Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

Our mishnah begins to discuss the signs of “negaim” that appear on the skin, meaning what counts as a “nega” and what does not. These are all various shades of white. The two mains signs are called “baheret” and “se’et,” both terms found in Leviticus 13:2.

 

Mishnah One

1)      The signs of negaim are two which, in fact, are four. 

2)      The bright spot (baheret) is bright white like snow; secondary to it is the sign as white as the lime of the Temple. 

3)      The rising (se’et) is as white of the skin of an egg; secondary to it is the like white wool, the words of Rabbi Meir.

a)      But the sages say: the rising (se’et) is white wool and secondary to it is like the white of the skin of an egg.

 

Explanation

Section one: One might be familiar with this literary style for it is the same style used to open tractates Shabbat and Bava Kamma. Here it means that there are two types of negaim mentioned in the Torah—baheret and se’et. Both of these have arch-categories and derived categories. The rabbis say that the “derived categories” are the “sapachat” referred to in Leviticus 13:2. “Sapach” can mean “appended to”—these signs are “appended to the main signs.

Section two: Baheret is bright white, like snow. The notion that these plagues were white like snow comes from Exodus 4:6, where Moses is afflicted with leprosy that is white as snow. Similarly, Miriam (Numbers 12:10) and Gehazi (II Kings 5:27) are afflicted with leprosy that is white as snow.

Secondary to it is an affliction that is as white as the lime plaster found on the foundations of the Temple (see Middot 3:4).

Section three: According to Rabbi Meir, se’et is like the white of the peel of an egg, and secondary to it is bleached wool. The Talmud explains that this is the white of the wool of a newborn lamb. The other sages reverse which is the main type of nega and which is secondary.

  

 

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