Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Table Talk for Tazria 5768 - The Bearded Lady

You know those crazy circus freak-shows where you pay a dollar to see the incredible tall man, the tiny short guy and the bearded lady? Have you ever actually been to one of those shows? Did the beard seem real? Well, the bearded lady appears in our parshah, and her beard is very real indeed.
The Torah tells us that, וְאִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה, כִּי-יִהְיֶה בוֹ נָגַע, בְּרֹאשׁ, אוֹ בְזָקָן - "when a man or a woman has a plague on the head or one the beard." (13:29) Commentators including Rashi and others wonder why the Torah specifies the gender of the afflicted ("a man or a woman") when in other cases, the Torah identifies the afflicted simply as אדם -- "a person."
Ohr Hachayim, quoting Rashi explains that had the Torah not specified both genders, we would have assumed that while a plague on the head might be considered tzara'at in both men and women, discoloration of one's beards would only be tzara'at in men. For this reason, the Torah tells us that whether the beard-wearer be male or female, the plague on the beard would be tzara'at.
Even if the bearded lady's a fire-eating, sword-swallowing midget.