Blog Tazria Nissan 1 5779 בלוג תַזְרִיעַ, א’ ניסן תשע”ט
Although Tazria has been translated as “she conceived”, the root is the Hebrew word, Zera – זרע meaning “seed” referring to “offspring or descendants not just the literal seed of the male. It is important to understand that the Torah is our guide; it is not a book of legalities. It was written in Hebrew, which has a very different mindset than the occidental one. Hebrew is holistic and speaks to us through pictures and allegories. There are two words in this portion that are extremely difficult to translate into English – “tahor – טהור and tamei – טמא” translated as clean and unclean. Tazria begins with the woman who gives birth and sets down the rules on cleanliness. If the woman gave birth to a boy, she had to wait seven days as at the time of her nidat – נדת (menstruation) until she was considered tahor, clean and the next day, the eighth, she was able to attend the Brit Milah of her son. It had nothing to do with being dirty. Hebrew mentality has a dualistic nature. A person is dual, made up of neshama – נשמה (the soul) and guf – גוף, body. The Torah teaches us that the body is under the supervision of the neshama. Today most people have accepted the Greek understanding of body, mind and spirit, a trilogy which separates each one from the other and in which the physical dominates the spiritual. To the Hebrew mind, both body and spirit are one unit.
Neuropsychology teaches that most, if not all, diseases of the body are related to the spiritual or as some prefer to call it, the emotional aspects of our life. We cannot separate the physical from the spiritual. We fall ill when our spiritual nature is low. We only realize it when the symptoms start to show themselves in a variety of illnesses in our physical nature (body). It has been proven that people with good attitudes fight off illness better than those who are depressed and negative. Psychologists explain about the various hormones that are activated in the system when there are stressors that attack the immune system.
What does this have to do with tahor and tamei? Tamei, unclean is a sign that we are not ready to be in the presence of the Creator. Tahor means that we are ready. Tamei is everything that is polluting us, not allowing us to see our path clearly, similar to driving in a thick fog.
In this portion after the woman gave birth, she needed to offer a “korban chataat – קָרְבַּן חַטָּאת ” at the Temple. This had nothing to do with sin. It was to demonstrate that she was out of balance which needed to be restored. Some sages say going through a difficult process can make us feel very weak, sometimes leaving us with a vacuum that needs to be filled. Until that vacuum is filled, we feel out of control. It is like there is an emptiness in the soul that needs to be restored. This can manifest in our physical body. The lack of balance between our neshama and our body can cause us to lose our joy of life and become very depressed. We lose focus. Our neshama needs to be healed before the physical healing can take place. That doesn’t mean that if we continuously work on healing our neshama, that our bodies won’t decay. Only the soul is eternal, while the body continues to age. It is only the body that becomes “tamei” not the soul. This is not about being good or bad, clean or unclean, rather that we are not in a state that is presentable to the Creator. That is when we need to go through the process of making things right when we do wrong. We have been endowed with a conscience that can differentiate between the two so that there is no excuse. It is a matter of the will.
The Creator chose Israel to be a nation set apart from the rest of the world for one reason only, that is to be “ohr l’goyim” – light to the nations, to bring Torah to the rest of the world. However instead of making the Torah universal, the rabbinic world has kept it for themselves, putting themselves on a pedestal while regarding the rest as inferior, incapable of following it, except for a few select laws. That was and still is our greatest mistake in understanding and appropriating the true meaning of kadosh, being set apart.
This book started with the inauguration of the Cohanim – Priests, followed by instructions for their service, and then about “tahor and tamei”, what is permissible and what is not. Last week, we saw that food was a symbol for the manifestation of our inner state of being and the kashrut regulations were to help control our appetites. Next week in Metzora – מְּצֹרָע, we will examine “tzaraat -צָּרַעַת”, a skin disease which could be in the person, the clothing or the house. The only one who could declare these things clean was the Cohen, the Priest demonstrating that this was not a physical problem, but a spiritual one stemming from lashon harah, the evil tongue, or simply put – gossip. This destroys the image of God because we were all made in His image.
All these things are to show us that we need to be willing to rethink what the Torah is teaching us. Every one of us has different ways of understanding. No two people believe the same on everything. We must not follow a person blindly but let us follow the Creator who wants us to think for ourselves.
Tazria is the parashah for the woman, who according to our sages was the greatest and final creation of the Boreh Olam. He began by creating the simplest of minerals progressing each day to create more complex matter – vegetables, fish, mammals and finally man completing the crown of His creation – the woman. She was given the ability to bring life into the world making her partners in a special way with the Creator. Man was given the role of being protectors over her and the rest of His dominion. Today this has been lost. The Creator made male and female for a reason and gave each a specific role. When the woman wants to be like man, she lowers herself. When we reverse the order of the Creator, we become “tamei” where we can no longer be in relationship with Him. That is when we need to seek out how to become “tahor” in order to restore this relationship with the Almighty.