Wool, linen, or leather nega

Chazal talk about the kohen who knows skin and house nega’im but not much about clothing negaim – they say he’s ineligible for viewing ‘all’ nega’im -these are strict standards for the kohen, but not unattainable, so lets keep it simple and get started;

Not only בני ישראל are susceptible to skin negai’m but their garments can get a nega too. But, only white non-dyed garments made of wool, linen and certain leathers are susceptible to a nega. Vessels -bags, containers, chairs, sofa’s- made of wool, linen and certain leathers are als a potential host to a nega (Sifra tazria ch. 160).

The color of the said nega is ירקרק and אדמדם The Sifra and mishna understands the term “yerakrak” as ירוק שבירוקין (the ‘green of greens’) and “adamdam” as the ‘red of reds’. It is explained that the terms ירקרק and אדמדם serve to include also fainter shades of green and red as tammei.1)1

Garment nega’im is serious business as once a garment gets a nega it is considered an אב הטומאה, and -just like a person with a skin nega- must be kept outside a walled city in eretz yisroel -מחוץ לשלש מחנות. (Rabbi Yosi haglili, Sifra tazria min. Ch. 159. see listing of walled cities from the era of Yehoshua bin Nin), some take it as far as necessitating its removal from any city, even in chutz le’aretz (minchas chinuch)

Hmm, we were thinking..

Being the types and colors of clothing that are susceptible to getting nega are limited, does then the torah hint that one choose clothing of non-dyed linen, wool and leather to show that we aren’t trying to ‘fly under-the-radar’ of getting nega’im?


Green means go

Lets talk about about the colors of yerakrak and adamdam as they are the crux of the kohen determining wether or not he is to busy himself with viewing the afflicted item. Tosefta quotes two opinions on the term ירקרק; Rabbi Elazar says yerakrak is yellow, similar to (bees)wax and the yellow of an egg, whereas Sumchus defines the yerakrak color as similair to the wing of the peacock or the leaves of the date palm tree.

Beeswax's natural color

Rabbi Elazar’s first example of ירקרק; The yellow color of wax

Egg yolk yellow as definition of yerakrak

Rabbi Elazar’s second example of ירקרק; the color of an egg yolk

Peacock feather, sporting green, brown, violet and dark blue.

Sumchus’s ירקרק; Which shade of the כנף הטווס did he mean, the green, brown or blue?


Sumchus’s second example; the color of the leaf of the date palm, thus explaining which shade of the peacock wing he was talking about

Real world colors

These examples help to conclude that according to both rabbi Elazar and sumchus, ירוק שבירוקים likely doesn’t include say -neon or other super bright hue’s. but the color is comparative to a natural color present in the common surroundings of ארץ ישראל in their era.

Rabbi Yechiel halevi explains that the Sifra and mishna’s understanding of ירקרק as ירוק שבירוקין serves to exclude alternate shades that are sometimes called green, such as blue and אדום שבאדומים serves to exclude varying types of red that plain אדום may be mistaken as -such as black (for example by the colors of niddah blood, black is מטמא as is is quantified as האי שחור אדום הוא אלא שלקה).

This approach is novel as it in a sense reconciles the great debate on whether the Torah terms ירקרק and אדמדם are “superlative” or merely “suffix -ish”. By upkeeping chazal’s approach that they are both superlative, Rabbi Yechiel’s undesrtanding is that they aren’t superlative in the sense as being the greenest or the reddest, but superlative in the sense to include the common-known hue of each and exclude fringe hues that would have been included where the Torah have written נגע ירוק או אדום.

With this explanation, the kohen’s viewing realm may be expanded to include qualifying fainter shades of green and red as tammei.

How red is red?

The torah calls the red clothing color אדמדם, and chazal explain this term as meaning אדום שבאדומים. Of note is that chazal didn’t choose אדום כדם as an explanation of אדמדם as blood is not always red (it may be black or even blue) -this is in-line with Rabbi Yehchiel HaLevi’s understanding that אדמדם serves to exclude shades uncommonly referred to as red and to include only those always referred to as red, unlike blood as it isn’t red at all times.

זהורית מצויה, a fish found in the shallow coast of ארץ ישראל

What may be the זהורית יפה שבים , the זהורית מצויה fish sports a bright red coat that is always red.

