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The Crown of Halacha

Tazrai 5776 – Rapid Change

Rapid Change

Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean.[Vayikra 12:2]

Rashi: If a woman conceives: Rabbi Simlai said: “Just as in the Creation, man was created after all domestic animals, wild beasts, and birds, so too, the law [concerning the cleanness] of man is stated after the law [concerning the cleanness] of domestic animals, wild beasts, and birds.”- [Vayikra Rabbah 14:1]

The Lekach Tov asks, “Why are the laws of tumah and tahor a different for humans than for all other living creatures? For example, a pig is a tamah animal and will never be called a tahor, and a cow is a tahor animal and will never be called a tamah. But a human being is sometimes tamah and sometimes tahor. What is unique about us humans that our spiritual status can change numerous times from tahor to tamah and then back to tahor?

Even more puzzling is that the laws of tumah by humans are much stricter. For example, if someone touches one of the “shmoneh shrutzim” while it is alive, there is no transference of tumah. Transfer can only happen when the sheretzis dead. But if a human being is tamah he transferstumaheven while he is alive.

Rabbi Simalai is giving us the answer. He is reminding us that man was created last in order that Hakodesh Baruch Hu would place man above all creation. Hashem did this by taking an attribute from every part of creation and molding it into a man. This places man above all creation (AvosD’RabbiNatanPerek 31).

However, Hashem did not originally create man with an aspect of tumah. The Nefesh Hachaim explains further that tumah was added once Adam ate from the aitz hadas. The problem is that it became difficult to maintain a state of 100% keduasha/tahora. Though man strives to act completely l’shaim shamayim, often most of what he does is a mixture of good and bad.

Animals were created with a specific attribute that cannot be changed; they remain tahor or tamah forever. We change. We were given free choice and because of this we fluctuate between doing good/holiness and bad/impure. Turning from Hashem lowers our status, as we see later on in this week’s Torah portion.

On the other hand, we were created after the administering angels so even their attributes were weaved into our souls. As such, we are not bound by the material world. At any given time can rise above the mundane forces that pull us down. We do not have to search far for such strength; it is part of who we are.

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