As far as I can tell, tzaraas is unlike other sources of impurity in that it is not impure until the Kohen says it's impure.

So why didn't the kohanim just not inspect the tzaraas, especially around the festivals (when impurity deprived people of the chance to do many mitzvot)?

And even if the kohanim did have a duty to search for the tzaraas, it seems to me that there would be no halachic problem if the person who might have tzaraas concealed it as much as possible. For instance, they could wear a bodysuit for the whole festival which covered every part of the skin except for the face.

  • הִשָּׁמֶר בְּנֶגַע הַצָּרַעַת לִשְׁמֹר מְאֹד וְלַעֲשׂוֹת כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּ אֶתְכֶם הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִם תִּשְׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת – Double AA Apr 3 '19 at 15:04

According to Sefer HaChinuch (Positive Commandment 169) there is an obligation incumbent upon someone afflicted with suspected tzara'at to show it to a kohen:

שמצוה היא עלינו שכל מי שיהיה מצרע שיבוא אל הכהן לשאל על צרעתו והכהן יטמאנו או יטהרנו, והוא יתנהג על פי התורה הכתובה, כאשר יצונו הכהן

[T]hat it is a commandment upon us that anyone who is a metsora come to the priest to ask about his tsaraat, and the priest will render him impure or render him pure; and he will act according to the written Torah, as the priest will command him.

As far as festivals go, kohanim would in fact not inspect any suspected tzara'at during the festival, but would instead wait until afterwards.

Rambam, Hilchot Shevitat Yom Tov 7:16:

אֵין רוֹאִין אֶת הַנְּגָעִים בַּמּוֹעֵד שֶׁמָּא יִמָּצֵא טָמֵא וְנִמְצָא חַגּוֹ נֶהֱפָךְ לְאֵבֶל.‏

We do not inspect afflictions during a festival, lest he be found impure and thus his festival become a period of mourning.

  • The Chinuch says a "metzora", not a "suspected metzora". This doesn't seem to give a standard by which someone becomes suspected enough to visit a Kohen. – Daniel Kagan Apr 3 '19 at 8:55
  • 1
    You're correct that he doesn't give a standard, but it can't mean a literal metzora who has already been declared tamei, that would be circular... – Joel K Apr 3 '19 at 9:02
  • @DanielKagan Vayikra ch. 13 seems to give the standard - someone who sees something on their skin which fits the description of tzaraas. – Y     e     z Apr 3 '19 at 15:08
  • Thanks, it seems more clear to me now. – Daniel Kagan Apr 4 '19 at 6:48

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