Parshas Tazria - HaChodesh
Nun Too Late
G-d told Moshe, "Tell the Children of Israel that if a woman conceives
gives birth to a male then she will be ritually unclean for seven
days . . ." (Vayikra 12:1-2)
At first, this dvar Torah seems as if it really belongs to Parashas
BeHa'alosecha. However, at the end it will be clear that it also belongs
to this parshah.
In Parashas BeHa'aslosecha, the parshah is divided into three parts: from
the beginning of the parshah until 10:35, and the discussion about the
moving of the Holy Ark to initiate the journey, the few pesukim of that
section, and then from 11:1 and the complaint about the manna. The middle
section is demarcated on both sides by the same Hebrew letter, a Nun,
except that in each case it is inverted.
Why this unique situation? As Rashi explains, to separate between one
punishment and another. In other words, the section about the Ark belongs
elsewhere, at the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar, but it was "borrowed" and
placed here to act as a barrier between two negative episodes: the
complaining about the manna, and the leaving of Mt. Sinai too quickly.
In fact, Tosfos explains (Shabbos 116a), the Jewish people left Har Sinai
like school children who hear the bell that ends the school day. You can
tell who likes school when the bell rings, those who linger around as if
they didn't hear the bell at all. Those who left like a shot were really
gone before they left, and so were the Jewish people from Har Sinai. But
what does that have to do with inverted Nuns?
Fifty Gates of Understanding were created in the world . . . (Rosh
Otherwise known in Hebrew as the NUN Sha'arei Binah, the Fifty Gates of
Understanding represent the perfect knowledge of G-d, at least as much is
humanly possible. This is true Da'as Elokim (G-dly Knowledge) and the goal
of Torah learning made possible through the learning of Pardes - Pshat,
Remez, Drush and Sod. This level of knowledge is both the product of and
what leads to the Ohr HaGanuz, the Hidden Light of Creation regarding
which the Talmud says:
With the light that The Holy One, Blessed is He, made on Day One, Adam was
able to see from one end of the world until its end. (Chagigah 12a)
So what? Beyond not needing binoculars to see far away, what distinctly
was this advantage?
The answer is that it provided Adam HaRishon with far more than a long-
distance physical view; it gave him a long distance spiritual view. It was
a vision of Creation through the eyes of the Creator that allowed Adam to
understand the essence of everything within Creation and its role in the
Master Plan, including his own role. He had the ultimate big picture
associated with the Aitz HaChaim, the level on which he actually lived
until he gained his internal yetzer hara.
On this level, there is no mistaking the hand of G-d. For the person
living on this level of intellectual and spiritual clarity, there is no
hester panim (the hiding of G-d's face). That is why Haman was hanged on
his own gallows that were fifty amos high, for it is Sod, the actual level
of the Aitz HaChaim that ultimately chokes Amalek and eliminates the doubt
in G-d with which he is associated.
According to the Vilna Gaon, this is hinted to in the following posuk:
"Place it in the ears of (b'aznei) Yehoshua, that I will surely erase the
memory of Amalek' (Shemos 17:14).
In gematria, the word b'aznei (in the ears) indicates that Moshe told
Yeshoshua, from the tribe of Ephraim from whom Moshiach Ben Yosef
descends, the only way to fight Amalek is through Sod, because only Sod is
powerful enough to see through the screen of doubt that Amalek projects.
Amalek is both, the result of hester panim and the propagator of it. The
Nun Sha'arei Binah can cut through it and see Divine Providence on every
level of existence.
. . . As the days of which the Jews gained relief from their enemies,
the month which had been turned about for them from one of sorrow to one
of gladness . . . (Esther 9:22)
Even though Tosfos compares the way the Jewish people left Har Sinai to
that of an anxious school child who leaves at the ring of the bell, Har
Sinai was far more than the average school experience. At their lowest
point, the Jewish people had descended to the forty-ninth level of
spiritual impurity while in Egypt, the ultimate in hester panim. At that
point, a person's view is so secular that he can't see the hand of G-d
even if it shakeshim.
