Friday, April 1, 2011

TAZRIA: Seeds and Soil

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

It's often about control. And losing control. We fear that which we cannot control. We often become afraid and insecure in life when people or events arise which act beyond our ken, beyond our ability to alter their path and plan.

A primal fear is a sense of loss of bodily control. Whether our bodies undergo the changes of adolescence or the signs of aging or disease, they are morphing in unsettling ways, whether welcome or not. Many live in a state of fear and terror of the unknown.

And in this new Age of Terror, while its victims are few in number relative to the totality of humanity, the crippling effects of its surprise nature and instantaneous universal awareness stirs within us those primal fears of loss of control.

Bodily secretions stir the most ancient and profound of fears. The revolutionary power of the Torah is to turn the pagan notion of this secretionary fear into one of Covenantal hope. Birth blood, menstrual blood, and seminal emissions- all nature-induced potent symbols of progeny, culminate in the man-made Covenantal blood of circumcision.

The seven healing recovery days are symbolic units of nature. On the eighth day, the day which is beyond nature, man resumes where G*d left off, partnering with the Divine in Covenantal union. Our fears turn into hopes. Our hopes turn into fears. One bleeds into the other.

Our parsha this week, Tazria, of Leviticus, has a fascinating parallel to parshat Lech-Lecha of Genesis. Each parsha contains references in close narrative proximity to the ideas of (male) seed, (female) menstruation, brit mila (covenant), and inheritance of the Land. G*d promises Abraham that his seed shall inherit the Land of Canaan.

G*d says to Abraham (Gen 17:8), "To you and your offspring I will give the land where you are now living as a foreigner. The whole land of Canaan shall be (your) eternal heritage, and I will be a G*d to them."

Note that the verse specifically uses the terms "the land where you are now living as aforeigner (eretz miGuRecha)" and "the land of Canaan."

The promise of future inheritance of the land revolves around the notion of being a foreigner to the ways of the Canaanite. And the Biblical associations to Canaanite ways are clearly negative. Moloch worship, child immolation in particular, is seen through the Biblical lens as bearing the onus of a particularly negative ilk.

While the foreigner has special status, meriting an umbrella of protective care, because "you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt," one must be ultimately a true foreigner to all that is truly immoral- whether in the sexual or the ethical realms, in order to merit that protective umbrella in the Land.

Nothing is more heinous to the Biblical sensibility than the abuse of seed, particularly that of living seed, i.e., LIVING children. Amalek, in particular, bears an opprobrium all his own. He and his (spiritual) descendants are seen as particularly worthy of moral contempt for their pointed targeting of defenseless women, children and the elderly in the rear lines of the Israelites (Deut 25:17). And Pharaoh consigned all the male children to a watery grave. Those who target the innocent are truly foreign to G*d's spirit of loving compassion.

But as the Psalmist says (Psalm 126)"...those who sow in tears will reap in glad song..." No tears are more fiercely shed than those of a mother weeping for her child,or those of a child for her mother. The First Temple was destroyed for the cries of the mistreated widows and the orphans. Their tears cry out to the heavens. Theirs are the tears of those who plant in sorrow.

The salt of their tears, unlike other salt, will forever make the soil bloom, the earth to bear witness. And the blood of the infants whose heads were dashed against the rocks by the destroyers of the Second Temple in their bloodlust, will forever bond the people with the land of their ancestors, the land of their fathers, where we will be foreigners no more. A ger, a foreigner, is a resident alien. But whether we are to be eternal residents or but temporary aliens depends on us.

Tazria comes from the root ZeRA, meaning seed. Whether the State of Israel is to live up to its billing as reisheet tz'michat geualateini, the first flowering of our ultimate redemption, depends on the quality of its seed and the quality of its soil. Where are the rabbis? Where is the spiritual leadership? Where is the achdut, the unity, or the ahavath chinam, the causeless love? It was gratuitous hatred, sinat chinam, that exiled us. It is only its opposite, ahavath chinam, which can ensure our redemption and salvation.


Whether we are to be an or lagoyim, a Light unto the Nations and a Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of G*d's name), or an impious twisted caricature of a once great nation and a Chilul Hashem (a desecration of G*d's name), foreign and unrecognizable to the great sages who lived much closer to Sinai, is up to us.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 2000 - 2011 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!