Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ritual impurity or contagious disease?

DR. YITZHAK FEDER: Tum’ah: Ritual Impurity or Fear of Contagious Disease? (
Already in the early 2nd millennium B.C.E., people knew that diseases were contagious, and fear of contagion plays a key role in the Torah’s laws regarding the skin ailment, tzaraʿat. What does this mean for understanding other kinds of tum’ah?
It makes sense to me that fear of contagious disease (in our terminology) was included in the ancient concept of ritual impurity. But the ancients did not have our modern germ theory. Ritual purity for them was a broader concept. It is somewhat artificial to try to parse our distinctions out of it.

That said, this is a good and thought-provoking essay. Have a look.

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