Parshas Tazria/Yom Ha’Zikaron 5778

Parshas Tazria, the first of this week’s double-parshios (Tazria-Metzora in Chutz la’Aretz) focuses mainly on the identification and diagnosis of the spiritual malady of tzara’as: a spiritual illness with a physical manifestation.  Chazal (the Sages, Arachin 16a) lists seven causes of tzara’as, the most well-known being the sin of lashon ha’rah, evil and slanderous speech.

The beginning of the parsha (Vayikra 12:1-8), however, deals with a different topic entirely: tumas ha’yoledes – ritual impurity of the mother resulting from childbirth.

Why would a new mother, who has just given birth to new life, find herself in a state of ritual impurity?    

Elyasaf Peretz (whose two brothers, Uriel and Eliraz HY”D, fell to Hezbollah in the North in 1998 and Hamas in the South in 2010, respectively) quotes an interesting, impactful and poignant idea.

“Only through crisis can we grow.  This concept appears in the Torah: in Egypt, the word for the place where the Israelite women sat during childbirth was called mashber, which also means ‘crisis.’  The purest thing, bringing new life into the world, emerged from crisis. 

“Why is the new mother described as niddah, ritually impure?  Because the moment she brings new life into the world, she also mourns.  As long as she doesn’t give birth to the baby, she has another person inside her.  The moment the infant emerges and is born, something inside her breaks [with the loss of life], and [even in her joy] she becomes a different person” (Miriam’s Song, The Story of Miriam Peretz, Gefen Publishing, p.284).

The moment the child leaves the mother, he is external to her.  And as long as he is external to her, his fate becomes his own.  She can love him, pray for him, feed him, caress him and give him her all – but in a very real sense, he is now on his own.  His fate is no longer her fate, his future is external to her.  And even giving her all, at times, is not enough…

And so, at the moment of birth and a time of great joy, something inside the mother breaks, reflected in her niddah status. 

Rav Soloveitchik (in 1974) related, “Nicolae Ceausescu (tyrant who ruled Communist Romania for 20 years) visited Anwar Sadat two weeks before the famous Yom Kippur – I can’t call Yom Kippur infamous, can’t say that – that tragic Yom Kippur.  And he discussed the matter of the war.  Everybody knew about it.  So he warned Sadat not to start the war, for you know the Jewish army is superior.  Sadat admitted it, that militarily it is a lost cause.  But there is another reason for starting the war, he said. 

“Sadat pulled open a drawer and took a clipping from a paper and gave it to Ceausescu.  Ceausescu took the clipping of the paper, and the script was completely unknown to him, not a Latin script.  What kind of paper.  A Hebrew paper.  What is the name of the paper?  Ma’ariv, in red letters.

“So Sadat said, ‘What do you see here?  Take a look at the paper.”  Ceausescu said to Sadat, ‘I can’t read it, I don’t know the language.  It may as well be Chinese.’   He said, ‘Take a look at this picture.  What is it?  A young boy in uniform.’  ‘What are you showing me?’ Ceausescu asked.  ‘You know who this young boy was?’ Sadat replied.  ‘He was a soldier.  He was killed in the front, along the Suez Canal.  The Jewish people mourned for him.  His picture is on the front page of the paper.  Such a people cannot live long in a war of attrition.  If every individual is dear to them, and they grieve and mourn for every individual, they’ll have to lose the war, no matter how wonderful their weapons are.’

“…The fear that young men should not die, the eagerness to protect a life, to save a young boy, overrides every fear and every logical consideration.  And this is exactly what I told you.  In Yahadus, if one dies, the world died!  שכל המאבד נפש אחת מישראל, מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו אבד עולם מלא, The world collapsed!  It is a true story” (The Rav Thinking Aloud on the Parsha, Bamidbar, p.167-168).

Yom Hazikaron is commemorated annually on 4 Iyar, and this year is observed from the evening of Tuesday, April 17, 2018 until the evening of Wednesday, April 18. 

Memorial Day 2018: 71 Israeli Soldiers Added to the Ranks of the Fallen Over Past Year.  12 Israeli civilians killed in terror attacks this past year.  Total losses in Israel and pre-state, since 1860, stands at: 23,645.

Twenty-three thousand, six hundred and forty-five worlds destroyed. 

לְהַשְׁמִיד לַהֲרֹג וּלְאַבֵּד אֶת-כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים מִנַּעַר וְעַד-זָקֵן טַף וְנָשִׁים – To destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, from young to old, infants to women

Mothers like Rachel Shabo, who was murdered in her home, along with her young children, Avishai, Zvika and Neria, as she baked a cake for Shabbat (2002);

Rabbis like R’ Binyamin Herling, 64, who headed Kollel Birkat Yosef in Elon Moreh, and was shot to death (2000);

Elder brothers turned surrogate fathers, like Assaf Hershkowitz, aged 30, who became the patriarch of the family after his own father, Arye, was murdered three months before he himself was killed in a drive by shooting.  Hila, Assaf’s widow and mother of their 2 young children, recalled her late husband’s efforts to support and assist his family since his father’s death. “He helped out fixing up the house and spending time with his little brother, Dor, acting as the big brother and trying to support the whole family. It pains me so much to think of what Dor must be going through now,” she said. His brother Dor, 11, has recited kaddish daily, usually with Assaf, since his father’s murder. Dor asked how he could say kaddish for two people, his father and now his brother.  Assaf was laid to rest in Petah Tikva, alongside his father’s grave (2001);

Big sisters, daughters and best friends, like Malki Roth, 15, and Michal Raziel, 16, killed in the Sbarro bombing (2001);

Doctors and angels among men, like David Applebaum (51) and brides like his daughter, Nava (2003), whose wedding gown hangs in Me’arat Ha’Machpela, never gracing the bride for whom it was designed;

Rabbis, scholars, simple men, charedim, dati, chiloni, kippah-wearers and bare-headed, left  and right, elderly and young, men and women, children and infants, brides-to-be and mothers-to -be (like Tali Hatuel, 8 months pregnant with her first boy, and her 4 daughters; 2004), olim chadashim and Israeli born and bred, families and individuals, young soldiers and reservists, lone soldiers and already bereaved soldiers…  שכל המאבד נפש אחת מישראל, מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו אבד עולם מלא!

And yet, despite it all, by the very grace of G-d, we are still here.  From time immemorial, they have tried… and tried… and tried to destroy us – time and again.  And yet, whoever survives this hell, my grandfather said as he lay on the wooden slats in the nightmarish barracks after another day of backbreaking labor, will live to see Moshiach.  Whoever survives this hell, will leave to see a Jewish state

And so, at the very moment the mother gives birth and the child leaves the comfort and safety of her womb, she becomes ritually impure with the loss of life from within.

Yom Ha’Zikaron 5778/2018

בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח, וּמָחָה ה‘ דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל-פָּנִים; וְחֶרְפַּת עַמּוֹ, יָסִיר מֵעַל כָּל-הָאָרֶץ–כִּי ה‘ דִּבֵּר – He will swallow up death forever; and Hashem will wipe away tears from upon every face, and the shame of His people He will remove from the earth, for Hashem has spoken (Yeshayahu 25:8).

בברכת בשורות טובות,


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