Doctor Kohen’s Second Checkup by Chaim Strassman


    This week’s parshiyot, Tazriya-Metzora, talk about many things, such as birth and Tzaraat.  On the topic of Tzaraat, the Torah goes into great detail regarding what is to be done to the affliction, the different signs used to determine if someone actually has Tzaraat or not, and how long a Metzora should be quarantined for.

Throughout this portion, the Torah continually states that the Kohen should look at the Tzaraat, or the Kohen should declare that the Tzaraat is indeed impure or not Tzaraat at all.  Only a Kohen has the power to rule in matters of Tzaraat.  The Midrash (Torat Kohanim) explains that even a well educated scholar who is a non-Kohen may not rule as to whether an affliction is Tzaraat or not.  However, a Kohen is permitted to declare something as Tzaraat after he has consulted a non-Kohen scholar.

 In Perek Yud Gimmel Pasuk Gimmel, the Torah says twice- once at the beginning of the Pasuk and once at the end of it- that a Kohen should look at the Tzaraat.  The Torah repeatedly tells us that a Kohen must look at the affliction, but why does it tell us twice in one pasuk?

A simple answer could be that even if a Kohen does not know how to rule on matters of Tzaraat, and he therefore will have to consult a non-Kohen scholar, he should examine the affliction anyway.  The Pasuk repeated that the Kohen should look to emphasize that an integral part of the Tzaraat process is the Kohen’s examination.

Another answer could be that the Kohen should look at the Tzaraat twice.  If a person plucks out the white hair (the sign of Tzaraat), even if he/she does so while the Kohen is making his examination, he/she must be declared Tzaraat-free.  Therefore, the Mishnah in Negaim (7:4 see Bartenurah ibid.) states that the Kohen should double check the affliction to see if the white hair is still there before he actually declares a person impure.  Note, however, that the Torah (Devarim 24:8 and Rashi’s commentary ad. loc.) specifically prohibits deliberately removing signs of Tzaraat.

It is always important to double check before deciding anything for certain.  Teachers always encourage students to check their work before handing in a test, just to make sure that no careless errors were made.  In the very first Mishnah in Pirkei Avot, the Anshei Kenesset HaGedolah advise judges to “Be deliberate in judgment.”  The Bartenurah explains this advice to mean that even if a judge has seen a particular case two or three times before, he should not render judgment on it before double checking his ruling.  Double checking helps avoid mistakes and is always worthwhile.


A Jew on the Inside by Dani Yaros

Backward Logic by Doniel Sherman