Tzaraath - Cause and Treatment

Cause and Treatment

As a "physical manifestation of a spiritual malaise," tzaraath is a "divine retribution for the offender's failure to feel the needs and share the hurt of others.

Although the medical and chemical conditions, which scholars consider the descriptions to fit, have obvious natural causes in the light of modern scientific knowledge, the biblical texts characterise it as a spiritual affliction with a supernatural cause, bringing ritual impurity to its victims. Each victim of tzaraas mentioned by the Bible is stated to have received the condition due to some transgression of biblical laws, including Joab being cursed for the murder of Abner (whose blood was shed deceitfully in time of peace), Gehazi (for 1. rebelling against Elisha's decision to not take payment for a miracle God had worked 2. working deceitfully to take the payment 3. lying to Elisha, saying he hadn't done the thing); and Uzziah for presuming to burn incense in the Holy Temple—violating a clear and direct Commandment of G-d (which prohibited anyone besides the priests to burn incense).

If a person was afflicted with tzaraath in their skin, they were required to wear torn clothes, keep their hair unkempt, cover the lower part of their face, cry out impure, impure, and reside away from other people; a few medical historians, such as Arturo Castiglioni, regard this as the first model of sanitary legislation. Nevertheless, this isolation isn't necessarily due to concerns over the contagiousness of the disease, but rather due to concerns about the risk of moral corruption to other people; the Talmud doesn't treat tzaraath as contagious, and doesn't consider non-Jewish victims of tzaraath to be ritually impure. The Talmud states that if tzaraath hadn't been confirmed by a Jewish priest, then a bridegroom with suspected symptoms of it was allowed to postpone any isolation or inspection by a priest until a week after his wedding, and if a person developed suspected symptoms of tzaraath during a holy day, then the isolation and inspection by a priest could be postponed until the holy days had finished.

Fabrics and clothing affected by tzaraath were required by the text to be burnt entirely, unless it was the form of tzaraath that faded after washing but came back after being torn out, in which case it could be considered ritually pure as soon as the tzaraath had gone, and it had subsequently been washed. Tzaraath infections in houses were to be treated similarly harshly according to the biblical regulations, and didn't have any exceptions; stones showing the symptoms had to be removed, and the house had to be scraped, with the removed stones and scraped-off clay being cast into a rubbish heap outside the city, and if the infection returned once replacement stones were laid and daubed with clay, then the whole house had to be dismantled, with the rubble again going to the tip outside the city. Additionally, people who had been in a house while it was infected with tzaraath was considered ritually impure until the evening came, and anyone who had eaten or slept there had to also wash their clothes

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... The first group of requirements are that the formerly infected person kills a (ritually pure) bird over fresh water, in a clay pot, and dips another living bird, together with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and ezov, into the blood this combination was used to sprinkle the formerly infected person seven times with the blood ... Once the surviving bird was released over open fields, and the formerly infected person had shaved off all their hair, and bathed themselves and their clothes in water, they were counted as ritually pure ...

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