The Wisdom of Women Builds Their Homes in Holiness and Purity
It is written, “When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male” (Leviticus 12:2), on which the Gemara comments: “If the woman emits seed first, she will beget a male” (Berachot 60a). Our parsha also says, “If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a swelling … he shall be brought to Aaron the priest” (Leviticus 13:2), and also, “This shall be the law of the leper … he shall be brought to the priest … and the priest shall command” (Leviticus 14:2,4).
Let us try to understand why Parsha Tazria was not written after Parsha Metzora, since the former has only a few verses concerning the birth of a male or female child, whereas it deals in great part with the leper. Moreover, what connection is there between Parshiot Tazria and Metzora, which in general are read together? And why must the Kohen go out to see the leper or the affliction? Since he is the Tzaddik of the generation, it should be enough that he indicates the procedure to follow in order to rectify the sin committed, without actually having to see the person. Above all, why did the Sages say that if a woman emits seed first, she will produce a boy? On one hand, what does this come to teach us, and on the other hand, why is this the case? Furthermore, why does the leper bring his sacrifice only after his purification?
We will attempt to explain all this as best as possible. As we know, women are exempt from positive, time-based mitzvot (Berachot 20b). This is in order for them to devote themselves to their homes and the education of their children, for “all glorious is the king's daughter within” (Psalms 45:14). And as we know, women earn great merit in the spiritual development of their husbands (see Berachot 17a), for they encourage them in their study of Torah and service of G-d, just as Rabbi Akiva said to his disciples concerning his wife: “Everything that is mine and yours belongs to her” (Ketubot 63a). In fact, it was his wife who pushed him to study, and in several places the Sages affirm that blessing is found in the home thanks to the merit of the wife, and that she protects a man from the council of the evil inclination (Zohar 52a).
In addition, the main reason for the resurrection of the dead will be due to the merit of women, who push their husbands to study Torah, and who liberate them from household work. Now we know that only the one who studies Torah will merit to live again, as it is stated concerning the resurrection: “For Your dew is as the dew of light” (Isaiah 26:19). On this verse, the Gemara says that whoever uses the light of Torah, the light of Torah will make him live (Ketubot 111b). Since it is by the merit of these women that their husbands have bathed in the light of Torah, it follows that they will also be resurrected by their merit.
The verse that states, “When a woman conceives” (Leviticus 12:2) speaks of a woman who aspires for her children and husband to study Torah, and who behaves like the daughter of a king, whose entire honor is on the inside. The desire that she demonstrates allows her to merit “to beget a son” – to have a child that will be a 9,' (male), meaning an everlasting remembrance (0&9,') for why the world was created. Moreover, the Torah is called 0&9,' (remembrance), as it is written: “Remember [&9,'] the Torah of Moses My servant” (Malachi 3:22). It follows that the Torah is the goal of Creation. This male child will also merit circumcision on the eighth day, the number eight alluding to the future resurrection of the dead, for as we know, the number eight is above nature and time. During the era of the eighth, the evil inclination will no longer exert any influence, and the reign of G-d will be universal in a world that will have reached perfection.
“This is the law of one who gives birth to a male or to a female” (Leviticus 12:7). When she gives birth, she will truly exercise a Torah influence, for her merit will earn her sons that will study, arriving at the “eight” and conquering the Kelipah, until arriving at the resurrection of the dead. Yet when the power of desire has less influence on sons who study Torah than on children that assure the continuity of the generations, this does not advance the world in any way. They only risk becoming gossipers, for if they don’t speak words of Torah they will only speak ill of others, like a child who goes and tells everyone what he has heard from his mother or father (Sukkah 56b). His life does not advance.
Thus we perfectly understand why Parsha Tazria (the birth of a boy and a girl) is written before Parsha Metzora, for if there exists an imperfection at the beginning of conception, the soul of the child will contain a great defect and he will speak ill of others and become leprous, as the Sages have said, “The word 39&7/ [leprous] sounds like 39 !*7&/ [he who spreads evil]” (Erchin 15b). A man without Torah is arrogant and speaks ill of everyone. He has a “tongue that speaks boastfully” (Psalms 12:4), for he believes himself to be better than everyone and assumes the right to ridicule. He also doesn’t demonstrate any confidence in G-d, his pride making him think that he can do everything by himself without His help. This is why he is punished by the plague of ;!:, a word whose root means “high” (Shavuot 6b) and by ;397 (leprosy). It is also why he must remain isolated outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46). There it will be easier for him to humble himself and to fix times for Torah study (which he had neglected). This constitutes another way of understanding ;397, meaning that now that he is living cramped (97), he fixes times (;3) for the study of Torah. From a gossiper, he becomes someone who studies regularly. And when he completely repents and follows the advice to “not be sure of yourself until the day you die” (Perkei Avoth 2:4) – a phrase whose numerical value is the same as that of ;397 (leprosy) – he arrives at the level evoked by the verse that states, “The wise of heart seizes mitzvot” (Proverbs 10:8), an expression that also has the same numerical value.
