chana Stern
nd Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and smote the dust of the earth, and there were lice upon men, and upon beast; all the dust of the earth” (Exodus 8:14).When one thinks about the third plague of kinim, also known as lice, the first image that comes to mind is the Egyptians scratching their heads. However, there are several explanations for what the word kinim actually refers to. Rav Avigdor Miller explained that kinim is the plural of kina, meaning louse. Therefore, kinim may refer to an array of parasites and pests that clung to the bodies and clothes of the Egyptians. Once they are “established” within the host, these parasites are difficult to remove and expel from the body. They even have the potential to burrow under the skin, which may cause rash, fever, nervous complications, meningitis, and a variety of other diseases. Hashem made the epidemic of lice even greater by increasing their rate of reproduction, from 5000 lice per couple of weeks to some multiple of that in the same amount of time. As a result, the mortality rate of the Egyptians increased to 70 percent. Rav Avigdor Miller therefore concluded, “Although usually the concept of kinim refers to lice, yet the term certainly includes all the parasites that attach (“establish”) to hosts” [1]. In the past several decades, there has been an emergence of many parasitical infections which come from parasites that can fall under the category of kinim. One such class of parasites, called Anisakis, has been reported in people who consume several kinds of fish including cod, sardines, and salmon. This parasite has been primarily found to grow in wild-raised fish, as opposed to the farm-raised variety, because of the ability of the parasite to lay eggs in the marine species present in natural waters. The Anasakis parasite has a remarkable lifecycle which begins when the Anasakis worm deposits its eggs in a mammal, usually a whale or dolphin. The marine mammal then excretes unembryonated eggs in the ocean which develop into embryonated eggs and are then ingested by crustaceans. Predators within the ocean such as salmon or flounder consume the host and the Anisakis begin to pierce into the visceral organs of the host fish. These fish are later ingested by humans and can induce harmful effects to the human “


digestive tract [2]. In 1981, there were reports of parasites that have primarily affected members of Jewish Orthodox communities. The parasite that caused these problems was found to be the tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum. This parasite has spurred problems specifically among Jewish Orthodox women because they would prepare gefilte fish and taste the raw mixture. After such news emerged, many became cautious of raw fish which can cause a great deal of abdominal discomfort due to the tapeworms residing in the fish [3].

in the past several decades, there has been an emergence of many parasitical infections which come from parasites that can fall under the catagory of kinim.
Moreover, in 1991, there was an emergence of neurocysticercosis among four Orthodox Jewish families in New York. Neurocysticercosis is infected tissue in the brain that is induced by Taenia solium, a pork tapeworm. One may ask, if Orthodox Jews adhere to strict dietary laws that prohibit the ingestion of pork, how is the presence of the T. solium tapeworm possible among these households? The sources of infection were discovered to be the domestic employees living in these Jewish households. These domestic employees were immigrants from Central America where the tapeworm is prevalent. In a particular study, the stools of Central American immigrants in North Carolina were tested for the T. Solium tapeworm and it was confirmed that 4.4% of the tested population contained the tapeworm. Housekeepers who originated from Central America who handled food and were given child care responsibilities, facilitated the emergence of this tapeworm in a homogenous community where people displayed similar hiring practices [4]. According to the Soncino Edition of Exodus 8:12, kinim are sand flies [5]. A parasitic disease known as visceral leishmaniasis is transmitted through the bite of a sand fly and causes sores

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and lesions on the skin. Many people in India and Bangladesh are affected by this harmful infection, as well as many American troops who have nicknamed the disease the “Baghdad boil.” Visceral leishmaniasis can cause detrimental health effects as it can overwhelm the immune system. It is also known as Kala azar, and it has been found to induce weight loss, an enlarged spleen, and death if left untreated. These sand flies, therefore, pose a great problem among the poor within countries of the Middle East and South Asia [6]. The presence of this parasite alludes to Rav Avigdor’s opinion that kinim were many different parasites, not just lice, that caused death among the Egyptians [1]. The treatment for leishmaniasis includes intravenous medicine administered once a month to affected patients. In addition, scientists

are testing alternative treatments and drug combinations for the disease including, miltefosine, used in treatment for breast cancer, and amphotericin, a fungicide [6]. Parasites are not just an ancient epidemic that affected the Egyptians during the ten plagues that G-d struck upon them. In today’s society, there are many forms of parasites that have emerged and their descriptions have been found to coincide with the words of Rav Miller who stated that kinim ultimately refers to an array of parasites which infected the Egyptians [2]. Although it cannot be concurred exactly which types of parasites can fall under the category of kinim, the parasites that affected the Egyptians were not merely head lice that caused them to scratch their heads. g

I would like to thank my parents for their constant support and encouragement which have driven me to accomplish my goals. I would also like to thank Dr. Babich for his continual guidance throughout my academic career and for his help in writing this paper.

[1] Miller, Rav A. (1992). Narrate To Your Son. Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, Brooklyn, NY. [2] Bleich, J. D. (2011). The Anisakis Problem and Its Precursors. Tradition. 44:65-101. [3] Lazarus, J. L. (1982). Gefilte Fish and Diphyllobothriasis. JAMA. 247:1566. [4] Moore, A., Lutwick, LI., et al. (1995). Seroprevalence Of Cysticercosis In An Orthodox Jewish Community. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 53:439-442. [5] Herie, Dr, J.H. (1962). The Soncino Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd edition, Soncino Press, London. [6] Eels, S. (2011). Four-Year Test Seeks Better Ways to Treat A Persistent Disease Spread by Sand Flies. New York Times. November 8, 2011.


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