The Torah portion of Tazria deals with the laws of spiritual purity and impurity as they relate to man. Rashi,1 quoting the Midrash,2 states: “R. Simla’i said, ‘Just as man’s creation came after the creation of all animals, beasts and birds, so too are the laws that relate to him explained after the laws relating to animals, beasts and birds.’ ”

The expression “Just as… so too…” indicates that the laws concerning man are related last not because man was created last, or the Midrash would have stated: “Since man was created last, therefore….” Rather, man’s laws are related last for the same reason that man was created last.

Why was man created last? The Midrash goes on to explain:3 “So that if man behaves improperly he is told: ‘Even a gnat, even a worm, preceded you.’ ”

The commentators ask:4 This reason is germane to man’s creation, but not to his laws. Why then does the Midrash use the expression “Just as man was created… so too his laws,” rather than, “Since man was created last… therefore [it follows that] his laws are [to be] stated last”?

The Alter Rebbe explains5 that the very fact that man is capable of sin, even if he never actually sins, implies a degree of inferiority in comparison to those creatures who are “incapable of violating G‑d’s will.”6

This capacity for sin is why man’s laws are stated after those of all other creatures, and is the reason for his being created after all others. The Midrash therefore states: “Just as man was created last… so too his laws are stated last,” i.e., the same reasoning applies in both areas.

Torah study progresses from the simple to the complex. This applies to Torah sections as well: first come the portions that are more readily attainable and only then come the more difficult sections.

It thus follows that the reason for man having been created last — his capacity for sin and thus the need to tell him that the lowliest of creatures preceded him — is also the reason that his laws are stated last. For, as previously stated, the Torah goes from the simple to the complex, and it is simpler to purify and elevate that which is incapable of violating G‑d’s will than it is to purify and elevate man, a complex creature who is entirely capable of sin.

Conversely, man’s capacity for evil implies a greater achievement when he succeeds in vanquishing evil than if he had been granted goodness from above without having to struggle.

When man overcomes his capacity for evil, he realizes a greater degree of goodness because of the very fact that it was not revealed within him as his birthright, but rather had to be won.

Thus, while every Jew is blessed with a divine soul that is “truly a part of G‑d above,”7 this spirituality is only revealed after much grappling with his baser instincts and surface sensations. But when man triumphs in this battle, he can be confident that the goodness within him is something he has internalized.

This also explains why the above statement was made specifically by R. Simla’i. R. Simla’i did not possess illustrious ancestry, and so could not rely on the merits of his forbears. His spiritual service therefore emphasized the importance of self-improvement and initiative.

He perceived that man’s most precious quality is the ability to overcome the nastier side of his nature — a nature that was such that man needed to be warned that without toil and effort, “even a gnat, even a worm, preceded you.”

With diligent effort, however, nothing can approach the spiritual achievements of man.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 74-77.