Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pri Tzadik Tazria

Tazria (3)

The Midrash Tanchuma addresses the juxtaposition of the beginning of this week’s sedra with the closing of last week’s. Shmini ends with the laws of kashrut, and Tazria begins with the laws of childbirth. The Midrash teaches that when the foetus is in the womb Hakadosh Baruch Hu teaches it the laws of kashrut; this you may eat, this you may not eat, this is pure for you, and this is impure.
We find a similar Agadata in the Talmud (Nida 30b) except that there the foetus learns the entire Torah. The Talmud there describes that they administer an oath to the foetus, saying, be righteous and not wicked. This is similar to the Midrash Tanchuma which concludes ‘he accepts upon himself in the womb all the Mitzvot of the Torah and then is born.
Why does the Midrash only mention the laws of kashrut and describe that as the whole Torah? (Look at the commentary there which asks the same question and answers differently).
The answer is that the observance of the kashrut laws encompasses all the other laws of the Torah. In the Garden of Eden the snake was only able to entice them to sin through creating a desire for the forbidden food. Someone who is careful about only eating kosher foods and imbuing them with holiness thereby keeps all the Mitzvot of the Torah, because the only way that the Evil Inclination can rule over a person is through eating and drinking, as the verse states “You shall eat and drink … Be careful lest your heart lead you astray” (Devarim 11; 15-16) .
In the Zohar it states: “The tree that Adam Harishon ate from was wheat, others say it was grapes, and others say it was a fig. These opinions do not disagree but all of these are true”. How can they all be true when they are disagreeing about the facts of what happened?
The truth is that when the Torah states “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden…” it means that the inner spirituality of each tree in the garden was the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If Adam had eaten first from the tree of life, he would have tasted in every other food that he ate the taste of Torah which is life. But when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he made every other food contain within it the taste of that tree and this is the source of all sin.
When a person corrects this sin through eating in holiness, he thereby keeps all the Mitzvot and is saved from the challenges of the Evil Inclination.
We find this on Shabbat when the eating is in holiness, that the verse states, “One who guards Shabbat from profaning it, and guards his hand from doing any evil” (Isaiah 56; 2). That through the eating of Shabbat a person is saved from the temptations of the Evil Inclination.
Similarly we find in the Zohar that the Showbread that was eaten by the Cohanim on Shabbat put the taste of holiness into all the food they ate for the week, and thereby they were saved from the temptations of the Evil Inclination.
This is the meaning of the Midrash Tanchuma that we began with, that G-d warns the foetus that all his food should be eaten with holiness, and included within this are all the Mitzvot of the Torah. Similarly we find in the Midrash Rabba (Shemot Rabba 25) that observing Shabbat corresponds to all the Mitzvot of the Torah.
What this means is that when Israel eat in holiness on Shabbat, included within that is the observance of all the Mitzvot .

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