Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Tazria
To dedicate this lesson
From Siach Shaul pp. 328-330

Mila and Tumat Leida


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Nissan 5783
The parashiyot hashavua provide a break in the midst of Sefer Vayikra, the sefer that deals with the laws of the kohanim and of the holy nation, focused on the service of sacrifices in the Mishkan. Between Parashat Shemini, which deals with the inauguration of the Mishkan, and Acharei Mot, which details the service on the holiest day of the year, our parshiyot deal not with kedusha, but with the opposite, tumah (impurity).
Two types of tumah are discussed: tumah that accompanies birth and tumah that comes about during life, which can come in many forms, including tzara’at of the body, clothes, and property. The latter type can be attributed to sin, whereas tumah from birth cannot.
The laws relating to the human body are specified after the laws of animals and birds, just as their creation was after those of the animals (Rashi, Vayikra 12:2). Man vacillates between greatness and lowliness, and between "If he is virtuous, they say about him that he is preferable to the angels" and "If he is not virtuous, they tell him that a mosquito is preferable to him" (Bereishit Rabba 8:1). The Torah teaches that all of creation was done for man, and this designation places great responsibility upon him, to use things well and not ruin them (see Kohelet Rabba 7:13). Man is a "two-sided creation" – from earth of the ground, with a soul that Hashem blew into him. As a result, we have two opposite inclinations – the animalistic one, which is related to the ground, and the divine power. It is as if man is in the middle. Opposite the kedusha is tumah, and both accompany him. This teaches us not to have illusions or believe he can just close his eyes to the lurking spiritual dangers. In fact, the greater a person is, the greater his inclination toward tumah.
When a baby is born, he receives an evil inclination, which comes with tumah. The special requirement of doing a brit mila on the eighth day (including on Shabbat) is only when he was born in a manner that brings tumat leida to the mother (Shabbat 135b). This is because the point of the mila is to defeat the tumah; if he does not, it will eventually overtake him.
This is true of the individual and the nation. On the one hand, Hashem "damaged" us by giving us an evil inclination (see Micha 4:6; Berachot 32a). However, although it is "evil," it was not created to harm us, but so we should struggle against it and defeat it. Chazal tell us that the Torah is an herb that helps us against the evil inclination (Kiddushin 30b). An herb improves food, making it a better substance, and the Torah/evil inclination connection is true personally and nationally.
It is certainly bad to be too distant from Hashem, but sometimes it is a mistake to draw too close (see Vayikra 16:1). It can come from haughtiness that causes lashon hara and tzara’at. This is a crucial sign from Hashem – if we let it, the evil inclination will take over a person.
One should remember that he has the potential to be greater than the angels. Just as thinking too much of himself can cause horrible abuses, so the evil inclination can attack a person by telling him he is nothing. The Tribe of Levi, which is now represented by the Torah scholars, must know its greatness and ability to succeed. In a confusing world, we must have a state of calm and the ability to analyze matters and make good moral decisions.

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