Monday, April 22, 2013

372 - Tazria-Metzora

The parshios of Tazria and Metzora are both dedicated entirely to the halachos of the various forms of tum'ah and the subsequent tahara achieved through immersion in a mikvah. The Rambam at the end of Hilchos Mikvaos writes that although the concept of tum'ah and tahara are definitely a chok - a mitzvah beyond our comprehension - nevertheless there is an allusion contained therein that we can understand:

"It is clear that tum'os and taharos are decrees, and they are not logical, rather they are chukim. Likewise, the purification from the tum'ah achieved through immersion is also a chok, because tum'ah is not mud or dirt that can be washed off in water. Rather it is a decree of Hashem and it is contingent upon the intention in one's heart . . . Nevertheless, the decree contains an allusion: Just as one who has the proper intention in his heart and then immerses becomes pure, even though there was no physical change effected in his body, so too, one who prepares his heart in order to purify his soul from its impurities . . . and has "immersed his soul in the waters of da'as" becomes pure. As Hashem says, 'I will throw upon you pure water, and you will become pure from your impurities, and from all your transgressions I will purify you.'"

Rav Wolbe (Pirkei Kinyan Da'as pg. 14) elaborates on the Rambam's explanation. From the Rambam's words there seems to be an entity called da'as which is separate from the entity in which we live, no different than the separation between land and water. One who wishes to purify himself, must immerse himself entirely in the entity called "the water of da'as." We might understand that this can be accomplished as follows.

Most people live their lives in a fantasy of sorts. We fantasize about what we would have liked our lives to look like in the past, and how we wish it should look in the future. There is almost no aspect of our lives that doesn't involve our fantasies in one way or another. Even simply walking from one place to another can involve one's fantasies. For example, if someone requests our presence at an event and we comply, we tend to think that we have done them the biggest favor and really enhanced their lives. If we don't comply, then we think that we have just boosted our standing in the eyes of those around us, for now they know that we do what we want to do, and we're not bound by anyone else's desires. 

However, there is also another approach to the myriads of aspects that life presents. We could contemplate a Torah concept or lesson reflected by what we observe. A story involving Reb Yisroel Salanter concretizes this idea. Reb Yisroel once brought his shoes to the shoemaker to be fixed, and he asked him when he would be able to fix them. The shoemaker looked at his candle and responded, "As long as the candle burns, it is still possible to repair." Reb Yisroel left the store in exhilaration. He internalized the response as a powerful message with regard to one's avodas Hashem: As long as the candle burns (a person is alive) it is still possible to repair any damage that he may have caused through his misdeeds! This was the manner in which Reb Yisroel Salanter related to even the smallest experiences of life.

Torah is the "water of da'as." It gives us the tools to properly perceive everything that occurs around us. The more we focus on perceiving occurrences through the eyes of the Torah, the less we will spend fantasizing - which breeds only negative traits such as jealousy, desire and honor. Let's at least "get our feet wet" and try this exercise once a day. Even without a total immersion, we still have so much to gain.

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