Tzoraas of the Head

וְאִישׁ כִּי יִמָּרֵט רֹאשׁוֹ... אִישׁ צָרוּעַ הוּא טָמֵא הוּא

If the hair of a man’s head falls out… he is a person with tzoraas, he is impure (13:40, 44)

In all other cases of tzoraas, the verse speaks in terms of the affliction, i.e. whether or not it is tzoraas. By contrast, when it comes to tzoraas of the head, the verse describes it in terms of the person, saying that he is an “ish tzarua – a person with tzoraas.”

Our sages inform us that the affliction of tzoraas can come as a punishment for a number of corrupt character traits. As such, it stands to reason that the location of the affliction will indicate the nature of the corruption:

·      If the tzoraas affects the body, it is a sign of corrupt behavior, such as greed or allowing ones desires to dictate his actions.

·      However, if the tzoraas afflicts the head, it indicates that the flaw is in the way the person thinks. i.e. a corrupt attitude or perspective.

Thus for example, when Uziah Hamelech sinned through arrogance – which is a result of the corrupt way in which a person views themselves and the world – the verse states that tzoraas appeared on his forehead, representing his mind and thoughts.[1]

The difference between a person’s intellect and the other faculties is that it is specifically the intellect that distinguishes him from the animals, defining him as a human being. Therefore, while the other forms of tzoraas which affect the body are simply called “tzoraas”, when it comes to tzoraas of the head, the verse states that he is an “ish tzarua” – a person with tzoraas, for he has corrupted the faculty that sets him apart as an “ish”.


Sending the Metzora Outside the Camp

 כָּל יְמֵי אֲשֶׁר הַנֶּגַע בּוֹ יִטְמָא טָמֵא הוּא בָּדָד יֵשֵׁב מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה מוֹשָׁבוֹ.

All the days that the affliction is upon him he shall remain impure; he is impure, he shall dwell in isolation; his dwelling shall be outside the camp (13:46)

Our verse informs us that the metzora must be sent “outside the camp.” In the Wilderness, this referred to the place where the Jewish people were encamped, which was thus called “Machaneh Yisrael – the Camp of Israel.” Once the people entered the Land of Israel, this obligation applied to any walled city.[2]

Two Mitzvos = Two Elements

In addition to the positive mitzvah mentioned in our verse of sending the metzora out of the camp, the Torah later states that there is also a negative prohibition for him to remain in or enter Machanaeh Yisrael, as the verse there states, “וִישַׁלְּחוּ מִן הַמַּחֲנֶה כָּל צָרוּעַ... וְלֹא יְטַמְּאוּ אֶת מַחֲנֵיהֶם – they shall send forth from the camp any metzora… and they shall not contaminate their camps.[3] However, based on the words of the Rambam,[4] the Meshech Chochmah explains that in this regard, Jerusalem and other walled cities are not the same:

·      The positive mitzvah of sending out the metzora applies to all walled cities as well as to Yerushalayim.

·      However, the negative prohibition against contaminating the camp applies only to Yerushalayim.

In other words, whereas all walled cities are considered part of “the camp”, only Yerushalayim has the status of Machaneh Yisrael. Hence, the negative mitzvah which, as the verse states, is based on concerns of “contaminating the camp,” relates only to Yerushalayim. By contrast, the mitzvah in our verse is not generated by concerns of tumah contamination at all, and thus refers to all walled cities, even those which do not have the status of Machaneh Yisrael.

Eating Korbanos

The Meshech Chochmah adds that this idea receives support from the verse itself. In Sefer Devarim, it states regarding the bringing of korbanos:

וַאֲכַלְתֶּם שָׁם לִפְנֵי ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם

And you shall eat [them] there before Hashem your God.[5]

The term “before Hashem” used in that verse refers to Yerushalayim. We see that the consumption of korbanos – which needs to take place in a location that has the sanctity of Machaneh Yisrael – can only be in Yerushalayim, and not in any of the other walled cities, which do not possess that sanctity.[6]

[1] See Divrei Hayamim II …

[2] Mishnah Keilim 1:7.

[3] Bamidbar 5:2-3.

[4] Hilchos Tumas Tzoraas 10:7 and Hilchos Bias Mikdash 3:8.

[5] Devarim 12:7.

[6] Based on Meshech Chochmah to Vayikra 10:14.