Friday, April 27, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
This week we read a “double” parsha, Tazria-Metzora. These parshiyos deal with certain special cases of Tumah (Spiritual Impurity) that a person can be subject to and how they can return to a state of Taharah (Spiritual Purity). Most of the parsha deals with the case of someone who is punished with Tzara’as (best translated as Leprosy) which no longer exists. Instead, we will focus on the beginning of Parshas Tazria which deals with a woman who has just given birth.
The pasuk says, “אִשָּׁה כִּי תַזְרִיעַ וְיָלְדָה זָכָר וְטָמְאָה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים” “When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for a seven-day period” (Vayikra 12:2). The next pasuk says that there is a mitzvah to circumcise the baby on the eighth day following his birth. Later on, the pasuk talks about when you give birth to a girl, “וְאִם נְקֵבָה תֵלֵד וְטָמְאָה שְׁבֻעַיִם” “If she gives birth to a female, she shall be impure for two weeks” (12:5). Why is there a difference between the impurity periods for the birth of a girl and a boy? Also, why is the mitzvah of Bris Milah mentioned here by the mitzvah of Tumah when it has nothing to do with Tumah at all?
The Kli Yakar answers these questions with two famous statements from Chazal. Chazal teach us that Chava’s punishment for eating from the עץ הדעת (Tree of Knowledge) was the pain of childbirth and the impurities that come as a result of it. (These impurities come through the דם נידה- Menstrual Blood.) He also brings another famous Gemara which explains how the gender of a child is determined. The Gemara says that the man influences the embryo to be female and the woman influences it to be male.
Using these maxims of Chazal, we can understand the halachos of Tumah by childbirth. Since the mother brings this Tumah into the world, and since she is the reason for this child being a boy, she has passed on this Tumah to her son, which then manifests itself physically on the baby’s body in the form of the foreskin. On the eighth day, after the mother’s Tumah has been removed, we remove the baby’s foreskin, thereby removing the Tumah from his body. That is why the pasuk brings down the mitzvah of Bris Milah here by the halachos of Tumah; even though the boy does not have this Tumah himself, his mother passes it on to him. However, by a baby girl, there is no need for seven days of Tumah since it was her father, who does not have this Tumah, who influenced her birth. Her mother did not pass anything on to her so she has no need for a Bris. (The Kli Yakar says that this is a good answer to the question that if boys become pure through a Bris, how do girls become pure.)
However, this baby girl will, God-willing, have children someday and will then bring this Tumah into the world. So even though her birth came through her father, she still carries this Tumah inside of her. Therefore, her mother is impure for two weeks after childbirth in order to take care of her own Tumah and the Tumah that she has now brought into the world with her daughter. Since this does not apply to a boy, his mother only has to take care of her own Tumah which takes seven days.
Last year Parshas Tazria fell out on Parshas Hachodesh. There was no Dvar Torah for Parshas Tazria.
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Monday, April 16, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
AIMeM would like to wish all of our readers a Chag Kosher V'Sameach, a healthy and happy Yom Tov. See you after Chag!
Once again, Pesach has arrived, the Holiday where we celebrate coming out of Mitzrayim and becoming a nation. This time is one of the highlights of the year for many people. Beginning with the Seder and going through the entire week of Pesach, it is a time to celebrate and reminisce over everything good in our lives together with our family and friends. The celebration is for all types of Jews, as we see clearly from the Hagadah.
One of the most well-known parts of the Hagadah is the Four Sons, which represent the four types of Jews that join in the Seder. They consist of the Chacham (the Wise Son), the Rasha (the Wicked Son), the Tam (the Simple Son), and the שאינו יודע לשאול (the Son Who Does Not Know How to Ask). Each son, with the exception of the שאינו יודע לשאול, asks a different question after which we answer each one of them. While the explanations on this part of the Hagadah are numerous, if you take each son at face value, the Rasha sticks out from the rest as the worst one.
It is written in the Hagadah, “רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם” “What does the Wicked Son say? ‘What does this service mean to you?” The Hagadah continues and says that based on how he is asking his question, he has clearly removed himself from the general Jewish community and would not have been worthy of leaving Mitzrayim during the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim to become part of the Jewish Nation. The question I had while reading this was why is the Rasha at our Seder in the first place? If he really does not want to be a part of the Seder, why do we force him to be here? He will probably ruin the experience for us as well! Furthermore, the Hagadah goes on to say that, “וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו” “…you must blunt his teeth”. Is this the proper Chinuch for the Rasha? We force him to sit through a ceremony which he has absolutely no interest on attending, and then when he causes trouble, we punch him in the mouth! Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt’’l even says that there are really five types of sons with the fifth one being the one who doesn’t even show up to the Seder! According to this, he does want to be here! So what is our Rasha doing here anyway?
I believe the answer is very simple. In reality, the Rasha does want to participate and he does want us to answer his questions. This is the reason he showed up in the first place! His attacking questions and seemingly aggressive anti-Torah attitude is simply the way he knows how to react, but deep down inside, all he wants is to feel that attachment to the Klal. He wants nothing more than to join in together with us and experience and enjoy the connection to Hashem that we all feel at the Seder.
But at the end of the day, the only way we can help this Rasha is by getting him to listen to what we want to answer him. Therefore, in order to get him to be quiet, we knock out his teeth, thus eliminating his ability to speak! In fact, there is a famous גימטריה (Numerology) that the value of the word רָשָׁע (Rasha) minus the value of the word שִנָּיו (teeth) equals the value of the word צדיק (Righteous Man)! If we can just get the Rasha to listen to us, we can easily turn him into a tzaddik. This is our responsibility, to see the צדיק within every Rasha. Still, at the end of the day if we cannot get him to listen, then he has shown through his attitude that he has removed himself from the Jewish community and does not deserve to be included in our Seder.
Regardless of a person’s background, Pesach and Seder night is the time when we sit together as families all part of a larger nation and enjoy all that is given us. Whichever type of person you are and whichever type of person you have at your Seder, everyone involved is hoping to gain the same thing, an understanding of what this is all about and what it all means. Why did Hashem choose us and take us out of Mitzrayim? How do I relate to that and what does that obligate me in? These are the questions we ask and have answered as we go through the Hagadah. It starts with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and continues on to where we have reached today. This Pesach, let us try to help one more person understand what this is all about and hopefully give ourselves a deeper understanding of this holiday and our lives. May we all be zoche to eat the Korban Pesach together in Yerushalayim with the Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days.
L’Shana Haba’a B’Yerushalayim!
Chag Kosher V’Sameach!
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