Tazria-Metzora - The Meaning of Life
by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
"When a woman will conceive and give birth..." (Leviticus 12:2). This
week's parsha continues the detailed discussion of ritual disqualification.
There are times when entering certain places of sanctity and eating
certain sanctified foods are prohibited, those times being when we find
ourselves in a state of ritual disqualification. The Torah notes that this
is the case for a woman after giving birth to a child.
These verses lead the midrash into the discussion of the purpose of the
creation of humankind. "This is what is stated: 'You have formed the front
and back of me...'" (Psalms 139:5). Reish Lakish said: "The front," this
is (refers to) the first day (of creation), and "the back" this is the last
day (of creation). If one merits he is told "you have preceded the entire
creation." If not, he is told (even) a mosquito preceded you in creation."
The Yalkut Lekach Tov quotes several questions on this midrash. Firstly,
mankind was created on the 6th day of creation. Why is he told (if he
merits) that he was created before everything else? Secondly, why is it so
terrible to be created last? We save the best for last.
The work Bais Yitzchok quoted by the Yalkut Lekach Tov, explains as
follows. Once many great philosophers joined together to contemplate the
world and everything therein. Their goal was to come to understand the
purpose that every creature serves, and the benefit that each one brings to
the world. After long and arduous work, they indeed found a purpose for
everything. Some things are for food. Other things serve as cures. Some
things serve mankind, such as horses and donkeys, etc. They concluded that
nothing however minute is created for nought.
After their study was concluded, they celebrated its success with a great
feast. Amidst the drinking and celebrating, one of the wise philosophers
turned to the others and stated: "We have indeed labored and succeeded in
finding the purpose of all there is in the world. However, there is one
creature which we have missed completely. We have not given any thought as
to its purpose; MANKIND! What need does the world have for us?" No one
could come up with the benefits which mankind brings to the world. On the
contrary, the more they delved into the subject, the more they realized
that he does only damage, and no real good. They chop down trees, slaughter
and eat animals and fowl and fish, and they destroy and eat plant life to
name just a few things. Everything mankind does is only for his own good,
and selfish needs.
The conclusion that they subsequently reached is that mankind has a higher
purpose than other forms of life in the creation. This also brought them
to the conclusion that there is a soul which lives beyond the lifespan of
The conclusion of the team of philosphers coincides with the Torah
perspective. We possess this knowledge from our Torah and our sages who
taught us that everything in the world was created to aid us in doing G-d's
will. That is the fulfillment of its purpose in this world, when we
utilize the world with for that end.
When a person works, for example, in a field, he does all of the necessary
jobs which cause the earth to yield its harvest. Afterwards, he refines the
produce, and he scrupulously separates and distributes the tithes required
by the Torah. That act gives a new and higher dimension to the entire
process. When he eats the food he has grown, he recites a blessing to G-d,
and recognizes his Benefactor. The produce becomes a vehicle through which
he serves G-d. That is its intended purpose, and its life's mission. It
has realized its true potential. Consequently, mankind is not destroying,
but elevating the entire creation. This is the meaning of telling him that
"you have preceded the entire creation." You were the original thought for
which all things were created, and you have lived your life according to
G-d's expectations and elevated the entire creation.
On the other hand, when a person acts irresponsibly, and does not use the
world for its intended purpose, then he is indeed destroying the creation
for his own selfish purposes. In that case he is told: "the mosquito
preceded you." You have lowered yourself to the level of a thief and a
force of destruction.
We are here for a reason. Let us take it to heart and utilize the creation
in a way that elevates it. Let us not use our good fortune for our own
ends, but rather in a way through which we can show our gratitude to our
Text Copyright © 1999 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.