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  • Writer's pictureJames Kennard

Tazria-Metzora: Existence and Torah

At the start of the parasha of Tazria, Rashi comments that this sedra contains the laws of tumah and taharah (“impurity and purity”) as they apply to people, whereas last week’s seder covered tumah and taharah regarding animals. This, he says (quoting Rav Simlai in the Midrash) parallels the details of creation, in which the origin of the animals is presented in the opening chapter of Bereishit before the creation of humankind.

The Maharal ofPrague questions this comparison. In the case of creation, the Talmud makes clear that Adam and Eve were created after the animals in order so that they if they should feel proud, they could be reminded that even a gnat was created before them. No such message (or any of they others offered to explain the sequence of creation) is taught by the order of the laws of impurity. Therefore, asks the Maharal, what does Rashi mean when he draws a comparison between the passages of creation and of law?

The Maharal’s answer is that there is certainly an equivalence between the two. The Bereishit text tells us about how the creatures were perfected and readied for existence; the laws of impurity and the accompanying processes to achieve purity, describe how we maintain that perfection.

The observation that Rashi quotes - that creation and law are written according to a similar paradigm, is much more than a mere stylistic comparison. It tells us that the Torah and its laws are the very continuation and perpetuation of creation.

For this reason the Talmud states that the whole of creation was dependent on the Jewish people’s subsequent acceptance of the Torah. If they had declined, “existence would have returned to the formless void that preceded the world”. It is only the Torah that ensures that creation continues to exist by continuing to reach perfection.

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