Parshat Tazria 5779: Man, Animal and Their Sequence in Torah; Fashioned “After and Before”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tazria is being sponsored anonymously dedicated in honor of Avraham Zev ben Shlomo, Sima bat Avraham and Bracha bat Shlomo. To our anonymous sponsor, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Tazria 5779: Man, Animal and Their Sequence in Torah; Fashioned “After and Before”

by Moshe Burt

The opening posukim of Parshat Tazria state:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: …When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for a seven-day period, as during the days of her separation infirmity [menstruation] shall she be….” (Translation rendered by the Stone Edition Artscroll Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, Perek 12, posukim 1-3)

Rabbi Artscroll (the Stone Edition Artscroll Chumash, page 608) introduces Parshat Tazria by citing Ibn Ezra:

After the laws of tumah that results from dead animals [as Torah relates in Parshat Shemini], the Torah turns to the tumah that emanates from human beings. The first subject…discussed is that of a woman who gives birth, because that is the beginning of life and therefore the start of the tumah process.

Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein z”l, the Sochaczever Rebbe, cites Rashi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 12, posuk 1 and writes on our Parshat Tazria in his sefer “Shem Mishmuel” (Rendered into English by Rabi Zvi Belovski, pages 241-243):

Rabbi Simlai said, “Just as the creation of man came after all of the animals, beasts, birds in the creation story, so too, His laws are recorded after those of the animals, beasts and birds.”

[Shem Mishmuel asks] …How can it be true that the laws pertaining to man were saved until now? The whole Torah deals with the human situation; …human issues, and all of the sections described by Rashi actually deal with means of atonement for man’s sins. There are no laws of animals, beasts and birds as such, for everything is for man.

Let us consider the following midrash:

“You have fashioned me after and before…” (Tehillim Perek 139, posuk 5) — after the creation of the sixth day, and before all of the creation of the first day… If man is worthy, we may say to him, “Your creation preceded even that of the ministering angels [melachim].” If he is not worthy, we may say to him, “A fly preceded you, a gnat preceded you, and this worm preceded you.” (Vayikra Rabbah, Perek 14, posuk 1)

Shem Mishmuel’s take on man and creation is jaw-dropping and profound. He writes further (ibid):

The first was before everything — refers to the Divine soul of man. The second was the last of everything (we find mentioned in the verses of Parshat Breish’t), referring to the body of man. The midrash is telling us that if we make our bodies subordinate to our souls — if we consider our lives primarily for spiritual growth — then we may be proud that we were the first to be created. If, …we make our souls subordinate to our bodies, considering our lives as merely opportunities for physical gratification, then we will… have to admit that even the lowly insects were created before us…. If… we fail to appreciate the purpose of our lives, even the… insect world will realize their potential better than we.

It would seem that the midrash, as well as citings from Parshat Breish’t, both indicate that the Jewish neshama (soul) was created before the universe and all of its aspects. But Torah does not explicitly record, either first or last, Hashem’s fashioning of the Jewish neshama, even though both the citings of midrash and the Tehillim mentioned above indicate this. Torah does record in Parshat Briesh’t that after creating the universe and all of its aspects, including the animals, beasts, birds, flies, worms and gnats:

“And Hashem said, ‘Let us Make Man in Our image, after our likeness…’ So Hashem Created Man in His image, in the image of Hashem He Created him; male and female He created them.” (Sefer Briesh’t, Perek 1, posukim 26-27)

“….Hashem G’d had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the soil. A mist ascended from the earth and watered the whole surface of the soil. And Hashem G’d formed the man of dust from the ground, and He Blew into his nostrils the soul of life; and man became a living being.” (Sefer Briesh’t, Perek 2, posukim 5-7)

These posukim, taken together with both the above midrash and citing of the Tehillim Perek, as well as learned concepts that all of creation was Made for man, for Am Yehudi, indicate strongly to this author that the Creation of the Jewish neshama preceded all other creation.

Shem Mishmuel writes further (ibid):

We may suggest that the order of events mentioned in this midrash are reflected by the sequence of the laws presented by the Torah. As man’s spiritual component was created before anything else, the laws pertaining to his soul were recorded first. Indeed, up to this point in Torah, we have a succession of laws directed at the spiritual development of the Jew in all spheres of activity. Even the animal offerings… from the beginning of Vayikra are intended to provide atonement for the errant soul and to ensure that, even after having strayed, it [the soul] can continue on its G’d-given mission.

…Why two separate creations were deemed necessary for man[?] Why did Hashem not create man’s body and soul in one act?

…This [may] reflect the changes of mood which affect all of us. On some occasions, we feel expansive, in touch with the Divine and intellectually and emotionally comfortable with our role as servants of Hashem. At other times, we feel estranged from Hashem and confused about our spiritual aims. At root, this mirrors the state of the soul relative to the body. When our spiritual powers assert themselves, we feel in contact with Hashem; when our physical powers rule, we seem distanced from Him.

….It is indeed a great gift from Hashem that we have the built-in ability to correct ourselves, for we can be sure that even when estrangement occurs, closeness to Hashem will surely follow.

But, in our contemporary context on a national level, this built-in ability or mechanism borne of “after and before” to collectively correct ourselves, and to truly bring ourselves close to Hashem has been grossly under-utilized, or has not manifested itself. One might follow-up by asking what the moral of this is for the Jewish people in our contemporary times.

We learn in Parshat Tazria that unity, between individual Jews, as well as on a national level, was role of the Kohen (Priest), whose very essence and “inherent trait throughout the generations” has been unity. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah”, page 253 citing the Rabbi of Alexander).

It seems to this author that to bring real peace, unity and closeness to Hashem among B’nai Yisrael, we Jews need to emulate the Kohen, to rise above common human nature and utilize this innate ability to correct ourselves and care for our fellows — V’Ahavtah L’re’icha Komocha. Only then will our collective express and reflect that spiritual component that merited Hashem’s Creation before all else.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four plus years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.