The ancients took skin disease very seriously.  They did not have the modern medicines we have, but they did have careful diagnostic procedures. 

There were three possible diagnoses where the skin disease tzaarat was suspected:

·       under observation

·       tamei (unclean) or

·       pure. 

Only Aaron or his sons, the High Priests, could make these diagnoses. 

If you had small outbreaks of the skin disease, you were quarantined in a house for two or more weeks.  If the disease was found not to have spread after that, you were pure, like those who didn’t have it at all.  If you had big blotches and they were spreading, you were tamei.  One assumes that tamei people were avoided, which was a good way not to spread the infection to others.

Tzaarat must have been a terrible disease.  This parsha devotes many more pages to it than to the rituals surrounding childbirth.  Of course, no expert diagnosis was needed for childbirth.

After childbirth, a woman is tamei for seven days after the birth of a boy, and fourteen for a little girl.  After her time being tamei, she must bring a sacrifice to the priests.  If she can afford it a lamb.  If not, a pigeon.

Food for Thought

Why do you think a woman was tamei for seven days for a boy, but fourteen for a girl?

The ancient Israelites took skin disease very seriously.