Rashi says that one of the meanings of Aharon's prayer regarding Miriam ("Let her not be like the dead, which comes out of his mother's womb with half his flesh consumed!"; Bamidbar 12:12) was that there is no way for her to be purified from her Tzara'as except through a miracle.

Another interpretation: Let her not be like the dead-If You do not heal her through prayer, who will confine her? Who will cleanse her? I myself may not examine her, since I am related, and a relative many not examine plague marks [symptomatic of tzara’ath], and there is no other kohen in the world. This is the meaning of, “since he has come out of his mother’s womb.” [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:12, Tanchuma Tzav 13]

However, while Aharon cannot pronounce her pure, he would presumably unable to pronounce her impure (for the same reason - she's a relative). The law by a Metzora is that if a Kohen doesn't pronounce one a Metzora, he is Tahor.

So the same way Aharon (presumably) made her Tamei, he should make her Tahor?

  • It doesn't say tamei or tahor anywhere in the parsha. I'd say pshat is she never actually became tamei; Aharon just knew that she should be.
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 5:14
  • 2
    she can't be without him doing anything (IOW, if he were to have ignored her completely, she would not have the law of a Metzora) Jun 11, 2012 at 5:15
  • Are you arguing?
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 5:18
  • I'm confused: Why do you assume she ever became tamei? It never says tamei in the pesukim; it only says רפא=heal from the disease. Aharon is complaining that he can't heal her from the disease through the metzora process because he can't start or end it. So he needs a miracle to heal her.
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 5:37
  • We know that the word metzora doesn't necessarily mean tamei, cf judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16663/759
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 7:21

1 Answer 1


Tosafos (Zevachim 102a, ד"ה אני מסגירה) asks this and leaves it unresolved.

Netziv (to Sifri on this verse) suggests two possibilities:

  • True that she'd be tahor, but she'd be in a state of suspense (not knowing what the outcome would be) until there is a kohen available - a yet-to-be-born son (or grandson) of Elazar or Isamar - who could check it and make the declaration. (And during that time the symptoms might get worse, such that where originally she could have been declared tahor, by the time her great-(great-)nephew sees it, she has to be declared tamei.) By contrast, if Aharon himself could declare her (tamei and then) tahor, she could be done with the whole thing in as little as two weeks.

  • Chinuch (mitzvah 169) states that the merit of following the laws of tzaraas itself helps the sufferer be healed. In this case, then, if Miriam is never even declared tamei, then she might continue suffering from tzaraas forever (along the lines of DoubleAA's comment on the question).

  • +1! I had thought of the first answer but rejected it because when the symptoms change, wouldn't she have to get re-inspected independent of what had happened to her before? For instance, if there was no michya now but there was white hair, and she became temeiah but then became tehorah again when the white hair fell out, and then 50 years later a michya comes to the same white patch, wouldn't she be temeiah again?
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 5:59
  • @DoubleAA: right, but the point is that perhaps now there was no michyah and no white hair, but then by the time she is inspected years later, one or the other of those has developed. (If neither of those develops within two weeks, nor does the nega spread, then the person is tahor - Rambam, Hil. Tum'as Tzaraas 1:10-11; also, if it was declared tamei and then the hairs or michyah went away, then that particular spot can never again become tamei, even if they recur - ibid. 4:8 - whereas if she was never examined yet, the kohen would find those and declare her tamei.)
    – Alex
    Jun 11, 2012 at 6:23
  • I think 4:8 is saying it can never be in hesger, but it can go straight to hechlet if white hair or michya comes (back).
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2012 at 6:31
  • @DoubleAA: yeah, it looks like I misunderstood; Kesef Mishneh understands it as you do.
    – Alex
    Jun 11, 2012 at 17:25
  • We still may be able to salvage that answer by making it less specific, something like: spots don't change all that often and it would just be frustrating to not know what the psak will be in the future. Not there is any benefit to an earlier checking, just less time for suspense. But I still like the second answer better.
    – Double AA
    Jun 13, 2012 at 6:55

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