We now perfectly understand why the Kohen has to see the leper. The Kohen, whose inheritance is G-d Himself and who lives from the donations of others, trusts in G-d at all times. This is why it is he who can discern if the leper has humbled himself before G-d. The verse states, “This is the law of the leper on the day of his purification: He shall be brought to the priest” (Leviticus 14:2) because the Kohen must sense if this man – from the wicked person that he was – has become good. He is also told that the leper fixes times for Torah study, demonstrates great humility before G-d, and has completely rid himself of pride. At that moment, the Kohen leaves the camp to verify the accuracy of all these claims, and checks to see if the lesions have healed.
There is yet another lesson to be learned by this. The Kohen monitors the progress of the leper, asks how he is in order to see if he is healed, and inquires about his spiritual well-being. He does all this in order for the leper not to fall into despair, for even if he has sinned, he should feel that G-d is with him and desires his repentances, as it is written, “For I do not desire the death of the one who should die. … Turn back and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32). It is also in this way that we should conduct ourselves with those who return to Judaism. It is not enough to help them take this step; they must also be followed up and encouraged so that they don’t give up hope, until such time as we feel that they are sufficiently strong and dedicated enough to get along by themselves. Even afterwards we must act like the Kohen, who went out of the camp to see them. We must go to them and see where they stand and how they are conducting themselves.
When the leper is purified he must bring some cedar wood and hyssop, as it is written, “The priest shall command, and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live, clean birds, cedar wood, crimson thread, and hyssop” (Leviticus 14:4). This is an allusion to humility. He should bring cedar wood because his lesions stem from pride, and he should make amends by lowering himself like hyssop (Erchin 16a). Let us now ask ourselves why he brings his sacrifice only after being purified. The opposite procedure, in which a sacrifice helps a person to return to G-d, seems like the more logical approach. The reason why the sacrifice is brought afterwards is because it is not enough to be healed, abased and rid of pride, since this pride can potentially return. This is why one must come to the Temple and bring a sacrifice –one that alludes to humility – after being healed.
The affliction of a house also depends on a woman, for a house also needs to be educated. When its walls hear slander, they are punished in proportion to the severity of what they have heard, to the extent that it’s possible that the affliction will never heal. At that point, the Kohen gives the order to demolish the house. The house itself can thus be harmed and bring harm to others. But the opposite is even more true, meaning that it can gain merit and make others meritorious. It is solely man’s conduct that has an influence on the house, for better or for worse, and which in turn influences others. It is not for nothing that we inaugurate a house (Chinuch, which also means “education”), as we inaugurated the Temple (Psalms 30:1). In the same what that we educate our children regarding mitzvot, as it is written, “Train the youth according to his way” (Proverbs 22:6), we “educate” the house so that only Torah, mitzvot and good deeds are performed inside. And then, when the opportunity to commit a sin presents itself, we don’t do it inside the house, for it reminds us to avoid sin. As the Gemara says, “The beams and the stones of the house bear witness against a man” (Taanith 11a). This is why we build a railing on the top of the roof. It represents that which surrounds the house to prevent a man from falling. In effect it is surrounded by mitzvot, by the railing, by mezuzot, and by Torah. Concerning the mitzvah of the railing (Deuteronomy 22:7), the Keli Yakar asserts that it constitutes the foundation of faith and one’s attachment to G-d.
We see from all this that leprosy basically depends on what happens in the home. Everything begins and ends there. If a woman aspires to sow Torah and give birth to male offspring for Torah, with the goal of rectifying the world and bringing about the Kingdom of G-d, her reward will be great. At the same time, she is of great value to the entire world and, so to speak, to G-d. In the opposite case, if she only wants a son for the pleasure of having a child, this constitutes a great misfortune, and she not only harms herself but also her descendants and the entire world. May G-d help us to truly merit repairing the world by bringing about the Kingdom of G-d, and may His Name and His throne be complete through the arrival of the redeemer, quickly in our days.
Amen, may it be so.