Thus, there are forty-nine days in the Omer-Count and the Jewish people
received Torah at Mt. Sinai on the fiftieth day. Each day they climbed
another rung on the ladder towards the fiftieth gate of wisdom, a process
that began with the plagues back in Egypt. Each plague revealed the hand
of G-d a little more, slowly nourishing the Jewish people back to
spiritual health like one might do for a person who has fasted for an
extended period of time.
The Har Sinai Experience was meant to bring the Jewish people to the
fiftieth gate of understanding, the level, according to the Pri Tzaddik,
is reserved for Ba'alei Teshuvah. Had Moshe Rabbeinu come all the way down
the mountain with the first set of Tablets, which were on the level of the
Aitz HaChaim and what is called Toras Atzilus, the Torah of Yemos
HaMoshiach (Sod), the Jewish people would have gone from strength and
straight to Eretz Yisroel which exists on this level.
The Erev Rav put an end to that. Taking advantage of a misunderstanding
regarding the return time of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Erev Rav incited panic
and instigated the fashioning of the golden calf. What they were really
doing was making sure that the Luchos Rishonos (the First Set of Tablets),
did not make it down the mountain and into the possession of the Jewish
people, for that would have put an end to the Erev Rav altogether.
They won, at least for the time being. When Moshe smashed those tablets,
necessitating the need for a second, less holy set, the ladder up to the
Nun Sha'arei Binah all of a sudden got longer, too long to climb as an
entire nation. Running away from Har Sinai was just an indication of where
their Da'as was holding at that time, which was upside down, just like
the inverted Nun in the Torah. And, everything that was going to go wrong
from that point onward until this very day was the result of our
incomplete and inverted Da'as.
That is why the Purim story comes down to one word:
. . . As the days of which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and
the month which had been turned about (nepach: Nun-Heh-Peh-Chof) for them
from one of sorrow to one of gladness . . . (Esther 9:22)
This means that the situation flip-flopped. One day Haman (Heh-Mem-Nun)
which can be read: Heim Nun - they are fifty - was poised to destroy the
Jewish people with everything in place to carry out his plan, and the next
day he was dead hanging from the same fifty-amah high gallows that he
built to hang Mordechai HaTzaddik on. Just like that and in the blink of
However, the word nepach can be read: Nun hafuch - overturned Nun. It was
the month that the Nun was overturned for them, and it is not too
difficult to figure out which one. In other words, whatever it was that
the Jewish people lost by leaving Har Sinai too quickly, either
spiritually, physically, or both, they regained at Purim time, and the
Talmud indicates this as well:
And they stood under the mount . . . (Shemos 19:17); Rav Avdimi bar Chama
bar Chasa said: "This teaches that The Holy One, blessed is He, overturned
the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them, 'If you
accept the Torah, it is well; if not, here shall be your burial.' " Rav
Acha bar Ya'acov said, "This provides a strong case against the Torah."
Rava answered, "Nevertheless, they re-accepted it in the days of
Achashveros, for it is written, '[the Jews] confirmed, and took upon
them . . .' (Esther 9:27)." (Shabbos 88a)
Thus, Purim was the completion of the Har Sinai experience. The only
question is if that is true, why did everything continue to go wrong from
that point onward?
For Mordechai the Jew was viceroy to King Achashveros; he was a great
among the Jews, and found favor with the majority of his brothers . . .
With the majority of his brothers? Only the majority and not ALL of his
brothers, in spite of all he had done to save them? The Ibn Ezra calls it
the power of jealousy, but we might as well call it the power of the
Indeed, when Ezra HaSofer finally decided to return to Eretz Yisroel and
put out the call for all of the Jews to also come home. Jews that had
originally cried on their way out of Israel while going into exile did not
respond well to the offer. On the contrary, most chose to remain in
exile, and the second temple ended up being only the second temple instead
of the final one.
What went wrong?
The answer is the same as that for another difficult question: How could
Moshe Rabbeinu break the Luchos Rishonos? We don't even let a man-made
Sefer Torah that was written on by man fall on the ground even
accidentally; how could Moshe allow the Luchos Rishonos that were carved
out by G-d and written on by G-d break on purpose? Why didn't he just
leave them there on top of the mountain where they would be safe?
