Finding a kohen nowadays who knows the nuances of nega’im is rare. But, were we to find such a kohen muchzak, can he in fact label the afflicted as tamei?
Without confusing you (too much), we’d like to show how today’s kohen should in fact delve into the halachot of nega’im, not just for fun -but for actual use should the need arise.
The fun starts with the chazal sources known to us; Tosefta mentions that nega’ei adam is seen by the kohen independent on whether the bet hamikdash is present. Similarly the she’iltot -who is reported to bring halachot the way they are applicable nowatimes- states that a person who becomes afflicted should show the affliction to the kohen.
Speaking of the taharah component of the mitzvah (once the nega leaves) the rambam writes that is is applicable independent of eretz yisroel and of the bet hamikdash.
The challenge starts with the wording of the Rambam where the metzorah isn’t considered tamei unless pronounced so by a kohen muychas. Here is an easy exit for today’s kohen to forego being all-that knowledgeable in dinnei nega’im and go ahead with in-depth study of other torah topics with the logic ‘”why be בקי in הלכות that I cannot completely do”?
Knowing that the Rambam sets the bar for the kohen meyuchas quite high; “All kohanim today are kohanim muchzakim where only the kohen who two witnesses testify his lineage until the kohen who served on the mizbeach”, the משנת יעקב commentary questions why a meyuchas is needed, as there is basis to say that the kohen muchzak should suffice, the query based on the notion that the kohen muchzak is kosher for all purposes of kehuna -at least min hatorah. Here to, the kohen muchzak should suffice for the duty of the kohen -at least מן התורה- in accurately labeling the afflicted.
The query is strong, as in the halachot that the rambam goes in depth on the dinnim of nega’im, there isn’t a mention about the meyuchas requirement, whereas in hilchot trumot -in regards to the a kohen metzora consuming תרומה דרבנן, the kohen meyuchas status is needed to forbid his consumption.
Leading to another question; how is the kohen meyuchas found to disqualify the kohen metzorah where there aren’t any kohanim meyuchasim around (rambam)?
The chinuch (mitzvah 169) understood from the rambam that the knowledgeable kohen is supposed to go about his job of viewing tzoraat when needed even in our era.
The baal hachinuch makes no mention of the meyuchas requirement when discussing the mitzvah of the purifying aspect of the metzora (mitzvah 173);
Now, its know how the author of Sefer HaChinuch had tremendous regard of the rambam. This is evident with his saying (mitzvah 285) “to him we will listen and torah will be sought from his mouth as he is a malach of השם צבאות”. So then, in summary, the sefer hachinuch seems clear in his opinion that the kohen is to be on his toes in terms of being knowledgeable in dinnei negaim and ready to practice that knowledge when needed.
Another citing of negaim as to how they are applicable in chutz learetz is found in talmud brachot 5b; there the gmara discusses the four types of nega and concludes as to the difference between it happening in בבל or in ארץ ישראל. The chiddushei HaRashba quotes the tosafist Rav Elchanon along with some of רבני צרפת who taught that although the laws of בתי ערי חומה is contingent on the mitzvah of יובל being in practice, the mitzvah of sending out מצורעים from walled cities is not contingent on the mitzvah of yovel. 1)1
Tzoraat? No tefillin for you
Interesting instances are brought in halacha that reflect the importance of today’s kohen being in the know about nega’im. To start, shulchan aruch forbids he afflicted with a nega (the “menuga”) to don tfillin (orach chayyim ch. 38:13). Another instance showing the relevancy of skin nega’im in our times is the permit for the mohel to go ahead with the brit-milah even if that means cutting the afflicted area off -a cut normally prohibited min-hatorah (yoreh deah 266:1).
Sent out of the walled city
The yaabetz is included with those who opines that the kohen calling the nega has real ramifications in our era, this being real in terms of the purifying process of skin nega’im (shaving, sending the birds) is applicable nowadays;
טהרת מצורע בתגלחת וצפרים נוהגת גם בזמן הזה. נ”מ בין בקטן בין בגדול (אחד זכר ואחד נקבה טומטום ואנדרוגינוס ועבד) לענין איסור כניסה לירושלים ולערי חמה הידועים עדיין בארץ ישראל ואפילו חרבה חומתן
-יעב”ץ, בירת מגדל עז דף כה, נחל כרית, שוקת א ס”ק יא-ב
References [ + ]