The three who became impure
צו את-בני ישראל וישלחו מן-המחנה כל-צרוע וכל-זב וכל טמא לנפש
Command the Jewish people to send out of the camp anyone with tzara’as, anyone who had an unusual emission, and anyone who is spiritually impure due to contact with the deceased
After the Torah describes the three different camps, the camp of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, the camp of the Leviim, and the camp of the rest of the Jews, it immediately relates the inherent holiness present in these camps. These camps are concentric circles, with the camp of the Divine Presence containing the highest level of sanctity, and the camp of the Jews having the lowest level. Someone with tza’ras, a leprous-like spiritual malady with physical symptoms, would be sent out of all three camps. Someone known as a zav, who suffered an unusual emission from their body, would be sent out of the inner two camps. Someone who is tamei mes, spiritually impure due to contact with the deceased, is only sent out of the innermost camp.
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5780 28 Tazria Metzora
The proper precedence
…אשה כי תזריע וילדה זכר וטמאה שבעת ימים וגו’
…when a woman gives birth to a boy, she shall be spiritually impure for seven days…
At the end of the previous parsha, there were many details related to the spiritual impurity imparted by animals. This week’s parsha begins a long series of laws related to the spiritual purity and impurity of humans. Seemingly, the order is backwards. Since mankind is the principle player in the Torah, shouldn’t their laws come first? That which is primary takes precedence over what is secondary. Why then are the laws of animals taught first? Rashi addresses this, by reminding us that in the Torah’s description of creation, first the animals were created, and only then mankind. Just like the animals preceded Man during creation, their laws of impurity are taught first.
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The most powerful day
כי-ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם לפני יקוק תטהרו
For on this day [of Yom Kippur] it shall be atoned for you, to purify you, from all of your sins; purify yourselves before Hashem!
Yom Kippur is one of the most intense days of the year. We spend the entire day involved in prayers and supplications. We fast, and refrain from physical pleasures. We (hopefully) perform teshuvah, repentance with sincerity and a broken heart. With this, we hope to repair the damage we inflicted to our relationship with our Creator. After all of this, a person may wonder: How can I know that my repentance was accepted?
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The foreshadowed clock
כי ענן על-המשכן יומם ואש תהיה לילה בו לעיני כל-בית-ישראל בכל-מסעיהם
A cloud [will be] upon the Miskan by day, and a [pillar of] fire will be on it by night, for the eyes of all the houses of Israel, for all of their journeys
The last verse of the book of Exodus concludes all the hard work that went into the Mishkan. The purpose of such a structure was to have G-d’s Presence on Earth. It was to be a place where Hashem was palpable, as much as could be possible in this physical world. A representation of Hashem appeared upon the Mishkan in the form of a cloud. It appeared after the erection of the Mishkan, to show the Jewish people that their construction efforts had paid off. The verse also describes that at night the cloud was replaced by a pillar of fire. However, the verse describes it in the future tense: a pillar of fire will be on it by night. Why isn’t it written in the present tense, as that was the reality for the Jews at that time? Further, why does the verse say that this fire was for the Jews’ journeys? It should have said: “for all their encampments”.
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