In Parshat Tazria (Vayikra 13:46) we are told:

All the days the lesion is upon him, he shall remain unclean. He is unclean; he shall dwell isolated; his dwelling shall be outside the camp

As Rashi explains:

He shall dwell isolated: [meaning] that other unclean people [not stricken with tzara’ath] shall not abide with him.

The source for the Judaica Press translation's parenthetical explanation of Rashi "people [not stricken with tzara’ath]" (implying that the leper may sit with other lepers) appears to be a Braitah brought in Pesachim 67A and Rashi's commentary there.

The Talmud (according to Rashi) there explains that when the verse says "he shall dwell isolated" it means that other forms of impurity (Zav or one impure by a dead body) do not have to go outside all three camps, while the "leper" must.

This seems to indicate that "lepers" may sit together, outside the camp. We see this in the story in Melachim II 7:3 as well, where there were 4 lepers sitting together at the gates of the city.

However Rashi on Vayikra 13:46 continues.

Our Sages said: “Why is he different from other unclean people, that he must remain isolated? Since, with his slander, he caused a separation [i.e., a rift] between man and wife or between man and his fellow, he too, shall be separated [from society].”- [Arachin 16b] [This rationale is based on the premise that a person is stricken with tzara’ath as a result of his talking לְשׁוֹן הָרַע, i.e., speaking derogatorily of others, although he may be telling the truth.]

If the "leper" must be isolated and separated from society due to the rifts he has caused, shouldn't he also be separated from other "lepers"? Why is he still allowed to sit with other "lepers"? Especially since the rifts Rashi (and the Talmud) mention are personal rifts, not societal rifts. Why don't we say that just like he caused people to be separated, he too should be separated and alone?

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    I'm not sure sitting with three other lepers is considered in a society.
    – Double AA
    Apr 27, 2012 at 19:29
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    @DoubleAA: It's not, it's considered out of society. I'm just wondering why they shouldn't be isolated from each other as well. I'll try to edit the question to make it clearer
    – Menachem
    Apr 27, 2012 at 19:45
  • Maybe indeed it depends on whether the metzora in question was stricken with tzaraas because of lashon hara, or because of other sins (listed in Erchin 16a)?
    – Alex
    Apr 27, 2012 at 21:18
  • Since they are punished for the same thing they will try to work on their mistakes together.
    – sam
    Apr 27, 2012 at 22:11
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3 Answers 3


The Maayanah Shel Torah quotes the Ahavat Yehonatan, who says that the lepers in Melachim II were actually suffering from natural leprosy, not Tzara'at.

If so, nothing can be proved from their case (at least according to the Ahavat Yehonatan). I suspect many commentaries disagree with this conclusion (including the one quoted on the previous page)


I'm sorry if you're not satisfied with this answer, but it's my honest feeling that when you untangle the disparate sources that you've quoted from one another, they're either not contradicting one another or it's not a problem that they do.

For a start, Rashi (Leviticus 13:46) never says that people afflicted with any other type of impurity may not dwell with the leper, but simply other impure people. He doesn't say which, though I would imagine that he is speaking specifically of somebody with an emission and somebody with corpse impurity. The parenthetical section that you included in your translation was composed by whomever is responsible for the translation at chabad.org (The Judaica Press). Read it in the Hebrew alongside and you'll see that it says no such thing:

שלא יהיו שאר טמאים יושבים עמו

That other impure people should not dwell with him.

Secondly, Rashi is quoting two completely different sources, and the fact that there appears to be a contradiction between them is not a problem with those sources but a question on Rashi's methodology in particular. You can see the same apparent "contradiction" in Rashi's observations on 2 Kings 7:3. First he brings a gemara from Sanhedrin that posits that the four lepers are Gehazi and his sons, and then he quotes the passage from Leviticus 13, which emphasizes that the leper dwells "alone" (בדד).

