The Torah (Lev. 14:1-7) prescribes that when a person is healed of a tzaraas lesion, a kohen is to perform, as the first step in his purification, a procedure involving two birds and several other items. The same thing is also done when tzaraas on a house goes away (ibid. 14:48-53).

Why is this procedure not called for when an article of clothing becomes free of tzaraas?


Ralbag (on M'tzora 14:49) says:

הנה מפני שנטמא הבית כל ימי ההסגר והיה בלתי ראוי שתסור טומאתו בזולת פועל כלל הנה תהיה טהרתו בצפורים לפי שאי אפשר בו הטבילה

That is, a house, like a garment, should by rights just go in the mikve, but it can't, so we do the sprinkling-of-blood ritual instead.

(This leaves open the question why tzaraas on a person requires both a mikve and the sprinkling of blood. From what he says in Sh'mini about tzaraas on a person—

והנה יטבול אחר התגלחת הראשונה והשנית להעיר כי זאת הטומאה חזקה מאד ולזה לא יתכן שתסור יחד בפעם אחת אבל תסו׳ קצתה בטבילה הראשונה וקצתה בטבילה השניה

—it sounds as though he may hold that it simply is so severe that it requires both rituals — but I don't see that he says so, or that he otherwise explains why tzaraas on a person needs both. (I may well have missed it, though. He writes rather at length there in Sh'mini.))

  • 1
    Indeed, he seems to say just that a couple of lines afterwards - the person remains tamei even after the bird ritual, whereas a house, which is less important, doesn't need anything further. (In Shemini he explains that the bird ritual is kind of a parah adumah in miniature, because tzaraas is a form of death; presumably, then, this doesn't apply to clothing - and wouldn't to a house either, were it not for the fact that it can't be immersed.) Yasher koach, then! And mazel tov on the 20K. – Alex Apr 29 '12 at 5:41
  • Alex, @DoubleAA, thanks; b'ruchim tihyu. I don't see that (that a person needs more than hazaa) in the Ralbag. Is that a couple of lines after what I quote from M'tzora, or after what I quote from Sh'mini? (I don't see it in either event.) Perhaps you could point to it by quoting his starting and ending words, please? – msh210 Apr 29 '12 at 18:02
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    @msh210: it's here, second column, beginning in the middle of the third line: והנה עם זה ההבדל בטהרת האדם בצפורים לטהרת הבית מהם מבואר, וזה כי האדם ישאר טמא אחר הבאת הצפורים, מה שאין כן בבית לפחיתותו. – Alex May 1 '12 at 1:47
  • @Alex, oh, thank you, I was misreading that. – msh210 May 1 '12 at 6:18

The Ramban on Tazria-Metzora (I don't have it in front of me at this time. When I find it I'll post it) says that the order of severity in tzaraas (from light to severe) is clothing, houses and then people. He further says that the more severe the tzaraas is the more needs to be done to become pure.

Therefore, to purify tzaraas on clothing, one needs to just putt it in a mikveh, as this type of tzaraas is the most lenirnt. Next is the house, which is more severe and therefore needs the birds (which is similar to an offering). The most severe tzaraas is the tzaraas of people, which requires all of the above (for purification) in addition to real korbanos, as this is the most severe of all tzaraas.

Just to clarify, the above is an answer based on the Ramban, but is not necessarily what the Ramban is saying.

  • ובת"כ (שם ג יג) ועשה הכהן את החטאת וכפר, מה תלמוד לומר, לפי שנאמר והעלה הכהן את העולה ואת המנחה המזבחה, יכול יהו כולן מעכבים אותו, ת"ל ועשה הכהן את החטאת וכפר, מלמד שכפרה תלויה בחטאת. ויתכן כי "וכפר עליו הכהן וטהר", רמז לכל הנעשה בו, כי גם הצפרים יבואו לכפרה ולטהרה, כי כן אמר בנגע הבית (להלן פסוק נג) וכפר על הבית וטהר: – moses Apr 26 '12 at 4:53
  • (נג) וכפר על הבית וטהר - הנה הכפרה הזאת בצפור המשתלחת שתשא הצפור את כל עונותיו אל מחוץ לעיר אל פני השדה, כענין הכפרה בשעיר המשתלח. ובעבור שאין עונש הנגע הנראה בביתו של אדם כעונש הנגע שבגופו, לא הצריכו הכתוב לאשם וחטאת, כי די לו בכפרה הראשונה שיביא המצורע לטהרתו, שהם הצפרים ועץ הארז והאזוב: – moses Apr 26 '12 at 4:54
  • ובכל מקום יאחר הבהרת, בעבור שהיא העזה והקשה שבכולן: – moses Apr 26 '12 at 4:57
  • I think you are misreading that last one. He's just explaining why Baheret comes after Se'et and Sapachat. – Double AA Apr 26 '12 at 4:59
  • Much appreciated, but I don't see in his wording any comparison/contrast between clothing tzaraas and the other kinds. – Alex Apr 26 '12 at 5:21

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