Are the Spiritual and Physical Connected?
Iyar 1 5780
In the first part of the double Parashot, Tazria – Metzora, at first glance Tazria seems to corroborate the idea that has filtered down throughout the ages, that women are dirty during their time of menstruation. At the time when this was inscribed, women had less value than cattle, which were bought and sold. Female children also had less value than male children, yet the Torah paints a very different picture. If we look at the story of creation, the Creator produced things of higher complexity each day than the day before, from minerals, vegetables to animals, on the final day culminating with man. The last thing He did was to say that it was not good for man to be alone. He put Adam – אָדָם (from the Hebrew word, Adamah – אֲדָמָה alluding to the earth) to sleep and took woman (ishah – אִשָּׁה) from the side of man (ish – אִישׁ). Woman was the crown of God’s creation, equal to man with one addition, her ability to procreate. She also was given a higher level of spiritual connection to the Creator, an intuitive sense that man did not have. That is why it is necessary for man to have so many ways to remember his relationship with the Creator that women simply do not need, such as wearing tzitzit, kippah, tallit etc.
It took 7 days after the delivery of a male plus an additional 33 days until she could be declared clean enough to go to the Temple to offer a sacrifice. If she delivered a girl, she had to wait 14 days plus an additional 66 days before she could be declared clean. Why the difference? There is much speculation and discussion by our sages, but we can understand that she had to be well to attend the Brit Milah, the circumcision of her son on the eighth day. The rest we can leave for another discussion. The female also had her menstruation every month when the men considered her dirty and had to stay away from her until she could be declared clean. Where did this idea come from? In Biblical times, men were simpler and far more superstitious than in this modern-day and he needed to be given a good reason to give the woman time to recuperate. Telling him to leave her alone would simply not be enough. He had to be told that he could not enter the Temple if he had touched his wife during her days of uncleanness either due to delivery or menstruation. It had nothing to do with her being dirty. It was simply so that she could be given time to recover from the hormonal changes that her body was going through. It was a rule of compassion for the woman and a clear message for the male to leave her alone. It had nothing to do with the inferiority of the woman nor how dirty she was.
In Metzora, we see the person with a skin disease Tzara’at – צָרָעַת being sent to the Cohen to be examined, not to a doctor, giving us the understanding that illnesses have a spiritual component. There are certain diseases that are completely spiritual. Our sages say that Metzora comes from the root: Motzei Shem Ra – מוציא שם רע, bringing out evil from the name; another term that could be used is “lashon hara’ – לשון הרע”, the evil tongue or gossip. Miriam, the sister of Moshe, was afflicted with tza’arat – צָרָעַת, a skin disease, when she spoke to Aaron against Moshe (Numbers 12). Moshe cried out to the Creator for her to be healed and YHVH responded: “If her father had simply spit in her face would she not be unclean for seven days? Have her shut out of the camp for seven days and then have her brought in again.” The worst things that we humans do have a spiritual component more than a physical one, with Lashon Harah being at the top since each of us are made in the Creator’s likeness and image. When we tear down the character of another person, it is as if we are tearing down the character of the Creator Himself.
Much of what we are experiencing today in this world in regard to this pandemic has a spiritual element. We are living in a world where immorality is rampant. Lies are masking truth because of the self-interest of special groups. We prefer to blame the Creator for what we as humans have done. When someone would present himself before the Cohen with his disease, the Cohen would have to determine what the cause was, physical or spiritual. This was an act of humility and an acknowledgment that healing was needed. No one can be healed until he acknowledges that he has a problem and then deals with it. There are usually issues that he is trying to cover up, which tend to come out in ways that force him to confront them.
Is it possible that the world right now is being confronted with its moral issues and the result is a disease that few are willing to see as a spiritual one? It is so important to be open-minded and willing to hear the truth about ourselves before we can be healed. Every disease has a physical, emotional and spiritual component. We hide issues within our being that need to be dealt with. Instead of doing that, we ignore it and eventually our immune systems become compromised and disease sets in. That is why the verse in Psalm 139:23, “Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts and see if there is any wicked way within me” is one of my favorites. The Cohanim would question the people to see if there was any reason that they had guilt or anxiety. In Hebrew, Nefesh – נֶפֶשׁ means soul or person which contains both the Neshama – נְֹשָמַה, the spirit, mind, life, psyche and Guf – גוּף, the body, the physical or material; these cannot be separated until death. Our brains are both physical and spiritual. The Torah is teaching us that everything is interconnected. How wonderful is our Creator who made us in such a special way!