Mysterious Laws of Tahara ("Purity")
The two parshiyos this week deal extensively with the laws of purity
and contamination. Much of the material discusses a peculiar phenomenon
known as "tzaras." It comes in different forms: A particular skin disease;
certain spots on clothing; spots on the house. Various natural situations
are discussed: a woman's bleeding after giving birth, the religious need
the male's foreskin to be circumcised.
Separation is not Judgment
These areas are addressed in terms of purity versus contamination.
The "purity" and "impurity" is not something that can be perceived
empirically, with the eyes or by an instrument. The Torah is not judgmental
regarding "purity" and "impurity," but deals with the subject in legal
terms: Impure animals are not to be eaten by a Jew (last weeks parsha),
and women who are rendered impure due to certain secretions should not have
marital relations until purified; the youth who is uncircumcised prevents
his household from partaking of the Paschal lamb (parshas Bo).
The Kohein is the most sensitive to the laws of purity, for he is
commanded not to become impure. Therefore, the Kohein has a special
position when it comes to determining one's status as "tahar" (pure) or
"tamei" (impure). [See the Ramban and comments of R. Chavel p. 522-3 Hebrew
edition, that the Kohein's position applies in several areas.]
Ramban (Nachmanides) declares that the laws of "tzaras" (the spots
on the body, clothes and house), are a sign of distinction for the
Israelites. At a time of great religious feeling, they will be close to
G-d. He will protect them and indicate His wrath when they err. The
diseases and difficulties of "tzaras" came as a result of wrongful conduct.
We do not merit these afflictions today because we are not on such a high
spiritual level. (Such hardships are referred to in Rabbinic Literature
"afflictions of love.")
The Divre Yoel explains that such spots today would be considered
natural phenomena alone. We should go to the experts (doctors, cleaners
engineers), those who know how to advise regarding the material, physical
world. True, Judaism states that G-d controls all; nonetheless, He works
through the forces of nature, but not purely by miraculous means. Therefore
-- today -- we need to put in our effort and not rely -- entirely -- on
From our discussion regarding the "afflictions of love," important
conclusions can be drawn. It is fascinating to see that Jewish attitude
not: "With G-d's help, everything will go right," but rather: "With G-d's
help, even that which goes wrong will be right." That is, everything may
not go perfectly smoothly, but it will be meaningful and uplifting. When
are close to G-d, even that which goes wrong will bring us closer to G-d.
It seems to us that this attitude itself has healing properties. Perhaps
such an attitude alone could help propel us to the religious level of our
ancestors. "Even that which goes wrong will bring us closer to G-d,"
"With G-d's help, even that which goes wrong will be right."
The legal commentary, Sha'arim Metzuyanim Behalacha, quotes from the
Talmud that the correct medicine is chosen in heaven. The commentary asks,
"Who knows that the doctor who brings the medicine is the correct one?"
replies: "Since the patient is confident with the doctor and feels
comfortable with him, he has the greatest chance of receiving good treatment
from the doctor he appreciates..." The attitude itself has healing
properties! (We have already discussed this in terms of current medical
findings in Vol. 7 #51).