NEGA'IM (Heb. נְגָעִים; "Plagues"), third tractate of the order Tohorot in the Mishnah and Tosefta. It deals with ritual uncleanness resulting from the plague referred to in Leviticus 13 and 14, which is usually translated as "leprosy." Nega'im consists of 14 chapters. Chapter 1 defines the colors and shades of the various symptoms of human leprosy. Chapter 2 discusses the time these symptoms may be inspected, the posture of the sufferer when being examined, and the person qualified to make the examination. Chapter 3 details when the examination can be postponed, the procedure when the examination is made by a non-priest, and the symptoms of the plague in persons, houses, and garments. Chapter 4 contrasts the various symptoms indicating uncleanness, and the consequence of different leprous signs appearing simultaneously or in succession. Chapter 5 deals with doubtful signs of leprosy and symptoms that disappear and reappear in the same or in changed form. Chapter 6 discusses the minimum sizes of leprous signs and the parts of the body in which the appearance of the symptoms do not give rise to uncleanness. Chapter 7 deals with spots that are clean and natural or induced changes during or after the inspection. Chapter 8 discusses when the symptom covers the whole body and chapter 9 the symptoms of the plagues termed "boil" and "burning" and their relationship to one another. Chapter 10 deals with scales, chapter 11 with the leprosy of garments, and chapter 12 with the uncleanness of houses. Chapter 13 continues with the uncleanness of houses and how they and a leper pass on uncleanness. Chapter 14 deals with the procedure at the leper's cleansing and at his offering of sacrifices.
The Tosefta to Nega'im has only nine chapters and contains details not found in the Mishnah, as well as several independent groups of laws. Two groups are found in this Tosefta, the first characterized by the legal formula, "One does not" (1:11–13), and the second group by its opening word "netek" (i.e., a bald spot on the head or beard, 4:2–6). Tosefta 6:1 cites an anonymous opinion stating that the laws concerning a house defiled by leprosy have only theoretical validity because such houses never existed and never will; other rabbis, however, cite cases of such houses. Tosefta 6:7 claims that leprosy is a punishment for the sins of gossip and haughtiness. The laws of Nega'im and Oholot were regarded as extremely complicated and difficult, and consequently the rabbis referred to them as prototypes of deep halakhic learning. For example, the Talmud relates that Eleazar b. Azariah told Akiva: "Why do you deal with aggadah? Occupy yourself with Nega'im and Oholot" (Ḥag. 14a). The aggadah also claims that King David pleaded that his Psalms, the most spiritualized form of worship, be considered before God as Nega'im and Oholot (Mid. Ps. 1:8). English translations of the Mishnah were published by H. Danby (1939), in the Soncino Talmud by I.W. Slotki (1948), by P. Blackman (1955), and by J. Neusner (1991), who also translated the Tosefta (2002).
Ḥ. Albeck, Untersuchungen ueber die Redaktion der Mischna (1923), 49f.; idem (ed.), Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, Seder Tohorot (1959), 195–8. add. bibliography: Epstein, The Gaonic Commentary on the Order Toharot (Hebr.) (1982); S. Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, vol. 3 (1939); J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Laws of Purities (1974–77), vol. 6–8; idem, From Mishnah to Scripture (1984), 53–58; idem, The Mishnah Before 70 (1987), 103–40; idem, The Philosophical Mishnah 3 (1989), 21–33; idem, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism (1994), 60–63.
[David Joseph Bornstein]