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Vol. 22 No. 26
Last but Not Least
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
"And on the eighth day, he shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin" (12:3).
The clich?d heading is really a misnomer - perhaps 'Last in Deed, First in Thought' would have been more appropriate, since the gist of this article is that G-d leaves the most important things for last.
When G-d created the world, He created everything else first - including the fish, birds and animals, before creating Adam. This was not because Adam was the least important of His creations, Rabeinu Bachye explains, but precisely because he was the most important, because he was the crux of the creation and its purpose. And this is what David ha'Melech meant when he wrote in Tehilim (139:5) "Last and first You created me (man)" - last in creation, but first in importance.
By the same token, he adds, G-d created Olam ha'Ba after this world - not because of any natural sequence, but because it is more important - 'Last in Deed, First in Thought'. In fact, he explains this concept is prevalent throughout the laws of nature, and an example of this is a tree, whose roots, trunk, branches and leaves are all in place before the fruit appears.
And the moment G-d created Adam, He commanded him an Asei (to partake of all the fruit in Gan Eden) and Lo Sa'aseh (not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge) - because the main objective of His creation was the performance of Mitzvos.
The Torah follows the same sequence, the author points out, when, before discussing the birth of a baby (Adam) in Tazri'a, it presents three Parshiyos in connection with animals (which were created from the element of earth) "These are the animals that you may eat"; fish (which were created from water) "This you may eat from all that is in the water"; and birds (which were created from wind). And finally, it deals with Dinim connected with a baby's birth. And just as G-d did when He created Adam, the Torah immediately issues him the Mitzvah of Milah - to teach him that it is in order to perform Mitzvos that he was born, as the Pasuk writes in Iyov (5:7) "For man is born to toil (in Mirzvos)".
In fact, he adds, the Torah surrounds the baby with Mitzvos - the Dinim pertaining to food before his birth, and the Mitzvah of Milah after his birth, as the Pasuk in Tehilim (that we quoted earlier, though with different connotations) writes "Afterwards and before You created me". As the Medrash, commenting on this Pasuk, says "Before" - After G-d created all the animals … , He created man. In the same vein, before a baby enters this world, Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu say to him "I am commanding you that this you may eat and this you may not! This is Tamei for you … ! And it is only after he has undertaken to keep all the Mitzvos that he is born. "Afterwards" - This refers to the Mitzvah of Milah'.
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(Adapted from the Ramban)
Waiting to Became Tahor
" … For thirty-three days she (a woman who gave birth) waits (teisheiv) on the blood of her purity …" (12:4)
According to Torah law, for the first seven days after giving birth to a boy, fourteen, after a girl, a woman is Tamei regarding both her husband and Kodshim. For the next thirty-three days (for a girl, sixty-six) she is Tahor regarding the former, but Tamei, regarding the latter, until she brings the required Korban on the forty-first or eighty-first day.
Although nobody disputed these facts, Rashi and the Ramban argue over the translation, and interpretation, of the current Pasuk. Rashi translates it as above, as the waiting is waiting for the day that she becomes completely Tahor and is able to eat Kodshim and enter the Beis-Hamikdash. Whereas the Ramban, who interprets the Pasuk with regard to the woman's relationship with her husband, translates "teisheiv" as 'stays', since for the duration of that waiting period, she is permitted to maintain normal relations with her husband under all circumstances.
When G-d Incorporated Aharon and When He Didn't
"And G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying" (13:1).
G-d included Aharon in the current Dibur, says the Ramban, or He told Moshe to inform Aharon, as Rashi explained at the beginning of Vayikra, because, among other things, the Torah in Parshas Shoftim (21:5) lists Nega'im (Tzara'as) among the things that are the responsibility of the Kohanim.(21:5) ...
When Yisrael need a warning
and When they Don't
In the same vein, the Pasuk does not insert the phrase "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael", as it usually does. This, he explains, is because a Yisrael who has Tzara'as is totally under the jurisdiction of the Kohen to whom he shows his Tzara'as (See Chazal's commentary on the Ramban), who will issue him with instructions as to how to proceed.
Nor does it mention it in the following Parshah (chapter 14, Pasuk 1 & 2), which deals with the purification of the Metzora, since the Yisrael, who is outside the camp, will be only too pleased to call the Kohen, in order to regain his purity and return to the camp.
On the other hand, the Parshah of a Zav does begin with the words "Speak to the B'nei Yisrael". This, he explains, is because, as opposed to the Metzora, whose Tum'ah is public knowledge, the Tum'ah of a Zav is known only to himself. Consequently, he needs to be warned not to hide it, but to consult a Kohen for further instructions.
The Appearance of the Tzara'as
"And behold the plague has retained its appearance (be'einav)".
This is how Rashi translates the Pasuk.
The Ramban however, cites the Toras Kohanim, which states that it depends not only on the eyes of the Kohen, but that the same will apply if the plague remained the same in the eyes of his Talmid. The Toras Kohanim clearly interprets "be'einav"(not like Rashi, but) as "in his (the Kohen's) eyes", to say that the ruling of the Torah applies there where, according to the vision of the Kohen or of his disciple, the plague has not changed its appearance or its location.
Incidentally, the disciple may well tell the Kohen that the plague has, or has not, changed, but it is the Kohen who must issue the declaration as to whether the person with the plague needs to be quarantined for another seven days, or not.
Getting Rid of the Tum'ah - Quickly
" … on the day of his purification, and he shall be brought to the Kohen … And the Kohen shall go out to outside the camp" (14:2 & 3)
To explain the double (conflicting) expressions, the Ramban offers two explanations:
1. The Torah's opening Pasuk is coming to teach us that the Metzora has no way of becoming pure without the Kohen. Then it adds that, even though the signs of Tum'ah have disappeared, he is not permitted to enter the camp (i.e. the town), even to visit the Kohen in order to be declared Tahor, and it is the Kohen who must therefore leave the camp to visit him.
2. Stressing the words "on the day of his purification", the Torah's opening phrase teaches us that the Metzora should not wait, but that on the very same day that the signs of Tzara'as disappear, he should call for the Kohen to come out to visit him.
The Mystery of the Three Lambs
" And it shall be that on the eighth day, he shall take two male lambs and one female lamb" (14:10).
Strangely, the Ramban points out, the Torah does not specifically tell us what the Metzora is obligated to do with these three animals (which Korban they are to be designated as [as it does for example, with the special animals that are brought on Yom-Kipur - See beginning of Acharei-Mos]).
It will however tell us shortly (in Pasuk 12), that one of the male lambs is to be brought as an Asham (a guilt-offering), leaving us with two unspecified animals - a male lamb and a female lamb.
Later, in Pasuk nineteen and twenty the Torah talks about a Chatas and an Olah. Now we know from the Pasuk in Vayikra that a Chatas (with one or two notable exceptions) always consists of a female animal, and an Olah, of a male animal. Consequently, the Ramban concludes, the mystery is solved - the officiating Kohen has no choice other than to bring the female lamb as the Chatas, and the remaining male one, as the Olah.
A Strange Sequence - Or is it?
"This is the law for every Tzara'as affliction and the Nesek, for the Tzara'as of the garment and the house, for the Se'eis, the Tzapachas and the Baheres" (15:54, 55 & 56).
The Ramban explains the initially incomprehensible sequence as follows:
'The Tzara'as affliction' - refers to the Tzra'as that strikes in the location of a boil or a burn - the most common of Tzara'as afflictions.
Next comes the 'Nesek', Tzara'as in the location of the hair, which is relatively common too.
And this is followed by Tzara'as on a garment or on a house - which is less common than the previous forms of Tzara'as.
And finally comes the 'Se'eis, Sapachas and Beheres' - the three forms of Tzara'as that occur on the body, with which the Torah began, leaving 'Baheres' for last as it always does (at least when listing these three) because it is the most severe.
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