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Torah Attitude: Parashas Acharei Mos - Kedoshim: Return to the Garden of Eden

Summary

The Torah teaches how one becomes impure and when one can immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath) to become pure again. The Torah warns that if a couple does not keep the laws of family purity, they will suffer severe Divine punishment, either in this world or in the World to Come. The snake, which represented the evil inclination, also known as the Satan and the Angel of Death, manipulated Eve's readiness to accept instruction to entice her to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Eve and her descendants have to keep the laws of family purity to atone for the blood that she spilled. Most women possess a nature to be ready to accept instructions. Every child-bearing woman has a constant reminder of her special mission in life and when she and her husband observe the laws of family purity, they participate in rectifying the sin of Adam and Eve. The Kabbalists explain that when one immerses in the natural pool of water that the mikvah contains, one rids oneself of any prior impurity and one exits as if just being created anew. When a couple conducts their marriage according to these laws, they comply with G'd's original vision for this world and merit the Divine Presence in their home. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peaceful."

Immerse in a mikvah

In last week's Torah Attitude we quoted from the Zohar that enumerates three sins that push the Divine Spirit away from this world. The first sin that the Zohar mentions is when a couple does not observe the laws of family purity. Towards the end of the second of last week's two parshios, the Torah teaches how one becomes impure and when one can immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath) to become pure again. In the first of this week's two parshios, the Torah gives a list of prohibited relationships. Most of these illicit relationships are close relatives that even the gentile and secular communities consider being totally unacceptable.

Divine punishment

However, the prohibition of the laws of family purity is also part of this list (see Vayikra 18:19). In the second of this week's two parshios, the Torah warns that if a couple does not keep the laws of family purity, they will suffer severe Divine punishment, either in this world or in the World to Come (see Vayikra 20:18).Obviously, one always has the opportunity to repent, and even later in life one can do teshuvah and immerse in a mikvah.

Garden of Eden

Why is this transgression so serious, and why does it bring about such severe consequences? Maybe we can gain some understanding if we go back to the Garden of Eden. When G'd created Eve, He said (Bereishis 2:18): "It is not good for the Adam to be alone. I shall make him an assistant corresponding to him." For two people to match and correspond to each other they must be similar but not exactly the same. G'd therefore created Eve with a mind of her own, but ready to accept instruction and assist Adam in his endeavours. The snake, which represented the evil inclination, also known as the Satan and the Angel of Death, manipulated Eve's readiness to accept instruction to entice her to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. And as Adam's assistant, she made sure to share it with him as well. This fruit brought an impurity into their bodies. From then on the evil inclination became an integral part of their being with which they and their descendants would have to struggle on a constant basis.

Atone for spilled blood

The Midrash Tanchuma (Noach 1) explains that when Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge and gave it to Adam, she caused their death and spilled their blood, for had they not eaten from the forbidden fruit, they would have lived forever (see Bereishis 2:17). The Midrash quotes from later in Parashas Noach where it says (Bereishis 9:6): "Whoever spills the blood of man his blood shall be spilled" and explains that this is a hint to Eve and her descendants who with their monthly cycle must keep the laws of family purity to atone for the blood that she spilled. Adam aptly referred to Eve as "the mother of all the living" (see Bereishis 3:20). But when she accepted the instruction of the snake, she also became an accomplice of the angel of death.

Accept instructions

G'd did not create only Eve with a nature to be ready to accept instructions. Rashi (Bereishis 3:15) quotes the Talmud (Shabbos 33b) that explains that this is a general character trait that most women possess. On the one hand, every woman can use this to build her home and ensure domestic peace. On the other hand, she can fall prey, as Eve did, to the evil inclination and be enticed to sin.

Constant reminder

Every child-bearing woman has a constant reminder of her special mission in life, and when she and her husband observe the laws of family purity, they participate in rectifying the sin of Adam and Eve. The impurity of the snake is represented in her monthly cycle, and when she immerses herself in a mikvah, she purifies herself and elevates her marriage to a level of sanctity. By structuring their relationship according to the laws of family purity, they ensure that their children are better equipped to live up to what it says in the beginning of the second of this week's two parshios (Vayikra 19:2): "You shall be holy", and to withstand the many temptations of life.

Created anew

The Kabbalists explain that when one immerses in the natural pool of water that the mikvah contains, one rids oneself of any prior impurity and one exits as if just being created anew. It takes the person back to before the sin of Adam and Eve at the beginning of Creation where it says (Bereishis 1:2): "And the Divine Presence hovered over the surface of the waters." A child conceived after such an immersion is in a spiritual sense starting its life in the Garden of Eden with its pure water.

Merit Divine Presence in home

When a couple conducts their marriage according to these laws, they comply with G'd's original vision for this world and merit the Divine Presence in their home (see Talmud Sotah 17a). When they do not follow the Divine plan, they obviously cannot expect the Divine Presence to be there for them and must accept the consequences that the Torah describes.

Ways of pleasantness

King Solomon discusses the beauty of a life based on Torah values and says (Mishlei 3:17): "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peaceful." This manifests itself par excellence in a marriage based on the laws of family purity.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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