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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Tazria

Parashat Tazria

A Solar Eclipse of Sorts

Rabbi Yossef Carmel29 Adar II 5765
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Our parasha begins with the laws of impurity after the birth of a child. The laws of purity and impurity belong to the area of the Torah that are chok, meaning that we are not able to fully comprehend the reasons behind the laws (see Bamidbar 19:2). The same is so of the specific laws after birth (see Nidah 35b). Despite this fact, we will try to learn certain lessons, which the Torah seems to be hinting to us in this regard.

There are inborn, fundamental differences between males and females. The Torah rejects the thesis that differences between the genders are just a matter of social convention. It is possible that the differences between the timetables after the birth of a boy and after the birth of a girl, regarding days of purity and impurity, are reflective of the fact that males and females work on two different time schemes. The male calendar is related primarily to the sun, and is based on the day and the solar year. The female timetable is influenced by the moon and the month. Men are obligated in time-dependent mitzvot, which include daily mitzvot and the holidays, which are dependent on season. It is interesting to note that certain halachot that apply specifically to women are related to the month. The laws having to do with a nursing mother are described in terms of 24 months, rather than two years. It is also interesting that when adding a month to reconcile the solar and lunar calendars, we call that month, "the month of pregnancy."

The laws of family purity create a special rule regarding conflicting time schedules. The man is required to arrange his needs to correspond with the time schedule of his wife, which nature Divinely dictates. This is a concept that all need to understand, whether they be people who were raised to follow halacha as a given or people who are not considered Torah observant.

We can also look at the rabbinic approach to the creation of the sun and moon in this light. Hashem created the sun and the moon to be equal (Rashi on Bereishit 1:16). The moon was made smaller only after it raised the argument that "two kings cannot share one crown." Despite being decreased in size, one must remember the essential equality in its creation. Similarly, when a woman’s cycle causes her to retreat, it is not a sign that the male has dominion, but rather that the Torah commands him to give in to her needs.

The Torah "throws in" a pasuk on the mitzva of milah in the middle of the subject matter at hand. It is possibly related to the same thesis. The male is commanded that he must make the changes to himself in order to conform. He has to "enslave" that part of the body to Divine service. Just as the moon was told to hold back and make itself smaller, so do those who follow the timetable of the sun need to know when to hold back.

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