Cleanable green, launderable red

Another important observation is that both the green and red nega are cleanable. This is evident from the posuk telling us -if the seven day quarantine doesn’t produce an expansion of the nega- the fabric should be cleaned; וצוה הכהן וכבסו את אשר בו הנגע.

All about פחתת

פחתת? what’s that? lets explain; Even though the red or green nega may be launderable, were the ירקרק or אדמדם to be stubborn and not come clean during the launder process, the Torah calls the nega a פחתת and the garment is to be burnt.

The term פחתת is also a revealing factor as to the nature of the nega, the Torah vehamitzvah pirush to Sifra (tazria 173) understands it as the nega traveling vertically through the thickness of the fabric, when this happens, the ruling is as follows;

וְרָאָה הַכֹּהֵן אַחֲרֵי הֻכַּבֵּס אֶת הַנֶּגַע וְהִנֵּה לֹא הָפַךְ הַנֶּגַע אֶת עֵינוֹ וְהַנֶּגַע לֹא פָשָׂה טָמֵא הוּא בָּאֵשׁ תִּשְׂרְפֶנּוּ פְּחֶתֶת הִוא בְּקָרַחְתּוֹ אוֹ בְגַבַּחְתּוֹ

The kohen’s point-of-view

The viewing process for wool, linen and leather is simple; the affected is shown to the kohen who upon seeing the shade of green and/or red, orders a quarantine period of seven days. Essentially then, the affected article is never given an immediate verdict as a minimal of seven days is always required.

On the seventh day, during the daytime only, the kohen takes a second viewing. if the nega grew in size or another nega appeared in another spot of the garment or vessel, the garment is to be burnt. But, if the nega remains the same size, the garment is to be cleaned and quarantined for another seven days.

Did you know; Rabbi Yonatan Ben Avtulmus says that if the nega on a garment expands to cover the entire garment -the garment becomes tahor! (Gemara niddah 19a)

Professional clean only

For cleaning, The nega is treated with the prescribed “seven Ingredient” formula

Kla’im of half wool half linen are eligible. If a wool linen mix is the majority of the material content even if other fibers make up the remaining %49 it is eligible. A garment with at a minimal dimension of 3 x 3 finger breadths is eligible. Wool or linen strings ate exempt.


Leather, dyed or not?

Only leather from land animals -including reptiles- are subject to nega’im, leathers from sea-creatures aren’t. Also, leather laces are exempt while a tent enclosure made of leather is eligible for a nega. When dealing with leather though, there are three differing opinions as to weather dyed leather makes the grade;

  • Rabbi Meir holds that the affected be made of white leather (non-dyed) only
  • Rabbi Yehuda disagrees by including dyed leathers as eligible for nega’im.
  • Rabbi Shimon says that leather in any of its natural shades and colors are eligible for a nega whereas dyed leathers aren’t.


Consider this

Green and red colors appearing on clothing can and does happen, seemingly, the following three facts that 1 the yerakrak or adamdam can be laundered and thereby removed entirely and 2, the description of the yerakrak or adamdam rooting itself onto the garment (פחתת) and 3 that the discoloring can expand (פסיון) all hint that this Torah-described nega is in fact two variations of fungal growths on the garment.

Another observation is the Torah descriptive terms of פחתת and שקערורת used exclusively by clothing and real estate nega’im (respectively) -both terms describe the nega traveling laterally through the garment (or wall) thus hinting that the nega is fungal in nature, (whereas by the skin nega no such terms are used as is it merely a skin ‘stain’).

Another unique term exclusive to clothing and real Estate nega’im is ממארת, a word that implies lateral infection (as opposed to the skin nega which is but a discoloring of the skin but no microscopic fungal growth is detectable). Thus, by clothing and real estate nega’im, a return of the nega (after the launder or planing process) of the same original size is deemed tammei as although the visible size is the same as the original, it is for certain that there has Ben growth below the surface. (see התורה והמצוה to Sifra metzora ch. 104).

Green fungal growth

Red fungal growth known as aspergillus versicolor

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013-2014
Acknowledgements: Beeswax image license; http://commons more...
All Rights Reserved

References   [ + ]

1. 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove