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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Leviticus/Vayikra - Tazria
April 2008, Contributed by Asher ben Shimon
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The Parshah of Tazria continues the discussion (begun in the previous Parshah of Shemini) of the laws of ritual impurity and purity. It discusses a woman's impurity after childbirth as well as the laws of Tzara'at (mostly translated with 'leprosy') the super natural plague that can affect humans, garments and buildings alike. A person afflicted with Tzara'at must dwell alone outside of the camp (or city) until he is healed. The afflicted area in a garment removed; if the Tzara'at recurs, the entire garment must be burned. The name of the portion Tazria is taken from the first verse: "A woman who shall seed (Tazria) and give birth to a male child" It is interesting that the name of the portion that deals with impurity that leads to temporary excommunication should be something as positive as 'seeding' which leads to growth and expansion.

These seem to be two opposites.
The plague of Tzara'at comes only as punishment for lashon harah (evil talk). Maimonides in his laws of Tzara'at describes the order in which the plague would hit someone deserving of it. At first it would affect the walls of his house. If the sinner would repent, the Tzara'at would go away by itself. If he would continue in his evil ways the wall would have to be broken. If that wasn't enough to change his lifestyle, it would affect the leather objects in the house. If even after seeing his possessions being burned he wouldn't understand the heavenly message, his garments would be afflicted.

Only once it became clear that even that didn't have the desired effect, the body would get Tzara'at. In other words, the Tzara'at comes to gradually teach a person to improve himself.

"Nothing bad ever comes down from above" our sages teach us. Although we do not always realize that the negative in our lives is only a way to bring out something more positive, this is certainly so. That is the lesson we learn from the name Tazria. Although it may appear to us that 2000 years exile is a punishment, in reality it is only the 'sowing' that will soon grow out to a blossoming era of world peace with the coming of Moshiach. How to accelerate this process we can learn by taking a close look at the first verse.

"A woman who shall seed (Tazria) and give birth to a male child" The future redemption is likened to a male child as opposed to the redemptions from previous exiles that are referred to as female. This is because males in general are physically stronger than females. Since the earlier redemptions were followed by new exiles they are not as strong as the future redemption which will be eternal.

The Jewish people are compared to a woman, G-d to a man In Hebrew the word for man is 'Ish' and the word for woman is 'Isha'. The Torah gives as reason: "Because she was taken from man". The word Isha shows how in essence woman is one with man; which explains the natural yearning to be together. Similarly a Jew is ONE with the creator and naturally yearns to be in touch with this real self. In order to bring about the 'male child' - future redemption, 'the woman' Jewish nation, has to 'seed'.

In order to grow a plant, one has to take a seed and push it into the ground. If one were to 'plant' the seed in the air, nothing would ever come out of it. To us it means that in order to get the redemption growing we have to be Jews in ACTION. To be Jewish at heart is also very important, but if the feelings are not translated into fulfillment of physical Mitzvot they are worthless. Only when we perform EARTHLY Mitzvot we can expect our seeds to bear fruit. The importance of dealing with the physical world we also find back in an interesting statement made by Rabbi Simlai in connection with our Torah portion.

He said: Just as man's creation was after that of cattle, beasts and birds, so, too the laws concerning his ritual impurity and purity come after those concerning cattle, beasts and birds. Thus it is what is written (in last week's portion, Shemini) "This is the law of the beasts and of the fowl and of every living creature... to differentiate between the impure and the pure"; and immediately thereafter, "A woman who shall seed..."

Why was man created last among the creations?
We find different answers to that question in the Talmud. According to one explanation the entire world was created for man. It is compared to a king who built a beautiful new palace. After everything is built and the tables in the dining room are all set, he invites his guest to a feast. Similarly Hashem first created the entire universe only to invite man after it was all set for him.

Another explanation is that when someone does not act properly we are able to say to him: "A mosquito preceded you, a snail preceded you."

The above two reasons are as far from each other as east from west.

According to the first one man is the most important of the entire creation whereas according to the second explanation man is the lowest!

There is however no contradiction here. Man is comprised of two elements. A body and a soul. The G-dly soul we contain places us higher than all other creatures that do not have one. The soul is the eternal connection man has with Hashem. Even if it were to get dirty by sin, there is nothing that can disconnect the soul from the creator. Our bodies on the other hand put us on the lowest rank. Even a mosquito who only sucks blood and doesn't give anything in return, is better than someone who sins. Many animals do not have the ability to lift up their heads to look up to the sky. Yet they fulfill their mission on earth to the fullest. (That mission might be eating grass). We however, who do have the ability to think about G- d, also have free choice to go AGAINST His will. With that we are lower than animals.

Why is it that G-d took this pure and holy soul and put it in the lowest of all bodies? Wouldn't it have been better to place souls in animals that will not transgress His will?

The answer to that is simple. BECAUSE the human body is so low, it was endowed with the highest spiritual force The purpose of creation is for man to elevate it. Animals already fulfill their mission so they have no need for a special soul. It is man who can still oppose G-d's will, that is in need of this extra dose of spirituality. With the power of our soul we can transform ourselves from being a plain 'adam' (man) to become an ''edameh le'elyon" (resemblance of the One above. That is the purpose of creation. That is what Tazria is all about.

May we soon merit to see the fruits of all our efforts in transforming the world since it was created with the power of our soul when the male child, the eternal redemption, will happen with the coming of Moshiach NOW!


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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