Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dvar Torah for Parshas Tazria-Metzora

As a result of last Shabbos being a regular Shabbos for Israel while still being Pesach for those outside of Israel, for the next few weeks there will be a difference of one week's parsha between those living inside and outside Israel. Since I am in Israel right now, I will be writing the Dvar Torah according to the schedule here. Therefore, this week's Dvar Torah is on Parshas Tazria-Metzora, while outside Israel, they read Parshas Shemini. We will continue to be one week off till Parshas Bechukosai.

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.

Shabbat Shalom!

Last year Parshas Tazria fell out on Parshas Hachodesh. There was no Dvar Torah for Parshas Tazria.

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