1. What is the name of the parsha? What does it mean?
A: Tazria. It means when a woman conceives/fertilizes. After discussing impurity in vessels and animals, now we move up the ladder to people – just as in creation mankind came last because they were the goal and crown of creation.
2. What forms of impurity can a person acquire?
A: Through bodily emissions, contact with impure things, a mother conceiving, and tzaras. All of these were brought into the world when man sinned – as it discusses in the parsha of Bereishis (Genesis) – Hashem tells man he will now be mortal, and that woman will now experience great pain in conceiving, as well having to endure her monthly cycle.
3. How long is a mother impure after having a boy? Girl? Why the difference?
Boy – 40days
Girl – 80 days
I know of two main views on explaining this. Everybody understands that an impurity result when potential good/life gives is lost and the vacuum is filled by ‘tumah’ impurity. This impurity is a totally spiritual concept, and cannot be empirically studied or grasped by secular philosophy. We have a divinely sourced tradition about what transmits and receives impurity, and the ways of purification, and our knowledge of the subject is solely determined by our tradition.
That said we can understand better the views of the great super-commentaries on Rashi by the Mizrachi, and his challenger the Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague) – both lived roughly 500 years ago. The Mizrachi claims that just as man was formed last in creation, as a result and expression of his being the most complete God-like in creation, thus it follows that woman, who was made even after man (this fits even according to the tradition that originally man and woman were created as a single entity), and was created out of man (as opposed to out of the ground as man was), is necessarily more refined and perfect than man (who needs a circumcision to show that even his body is not created complete, and certainly his inner self). As we mentioned above, the sin of Adam and Eve caused them and world to tumble down from utopia to a world fettered with evil, suffering, and death. Thus at the point of birth, the mother channels this acute drop from the pristine state the baby was supposed to enter, to the life they are actually entering. As the rule goes: the bigger they come, the harder they fall – thus the woman who was on a higher level, lost more in the changeover, and thus the vacuum created by the birth of a girl is greater.
The Maharal takes the other end of the stick. He goes to prove that women are more connected to the physical realm, and it was this part of man which she primarily took. In other words, woman dipped to a lower plane than man when the new status quo began, and physicality in naturally more related to death and impurity. (This in mo way reflects the dearness of the roles of man and woman, for each are essential and complementary. Just as man is more central in creation than the angels, who are above sin and death and impurity, the involvement in the physical is specifically the reason why Moshe succeeded in rewarding man the Torah (which discusses the task of an individual and nation in a physical, corporeal plane) over the angels.)
4. The parsha says the mother has to bring two offerings – an elevation and a sin offering. The halacha however reverses the order which she must bring them. Why the discrepancy?
A: Rabbi Dessler (leader of the last generation, responsible for the resurgence of Torah in England, and opening the minds of the nation with his fascinating analyses of philosophical, psychological and ethical areas of Torah, and playing a big role in reviving the fledgling interest in the writings of the Maharal) – explains – that the function of the Torah is to give us a greater vision of what to do, of how to think and be. The job of instructing us as to the practical details of how to go about realizing those ends are relegated to the oral Torah, the living world of instruction and mentorship.
The goal of the mother bringing her offerings is to recognize the miracles in birth, and life, and to use the opportunity to elevate herself via her elevation offering. There is a small problem however – it is not proper to one who has transgressed and is tainted with sin to be shooting for the stars until they have cleaned up their mess. (You can look up for yourself if you are interested to know what the idea of her sin is all about.) The Written Tradition therefore takes the perspective of focusing on the greater goal of ascension and nearness to the Merciful One, and puts as aside the technical issue of the sin offering, whereas the Oral Tradition sets everything into its chronological place, to be a user friendly manual telling one who wants to go into the palace, to first wash off the mud and then to put on the fancy clothes – In other words it is working from the bottom up, for the Oral Law lives down here in the Jewish people, but the Written Law is in heaven, immutable and has the downward perspective, first recognizing the summit, then working its way down to where we are actually standing. This dichotomous theme carries throughout the Torah.
5. Is Tzaras = Leprosy?
A: NO – besides the ostracism, it is hard to know why the two are often jumbled together. Tzaras only affects the skin and hair, leprosy affects one’s nerves and internal structure. Tzaras affects clothing. Tzaras affects one’s house. Tzaras is cured by repentance. Tzaras only affects the Jews, and only when we had a temple, and means to purify ourselves.
6. For what does one get tzaras?
A: The sages relate 7 negative behaviors which cause it. – It’s almost shabbos – but next weeks parsha allows us to continue these questions. (since it is a leap year and they are split in two)
7. What color does tzaras appear on one’s skin? Head? Why? What if it covers his entire body?
A: White, also with shades of green and red. – – but on the hairy areas the problematic color is yellow. These colors reflect the imbalance of the carrier. White is like death – or perhaps for embarrassing another, which is likened to murder – just as the victim’s color runs out of his face. Green is an imbalance in kindness / givingness. Red is too much strict justice and criticalness.
Interestingly, if one’s entire body becomes white, then one becomes pure. The Chafetz Chaim explains that one tends to rationalize and ‘whitewash’ his problems, and to try to hide his lacks. When one is left without a leg to stand on, when he has hit rock bottom, he must face his issues, he can only move in one direction. This explains the odd halacha, that if this person then has some healthy flesh sprout in some place in his body he returns to being impure. This is because his problem is clearly global, yet he is only addressing it locally, and trying again to forge out a crooked and lowly life for himself.
8. Who decrees if one has tzaras?
A: Only a Cohen can determine if one has tzaras, and before a Cohen sees it is not officially anything – (which shows the power of a halachic arbiter). Why a Cohen, and not a sage or prophet? The Cohens are the heart of the nation, they maintain peace between man and man and between man and Hashem through their service. Tzaras usually affects a person whose heart is out of tune, and thus his rehabilitation is to go to one with a healthy heart to guide him.
9. Is the decree always definite? How does the process proceed to conclusion?
No – if he is lacking one of the signs (spreading, luminescent, white hair), he is sent home, to work on self improvement, and comes back a week later for inspection. If there is no change after even the second return, he is decreed as having tzaraas – for if he hasn’t learned his lesson by now –he will have to learn the hard way.
10. What is the sentence of one judged with tzaras? To what is it similar?
Compare to laws of mourning
Have a Wonderful Shabbos
You are listening to Rabbi Leff on the Connections between Birth and Loshon Hara – The Value Worth of Money – The Causes of Loshon Hara on the Question and Answer Page MP3