Tazria - Metzorah- Friday, April 24, 2015 - 5 Iyar, 5775
Torah Reading:  Tazriah-Metzorah (Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33)  
Haftorah: 2 Kings 7:3 - 20
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 2  
Learn more about Pirkei Avot here    

Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:26 PM 
Shabbat ends: 8:30 PM

 Tazria- Metzorah 



Order Counts

Sequence in the Torah is not only important but it assists us in gleaning the Torah’s message and instruction with greater integrity. Not only is it important for us to know what the Torah says in any given parsha, chapter or verse; it is also important for us to know what lessons we can derive from the juxtaposition of these sections of the Torah and the order in which they are presented.

The importance of order is underscored by our Sages in their commentary on this week’s parsha. In the preceding parsha of Shemini, the Torah elaborated on the subject of animals that are ritually pure and those that are not.

This week’s double-parsha, Tazria and Metzora, begins with the laws concerning the state of ritual purity with respect to a human being.

Our Sages make careful note of this sequence and ask why the Torah addresses the laws concerning the purity of animals before the laws concerning the purity of humans? They answer that this parallels the order in which G‑d first introduced animals and humans. First He created the animals and then He created Adam and Eve.

Although our Sages answered the question by citing the order of creation, it merely gives rise to another question, so why did G‑d first create the animals and then humans?

Paradoxical Answers

This question was discussed by our Talmudic Sages and they give two paradoxical answers:

The first is to impress upon us that we are inferior to all other creatures. When we are inclined to become haughty, we are reminded that even the gnats preceded us. The second answer is that, to the contrary, G‑d wanted us to have the entire world completed so that we would be able to enter onto the scene with the banquet fully prepared.

Let us now see if either of these two approaches can also adequately explain why the order of the laws of purity also favor the animals.

It would seem that the sequence of the creation of animals and humans can convey either our lowliness or our importance, for indeed, both are true. But prefacing the laws concerning humans with the laws concerning animals does not suggest the inferiority or superiority of either, because both sets of laws pertain to people; the first set governs our interaction with the beasts, the second with ourselves.   There are no laws directed solely towards animals!

We have to clarify why humans were considered inferior to a gnat. At the time of our creation we were without sin. Why then should we regard ourselves as inferior to animals?

The following examination is based in part on the Rebbe’s observation (Likkutei Sichos, volume 7, p. 74ff) that it is the mere fact that a human has the potential to sin that renders him inferior.

However, this too needs clarification. Why should the mere potential to sin render us inferior? And, what about true tzadikim, who do not transgress? Why should they be lumped together with sinners and be relegated to an inferior position vis-a-vis animals?

Animals and Humans

The answer may lie in our understanding a fundamental difference between humans and animals. Simply put, animals lack very little. Their few needs are basic and their desires do not go beyond their needs. As we surely know, humans have many, many needs. They have physical needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs. And within each of these need categories they have multifarious and diversified subsidiary needs. And our neediness doesn’t stop there. Humans also want things that are well beyond their needs. And then, when we procure the things we want, they often become our “needs” to the point that we feel we can’t live without them.

To illustrate this point we find, tragically, when many people are told they must give up certain enjoyable activities due to age or illness, they lose the desire to live. Their desires have become so much a part of their existence that they cannot countenance losing the ability to satisfy them.  They are the victims of “wants” which have morphed into fundamental “needs.”

Moreover, our Sages tell us that “one who has 100 wants 200 and one who has 200 wants 400.” With age, our desires-become-needs grow exponentially. To be human is to be a fundamentally incomplete and inherently flawed creature.

Why did G‑d hardwire us to never be satisfied?

The truth is that being human demands of us that we are never to be fully satisfied since our G‑dly soul has an insatiable thirst for G‑dliness. G‑d is infinite and therefore a person whose G‑dly soul is dominant cannot, by definition, feel contented. The tzadik, dominated by his G‑dly soul, wants to get closer to G‑d; he wants to study more Torah and perform more Mitzvos and can never get enough. However, even the least G‑dly of individuals frequently may be obsessed by desires because their G‑dly souls are sending subliminal messages to want MORE. Unfortunately, their Animal souls receive only one side of the message and translate that craving into the desire for more and more elusive animalistic pleasure.

