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Weekly Chizuk


Man - a Microcosm of the Universe

Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child; then she shall be unclean seven days; (Vayikra 12:2)

Rashi: If a woman conceives: Rabbi Simlai said: "Just as in the Creation, man was created after all domestic animals, wild beasts, and birds, so too, the law [concerning the purity] of man is stated after the law [concerning the purity] of domestic animals, wild beasts, and birds."- [Vayikra Rabba 14:1]

Adapted from Be'er Yosef, by Rav Yosef Zvi Salant.

What was Rav Simlai trying to teach us by pointing out that the Torah delineated the laws of man's defilement after the animals? Perhaps we can say that that Torah was revealing to us the reason behind human purity and impurity. When studying the laws of tumah and taharah there should arise a fundamental question: why is man different from the rest of Creation? Animals, birds, and insects all have a determined status. If they are impure, they remain impure forever. If they are clean, they remain clean forever. Only Man has the quality that he can change from purity to defilement and back again.

Moreover, Man's defilement seems to be more severe than the impurity of even the most disgusting creepy crawling insects. These creatures spread impurity only when they are dead, whereas Man can spread impurity even when alive. Also the tumah of Man is more severe. Dead animals and insects only impart impurity upon contact, whereas Man can defile something merely by sitting on top of it, with no contact whatsoever. And if he is a metzora, he defiles merely by being under the same roof. A dead body defiles for 7 days and this tumah can only be purified through being sprinkled with the water of the Parah Adumah. The Holy Zohar points out that Man was created after all of Creation. Thus all of Creation went into creating Man. Each creature was endowed with a special nature and capacity. Hashem then took all these natures and potentials and they went into the final creation: Man; Man is the collection of everything.

The sefer Nefesh Hachaim (1:6) discusses all this at length. There, in a footnote, he mentions that before Adam sinned only the powers of purity were part of his nature. After the sin, however, the forces of impurity and evil were added to his nature. From then on all his actions are one big jumble. They are constantly changing - vacillating back and forth from good to bad, and from bad to good. Even his good actions themselves are mixed up with elements of ulterior motives. It's almost impossible for him to be perfectly pure. And even his evil actions sometimes contain elements of good intentions. This idea is echoed in Avos d'Rabi Nosson (31), "Everything that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created in the world - He created in Man." Man is a small replica of the entire world.

Now we can understand why Man's spiritual state is constantly changing while the animals remain stagnant. All other creations are what they are. They don't change. Whatever Hakadosh Baruch Hu put into them is what they are and always will be. Man, on the other hand, is a synthesis of all of Creation and all sorts of different potentials and forces: good and bad, pure and impure. Thus he is constantly fluctuating from one to the other. This also explains why Man's impurity is more severe than the impurity of animals.

Each species has within itself only one nature and is merely one detail in the blueprint of the Universe. Therefore if it is impure, its impurity is only as strong or severe as its position in the Universe. Man, however, who encompasses all the forces of all of Creation, with all their purity or evilness, can, through his evil actions reach the most severe impurity. So too, in purity and holiness, he can attain the pinnacle of sanctify and virtue, equal to an angel. This is because he encompasses within himself all the spiritual aspects of the world, upper and lower. If he merits, we say that he came before the Holy Angels; and if he does not merit, we say that the mosquito was created before him. Then he becomes even lower than any other creature.

This is what Rav Simlai is teaching us: "Just as in the Creation, man was created after all the animals" to enable each creation of the myriads upon myriads of creations to go into Man's makeup, "so too, the law [concerning the purity] of man is written after the law [concerning the purity] of animals." First the Torah delineated the laws of purity regarding each species and detail of Creation. They are each a mere detail in the Universal Plan and their laws of purity reflect their position in that plan. Only afterwards did the Torah describe the laws of Human purification, for Man is the sum of everything. According to the dimension and importance and purpose in the world, thus is the dimension of its purity or defilement.

* * *

Rav Chaim Volozhin, in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim elaborates on the basic precept in the foundation of the world: the position of Man in G-d's Creation. The possuk says: "God created Man in His own image, in the image of God He created him" (Bereishis 1:27); "…for in the image of God He made man" (Bereishis 9:6). What is the meaning of "in the image of Hashem"? Do we really look like Him? Or does He look like us? That, we know, is utterly absurd. He has no image. And anyone who ascribes a material image to the Almighty is guilty of the heresy of anthropomorphism. Hashem is totally spiritual, and has no material form. All characteristics associated to Hashem are metaphors and figures of speech for our benefit to enable us to relate to Him. The commentaries tell us that all we can know about HaKadosh Baruch Hu are the attributes with which He relates to us, such as lovingkindness, mercy, justice, etc. But we can have absolutely no concept of Him Himself. He is beyond that. So what is this image of God?

The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the term used to denote Hashem in that possuk is Elokim. This term indicates Hashem's total control of the universe. He is the ultimate power ruling over millions upon millions of forces that influence every detail of this world. When He created Man, God gave him the ability to rule (so to speak) over those millions of forces. Man controls the world together with Hashem. By his good deeds, the world is influenced toward good; by his bad deeds toward the opposite. Thus, Man has been made a partner (so to speak) with Hashem. And therefore, Man was the only creature given free will. It is this quality of freedom of choice that enables Man to spiritually improve himself or lower himself. Angels and animals are compelled by their nature and cannot decide anything based upon free will; Man is the only creation with this ability. And because Man is partner with Hashem, through his actions he controls the world to add or detract from its spiritual perfection.

Why does the Creator need us to be His partner? Hashem is perfection and requires nothing. What purpose is there in His making Man His partner? What can man do for God? Why should Hashem need man? Rav Ezriel Tauber explained this with a moshol. First, however, we must make a disclaimer: the ultimate purpose of Creation is unknown to us. Only the Ribono Shel Olam Himself knows the ultimate reason why the universe was created. We are not yet ready to understand. After Moshiach comes and the whole world is filled with a new wisdom, Hashem will reveal to us the secrets of the Universe: why we were here and what we have really accomplished in our lifetimes. Right now, our knowledge is limited to whatever will help us understand our job in this world, how we have to behave, and what we have to do with this world.

* * *

A talmid chochom came to the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak to ask him an unusual question: every day he gave a shiur to baale-batim in Ramat Gan. That day, however, was extremely rainy and stormy. Was he obligated to go the distance to Ramat Gan to give the shiur even in such circumstances?

The Chazon Ish asked how many men attended the shiur. He answered, about 10.

"If so," continued the Chazon Ish, "how many do you think will come today?"

"One for sure will come. He lives right next door to the shul."

The Chazon Ish answered him, "If so, you should go and give the shiur, even if only one person attends. The mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not like the other mitzvos. A person who learned today is different than one who didn't learn today. That's because one who learns becomes a different type of person!" (Rav Sholom Shwadron in Sha'al Avicha Vayagedcha, v.III, p. 11)

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

© Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff

Rosh Yeshiva

Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim

Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop ? Lakewood). You can access Rav Parkoff's Chizuk Sheets online:

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