Last week’s parshah, Shemini, spoke about animals. We learned which animals are tahor and kosher for us to eat and which animals are considered tameh. In this week’s parshah, Tazria, we learn about people. We find out how a person can become tameh and how he can make himself tahor again. But shouldn’t the Torah have taught us about tumah and taharah in people before it teaches us about the animals?

The Midrash discusses this question. One of our sages, Rabbi Simlai, says: “Just as man was created after the animals, so his laws of tumah and taharah come after the laws about animals.” Why was man created after the animals? This was so that if he doesn’t follow HaShem’s will, he is reminded that he was not created first; even a tiny mosquito was created before him.

The Alter Rebbe explains that a person can be considered even lower than a mosquito because he can decide to do something that HaShem does not want. A mosquito, like all the other animals, doesn’t have a yetzer hora that tries to pull it away from doing HaShem’s will.

Being tameh means being less connected to HaShem. To reconnect himself and become tahor, a person — unlike an animal — has to work hard.

We usually study things starting from the easier level to the harder. Since animals don’t have a yetzer hora, their laws of tumah and taharah come first. People have to put in much more effort to reconnect themselves to HaShem, because they have a yetzer hora to overcome. This is why the Torah teaches us the laws of tumah and taharah in people after the laws about animals.

Rabbi Simlai actually saw this as a compliment to man! He said: “True, man was created after the animals because of his yetzer hora, and his laws of tumah and taharah are more difficult. But when he works hard and puts in true effort, he can connect himself closely with HaShem and elevate himself higher than the rest of creation.”

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 74)