These days, when we think of something being tamei, or non-kosher, we think of food. But did you know people can be tamei too?
This week’s parsha talks about dealing with a skin disease called tzaraat. If you have a whitish or reddish mark on your face or head…you may have tzaraat! No one is absolutely sure today what tzaraat was. There are half a dozen guesses from “vitiligo” to “psoriasis” to “that disease doesn’t exist anymore.”
In any case, it was no laughing matter if you got it, and there were very strict rules about how to deal with it. The public health officer – aka, the priest – had to very carefully examine the guy or gal who was suspected of having tzaraat. If the blemish was too deep, he or she had to tear his clothes and call out “I’m tamei! I’m tamei!” Then he or she was supposed to go and stay outside the camp until his or her tzaraat went away.
Even a cloth could be tamei. If a cloth had a stain on it, you were to scrub it and leave it alone for seven days. If the scuzzy spot had spread, the cloth had to be burned. This in a time when there were no power looms to churn out clothing. It took a long time to weave a robe!
Food for Thought
It’s hard to judge what tzaraat was or how serious it was, but do you think the method for dealing with it makes sense?