Friday, April 20, 2007

Tazria/Metzora 5631 Second Ma'amar

The first paragraph of parshas Tazria teaches us that a woman who has just given birth is in a spiritually impure state. Considering the blessing of bringing new life into the world, particularly a Jewish soul, why should this be?

According the Chidushei HaRim, the second Midrash on this week’s parsha addresses this question. The Midrash explains a pasuk in Iyov, “אשא דֵעי למרחוק ולפֹעלי אתן צדק/I will raise my knowledge from afar and to my Maker I will ascribe righteousness.” The Midrash attributes this pasuk to Avraham Avinu after the test of Akeidas Yitzchak because on his way to sacrifice his son the pasuk tells us, “... וירא את המקום מרחוק/He saw the place from afar.” This hints at an additional aspect of the incredible test that was before him. The place he needed to reach was far away. Nevertheless, he strengthened himself to do the will of God. The Chidushei HaRim explains that the physical distance is a metaphor for the spiritual distance that separated Avraham Avinu from God. Avraham Avinu overcame the separation by realizing that God was with him even if He appeared to be far away. The distance was an illusion. After Avraham passed God’s test and came close to Him, he praised God for he understood that the entire test, including the perception of distance was for his own benefit. It provided him the opportunity to discover God’s holiness even from a perception of distance from Him.

As a result, Avraham Avinu was able to bequeath to his descendents the idea that no matter how distant we may feel from God, at times, God’s love for us is constant. This love always exists at least as a spark within each of us that represents closeness to God. When God told Avraham Avinu, “אנֹכי מגן לך/I will protect you,” He was referring to protecting this spark of closeness to God. The ending of the first brachah of the Amidah, “מגן אברהם/Protector of Avraham,” is our testimony to this spark of God’s love within us that God protects.

The prophet Yishayahu said, “שלום שלום לרחוק ולקרוב/Peace, peace to the far and near,” to teach us that God’s distance is part of the natural world. And this answers the Midrash’s question. The spiritual impurity that is drawn onto a woman when she brings new life into the world symbolizes the distance from God that is built into the natural world. It is a good thing because it affords us space within which we can work to come close to Him.

We see this idea in the pasuk from Tehillim, “אחור וקדם צרתני/You have bound me back and front.” The word, “צרתני/You have bound me,” can also be translated as, “You have formed me.” Back” represents distance from God whereas “front” represents nearness. The pasuk is teaching us that God formed us with the ability to come close to Him through the aspect of distance which is built into the Creation. The reason is, as we’ve said, that the distance is illusory. We were created with the spark of closeness within us.

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