|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
Tosefta 61[A person] that sees a black [person],2 a Borek,3 a redhead [person],4 an albino [person],5 a hunchback [person],6 a midget,7 a deaf [person],8 a mentally retarded [person],9 and a drunk [person]10 says [the following Beracha (bleassing):] Baruch [Ata Hashem Eloheinu Melech Haolam] Meshane Habriyot.11 [A person that sees] a cripple [person],12 a lame [person],13 a blind [person], and a [person] afflicted with boils,14 says [the following Beracha:] Baruch [Ata Hashem Eloheinu Melech Haolam] Dayan Haemet.15
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
הרואה את הכושי ואת הבוריק ואת הגיחור ואת הלווקן ואת הכיפח ואת הננס ואת החרש ואת השוטה ואת השכור אומר ברוך משנה הבריות. את הקיטע ואת החיגר ואת הסומא ואת מוכי שחין אומר ברוך דיין האמת.
- Mishna 2 of chapter 9 mentions that upon hearing bad news a person says the Beracha, Dayan Haemet. The Tosefta states additional things on which this Beracha is said. In addition, the Tosefta mentions another Beracha that is said in similar cases.
- A Kushi literally means a person who came from the land of Kush. Kush was the land that was located south of the 1st cataract if the Nyle river. Nyle has 6 major cataracts, which are shallow stretches located between Aswan and Khartoum where the water’s surface is broken by numerous small boulders and stones lying on the river bed. The 1st cataract is located in Aswan. Today, the area of Kush is primarily located in the modern Sudan although its most northern section is located in the modern-day southern Egypt. Although the Greeks called it Aethiopia (Αίθιοπία) (see Septuagint, Psalms 72:9 and 74:14) it should not be confused with the modern-day Ethiopia. The Kushites, also known as Nubians, are black Africans who are particularly dark skinned, as opposed to, for example, blacks from the modern-day Ehtiopia who are somewhat lighter skinned. In Talmudic literature the word Kushi is used to refer to any black person regardless of what country he was from. Obviously seeing a black person in the Land of Israel in Talmudic times was a rare occurrence and therefore required a Beracha.
- The word Borek is only present in the Vienna manuscript. It is not present in all other manuscripts and printed editions of the Tosefta. It is also not clear what it means in this context. Prof. Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kepshuta proposes that it is probably a misprint and the correct reading should be בוהק which means “white scurf”, scaly or shredded dry skin, such as dandruff, however it is unclear what skin condition this would be referring to since dandruff is a very common occurrence and would not require a Beracha. The word בוריק in this context also refers to some kind of a skin condition, although unclear which one. Usually it is used in reference to wine, meaning effervescent wine, wine which boils by itself while going through the intial process of fermentation. The word comes from the Hebrew root ברק which means “lightning, shining, or bright”. It cannot be that in this context it means “albino” since the Tosefta further on mentions a Lavkan which means white or albino in Greek. It is not possible that this word is referring to simply a blond haired person, since 27% of the Greek swere of Nordic type and had blond hair. See Angel, J. Lawrence, A racial analysis of the ancient Greeks: An essay on the use of morphological types. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 2, n.s., no. 4, Dec. 1944. Due to the obscurity of the meaning of this word I have left this it untranslated in the main text.
- Talmud Bavli (Bechorot 45b) says that the word Gichor means red. The etimology of this word is unclear. Since the rest of the decriptions on this list in the Tosefta are talking about skin conditions this is also referring to a skin condition. It is doubtful, if not impossible, that it is referring to ethnically red-skinned people such as American Indians, since there was no possibility in Talmudic time for an American Indian to appear in the Middle East or in the Mediterranean region. Therefore I think that it is referring to a readhead person who specifically has red spotted skin with a lot of red freckles. I am not sure why this was considered a strange site since it seems that many Greeks had red hair and freckles at least mildly. See W. Sieglin, Die blonden Haare der indogermanischen Volker des Altertums. Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag, 1935. Approximately 1% to 2% of the human population has red hair with upto 10% in Ireland. See National Geographic Magazine, September, 2007 and Earnest A. Hooton, Stature, head form, and pigmentation of adult male Irish, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume 26, Issue 1, 1940, p.229-249. It seems that the Tosefta is referring to someone who has an extreme case of red freckles and very bright red hair which is generally is a rare site.
