Monday, April 14, 2008

Parshat Tazria & Parshat Metzora

Parshas Tazria begins, "If a woman conceives(Tazria) and gives birth..." After the first eight passukim of Parshat Tazria discuss laws dealing with childbirth, the rest of the parsha and subsequent parsha deal with all the different types of laws regarding tzara'as. This begs the question; what is the connection between the name of the parsha, Parshat Tazria, and the affliction of tzara'as?

The Rebbi answers this question in his Likutei Sichos, quoting a fundamental principle in Jewish Philosophy. This is that the punishments administered by the Torah are not intented to harm a person, but rather, the punishment is for that persons own benefit. Suffering through punishment cleanses the soul, allowing it to come close to God once again. In the case of the Metzora, it is clear that the punishment is actually for his own benefit. For by being declared ritually impure, requiring total isolation, he will have time to think about his sins, reflect on his past behavior, and amend his behavior, because there is simply no one to speak with him. He will surely think twice the next time he thinks of speaking lashon hara.

It is now clear that in the case of the tzara'as sufferer, the Torah's "punishment" was really for his own good, aimed at helping the sufferer correct his ill ways and begin a new life, lashon hara free. Without this exact punishment, the transgressor would never learn from his mistakes. It is now clear why the name of this parsha is Tazria. To teach us that even though one sinned, one can always repent and fix his ways. There is always the opportunity for Teshuva, and that in the end, a punishment can be for the better.

I think you can find a similar idea in Shabbos. In Friday night davening before shemoneh esrei, we say "And the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath... it is a sign forever that in six days, Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, he rested and was refreshed(Vayinafash)." This translation of "Vayinafash" - refreshed, is of the opinion of Rashi. However, the Ramban takes the root of the word "nefesh" - soul, and says that the heaven and earth were given a soul on Shabbos and that the creation of the seventh day gave a new spiritual dimension to the universe. So to, Shabbos also gives our body's a new spiritual awakening that we were lacking during the week. During the week, we are filled with the constant clutter of everything not holy; school, work, the internet... but on Shabbos, we clear that clutter away, and we get to immerse ourselves in pure spirituality.

This idea can be compared to the idea I mentioned earlier with tzara'as. All week long, we are impure, its almost as if we have tzara'as. But on Shabbos, we are isolated. We have no school. No work. No internet to log on to or T.V to watch. We are only involved in the spiritual, and Shabbos is the time to reflect back on your past week. You have time to think about yourself, your midot, and your Avodas Hashem, without any other distractions. On Shabbos, we are reborn, and our souls are refreshed to give a new spiritual dimension to ourselves.

The problem we face is taking the spiritual high we get from Shabbos and bringing it with us to the following week. It is hard enough to get that high, let alone carry it with us through the week and the not pashut times we live in. But if we really use Shabbos what it is meant for; for spiritual growth, Torah and rest from the day-to-day trials and tribulations of the the week, then we can truly be "reborn" and go into every week with a fresh spiritual awakening that can last us from Shabbos to Shabbos and until Moshiach comes.


JHDiller said...

O hey menachem mendel sohn. i really enjoyed reading what u had to say about how shabos is a time to reflect on the ruchnius without distractions from sports, TV and other gashmius things like blogs, but i have just one problem with this: You make it seem so easy for us to be able to just focus solely on our spiritual needs, but how can we accomplish this in a time, which u know better than anyone, just isnt so pashut? i look foward to reading ur response soon, that would be geshmak! thank u.

Menachem Mendel said...

Thriller -
Of all the not pashut times, I would say that Shabbos, although still not so pashut, is the least not pashut out of the other days of the week. That is why it is the perfect day to focus on our spiritual needs. As you said, this is still not an easy task, but it is a task that is worth it if you put in the hard work. We must take advantage of this day of rest, and maybe start by setting aside just a few minutes to think about your spiritual needs. To ask yourself what you are really here for, and your true place in this world. To reflect on the past week, and to set goals for yourself for the week ahead of you. You can slowly build this time for yourself up each week, and pair it with a shtark seder limud, and your off to a great start to your week, and to accomplishing this goal of yours.
Good luck,

jhdiller said...

Thank you Mendy! maybe one day we can have a shtark seder limud together. youre the best, mwa! xoxo

Anonymous said...

When have times ever been pashut?