‘He Shall Dwell Outside His Tent’
(Moed Katan 7b)
The Gemara discusses the laws of the metzorah, including the obligation to distance him from the camp of Israel. The Torah states, “All the days that his affliction is upon him, he will be impure. He shall sit alone; outside the camp will be his place” (Vayikra 13:46).
When Bnei Yisrael traveled through the Sinai Desert, they were divided into three encampments: Machaneh Kehuna – where the Mishkan was erected; Machaneh Leviya – where the Leviim lived; and Machaneh Yisrael – where the rest of the Jewish people lived. The metzorah was banned from all three encampments. When Bnei Yisrael arrived in Eretz Yisrael, the metzorah was banned from walled cities, but he was allowed to remain in non-walled cities.
The Gemara explains that in order not to impinge upon the metzorah’s mitzvah to rejoice during festivals, the kohanim would not check a person for indications of tzara’as during a mo’ed. That way, no one could be diagnosed with tzara’as and be forced to dwell alone outside the city.
One would think that this ruling would not apply to a resident of a non-walled city. After all, even if he were diagnosed with tzara’as, he would still be able stay home for Yom Tov. Why, then, should a kohen refrain from examining him? And yet, no hint of this exception for residents of non-walled cities is found anywhere in Shas.
Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein zt”l, author of Aruch Hashulchan, wrote a fascinating companion set entitled Aruch Hashulchan Ha’asid,a compendium of halachos that will become relevant after Mashiach comes and the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt. There, he discusses the laws of tzara’as, and presents a novel chiddush. He writes that although a metzorah may remain in a non-walled city, he may not associate with other people there, as the Torah says, “He shall dwell alone.” Accordingly, we can well understand why even in a non-walled city, kohanim refrain from examining people for tzara’as during a mo’ed.
The Four MetzorahsFrom Shomron
When the Gemara talks about walled cities in reference to the laws of redeeming sold property and the laws of reading megillah, it refers specifically to cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua (Megillah 2b, 3b, Rambam, Hilchos Shemita 12:15). The Bartenura (Keilim 1:7) writes that the same condition applies to the laws of metzorahs. A metzorah only needs to leave a city that was walled from the time of Yehoshua. This is the opinion of many Rishonim (Rashi and Rosh on Keilim, ibid; Tosefos, Arachin 32b; Rashi on Megillah 10b, Shavuos 16a; see Mishneh L’melech, Hilchos Beis Habechira 7:13).
The Rambam writes that a metzora must leave a walled city in Eretz Yisrael. He does not add the proviso that this law only applies to cities that were walled during the time of Yehoshua. Some people therefore argue that the Rambam disagrees with the Rishonim cited above (see Haksav V’Hakabbala, Vayikra 14:40).
In the Haftorah for Parshas Metzorah, we learn about four metzorahswho were sent out of the city of Shomron (II Melachim 7:3). Shomron was built by Imri, the father of King Achav, many years after Yehoshua (see I Melachim, 16:24). Nevertheless the metzorahswere forced to leave the city. This incident seems to serve as proof for the position of the Rambam.
Who Built Shomron?
To defend the other Rishonim, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Keilim, ibid) suggests that perhaps Imri did not really build Shomron. Perhaps it had already existed from the time of Yehoshua, but Imri fortified it and made it into his capital city.