- The Hebrew word Lavkan comes from the Greek words λενκόζ (leukoi) and λεύχη (leuchan) both of which mean “white”. It is most probably referring to an albino person who has white hair and white skin due to the lack of melanin pigment. Such site would be rather rare, but occurs in all ethnic groups and therefore very possible in Land of Israel in Talmudic times.
- The Hebrew word Kipeach comes from the Greek word κυφός (kyphos) which means “hump”. It is referring to a severly hunchback person, who has a big hump on his back.
- The Hebrew word Nanas comes from the Greek word νάνος (nanos) meaning “dwarf” or “midget”. The Tosefta is referring specifically to a person who has a medical or genetic condition that stunts the person’s growth, generally known as dwarfism.
- The Tosefta is most probably referring to a person who was born deaf and is therefore mute as well, since he could not communicate in any intelligent way. Sign language did not come into use until the 16th century CE, so in Talmudic times seeing a deaf-mute person made an impression on people.
- The Hebrew term Shoteh which literally means “fool” is a general descriptive term for anyone who cannot make his own decisions due to some kind of mental impairement from birth. See Mishna Niddah 2:1 which deferentiates between a woman who was born mentally retarded (Shotah) and a woman who lost her mind later during her life time (Nitrefah Daatah). Being mentally-retarded includes someone who has temporary insanity during the time of his insanity. See Talmud Bavli (Bava Kama 28a).
- Since a drunk person is not capable of making decisions and acts a lot like someone who is mentally retarded he is included in the category of strange people as well.
- ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם משנה הבריות – Blessed You Hashem, our God, King of the world, who changes creatures.
- The term Kitea refers to anyone who is crippled, because he is missing some limb, usually legs or arms. However, I belive that in this Tosefta it is specifically referring to a person who is missing both legs.
- Chiger refers to someone who is limping or lame, meaning that they still have their limbs but they do not work properly. The Tosefta is most probably referring to someone who has some kindof a defect with his legs and cannot walk.
- Boils can refer to a variety of skin conditions due to various deceases, including leprocy.
- ברוך אתה ה’ אלוהינו מלך העולם דיין האמת – Blessed You Hashem, our God, King of the world, the True Judge. This Beracha is said upon hearing bad news (see Berachot Mishna 9:2) as well as at a funeral. It would seem that the Tosefta requires to say this Beracha upon seeing these various afflicted people, because in Talmudic times they were considered to be as good as dead, since they could not work. It is hard to imagine for us why someone who is lame, because their leg was broken and did not properly heal, should be considered to be as good as dead, since there are plenty of jobs that such a person can do. It is possible that the Tosefta considered only physical jobs and not desk jobs therefore significantly limiting such a person. Talmud Bavli (Nedarim 64b) quotes a Beraita that lists 4 people that were considered to be as good as dead: a poor person, a leper, a blind person, and a childless person. A cripple and a lame person are not mentioned. It is also plausible that the Tosefta required this Beracha to be said on someone for whom we should feel extra pitty due to their plight although then it should have also included the deaf person as well. Talmud Bavli (Berachot 58b) and Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 9:1, Daf 63b) explain that the difference between these two lists is not because of what kind of affliction these people have, but rather due to the fact if they were born with it or it happened to them later. So for example if a person was born blind then the Beracha would be Meshane Habriot, but if he became blind later in life then the Beracha would be Dayan Haemet. However, this is Gemara’s way to get out of contradictions between contradicting statements and is not necessarily the original meaning of this Tosefta.