The answer is not what it seems to be. True, Moshe Rabbeinu broke the
tablets in anger on behalf of G-d, but he also did so on behalf of the
Jewish people. It was the sacrifice he made, and for which G-d later
congratulated him, to make sure that if the Jewish people could not
receive this set of tablets, they could at least see them once, if only
from a distance. It was a taste from the Aitz HaChaim just as we sank down
to the level of the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah - the root of Haman and Amalek,
all over again after the incident with the golden calf.
But what a taste it was. According to the Pri Tzaddik, that impression
left a lasting impression on the hearts of Klal Yisroel until this very
day, thanks to Moshe Rabbeinu. For, how can you return to that which you
never had a connection to in the first place? How can you know what it is
you seek if you never saw it in the first place? Therefore, just as an
angel teaches us all of Torah in the womb before making us forget it at
birth, Moshe showed us the Torah of Yemos HaMoshiach just before taking it
away from us.
Only physically, but not spiritually.
And, that too was Purim. As the Megillah testifies, the Nun that inverted
again to become right side up, clearly revealing the hand of G-d in ALL
the affairs of the Jewish people to the last itty-bitty detail, re-
inverted after the miracle was over. It was gone about as fast as it came,
but not as if it had never been there at all. It left its impression, and
it remains off in the distance like the dim light of a distance ship on
its way to save us from drowning in a sea of spiritual impurity.
Which brings us, at last, to our parshah.
On the eighth day his foreskin must be circumcised. For the next 33
it will be a period of time during which her blood will be considered
ritually clean. (Vayikra 12:3-4)
Interesting how the Torah inserts the mitzvah of Bris Milah on the eighth
day in-between two laws of spiritual impurity to do with childbirth.
What's the connection?
It is basic but profound. Spiritual impurity encompases the forty-nine
levels that the Fifty Gates of Understanding and Bris Milah come to
eradicate. That is why a Bris takes place on the eighth day - one more
than seven, which has the properties of the fiftieth - one more day than
seven times seven. In fact, the insertion of Bris Milah between these two
sections of spiritual impurity is reminiscent of the section about the
Aron HaKodesh being inserted between the two sins of the Jewish people.
Each act is an island of rectification amidst a sea of Klipos and
Indeed, the foreskin itself symbolizes the Klipos and the control they
have on man to abuse Creation. By removing it and by drawing down the
power of eight, the power of chayn - Ches-Nun, or 8 and 50, the reaching
the Klipos and the Erev Rav is reduced significantly, preparing the child
to ascend in the direction of the Nun Sha'arei Binah, to re-invert the Nun
in his personal life, and if he's really good, the Nun of the Jewish
people, in general.
That is the role of Moshiach Ben Yosef, which is why he is associated with
Bris Milah. As the Shem M'Shmuel explains (Vayishlach), he is compared to
an ox because, like the ox he breaks the ground and prepares it for
planting and harvesting. That is what Moshiach Ben Yosef will do to the
hearts of Klal Yisroel in preparation for Moshiach Ben Dovid.
And how will he do that? Says the Vilna Gaon, we learn this from Yosef
HaTzaddik himself, who was called Tzafnas Panayach (Revealer of Secrets)
by Pharaoh, since it was Yosef who revealed the hand of G-d in history in
his time. Just as Bris Milah removes the outer layer to reveal the
holiness within, and to do this in the final generation, says the GR"A, he
will use Sod - the inner soul of Torah.
Indeed, the Final Redemption is described in the Torah in terms of Bris
Only your fathers did G-d desire to love them, and He has chosen their
descendants after them through you from all the peoples this day. He will
circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and you will no longer be stiff-
necked. (Devarim 10:16-17)
The result of this:
On that day, G-d will be One and His Name One. (Zechariah 14:9)
The way He was before Adam HaRishon ate from the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah
and first inverted the Nun Sha'arei Binah resulting in expulsion from Gan
Aiden. The way He was before the sin of the golden calf. And, if you
listen real carefully, you can hear some of the twisting and turning
necessary to re-invert the Nun once and for all.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.