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March 30, 2014 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Metzora

“If the saliva of someone with a discharge is spat on a ritually clean person, that person must wash his clothing and his body, and remain unclean until evening.” (Lev. 15:8).

Scharfstein remarks that the ancient Jews “understood the value of washing as a way of stopping the spread of infection.”  Even when baths were hard to come by, religious Jews washed their hands after going to the bathroom, upon getting up in the morning, and before eating bread- not to mention occasional immersions in the mikveh.   By contrast, medieval Christians almost never bathed and suffered from the Black Plague as a result.   We don’t know for sure whether Jews suffered less from such diseases.  However, Christians certainly thought this was the case, and occasionally blamed Jews for the plague as a result. 

So is bathing a good thing or a bad thing?  Normally, of course, a good thing- it saves lives in all kinds of ways.   On the other hand, I don’t know whether, in the 1340s, the Jewish lives saved by bathing outweigh the Jewish lives lost in massacres.  I suspect that it did, but I can’t really back that statement up.

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