The Woman Who Will Plant a Seed - תזריע

Thursday, 31 March, 2022 - 2:45 pm


The Woman Who Will Plant a Seed

The third book of the Torah includes two extreme topics, one of intense holiness and the second describing ritual impurity. The book begins with the discussion of the offerings, which are presented in the temple and bring the person closer to G-d. It continues by describing “the eighth day”, the day the Divine presence rested upon the tabernacle. Yet, soon after, the book describes many forms of unholiness and ritual impurity that a person is subject to. 

The tension between the extremes of holiness and ritual impurity emerges from the fact that every person is indeed a hybrid of body and soul, finitude and infinity, physical and spiritual. 

And so, a recurring underlying theme of the book is the question of how to navigate the tension between the physical and spiritual dimensions of our personality. The easier path is to choose one and stick to it. Later in the book, we read about the corrupt behavior of the Egyptians and the Canaanites, who succumbed to the animalistic side of the human being. Yet, earlier in the book, we read about the two sons of Aaron who perished because they drew too close to G-d, entering the temple and offering a foreign fire because they wanted to escape the mundane physical world and be subsumed within spirituality and holiness. 

The more difficult but proper path is to follow what the Kabbalists refer to as “running and returning.” We must desire to cleave to holiness and spirituality, and we begin our day with a devotion to spirituality, yet, in order to fulfill our purpose in this world, we “return” to the physical world, a place susceptible to pain, negativity, and impurity, in order to sanctify it.  

Our portion focuses primarily on the intricate laws of tzaraat, a form of ritually impure skin discoloration. Yet the opening statement of the Parsha inspires us on how to live in the “run and return” model. The verse states: 

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, saying: a woman who will conceive {literally seed} and give birth (Leviticus 12:1-2) 

The relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is likened to the relationship between man and woman. The Hebrew word for woman, “ishah”, originates from the verse in Genesis where Adam proclaims: “This one shall be called ishah (woman) because this one was taken from ish (man).” Isha alludes to the state of the Jewish people, the woman, when they feel part of, and therefore, drawn to G-d. Yet, even when we feel the yearning and desire to cleave to our beloved, the verse continues, “will give seed,” we must descend to earth and plant holiness in the most unlikely place, the physical plane. 

When we “return” to saturate the earth with holiness, we are assured that we will “give birth”, that ultimately, the seeds of goodness we plant will sprout, grow, and give birth to a transformed reality. We are assured that we, individually and collectively, will fulfill the purpose of creation, which is to create a dwelling place for G-d in the physical world.   

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Likkutei Sichos Tazria vol. 1 

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