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Conceiving New Life

Conceiving New Life

Tazria; Leviticus 12:1-13:59

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Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 236ff; Vol. VII, p. 78-79;
Vol. XII, p. 70ff; Vol. XXII, p. 70ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 379ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 490ff

The Deepest Intimacy

One of the analogies used to describe the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is the love between a man and a woman.1 On the human level, this relationship is multidimensional, including the deepest levels of intimacy. Similarly, the love between the Jews and G-d is a complex, dynamic union. “The Holy One, Blessed be He, and Israel are one”2 joined in an ardent bond. Indeed, the prophet3 uses the simile, “Your Maker is your mate.”

On the mortal plane, physical intimacy is more than a connection between man and woman; new life is conceived.4 Similarly with regard to the bond between G-d and the Jewish people, the relationship propagates vitality.

Planting Seeds

The opening verse of our Torah reading alludes to this concept, stating: “When a woman conceives and gives birth.” The “woman” refers to the Jewish people, who bring new life into the world.

More particularly, tazria, the term translated as “conceives” means “gives seed.” This term also is of metaphoric significance. For after a seed is planted in the earth, its shell must decompose. Only then will the growth potential of the earth be expressed.

This motif applies to our people as a whole, and to every individual. Our lives center around material concerns. Even with regard to our Divine service, it is the actual observance of the mitzvos, not the feelings they arouse, which is of primary importance. Yes, “G-d desires the heart.”5 But if one meditates on the Shema all morning with love and fear, yet doesn’t actually recite the words, or if one is inspired with heartfelt compassion for a poor person, but fails to actually give him charity, one’s Divine service would be inadequate. For “deed is what is most essential.”6

And thus mitzvos are referred to as “seeds,” as it is written:7 “Sow for yourselves for charity.”8 For every mitzvah is an infusion of Divine energy into our material world, which when cultivated will blossom and bear fruit.

The ultimate fruit will be the Redemption, the era when the G-dliness invested in the world by the Divine service of the Jewish people over thousands of years will flourish.9 This will remake the nature of existence, allowing us to appreciate the Divine core of all being. Since the world itself will then become conscious of its G-dly nature, this redemption will never be followed by exile. For G-dliness will never again be concealed.

The Wonder of Conception

Our Sages10 interpret the expression “When a woman conceives” as implying that it is she who initiates the intensification of the relationship. Similarly, in the analog, the implication is that man does not merely respond to G-d. Instead, he taps the core of his being and summons up the energy needed to heighten his connection with Him.

On this basis, we can understand why the verse highlights the importance of conception rather than birth. Although new life is brought into the world at birth, the fetus already exists; conception is the closest example in our lives to the creation of something from nothing.11

Chassidic thought12 explains that the potential to create something from nothing lies with G-d alone. Since He is not, Heaven forbid, dependent on any other cause, it is within His ability to create something material existence out of absolute naught.

G-d has imparted His essence to man, and thus the core of every soul is “an actual part of G-d.”13 As such, man also has the power of creation, but in reverse. He lives in this material world, and makes “nothing from something,” revealing the G-dly potential that exists within himself and his ephemeral environment. This is the power of conception possessed by “the woman,” mankind. Through the expression of this potential, we become G-d’s “partner in creation,”14 fashioning the world into a dwelling for Him.15

Life and Death

The name Tazria, which underscores the theme of conception, is connected not only to the opening passages, but to the reading in its entirety. This appears to present a difficulty, for although the first passages speak about birth, the main body of the reading concerns itself with tzaraas, a bodily affliction resembling leprosy.

Tzaraas is the very opposite of new life. Indeed, our Sages state16 that a person afflicted with tzaraas is considered dead. What place does such a subject have in a Torah reading associated with new life?

This difficulty can be resolved on the basis of two concepts: Firstly, tzaraas is not merely a physical malady, it is, to quote the Rambam:17 “beyond the natural pattern of the world… a Divine sign and a wonder18 for the Jewish people to warn them against speaking Lashon Hora [gossip and slander].”

Secondly, the punishments prescribed by the Torah are not for the sake of retribution, but rather to absolve a person’s sin and enable him to correct his faults.19 Tzaraas clearly expresses this principle. Because a person creates strife and friction between others, he becomes afflicted with tzaraas, and as a result is required to remain alone.20 Only when he has removed the influence of friction from himself it is possible for his body to be purified and for him to rejoin society.

Thus tzaraas is a Divine instrument intended to prod an individual towards personal refinement and encourage the spread of peace and love. As such, it is an extension of the theme of Tazria, focusing on our efforts to bring something new and pure into ourselves and our environment.

Tzaraas is employed as an analogy21 to describe the status of our people in the present age, for we are in exile “alone, with [our] dwelling outside the camp.”22 Yet our Divine service centers on Tazria, sowing seeds of G-dly influence through our observance of the mitzvos. And we will reap the harvests of these efforts with the coming of Mashiach; may this be in the immediate future.

FOOTNOTES
1. See the commentaries to the Song of Songs.
2. Zohar, Vol. III, 73a.
3. Isaiah 54:5. Note the connection between this verse and the opening of our Torah reading in the commentary of the Or HaChayim.
4. See the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previously, which states that all marital relations create new souls. If a couple are found worthy, the creation of a soul is also associated with the conception of new life in the material realm.
5. Cf. Sanhedrin 106b. Note Rashi’s commentary. See also the association of this phrase with the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.
6. Cf. Avos 1:17.
7. Hoshea 10:12. Note the reference to this verse in the commentary of the Or HaChayim cited previously.
8. Here too, there is a connection with the analogy of birth for our Sages say (Rashi, beginning of Parshas Noach): “The progeny of the righteous are good deeds.”
9. See also the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previously.
10. Niddah 31a, cited in the commentary of the Or HaChayim mentioned previously.
11. See the series of maamarim entitled Sameach Tisamach, 5657.
12. See Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 20.
13. Tanya, ch. 2.
14. Shabbos 119b.
15. Cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Behaalos’cha, sec. 3.
16. Nedarim 64b. See the commentary of the Maharsha in his Chiddushei Aggados.
17. Mishneh Torah, the conclusion of Hilchos Tzaraas.
18. Therefore, in the present age, when the spiritual level of the Jewish people has descended, they are not fit for such Divine wonders to be openly revealed in their flesh. Hence, the phenomenon of tzaraas is no longer pres ent (Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 22b).
19. See Berachos 5a. Note also Kuzari, Discourse II, ch. 44.
20. Erchin 16b, Rashi, commenting on Leviticus 13:46.
21. Vayikra Rabbah, the conclusion of sec. 17.
22. Leviticus 13:46.
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Discussion (1)
March 29, 2014
tzaraas
Speaking gossip or slander does not bring tzaraas, bad speech does not bring glory to anyone. But there are times when it cannot be avoided specially if it is for correction. Anyone can make the distinction if it is malign a community or to correct .
Anonymous
toronto
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