצטרפין זע״ז אף ארבעה מצטרפין זה עם זה.
      רבי לעזר בשם ר׳ אבין אמר רבי יוסי ברבי בון והיו אין כתיב כאן אלא והיה מלמד שאינן מצטרפים זה עם זה תני חזקיה לנגעי צרעת אין כתיב אלא לנגע צרת מלמד שאינן מצטרפים זה עם זה
      Maros negaim are 2 which are 4: Rebbi Yosi said – Yehoshua ben Rb Akiva asked Rb Akiva:
      • “Why did they say Maros negaim are 2 which are 4?”
      • He replied: “What else should they say?”
      • He asked: “They should just say – from the colour of a egg membrane and above is tame. (That is – if all negaim can join with each other then the categorisation is irrelevant, as long as combined together they are a gris then the nega is tame.)”
      • He said: “So as to say – that if the cohen does not know their colours and their names then he cannot see negaim (to pronounce them tame or tahor)
      The Yerushalmi asks; And how do we know that they join with each other? (Which was the basis of Yehoshua ben Rb Akiva’s question). Rebbi Mana said – the mishna counts 2 and it counts 4 – just as 2 join with each other, so too do all 4 join with each other.

      The Yerushalmi brings a derasha; The possuk says:
      אָדָם כִּי יִהְיֶה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ שְׂאֵת אוֹ סַפַּחַת אוֹ בַהֶרֶת וְהָיָה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת וְהוּבָא אֶל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אוֹ אֶל אַחַד מִבָּנָיו הַכֹּהֲנִים
      The possuk says   וְהָיָה בְעוֹר בְּשָׂרוֹ- it will be in the skin of his flesh. וְהָיָה is singular, the possuk should have said והיו – plural. This teaches that negaim do not join with each other.
      Alternatively – the possuk says  לְנֶגַע צָרָעַת – a plague – singular, it should say לנגעי צרעת – plagues of tzaraas – plural – from this you see that tzaraas does not join up.”

      Tosafos (Shevuos 5b -  d”h im kenI) asks -  why does the Yerushalmi start by saying that tzaraas joins and then brings a derasha to prove that it does not join?

      How tzaraas joins
      Rb Naftoli Trop z”l answers as follows (קובץ הנאמן):

      When we say that maros negaim are mitztaref – does this mean that:
      • The negaim are really separate negaim – however in order to achieve the shiur of a gris we can add the size of all the small negaim. The negaim are separate but join in their shiur. Or does it mean that
      • There is absolutely no division between the separate negaim. All together they are one large nega. Because this has the required shiur, the metzora is tame. The negaim are one nega.
      The difference between these two explanations is what would happen if a metzora had two different colours of tzaraas, one of which faded during his week of confinement. If they are all one nega, that means that the nega became smaller and the metzora would be tahor because his nega has shrunk. However, if they are 2 separate negaim then one shrunk but the other remained the same, so the metzora would remain confined.

      Rb Naftoli Trop explains that according to the Yerushalmi, the negaim all join together as one. They are not separate negaim at all. That this is what the Rambam (who paskens like the Yerushalmi) means when he says (הלכות טומאת צרעת פרק א'):
      ארבע מראות אלו, כולן מצטרפין זה עם זה ... הכל כמראה אחד הוא חשוב
      “The 4 types of nega all join with each other – it is all considered one mareh.”

      The Rambam means that they are not small separate negaim whose shiur combines, instead they all combine to form one large nega.

      When the Yerushalmi says that the possuk refers to many negaim in the singular, this is exactly what it means. It means that many negaim form one nega. When the Yerushalmi says that they do not join, it means that truly they never join because many types of tzaraas are one nega. They have no separate identity.

      According to this explanation, the derasha in the Yerushalmi is not a proof for Tosafos, it is simply an explanation of the halacha according to the Rambam.


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