Torah Weekly

For the week ending 9 April 2016 / 1 Nisan 5776

Parshat Tazria

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah commands a woman to bring korbanot after the birth of a child. A son is to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The Torah introduces the phenomenon of tzara'at (often mistranslated as leprosy) — a miraculous affliction that attacks people, clothing and buildings to awaken a person to spiritual failures. A kohen must be consulted to determine whether a particular mark is tzara'at or not. The kohen isolates the sufferer for a week. If the malady remains unchanged, confinement continues for a second week, after which the kohen decides the person's status. The Torah describes the different forms of tzara'at. One whose tzara'at is confirmed wears torn clothing, does not cut his hair, and must alert others that he is ritually impure. He may not have normal contact with people. The phenomenon of tzara'at on clothing is described in detail.


Body and Soul

“A woman who gives forth seed and bears a male…” (12:2)

“Says Rav Simlai, ‘Just as (the Torah describes) the formation of man after every domestic animal and wild animal and fowl in the sequence of the Creation, so is (man’s) ‘Torah’ explained after the ‘Torah’ of the domestic animal, the wild animal and the fowl’.” (Rashi)

The “Torah” to which Rashi refers is the set of laws of ritual purity, tuma and tahara.

The question arises, when placing the laws of man after the laws of the animals, why did the Torah chose specifically to speak of the laws of ritual purity? Why didn’t it choose to segue one of the other many Torah laws that apply to man?

Furthermore, why did Rav Simlai speak of the “formation” (yetzira) of man as opposed to his “creation” (bria)?

Man has two parts, a physical part and a spiritual part. Yetzira — formation — refers to his physical existence, whereas bria — creation — refers to his spiritual being.

Man’s physical formation indeed took place after the formation all the animals. However, the spiritual existence of man precedes all.

For this reason Rav Simlai used the word “formation” to refer to man’s physical side coming after the beasts, and for this same reason the Torah singles out the laws of ritual purity, for these laws are only applicable to the “animal” side of man.

  • Sources: Chatam Sofer as seen in Talalei Orot

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