Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

Parshah Metzora
Why Separate the Menstruating Woman?
This week’s Parashah, like the previous one, deals with spiritual purification so pertinent to the general mode of cleansing prior to Pesach. “If a woman has a discharge of blood, where blood flows from her body, she shall be niddah for seven days...” (Vayikra 15:19). The concept of niddah is related to the word nadad, meaning to wander, separate or remove. The Torah tells us that from the time a woman has her period, until she immerses in the mikvah, she has the status of a niddah. During this period, she separates herself from any physical contact with her husband. What is the underlying reason for niddah? Why does a woman have to separate from her husband every month? The laws of niddah and menstruation are difficult to understand. They are chukim (statutes) whose ultimate reasons are beyond human comprehension. Nevertheless, we may attempt to explore and uncover some of the reasons concerning the concept of niddah.
A Result of Eating From the Tree of Knowledge
The impurity of death is a result of the sin of Adam and Chava. We were supposed to have lived eternal life in the Garden of Eden. However, the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge brought imperfection and death into the world. When Chava was told, “I will greatly increase the pain of your childbearing...” (Bereishit 3:16), the words “I will greatly increase” referred to the pain of menstruation (Iruvin 100b), which is a part of the reproductive cycle. The expulsion of mankind from the Garden obstructed the natural harmony between man and woman. However, G-d gave us ways to return to Eden. Both entering the holy Temple and intimate relations between husband and wife are pathways of returning to the Garden. Marital relations are compared to the sanctuary, which is like a miniature Garden of Eden. When a person was in an impure (tumah) state, he was absolutely forbidden to enter the holy Temple under the severest of penalties. The fact that this impurity is not physical, but primarily involves the soul is learned from the verse “You shall not make your souls unclean” (Vayikra 11:44). Thus, before entering the Temple, or having marital relations, one must be spiritually purified by immersion in a mikvah. The power of the mikvah to return us to the state of Eden is alluded to in the story of Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan mentions in Waters of Eden that the story is suddenly interrupted by the description of the river, which went out of Eden. The reason for this interruption is to provide a way to return to Eden even before being expelled, according to the principle that Hashem makes the healing precede the wound (Megillah 13b). The natural rainwater collected in the mikvah connects us with the river, which brings us back to the Garden of Eden.

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