1) THE ISOLATION OF MIRIAM
QUESTION: The verse teaches a logical reason, based on a Kal va'Chomer, for why Miriam was sent out of the encampment of the Jewish people for seven days: "v'Aviha Yarok Yarak b'Faneha ha'Lo Sikalem Shiv'as Yamim" -- "If her father would have rejected her, would she have not been scorned (and isolated) for seven days" (Bamidbar 12:14), then certainly when Miriam was rejected by the Shechinah she should be isolated for seven days (but not for fourteen days, because of the rule of "Dayo la'Vo Min ha'Din Liyihos k'Nidon"). It is clear from the verse that it was already known that a person must be isolated for seven days when his father rejects him. Where, though, was this concept mentioned elsewhere in the Torah? What is the source for this form of chastisement?
ANSWERS: It is clear from the context of the verse that the seven-day rejection period to which the verse refers is not related to the appearance of Tzara'as, but to the fact that Hash-m showed disfavor towards Miriam. The reason Miriam would have to remain in isolation had her father shown her disfavor seems to be related to the laws of Niduy and Cherem, forms of excommunication. The DA'AS ZEKENIM MI'BA'ALEI HA'TOSFOS (Bamidbar 12:14) suggests two sources in the Torah for a seven-day period of isolation for a person who was placed in Cherem.
(a) One who is excommunicated is treated like an Avel, a mourner (see Moed Katan 15b), who mourns for seven days. The Torah mentions such a mourning period after the death of Yakov Avinu (Bereishis 50:10). Although the Halachah of seven days of Aveilus cannot be learned from Yakov Avinu since those days were observed before the giving of the Torah (as the RAMBAM writes in the beginning of Hilchos Aveilus), nevertheless the Rambam writes that Moshe Rabeinu instituted seven days of Aveilus for the Jewish people. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabah 100) mentions an allusion to these days of mourning from Moshe Rabeinu's instructions to Aharon after the death of Nadav and Avihu (Vayikra 8:33, 35). Accordingly, it was already known that a Menudeh, like an Avel, must remain in isolation for seven days.
(b) The Gemara in Sotah (13a) explains that Miriam prophesied before Moshe was born that her mother would beget a child who would grow up to be the leader of the Jewish people and lead them out of Mitzrayim. When the family was forced to send away Moshe in a small vessel on the river, Amram, Miriam's father, tapped her on the head and rebuked her, saying, "Now what will be with your prophecy?" The Gemara there concludes that this is what the verse means that "his sister (Miriam) stood from afar to know what would happen to him (Moshe)" (Shemos 2:4).
The Ba'alei ha'Tosfos explain that since Miriam's father was the leading sage of the generation (as the Gemara there says), when he rebuked her she accepted upon herself the state of "Nezifah," to conduct herself like a person who was shunned by a leading Torah authority. (Nezifah is a less-severe form of isolation than Cherem. The Gemara in Moed Katan (16a) in fact derives the laws of Nezifah at the hands of a Chacham from the verse describing Miriam's isolation.) When the verse says that Miriam "stood from afar," it describes the way that Miriam conducted herself during her period of Nezifah: she isolated herself. The other case in which the Torah mentions that someone must stand from afar is the case of a Metzora who is sent away from his home (Vayikra 14:8) for seven days during the process of becoming Tahor from his Tum'ah. Therefore, Miriam also stayed away from her home for seven days. This is the source that the Nezifah of a Chacham lasts for seven days.
The Ba'alei ha'Tosfos add that according to this explanation the words of the verse are very clear. Why does the verse say that if one's father is upset with him, he must be isolated for seven days? If it is alluding to the Nezifah of a Chacham, it should say that if one's teacher is upset with him, he must be isolated. In its straightforward reading, the word "father" may need to be interpreted as "teacher" (as the verse uses the term with regard to Eliyahu ha'Navi; see Melachim II 2:12). However, according to the second explanation of the Ba'alei ha'Tosfos, it indeed is appropriate for the verse to mention Miriam's father, since he was the Chacham who gave her Nezifah and sent her away for seven days.
2) ISOLATION FOR BEING SHUNNED BY THE SHECHINAH
QUESTIONS: The verse teaches a logical reason, based on a Kal va'Chomer, for why Miriam was sent out of the encampment of the Jewish people for seven days: "v'Aviha Yarok Yarak b'Faneha ha'Lo Sikalem Shiv'as Yamim" -- "If her father would have rejected her, would she have not been scorned (and isolated) for seven days" (Bamidbar 12:14), then certainly when Miriam was rejected by the Shechinah she should be isolated for seven days.
The Gemara explains that a Kal va'Chomer is necessary in order to teach that not only when a Chacham is upset with someone must the person stay away for seven days, but even when Hash-m is upset with someone, he must "stay away" for seven days. It is clear from this Gemara that had the verse not learned this through a Kal va'Chomer (or, according to the Chachamim who argue with Rebbi Tarfon, from the words "Sikalem Shiv'as Yamim"), one would not have known that a person must conduct himself in Nezifah when the Shechinah shows disfavor to him.
(a) Why is a verse needed to teach that the Shechinah is the same as a Rav or Chacham? Why would one have thought that the Halachah of Nezifah is limited to a mortal master? Hash-m is everyone's Master, and thus the Halachah of Nezifah from the Shechinah should be known without a Kal va'Chomer! (LECHEM ABIRIM, Mahadura Kama)
(b) Why was it necessary to derive through a Kal va'Chomer that Miriam must remain outside of the camp for seven days because the Shechinah was upset with her? She should have had to remain outside of the camp even if the Shechinah did not shun her, because she was a Metzora as the verse describes! (CHIDUSHEI RABEINU MOSHE KAZIS)
(a) Perhaps the Gemara assumes that Nezifah is a practical reaction only to being shunned by a mortal Chacham. As a result of Nezifah, one must distance himself from the Chacham for seven days. A person cannot distance himself from the Shechinah, since wherever a person goes he remains in the presence of the Shechinah. Therefore, one might have thought that it is not necessary for one to distance himself from the people around him either. The Gemara therefore derives through a Kal va'Chomer that if a person is punished with isolation when he is shunned by a mortal Chacham, then certainly he deserves to be punished when he is shunned by the Shechinah.
(b) RABEINU MOSHE KAZIS answers that if not for the fact that Miriam deserved to be isolated due to the honor of the Shechinah, Hash-m would have healed her before any Kohen (or Hash-m Himself; see Zevachim 102a) would have pronounced her to be a Metzora. In such a case, a person does not have to be isolated and none of the Halachos of Metzora apply. The Kal va'Chomer explains why Hash-m decided to let her remain a Metzora and become declared as a Metzora Musgar and, as a result, be isolated for seven days. Hash-m made her a Metzora in order to have her suffer the isolation for being shunned by the Shechinah.
Alternatively, even though Miriam became a Metzora Muchlat (as the Gemara in Zevachim 102a implies), Moshe Rabeinu immediately prayed for her (Bamidbar 12:13) and she was healed as a result. The Halachah is that when a Metzora who was Muchlat loses the Simanei Tum'ah that made him Muchlat (see Background to Kidushin 35:23
), he immediately becomes permitted to re-enter the camp and he may start the seven day process of becoming fully Tahor. (The Mishnah teaches that he is required to remain only outside of his place of residence, as derived from Vayikra 14:8.) (M. KORNFELD