The New Shul

Parshat Tazria

Last week’s parashah, Sh’mini, ended by teaching laws of tum’ah and taharah, priestly purity and impurity, as they pertain to animals. This week’s parashah, Tazria, teaches how those same categories of purity and impurity apply to human beings. 

The Torat Moshe noted some practical distinctions that arise out of the contrast between the two parshiyot. First, it is easier for human beings to become tamei (impure) than it is for animals. Moreover, it is easier for human beings to transfer their impurity to others.

The Torat Moshe went on to draw a moral lesson from those ritual distinctions. Just as human beings can more easily become impure, we can also be more cruel and destructive than other animals. True, we stand above them in imagination and intelligence. But for exactly that reason, we can also sink much lower. Our uniquely-human power to imagine and aspire – to see beyond what is in front of us – can raise us almost to the level of the angels. But it can also make us worse than any beast. That is why we, unlike other animals, need the Torah – to train our imagination and channel our aspirations, to bring out the best in us and restrain the worst.

By taking Torah to heart and making it our own, may we come closer to what we have the potential to be: the crown on God’s creation.