So far as those two sources are concerned, the first is a beraita that is brought down in Pesachim 67a in the name of Rabbi Yochanan. The beraita appears to be based on a passage in Sifra (§13, 157.12), on which the Malbim writes that it is only from those who've had an emission (the zav) and from those with corpse impurity that the metzora' needs to distance himself. His reading of the Sifra (and of the beraita in Pesachim and its parallel in Zevachim 117a) is that people with tzara'at can spend time with other people who also have tzara'at, and even other people with different kinds of impurity - so long as they are not of the two varieties I just mentioned. In that sense, the Malbim is saying something different to Rashi, whose mention of the zav and the tamei met in Pesachim 67a is preceded by כגון ("for example" - ie: not exclusively).

The second source, which Rashi presents as the "reason" for the metzora' dwelling apart is from a beraita that's brought down in Arakhin 16b in the name of Rabbi Hanina. Are you trying to indicate a 'contradiction' between Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Yochanan, or are you asking how it is that Rashi could possibly combine the two responses?

If it's the latter, then your question is effectively: "How do I reconcile Rashi's commentary on Pesachim 67a with his commentary on Leviticus 13:46?" I think that anybody will tell you that Rashi's gemara commentary is his attempt at explaining the gemara (in this case, trying to understand Rabbi Yochanan's reasoning), and not a reflection of his halakha. That's why there are so many contradictions (as there are in the gemara itself) and why what he writes doesn't always match what's found in his piskei dinim.

  • I suggest replacing all instances of "leper" with "people with tzaraath"
    – avi
    Jul 12, 2012 at 8:40
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    @avi, I'm commenting here so you can see my constructive criticism, even though it relates to your edit on the question. First, I disagree that "leper" is not a valid English rendition, even if it is not a correct translation, since the vast majority of the English speaking world equates the two, and someone searching the internet will likely find the question that way. Second, if you are going to edit someone else's language, I recommend that if you cannot be certain how they would transliterate a Hebrew word into English, you use a more neutral and widely accepted transliteration scheme.
    – Seth J
    Jul 12, 2012 at 13:36
  • Kings 2 7:3 is not a contradiction in Rashi, since even if they weren't Gechazi and his sons, there would still be 4 men sitting together. Rather, it is Rashi interpreting "alone" as "able to be with others suffering from the same ailment".
    – Menachem
    Jul 12, 2012 at 22:18
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    @avi ... and American Indians have nothing to do with India. Nonetheless, unfortunate as it may be, both "leper" and "Indian" have taken on second meanings through hundreds of years of use. If Menachem chooses to revert back to using his original terminology, please leave it that way.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jul 13, 2012 at 17:31
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    @avi: Anybody who thinks that the Bible is talking about people whose limbs fall off doesn't know anything about the Bible. Conversely, anybody who thinks that lepers are people whose limbs fall off doesn't know anything about leprosy. Fact: there were lepers in ancient Israel. This has been scientifically determined on the basis of DNA analysis and has never been disputed by anybody. Perhaps the Israelites were the only people in the ancient world not to quarantine lepers? Or perhaps it was simply a type of tzaraat, together with a dozen other known conditions, from psoriasis to dry rot.
    – Shimon bM
    Jul 15, 2012 at 6:18

@ba, in his comment on the question, linked to chapter 47 of "Gam Ani Odecha" by Gamliel HaKohen Rabinovitch. There, he collects responses he received from several contemporary halachic authorities regarding whether a Metzorah must sit alone.

In short (and I may be glossing over some important details, so please read it inside), there are authorities that appear to say yes, and those that appear to say no.

The basic distinction seems to be whether the Metzorah must sit alone because of impurity, or because he is considered as one who is excommunicated. If he must only be alone because of impurity, others may join him, if they wish. Whereas if he must be alone because it is like he is excommunicated, no one else may join him.

[There is some discussion about whether his wife may join him, and passing mention to his children, but none of the responses mentions the 4 "lepers" sitting at the gate.]

Note that this is not discussing the rationale of "Since...he caused a separation ...between man and wife or between man and his fellow, he too, shall be separated ..."

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