- Why after a woman gives birth, do we say the impurity process has started? After all, the Torah conveys the impression that birth is a holy moment. We say at a brit “this little one shall be big” in Torah and grow up to be a fine example among the Jewish nation. So why a holy act of birth is construed as impure for a period of time? There are two reasons: According to the Zohar, the snake seduced Chava (Eve, the first woman); therefore, anything that comes out of a woman’s womb, that of which the snake had relations with the first woman, will have an impurity attachment to it. (Cain was the result of that relationship according to the Zohar). Secondly, the spiritual impurity resulting from birth is an indication to show mankind that bringing life to the world is not enough. One has a lifetime to perfect himself in this world starting from the day he’s born. He makes a mess of things the minute he comes out causing the parent to separate for the impurity process. It’s a commitment to raise children in a holy state and bring them up correctly.
- Therefore on the 8th day (for a boy), which is above the number seven, symbolizing above nature – a perfect state, circumcision takes place.
- In the time of our Temple, certain sins that a Jew unfortunately transgresses, results in him being inflicted with Tzara’at as punishment. Tzara’at is often mistaken as modern leprosy. However, its symptoms are totally different. The Torah goes into great detail on how to recognize the symptoms.
Interesting to note, the Torah starts with tzara’at on the individual and then discusses tzara’at on the clothes and property. It should be the other way around. First, G-d warns the person through the property and clothes, and if he still doesn’t repent, then he afflicts him personally.
There are two reasons for the reverse order. Firstly, the Jews were in the desert so they didn’t own any houses. Teaching the Jews in the desert these laws would have been futile. Secondly, the Torah discusses tzara’at on a human body in order to intimidate us and thus prevent us from sinning.
White-Some part of his skin turns white. This may indicate that he has “died,” in a manner of speaking. He has become numb, in part, to his closeness to G-d, which is what ordinarily animates and sensitizes him. Alternatively, the white color may indicate the ashen complexion of deep, penetrating shame. The one to “out” him, to make his deficiency public, is the kohain, acting as the surrogate for the mishkan he represents, and its message of all that is proper and holy that we are expected to do when we ask Hashem to dwell amongst us. (The nega is clearly meant to be a message shared by others. To be considered tzora’as, it must lodge on an area of the skin that is plain and visible, but not in a fold of skin, apparent only to the afflicted.) The kohain does nothing less than pronounce him, in the name of the mikdosh, unworthy to live within the company of men. The Torah treats the metzora severely. No other person who is tamei is fully ejected from the borders of the community.
Hair, in a sense, performs the opposite function of skin. If skin is meant to sense and respond, hair is made to protect against sensation. It shields the body from casual stimulation of the skin underneath. A white discoloration symbolizes the death of the person’s capacity to respond positively to others. A hair turning white signifies further deterioration. Even his defenses against negative influences upon him have withered and suffered.
Boldness-We learn a valuable lesson from this section about punishment and public embarrassment. When the merciful G-d punishes a person, He prefers to do so in a way that will not cause him humiliation. Let the sinner know and repent without others knowing. The tzara’at of baldness is different; its location is such that everyone sees the affliction and knows G-d has withheld His mercy from the sinner. Apparently, he has sinned in a grievous manner. We too should learn and be sensitive how we punish our children and employees. We should be careful not to embarrass them.
Isolation is the most strictest of punishment; it is compared to death. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks a question, “We know from our sages, life is the most precious. So he’s in isolation but at least he has life. However, the fact that he’s prohibited to have any contact with the rest of Israel renders his life worthless and he is as good as dead.”
There is one punishment in which G-d immediately strikes the transgressor with the symptoms of definitive leper who then is isolated – evil speech about his fellow man (see Dvar Torah section).
credit to Rabbi Avi Matmon