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Friday, June 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

A very special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece, Fraidy Shonek of Far Rockaway, on her engagement this week to Shmuel Clinton of Toronto (but formerly of Ottawa.)


This past Wednesday, 16 Sivan, was the yahrtzeit of R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi. Also, there was a recent publication put out in honour of the yahrtzeit for Shavuos which is available here.


After a grueling couple of months spent on Keilim and Ohalos, the Mishna Yomis program recently began Nega'im. The very last mishna in the second perek discusses which nega'im one may or may not observe for the purpose of determining tzara'as. It begins, of course, with the well-known double entendre, that one may observe all nega'im except his own. Traditionally, it is also understood homiletically to indicate that one is capable of seeing everyone else's faults but not his own. Rabbi Meir is of the opinion that one may also not observe the nega'im of a close family member. This position begs the question, at the end of this week's parsha, when Miriam became afflicted with tzara'as, who made the declaration?

This question is indeed addressed in a beraysa the gemara (Zevachim, bottom of 101b) where it is asked who was the one who declared that Miriam should be quarantined? Moshe was not a kohein and was therefore not even eligible and Aharon was a close relative. (Indeed, Moshe was too.) Rather, the gemara answers, a great honour was given to Miriam in that HaShem Himself declared her temeiah.

This issue gets a little more interesting with the very next mishna, the first of the third perek. There it is stated that indeed anyone, not just a kohein, is fit to observe the nega and decide its status. However, the declaration of "tamei" or "tahor" must be made by the kohein. The judge conveys their decision to the kohein to make the declaration.

Minchas Chinuch (end of mitzvah 172) puts these two laws together, in conjunction with the gemara and makes what appears to be an indisputable inference. It is not the judgment and assessment of the nega which cannot be done by a relative but rather, the status declaration, although it does not involve judgment, may not be made by a relative. Otherwise, what is bothering the beraysa? Any other Israelite could have judged Miriam's tzara'as and conveyed their assessment to Aharon to make the declaration. Rather, it is clear that is the declaration which may not be made by a relative. (He assumes that it is the declaration only and not the assessment but I'm not sure what compels him to understand this way. Perhaps both may not be done by a relative.)

Much of the above is from a shiur I stumbled upon on Kol HaLashon. (It can be played straight from that link. It is in Hebrew.) He goes into further discussion on the position of the Rambam which is perhaps to lengthy for here.  He also quotes Netziv in Emek HaNetziv who asks why Pinechas, not a disqualified relative, couldn't perform the declaration. (Just previous to the above-mentioned gemara, there is a dispute as to exactly when he became a kohein.) He answers that if it were not to be Aharon or Moshe, it would have been beneath Miriam's dignity for another individual to declare her tamei. This approach essentially discounts Minchas Chinuch's inference.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 
Dikdukian: The Impure

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