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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Tazria/Metzora (70)

These sedras discuss the less familiar laws of purity relating to women after they give birth and also the laws of the Zav (he/she who has a flow from their bodies). We will discuss one of these verses and the Rashi, although it will take us into technical matters.

Leviticus 15:2

Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Any man, should there be a discharge from his body, [because of his discharge] he is impure.


Should there be a discharge: Rashi: I might have thought, a discharge from any place [in the body] would make him impure, Therefore the verse says "from his body" - and not all his body. Now after the verse distinguished between flesh and flesh (i.e. flows from different parts of the body) I might reason, that once [the Torah] declared a man with a discharge unclean and a woman with a discharge unclean, (I would reason) that just like a woman with a discharge from the place [in her body] that she becomes unclean with a lesser impurity - the menstruating woman - so from that same place does she become impure with a stricter impurity - a discharge - likewise with a man, from the place (his sexual organ) from which he becomes impure with a lesser impurity - a seminal emission - from that same place he becomes impure from a greater impurity - a zav.


First Rashi shows that only certain discharges make a person impure. Then he goes on to show that these discharges come from a particular part of the body, though it is not yet clear which part that is. Rashi proves by a logical analysis that the discharges mentioned here refer to bodily fluids coming from the male or female organ of the person and not from any other discharge in the body (like puss from a wound or blood from the mouth etc.)

Look at Rashi's logic. Rashi arrives at a conclusion about the place of the discharge in a man's body from a comparison to the laws we know about discharges from a woman's body.

Do you have a question regarding this logic?

Your Question.


A Question: Why need Rashi compare the laws of discharges of men with those of women, in order to prove that only discharges from the male organ make a man impure. He could have simply said: Just like a man has a lesser impurity when he has a seminal emission (which comes from the male organ) so too the more severe discharge - a Zav - must mean the discharge flows from the male organ ? Why the need to build the logic on the case of women's discharges?

A Clarification:

We must clarify some basic facts here. The discharge (zava) of a woman is blood (see verse 19) which is exactly the same as the blood she discharges when she is menstruating (the lesser impurity) . The difference is that menstruation comes at a more or less fixed time in the woman's monthly cycle, while the Zava discharge does not come at that time. But both are blood. For men there is a difference. His Zav discharge is not blood, it is a semen-like substance. But it is different from the healthy semen that is active in conception.


With this is mind, we can understand that Rashi realized that the laws of a male zav are unclear, or at least not as obvious as those of a woman (since her zav flow and her normal flow are both blood and thus both flow from the same area of the body).

Therefore Rashi comes to clarify the facts in the case of the male zav.

How Rashi Clarifies Matters

Rashi first refers to a woman's case before he concludes anything about man's case. In the case of a woman, both discharges are blood and thus both flow from the same bodily area. But since a man's discharge is not normal semen, I might have thought that his discharge flows from other parts of the body (like puss or nasal flow). Therefore Rashi had to first show us the laws of a woman's discharge which made it clear that the discharge was from the same area as the lesser impurity (menstruation) then we can conclude that the case of a man's discharge is similar - i.e. his zav discharge flows from the same area (the male organ) as does his lesser impure discharge ( normal seminal emission).


The difference between the lesser impurity (menstruation for a woman and seminal emission for a man) and the more severe impurity (Zava for a woman and zav for a man) is that the latter must bring an offering in the Temple when their days of purification have ended. For the lesser impurities there is no need to bring an offering.

The Ramban explains this as follows: The lesser impurities are natural biological processes. That is how Hashem created humans. For these natural events no offering is necessary. But the occurrence of a discharge (zav or zava) is not a natural event. They are signs of an illness. Illnesses strike a person, not accidentally, but by divine design. Therefore the individual is need of forgiveness and repentance. Thus the need for his "karban." Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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