Tzadik or no tzadik, being human means never being whole; we can never fully satisfy our desires and we will always remain sensitive to that which we are missing.

The Pencil or the Computer

This may explain why our ability to sin renders us inferior to animals, even the most righteous of us. The most common Hebrew word for sin is chet, which really means “deficient” or “missing the mark.”  It may be suggested that the significance of our ability to sin, marking us as inferior to animals, is that sin comes from pursuing a life in which our desires render us perennially unsatisfied. We are essentially flawed creatures even before we sin. From our first breath we want more. And the more we get, the more we want. The elemental difference between the righteous and others is only the object of their desires.

We can now understand why we were created after all the other creatures. It is not our sins themselves that make us inferior. It is that our potential for sin, for exhibiting moral and spiritual deficiency, is rooted in our unique status as creatures who can never be complete. Even the tzadik exhibits this incompleteness, albeit for the laudable reason that his insatiable desire is to get close to the Divine.

From the standpoint of a static and whole creation we are inferior. We can understand this by way of an analogy. A person interested in buying a writing implement is given a choice: he can either get a low tech device like a pencil, that will reliably function the same way every time, or, instead, a state of the art word-processing computer that will always need upgrading. While the latter choice is much more advanced and sophisticated (as well as gratifying) it is nonetheless “inferior” in one important respect. It can never be complete; it will always need to be upgraded because it is a complex machine with complex functionality, whereas the pencil will always be useful the way it is (as long as you remember to sharpen it from time to time).

The human being’s strength as a complex being is also his weakness; conversely, his weakness, i.e., his never ending desire, is the source of his strength. We must always update ourselves by unceasing growth in the right direction. Others can’t hack your pencil but they surely can hack your computer unless you keep it up to date.

We can now understand that the apparently negative reason for creating humans last is actually a tribute to our singularity and transcendence over all creation. The fact that even the lowliest creature preceded us due to our being perennially incomplete is also, ironically, our strength. Coming onto the scene after all others is precisely that which set us apart from and places us above and beyond all of creation. We are incomplete only because our goal is Divine infinity; all the rest of creation is constrained and fashioned from a finite mold.

Easier to Elevate the Animal

We can now understand why the Torah places the laws concerning the purity of animals before the laws governing the purity of humans.

When a person deals with an animal, he or she is interested in elevating the animal. That is not so difficult a task because the kosher animal poses no resistance; it is a relatively complete creature. It just needs a “little nudge” to take it from one realm to the next. However, when a human being wants to rise to the next level, it is an interminable and demanding process; there is no respite or hiatus. It is no coincidence that the first example of human ritual purity in parsha Tazria relates to birth, an eternal cycle that symbolizes the never ending journey of all human beings. This is followed by the command of circumcision on the eighth day; the day that symbolizes going beyond the cycle of nature.

Two Phases of Existence

The two phases represented by the purity of animals and human purity in the birth process reflect the two periods of human existence. Prior to the Messianic Redemption, we are stuck in the animal model. We can only deal with finite achievements and the animal or natural aspects of existence. In Chassidic parlance, it is said that we can presently only refine the emotional energies within this world; emotions are symbolized by animals. In the final stage of history, we will graduate into a world in which we can elevate the human being, who is already head and shoulders above creation, up to an even higher realm. In Chassidic literature this alludes to the refinement and elevation of the Divine intellectual energies now concealed within creation.

Our means of preparing for this new age and its focus on the infinite is Torah study, particularly the parts of Torah that focus on the Divine; i.e., the overtly spiritual and G‑dly teachings of Chassidus. And most significantly, the aspects of Torah which relate to the future age of Redemption, when we will bask in the Divine infinity.





Moshiach Matters!


At the present time, when the world trembles and all the world shudders with the birth pangs of Moshiach, it is the duty of every Jew, man and woman, old and young, to ask himself: What have I done and what am I doing to alleviate the birth pangs of Moshiach, and to merit the total redemption which will come through our righeous Moshiach?