Leviticus/Vayikra - Tazria
April 2008, Contributed by Asher ben
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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.
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
"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
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
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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